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'Only spinners can win Tests'

Legendary spinner Erapalli Prasanna talks to Atreyo Mukhopadhyay on the importance of the craft.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 17:52 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Erapalli Prasanna retired from Test cricket almost three decades back, but his interest in spin bowling keeps dragging him back to the field.

He is here as a special invitee to the zonal academy session now in progress. The 65-year-old took a break to have a chat with HT.

Following are the excerpts:

Would you say there has been a revival of spin bowling in international cricket?

I won’t use the word revival but the awareness of the importance of spinners is more widespread these days. It has come through the success of spinners in one-day cricket and India’s triumph in the 1984-85 Benson & Hedges World Series in Australia played a big role in it.

Our plan to have L Sivaramakrishnan in the playing eleven with Ravi Shastri raised eyebrows, but I (manager of the team) told the press there that they might see something different. We had a few medium-pacers (Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath being the regulars) of which only Kapil was the fearsome one.

Except for the final, where we took nine wickets, we bowled out the opposition in every other match and the spinners played a key role. After that competition, it became clear that spinners were more important in one-day cricket than they were known to be.

How big a role have Shane Warne and Mutthiah Muralitharan played?

Huge. Spin was essentially a sub-continent craft and predominantly Indian because Pakistan and Sri Lanka were more dependent on quicker bowlers in the earlier days of their cricket. In India, it was all spin with the exception of probably Mohammad Nissar, Ramakant Desai and Kapil. It wasn’t as if spinners were not used when Warne and Murali started playing, but by making sure that they could play a massive role in Tests and an effective role in one-dayers, these two have increased the importance of spin bowling.

Can a spinner sharpen any skill while playing limited-over games?

There can be negatives but the encouraging sign is one-day cricket teaches a spinner the importance of length. Chances of getting hit because of error in length are more in case of a spinner and one-day cricket gives him an opportunity to learn how crucial it is. Warne and Murali have lost neither artistry nor cunning, which can be seen in details when they bowl at least three times more than what they do in one-dayers.

Would you say it took India too long to realise that only spin will not do if the team is to win abroad?

It’s not that we didn't want two-three fast bowlers who would be delivering the goods consistently. The wish was never fulfilled because we just didn't have them. The only Indian fast bowler capable of taking a wicket in every spell I have seen is Kapil and in order to have a pace-oriented attack, the medium-pacers should bowl at least 70 overs if the team bowls 100. The quicker bowlers playing now can do the job in one-dayers but to win Test matches we are still dependent of spinners. Be it the victories in New Zealand in 1967-68, in West Indies and England in 1971 or Sourav Ganguly’s team's victories in Australia and Pakistan, it were the spinners who took bulk of the wickets.

How do you describe the doosra?

Instead of getting in to the controversy of which bowler is flouting the law while bowling it, I would say it’s very difficult to bowl a doosra without taking any undue advantage. Unless you have exceptionally strong wrists and fingers, it’s difficult to get the ball to travel the distance if you are not straightening the arm beyond permissible limits. That’s why you see certain bowlers stop before delivering the ball while trying a doosra, the action becoming chest-on than side-on and the non-bowling-arm getting virtually useless.

Who is the spinner you would aspire to be?

Subhash Gupte, he is the greatest one could see. Irrespective of the fact that he was a leg-spinner unlike me, I choose him because the basic fundamentals of spin bowling are the same. He had everything, variations of different types, in flight and spin, consistency of length. He would have finished with 800 Test wickets if he were playing now.

And who is the best batsman you have bowled against?

Tom Graveney. He is the most gifted player I have seen. He gave the impression that he had all the time in the world to play his shots and used to get runs the way he wanted. He was dropped from the team a few times but kept coming back and scoring runs.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 14:53 IST