Harbhajan Singh bats for finger-spinners

Written by N Krishnamurthy

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who picked up 3/20 in Chennai Super Kings’ victorious tournament opener against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, argued that finger-spinners had a ‘role to play’ amid growing influence of wrist-spinners, suggesting Ravindra Jadeja may be key to India’s World Cup plans.

Wrist-spin is the most trendy buzzword in limited-overs cricket today. That specific art of bowling, which some feared would vanish with the advent of T20 cricket, has in fact thrived. In the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Player rankings, six of the top ten spots are occupied by wrist-spinners, including the top three.

India’s Kuldeep Yadav, a left-arm wrist-spinner, is fifth on the list, while his leg-spin partner, Yuzvendra Chahal, is ranked No.19. By many quarters, they are regarded India’s lead spin options at the upcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, which starts on 30 May in England. There is merit to that belief as they’re both among the top 10 bowlers in the global ODI rankings too.

But Singh opined that finger-spinners still have a role to play, especially in the shorter formats of the game. “You talk about Ravindra Jadeja, he’s always in the game as long as he’s looking to spin the ball,” he said after the game on Saturday, 23 March.

“He’s someone I feel… he could be a key member for India to win (the World Cup). He’s a factor, he bowls, he bats and he’s a gun fielder. Finger-spinners should be given the responsibility, they will deliver.”

He dwelled further on why wrist-spin had come to attain the kind of importance and influence it does in modern limited-overs cricket, and gave finger-spinners a simple tip on how to become more efficient – by trying to turn the ball more.

“Wrist-spinners are bowling three-four different kind of balls, you know they’ve got the leg-spin, googly, flipper and you may bowl that ball which goes straight but with more spin on it – top-spin kind of ball, so they’ve got 3-4 balls under their belt they could bowl at any point of time,” he noted.

“New generation feel that people who can (turn) the ball both sides have more chances than the finger-spinner, it’s obviously their mentality… I’ve played all my cricket as a finger-spinner and I’ve never complained about it. And I did okay, not bad. I’m quite happy with whatever I have achieved,” said the bowler with 711 international wickets against his name, 294 of those in white-ball cricket.

“I feel finger-spinners have a role to play. Spinners need to back themselves to spin the ball rather than not spinning it. Most of the new generation… you talk about an off-spinner or a left-arm spinner, they don’t look to spin the ball.”

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N Krishnamurthy