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India vs England: ‘It is good to see Ravichandran Ashwin set up Alastair Cook in Edgbaston’ - John Emburey

Former England spinner John Emburey lavished praise on Ravichandran Ashwin while also adding that wrist spinners have made it tougher for finger spinners.

cricket Updated: Aug 11, 2018 20:55 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, London
India vs England,Ravichandran Ashwin,Alastair Cook
India's Ravichandran Ashwin prepares to bowl during the third day of the first Test match between England and India at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England on August 3, 2018. (AP)

He played cricket in an era when aesthetics was as important as a five-for, classical action was appreciated as much as wickets.

Former England off-spinner John Emburey is cautious when asked to name the top India batsmen he had to bowl to in his career, mainly in the 1980s.

“Gundappa Viswanath, Mohammad Azharuddin, I have to be careful I don’t leave out any of them,” he smiles. A high point of Emburey’s career – he was 1984 Wisden Cricketer of the Year -- was taking 19 wickets in the 3-1 Ashes series win at home in 1985.

Emburey, 65, now wears two hats. He is president of Middlesex County Cricket Club based at Lord’s and teaches youngsters to bowl and play spin.

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“Indian batsmen are better than Pakistan batsmen,” he said in a chat when rain held up game during the second Test at Lord’s.

Emburey’s suggestions to revive spin bowling in England were given to England director of cricket, Andrew Strauss.

He doesn’t sound optimistic though. He says England’s best spinner Moeen Ali is a batsman who bowls off-spin. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid is not a popular selection in the England team either.

He says spin bowling has evolved due to T20 cricket. “Spin bowling has changed… . The onset of T20 cricket and the pace at which it is played means batsmen are a lot more positive against spin. Spinners have had to work out other ways of making something happen,” he said.

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Line and length is out, variations are in. “Ashwin bowls from the front of the hand, bowls orthodox spin, under cuts deliveries; he also has got the one that goes the other way, like a doosra. He has got varieties and good change of pace. He has become a world class player.”

The connoisseur of off-spin wins over a proud ex-England player. “It was good to see the way Ashwin set up (Alastair) Cook in the first innings at Edgbaston. It was brilliant cricket leading up to that dismissal.”

Ashwin bowled seven balls to the left-handed opener and a top player of spin. The off-stump line from around the wicket saw one run given in six deliveries to him before the killer blow – drift to middle-stump beating the forward prod to knock back the off-stump. Ashwin got Cook in identical fashion in the second innings too.

Emburey feels wrist spinners have changed the equation. “For finger spinners, it has made things a little harder. It’s no longer about length and line. It is about bowling four and five different deliveries in an over, and mixing it up so the batsman doesn’t get used to one type of delivery,” he said.

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“A good finger spinner is still worth his place. We have seen Nathan Lyon, Ravi Ashwin and occasionally Ravindra Jadeja, on right pitches. Rangana Herath, he gets wickets everywhere.

“Days of orthodox spinners like myself are limited. I was not a big spinner and had to rely on control. Graeme Swann proved a match-winner because he spun the ball a lot more, bringing the short-leg and slip into play.”

But Emburey feels English spinners are not giving themselves a chance. “Now, what is played is 50-60 overs; we had decoration cricket then where emphasis was not necessarily on result. Young spinners got to bowl a lot. Draw was fine. Restriction of overs young bowlers can bowl is wrong. You learn to bowl only by bowling.”

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 11:07 IST