Resurgence of leg spin
Leg spinners possess a certain mystery and guile which separates them from their contemporaries. Leg spinners have been present from the early days of cricket. But over the years leg spin bowling has faced its fair share of ups and downs. In the early 80’s many feared that this art might disappear from the game. At that time Pakistani leg spinner Abdul Qadir emerged and rejuvenated leg spin bowling.
In 1992 the greatest leg spinner of all time Shane Warne made his international debut. Then Cricket saw a flurry of talented leg spinners such as Anil Kumble, Mushtaq Ahmed, Stuart MacGill, Danish Kaneria etc make an impact. However after this brief period of prosperity the number of leg spinners again started to decrease. Teams started to opt for the accuracy of finger spinners rather than the mystery of leg spin. The existence of leg spin was again in jeopardy. But in the past few years a new pattern is emerging. The number of leg spinners have increased dramatically. Almost every international side has a leg spinner or is in pursuit to find one. What has caused this sudden resurgence of leg spin? Let’s try and find out. [Read also: Bangladesh probable squad for tri-series and Champions Trophy]
Since its inception, T20 cricket has polarized the world of cricket. Many hail this format for increasing the popularity of cricket. And many abuse it for damaging the fundamentals of this game. But for leg spinners this format has been nothing less than a blessing.
T20 is a hard hitting affair. In this format the batsmen are always looking to be aggressive. At first many thought that only the fast bowlers can be effective in this format. But it later became clear that bowlers with more variety are more likely to be successful in this format. And leg spinners are easily the bowlers with the most variety. They have the leg break, googly, flipper, top spinner etc. Every leg spinner has at least two of these deliveries in their arsenal. The highest wicket taker in t20 int. (Shahid Afridi with 97 wickets) and the current no.1 bowler in t20 int. (Imran Tahir) both are leg spinners. Teams around the world are realizing this and that’s why they are now more interested in playing a leg spinner rather than a finger spinner.
T20 leagues around the world are also giving young leg spinners a lot of exposure. They are getting a chance to not only hone their skills but also to get noticed.
ICC bowling regulations are being applied more strictly than before. ICC is monitoring the actions of bowlers more intently. This has caused problems for many bowlers around the world. But it has come as a blessing in disguise for the leg spinners.
Right before the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2015 the ICC started a cleansing project. They started to examine the bowlers who were accused of having a questionable bowling action. The tests had dire consequences on many bowlers. Since then ICC has been very active to test the bowlers with questionable actions. And the most of the culprits caught in this cleansing project were finger spinners. Many known right arm and left arm orthodox or off spinners around the world were found guilty of having illegal bowling actions. Few of the notable were Pakistani Saeed Ajmal, Md Hafeez, Sri Lankan Suraj Randeev, West Indian Sunil Narine, Bangladeshi Shohag Gazi, Arafat Sunny etc. All of them made their comeback in cricket after correcting their bowling actions. But most of them were not as effective as they once were.
To extract more turn or to bowl a dusra off spinners need to bend their arm. That’s why there is always a chance for them to bend their elbow more than the allowed guidelines. Thus the fear of getting banned has set in the minds of many off spinners. Hence we don’t see them bowl as many dusras as they used to. This has made them look more ordinary and the batsmen are playing them with a lot more freedom then before.
But to leg sinners these regulations don’t cause any problem. As they don’t have to bend their elbows to bowl they are unaffected by these regulations. This is also playing a part in their resurgence.
Wicket Taking Ability:
Cricket is much more aggressive than before. It has now become a game for the batsmen. Everything seems to be in their favor. The batsmen of the modern era are more creative. Batsmen with their thick blades and their vivid imagination are inventing new ways to annihilate the opposition bowling attack. Teams around the world are trying to find a way to stem the run flow of opposition batters. This has made them realize that the wicket taking is the only way to stop the onslaught of opposition batsmen. And leg spinners have become that vital wicket taking option.
Leg spinners have always been considered as wicket takers. Because of their variety of deliveries they are unpredictable. To play a leg spinner properly a batsman has to pick the delivery from the bowler’s hand. If he doesn’t judge the direction of the bowl correctly he will find himself in all sorts of trouble. This unpredictability makes them natural wicket takers.
However leg spinners also have a bad reputation for being more expensive and unreliable than other spinners. That is mainly because of their wrist action which makes controlling the trajectory of the bowl very difficult. That’s why many sides opted for finger spinners instead of leg spinners.
But with the strictly imposed bowling regulations and the pitches becoming more and more batting friendly other types of bowlers are having a hard time picking up wickets. So teams nowadays are trying to keep a leg spinner in their side. They are now willing to give away some runs to buy a wicket.
Leg spinners have become the current norm of world cricket. Almost every int. side has one or more leg spinners. Even in franchise cricket leagues such as IPL, BBL, CPL, PSL etc we see sides having one or more leg spinner. But the scenario of leg spinners in Bangladesh is very different.
Bangladesh doesn’t have a rich history of leg spinners. Bangladesh is considered as a factory for left arm spinners as we have almost an unending supply of them. But leg spinners are very rare in Bangladesh. Our current coach Mr. Chandika Hathrusingha has openly stated his eagerness to find a good leg spinner. He has tried out Jubair Hossain, Tanbir Hayder etc to fill up the leg spinner spot. But both of them have failed to impress.
Leg spin is a difficult art to master. Not everyone can learn this craft .That’s why the number of leg spinner has always been less than other bowlers. A leg spinner needs a lot of time to come to his own. He needs time and proper guidance to become an expert in his craft. But as stated before Bangladesh doesn’t have a rich history in leg spin bowling. So a lack of guidance is there. The low and slow pitches in Bangladesh also entice the young players to bowl left arm off spin rather than leg spin. Even in these adverse circumstances if someone learns the art of leg spin club teams are reluctant to give them proper chances. Even in BPL we hardly see any Bangladeshi leg spinner. Which is completely opposite from the other T20 leagues around the world.
In the constantly changing landscape of Cricket one has to adapt to the new challenges or perish away. The resurgence of leg spin bowling is one such occurrence. Teams around the world have tackled this new situation by including young leg spinners in their side. They are becoming a major factor in their team’s victory. Leg spinners like Imran Tahir, Yasir Shah, Adil Rashid, Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav etc are slowly becoming the flag bearer of the leg spinners up rise. But sadly for Bangladesh, leg spinners are the missing weapon in our bowling arsenal. To do well in the current world of Cricket Bangladesh needs to find good leg spinners. Till then Bangladesh’s bowling line up will remain incomplete.
- Ashfaq Niloy