India vs New Zealand: Mitchell Santner bucks the trend in age of wrist spin
In the age where wrist spinners are reaping most of the rewards, Mitchell Santner’s ‘finger tweaking’ style of bowling has produced great results for him against India.Updated: Oct 30, 2017 23:42 IST
Throughout the India-New Zealand ODI series, Mitchell Santner has been quite impressive. Though he picked just four wickets, it is his miserly economy rate and approach that command applause.
Currently, when wrist spinners are in vogue, Santner seems to be carrying the flag for finger spinners. The way he has operated in varied conditions, Indian tweakers such as Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja can take a leaf out of his book.
While the pitches in the first two ODIs were slow and supported spinners, the track in Kanpur was a flat bed. For a spinner, varying length and pace was the survival mantra. The Kiwi pacers were hammered by Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.
It was Santner who finished his spell under six runs an over and also picked two crucial wickets of Rohit and Hardik Pandya. Had both Rohit and Pandya spent some more time at the crease, India’s end score could have been much more than 337.
Santner, though, has adapted quickly. In his first over, he was hit for a couple of fours by Rohit. Santner added yards to his pace that aided Rohit in dispatching them. Immediately, Santner reduced his speed and changed his line. Though he bowls wide of the crease, his high point of release and the revs he imparts on the ball gives him an edge as some deliveries skid on to the batsmen.
Secondly, he began bowling on the middle stump, which made it difficult for the Indians to employ the slog sweep. Continuous drop in pace resulted in Rohit’s wicket and later Pandya, known to muscle the ball into the stands, too mistimed to walk back.
In the first ODI, Santner accounted for Kedar Jadhav’s wicket with a loopy delivery and Virat Kohli resurrected India’s innings in a losing cause. While Axar Patel bowled decently at Pune, he struggled at Kanpur. He kept firing in deliveries at a higher pace and was no challenge for the Kiwis. Although, since the time he has returned to the India line-up, Patel’s USP has been his variation and pace. Patel picked a three-wicket haul against the Aussies.
However, at Kanpur it was India leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who kept a close eye on Santner and picked up the winning formula. He bowled slower and gave the ball air to pick two important wickets, that of set Colin Munro and Kane Williamson.
“Whenever I bowled slow, it spun, so my intention was to vary my pace. On this wicket, you need to flight the ball,” said Chahal after the game.
Even though the Kiwis have leg-spinner Ish Sodhi in their ranks, the side has persisted with Santner. And the reason is his experience, apt turn and the ability to adapt to different pitches.
For Kohli, Patel’s transformation was the reason to go back to the combination of finger and wrist spin.
“Axar’s height, trajectory, change of pace and variations pose problems for the batsmen and one wrong shot selection can change the game. Also his turn is just apt, which is needed to pick a wicket,” Kohli had said.
Wrist spinners can pick wickets but it is difficult for them to bowl defensively. Once their length and mystery is negated, batsmen tend to dominate. Tom Latham’s sweep made Kuldeep Yadav look ordinary. It was then that Patel was included, and his variations accounted for the same batsman. Not just wickets, finger spinners can contain an end. Santner’s ODI average is over 33 but his economy makes up for the team’s cause.
Till last year, India played Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin but their inconsistency led to their ouster. Jadeja could rarely vary his pace. It forced Kohli to opt for two wrist spinners. It was good while it lasted but India recently went back to a finger spinner to balance things up.
With Santner heading strong, a similar performance in the T20s could help the Kiwis put up a strong show. If Patel takes a cue from Santner’s performance, he can leave a strong impression in these times when wrist spinners are the preferred options for Indian selectors.
First Published: Oct 30, 2017 23:36 IST