NEW DEHLI: If spinners are seeking a spark of inspiration to succeed on sub-continental pitches in the World Cup, they need look no further than Australian Shane Warne or India’s Anil Kumble.
Warne turned the 1996 Cup semi-final in Mohali on its head with four for 36 off nine overs as the West Indies crashed to 202 after being strongly placed at 165 for two chasing a target of 208.
Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan,India’s Harbhajan Singh, England’s Graeme Swann, New Zealander Daniel Vettori and Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal need not lose heart.
Bangladesh’s spinners Shakibal Hasan and Abdur Razzak recently made a strong statement for the slow men, playing crucial roles in their team’s one-day series wins.
Three slow men in 1987, including Pakistan’s Abdul Qadir, and four in 1996 finished among top-six bowlers when the event was held in the sub-continent. Leg-spinner Kumble was the most successful bowler in 1996, with 15 wickets. Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga stressed the significance of spin when he used his spinners to restrict Australia to 241 before winning the 1996 Cup final.
Muralitharan is a big turner of the ball and also has a deceptive ‘doosra’, a delivery that turns away from right-handers instead of coming into them like a conventional off-break. He quit Test cricket last year with a record 800 wickets, is also the world’s leading bowler in One-Day Internationals.
Harbhajan has already showed that he is a difficult bowler to get away in home conditions with a tidy line and length which can keep batsmen under control.
He is likely to be the only specialist spinner in the playing XI as India also have useful part-timers in Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2011.