The move to make the spinners aim for wickets is a progressive one, writes Makarand Waingankar
A delightful outcome of effective strategy management in the T20 format is the emergence of spinners. It may come as a surprise, but it goes to prove that if one masters the basics, no format poses any problem.
It was in the 70s that the guile of Bishen Singh Bedi mesmerised the batsmen in county cricket to such an extent that they were more awestruck in appreciation than in attacking the tossed up deliveries in the shorter version of the game.
Bedi, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan would perhaps now say that spin was always an effective weapon, provided the spinners knew their art well. The trend in 80s was to use bits and pieces medium pacers-cum-batsmen to strengthen the batting line-up of India.
This thinking was backed by India’s 1983 World Cup win when the medium pace attack of Kapil Dev, Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Balwinder Singh Sandhu demolished the West Indies team but we failed to realise that the English conditions suited us more than any other team. And when six months later almost the same attack played against the West Indies, it was slaughtered.
The thought process of selectors and captains was against the idea of introducing spinners in the shorter version of the game. Very rarely did we see Kumble and Harbhajan Singh play in the final eleven. And when they did, the plan was to bowl a containing line all the time.
Pragyan Ojha has changed the thinking of modern spinners. If you are good at bowling an attacking line, then you should, irrespective of the fact that you will be hit out of the park. Though Ojha has been using the crease beautifully, using him as an attacking bowler seems to be Dhoni’s and coach Kirsten’s plan.
Unless the captain has faith in the attacking abilities of a spinner, no bowler will have the confidence to bowl that line. Prasanna was at his attacking best when playing under Pataudi, rather than Ajit Wadekar, who preferred Venkataraghavan on the 1971 tour when India won the series.
In Wadekar’s and Hemu Adhikari’s scheme of things, they needed to block one end up with Venkat and attack with Bedi and Chandrashekar. And being a brilliant close in-fielder, Venkataraghavan added value to his presence on the field. Pataudi used Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar in close in fielding positions while picking all three attacking spinners. Both the moves worked well.
Dhoni like Pataudi believes in using his spinners to get wickets and is not afraid to give away runs in the process.
Obviously playing for Deccan Chargers under Adam Gilchrist, Ojha has worked on his bowling as Gilchrist typically believes in the characteristic Australian attacking mode of play.
As he gets among the wickets in T20, Ojha’s confidence will also grow and with that an important message will be conveyed to the coaches and modern spinners that the more you work on the basics of the skill, the more you will have the confidence to torment the batsmen. T20 is an aggressive format and to make the spinners aim for wickets is a progressive move that has to be applauded.