Mushtaq Ahmed explains why Ashwin, Nathan Lyon and Yasir Shah have not been successful with white ball
Citing Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav’s example, Mushtaq Ahmed said it boils down to variations in white-ball cricket.Updated: May 07, 2020 18:59 IST
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin, Australia’s Nathan Lyon and Pakistan’s Yasir Shah are without a doubt one of the best spinners in the world right now but as it astonishing as it may sound, all three of them don’t feature in their respective limited-overs squads. For all their success in red-ball cricket, the likes of Ashwin, Lyon and Shah have somehow been unable to replicate it in ODIs and T20Is. In trying to analyse the reason for the same, former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed has said that perhaps it is because of lack of variation on flat tracks.
Ashwin (365 wickets from 71 games), Lyon (390 wickets in 96 Tests) and Pakistan’s leg-break bowler Yasir Shah (213 wickets in 39 Tests) have won innumerable games for their countries in the longest format only to be found wanting in ODIs and T20s.
Ashwin last played an ODI for India back in 2017, Lyon’s last ODI was in July 2019 and Shah last turned up in coloured clothing for Pakistan in May last year. Citing Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav’s example, Mushtaq Ahmed said it boils down to variations.
“Look at Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. They have won so many (white ball) games for India in the last two years. May be the likes of Lyon, Ashwin and Yasir don’t have enough variations to survive in one-day cricket,” Mushtaq, a Pakistan great, told PTI in an exclusive interview.
Mushtaq, who has coached around the world including a champion England side that had a spinner of the calibre of Graeme Swann in its ranks, feels the categorisation of Test and limited overs spinners is the need of the hour.
Ashwin, known for his carrom ball as well as “reverse carrom ball” which he recently said that he had used, has not played white ball cricket for India since 2017 West Indies tour and his comeback doesn’t look imminent.
“In one -day cricket, if the pitches are good and you don’t have variations or a mystery ball, you can’t survive. For example, a champion bowler like Lyon has been exposed in one day cricket. He has not been as successful as he has been in the longest format.”
Mushtaq said the ever increasing role of power-hitting in the modern one-day game has made mystery spinners more valuable than the conventional ones.
“You need to have someone who can bowl leg-breaks, googlies, flippers, someone with a different (unorthodox) action. There is so much power hitting in the game, you need spinners with variations.”
And that is why he endorses different set of spinners for Tests and limited overs cricket. “In ODIs, you can still play one good conventional spinner but in T20s you need mystery spinners as he can get a wicket even with a bad ball as the batsman doesn’t have the time to read him,” said the 49-year-old.
“Also, the amount of cricket being played, you need to have different spinners for different formats. You zero in on five-six spinners and use them in different formats. That way their career is prolonged also.”
According to Mushtaq, skill-wise, Lyon and Ashwin are on par with greats like Saqlain Mushtaq and Muttiah Muralitharan but not best suited for the one-day game.
“We had four fielders inside the circle, there was extra protection in the deep. Now with five fielders inside, if you are consistent with your line and length, you may struggle.
“Ashwin and Lyon are as good as the spinners of the past. It is just that the limited overs game has overshadowed Test cricket,” Mushtaq said.
The burly spinner of yesteryears further said that the art of leg-spin is here to stay as it is the best wicket-taking option in limited overs cricket.
“You will see a lot of leg-spinners in the next 10-15 years. Batsman nowadays are used to playing express pace but they still struggle against leg-spinners.”
Mushtaq played in the times of Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, calling them “great players of spin”. Now, Asian teams including India struggle against high-quality spin.
“Moeen Ali takes a lot of wickets against India and so does Lyon. The sub-continental teams don’t play spin that well anymore.
“In the last 10-15 years, we have been preparing more for pacers on overseas assignments and that is one reason why the batsmen have not been learning how to play spin.
“When I used to play against India, I knew that they would get a single off a good ball also. Technically, they were very strong. Their gravity levels, intent, trigger movement, use of crease, how to play on different pitches. It is not the same anymore “And thanks to IPL and PSL, the foreign batsmen have become good players of spin,” reckoned Mushtaq.
(With PTI inputs)