Tom, Dick and the expert all have an opinion yet the fan is confused; where has the Indian spinner gone? Why can’t our batsmen play spin? Why have we lost home advantage? Finding no answers, I decided to dig deeper into the myth around this amazing art, mastered in the past by a few, now forgotten by all.
Before delving into the realms of technique, I decided to look up the definition for ‘spin’. When used as a verb it means ‘to rotate something quickly.’ I then asked two of the best spinners the world has seen ever see to give me a line on spin.
I quote Bishen Singh Bedi: “Difference between spin and break — spin in the air, break off the wicket.” And E.A.S. Prassanna: ‘Spin consists of RPM in air, deception overcomes the resistance offered by the pitch and creates illusion on the batsman’s mind.”
By a simple read of the same, it can be safely assumed that spin is the rotation of the ball in the air. If it was that simple, then how come we don’t have spinners of class anymore?
It’s best that we start with the basics. How does one spin a ball? Do you just use your fingers or your wrist or more? All you need to do to answer this is to pick up a cricket ball and spin it. First use your fingers alone. You might get the ball a few inches into the air. With practice you will get more rotation but no extra height.
Now use your wrist and your fingers. The ball will go higher with added RPM. Try and get the ball across 22 yards — you can’t. You will need additional support for that.
The next logical question was how to get a spinning ball across twenty yards in order to cause deception? Standing at one end of the wicket start by just using your fingers, wrist and your arm and though you will generate more spin than before and get the ball to the other side, it will have no bite.
In order to become effective, you will need far more impetus. Now use your entire body, in the proper synchronised dance called technique and soon you will make the ball rip but not dip, turn but not burn. With enough practice and some talent you will start doing what our present day bowlers do: act the part but fail to deliver.
Now go to YouTube and study Prasanna & Bedi. The poetry run up, the delivery action and the follow-through are all focused at delivering maximum rotation. Both impart enough rotation on the ball to deceive the batsman lulling him into a false illusion of its whereabouts. The deliveries of both hang in the air tantalisingly, then break off the wicket at lightning speed. Did they have similar bowling speeds? Not at all! Both had their own optimum speed at which they delivered the ball dictated by their height.
Can you become a Bedi or a Prasanna? Sadly no! Not with the present coaching set up in India which is set up to produce average bowlers with the emphasis being on producing the jack of all instead of the perfectionist, the all rounder instead of the purist, the T20 spinner instead of the Test spinner.
This then made me ask the question: does spin influence speed through the air or does speed through the air dictate spin? As stated earlier, the effort of rotating the delivery to the maximum by any individual will always be at his personal optimum speed dictated by his height. Over time and dedicated practice, and of course after a greater understanding of the technique of spin, you will realise that more rotation that you try and impart, the faster through the air it will go proving that greater rotation on the ball results in higher speeds through the air. If it was a mere question of speed through the air dictating spin, we could get our fast bowlers to start tweaking a few off breaks.
Now that you are convinced that the greater the effort to rotate the delivery the higher the speed through the air, lets relate to what the master off spinner has said: “Spin consists of RPM in air, deception overcomes the resistance offered by the pitch and creates illusion on batsman mind.”
Which would mean that Prasanna, who was not a very tall man, had to toss the ball high. And in order to be able to deceive the bowler he would need to deliver enough RPM into the ball, making it dip, drift and swerve in the air, creating illusions in the minds of the batsmen making him search for the ball. Unsure the batsman would reach for the delivery, which would pitch not where he thought it had, then spit off the wicket searching for the elusive edge. Forward and backward short leg, silly point and slips would be waiting in eager anticipation.
What can we do to bring the old glory back? The first thing is to teach our youngsters to rotate the ball fiercely, bring back the old spinners, redefine spin bowing in India and implement this definition at the very basic level of learning. If we don’t do this we will continue to remain the laughing stock in the small world of cricket.