Mushtaq Ahmed, the wily leg-spinner of yore, his googlies a lethal web of intrigue, was a bowler dreaded by all. If the pitch helped, he was unplayable. If it did not, he was unplayable still.
Roped in by T.A. Sekar and Ashish Kapoor, he is here as the bowling coach of Delhi Daredevils (DD). “I had been following the IPL, enjoying it. If I have to stay in this business of coaching, I have to keep learning. I’m here to help DD as much as possible. It’s a learning process for me.”
As the bowling coach of the England team that beat India 2-1 in a high quality Test series, Mushtaq played a silent role. He prepared Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar to explore a tight and wicket-taking line and imparted lessons in reverse swing to James Anderson. “Ultimately the credit should be given to the bowlers,” he said with humility.
He played in an era when wicket-taking and not containing the batsman was the priority. Mushtaq said, “Quality of spin has dropped with due respect to modern spinners. It’s tough to bring in variations, opportunities are hard to come by, spinners today have a tough job indeed. I think bowlers are not daring anymore, they worry about being hit.”
The leg-spinner, who played 52 Tests and 144 ODIs, said,
“You have to bowl good overs consistently. A good ball will not always get you the wicket of a good batsman. I would bowl a line where I could trouble a batsman, not one ball, but three to four overs. That’s what’s needed to create pressure.”
Cricket, Mushtaq is convinced, has become “more challenging now. The mindset has changed in Test cricket. Say, 200 for three in a day used to be good, but not now. The scoring ratio has changed. It is four an over in Test cricket. But Twenty20 cricket has its own charm. It has skill and technical things but not the real test.”
Mushtaq, 42, spoke his mind on the spinners’ approach in T20 cricket.
“It’s simple. You have to spin the ball. Don’t worry about being hit for sixes. Imran (Khan) told me at the start of my career not to fear conceding runs. He would say give me wickets. He loved wicket-taking bowlers.
“All successful spinners in T20 cricket spin the ball well consistently. As a batsman, you need strength to hit a six but if the ball spins it will not come nicely on to the bat.”