JOHANNESBURG – The World Cup will be awash with wrist-spinners.
Eight of the ten teams will have front-line wrist-spinners in their squad. West Indies and weirdly Bangladesh don’t, although the latter has a wide mix of off-spinners and slow left arm orthodox bowlers.
It’s the Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed effect, and the forecast for a dry English summer, which has made teams pick leg-spinners. If the World Cup is to be a month and a half long batting bonanza, then say the experts, the best counter would be to take wickets. Leg-spinners are naturally aggressive and they’re wicket-takers.
“It’s because of the variation they can use,” said South Africa’s very own Imran Tahir. “Finger spinners don’t have many variations and wrist-spinner bring a lot of excitement, they take more wickets and create more opportunities to take more wickets.”
South Africa hasn’t always been an agent of spin, but when Tahir got to this country and started bamboozling local batsmen, administrators couldn’t wait to get him into the national team. Once he was eligible, they kept him under wraps, unleashing him at the 2011 World Cup, where he picked up 14 wickets in five matches.
Tahir helped change South African mindsets about spinners in one-day cricket. Until his arrival, slow bowlers were prized mainly for their ability to contain and to give opposing batsmen no pace with which to work.
Tahir showed South Africa how a more aggressive outlook slowed the scoring rate through taking wickets.
Other countries paid attention. Australia has worked long and hard to turn Adam Zampa into a threat, while India unleashed the one-two combo of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Pakistan have Shadab Khan in their ranks this year, England Adil Rashid, the leading wicket-taker in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup and New Zealand have Ish Sodhi.
Arguably the biggest impact from a leg-spinner has been Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, who has charmed crowds in various T20 Leagues around the world and given the Afghans the belief that they are capable of upsetting one of the main contenders at this year’s World Cup.
Khan spins the ball hard and propels it at a reasonable pace too, which allied with a devastating googly makes him a difficult proposition to face. He’s taken 125 wickets in 59 matches, his economy rate of 3.90, is a sign of his terrific control and his strike rate of 23.5 illustrates his aggression.
Those long term weather forecasts for a dry and hot English summer will raise expectations even more for spinners – especially the wristy ones – making a big impression. Tahir has no doubts.
“If you get a summer like last year, when I was playing for Durham, it will definitely help the spinners.”
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