Off-spinner M. Venkataramana considers his new role as a coach in the BCCI’s Special Academy as a window to a future full of opportunities
Margashayam Venkataramana might be 46 but is still lithe, agile and appears ready for combat. But then, days when he outwitted the batsmen himself are behind this genial off-spinner.
He now has another role that challenges him. Venkataramana is among the coaches — D. Vasu and S. Shiruguppi being the others — for the BCCI’s Specialist Academy in Chennai. The days ahead bristle with possibilities.
A prominent member of the Tamil Nadu team in the late 80s and for most part of the 90s, Venkataramana claimed 247 first class wickets in 75 matches at 29.63. In his lone Test for India, against the West Indies in Kingston, 1989, he took one wicket, the prized scalp of Desmond Haynes.
He does not want to dwell on the past though. It is the future that interests him.
Venkataramana believes any good spinner must have two essential attributes — first, he should really spin the ball; and second, he must possess a clean action.
Says Venkataramana, “Genuine spin bowling is dying. Grooming and mentoring budding spinners are extremely important.”
Illegal bowling actions
He is conscious of the threat posed to the game by illegal bowling actions and points out, “You need to spot and correct bowling actions at a young age.”
Is it possible to bowl the doosra with a clean action? Venkataramana answers, “Both Erapalli Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan, great off-spinners, took the ball away from the right handers.”
He threw more light on the subject. “Prasanna used his thumb to get the ball to rotate the other way. The seam pointed towards the slip as the ball spun towards the off side.”
He then says, “Venkat used to leave it through the arm, slice it across. The delivery used to leave or drift away from the right-handers.”
However, Venkataramana agrees that the doosra bowled with “the back of the palm facing the right-hander” is always likely to be suspect. “You do tend to extend your elbow,” he notes.
Venkataramana says a side-on release for spinners is an ideal one since it greatly reduces the chances of a bowler operating with an illegal action but adds he will not force someone to change his bowling style.
“If a young spinner can bowl with control and with a clean action even if he is chest-on, then we should encourage him to retain his action and work around it,” he states.
Venkataramana stresses serious revolutions on the ball. “A spinner must have strong fingers,” he says.
He feels off-spinners need to deliver with a high-arm action. “A left-arm spinner or a leg-spinner might get away with a lower arm but it helps an off-spinner to have a high-arm action.” This high-arm action, he elaborates, is essential for the spinner to get the ball to dip and bounce.
Queried about the declining standards of spin bowling in India, he answers, “The trajectory has got flatter. You need to flight the ball, impart revolutions and achieve bounce. The spin bowlers also need to bowl with a more adventurous mindset.”
Leg-spinning, a difficult art
Here, he believes the captain and the entire team have to back the spinners. “Particularly, the leg-spinners. Leg-spin is a very difficult art. You have to chiefly spin the ball with your wrist and consistency can be very difficult.”
Spin bowling, Venkataramana opines, is a lot about how a bowler uses his wrist and fingers, his body alignment during gather and release and the manner in which he pivots. “The distribution of weight in a bowler’s action has to be proper. Otherwise, he will lack stability,” he warns.
Venkataramana, with knowledge and ideas, eyes the time before him with optimism.