One of the biggest myths in the world of cricket is that the Indian batsmen are the best players of spin bowling. This exhibited itself when, in their opening match of the World T20 against New Zealand in Nagpur on Tuesday, the much vaunted Indian batting line up fell like a pack of cards against greenhorn Kiwi spinners. A host of cricket experts this correspondent spoke to, stamped the view that Indian batsmen struggle against quality spin bowlers. They said this is not a new phenomenon. Our batsmen have had a problem against spinners on spinning tracks, experts told this correspondent.
“There is no denying the fact that the Indian ability to play good quality spin has come down considerably,” said a former player who has played for Team India. ‘India plays so much of cricket nowadays that we hardly tend to notice this. I think we Indians are among the worst players of spin,’” said the cricketer.
This cricketer’s observation is backed by an analysis published by the reputed cricket website ESPN Cricinfo. The website published an article in November 2015 which made a startling revelation that among the seven Test playing nations, India had the worst performance when it came to playing spinners. This study was conducted between the years 2012 and 2016.
When asked to comment on this ESPN Cricinfo, a former India manager said that it was quite true. “I must say that there is a lot of truth in that report. The Indian players are not such good players of spin as it is made out to be,” the manager said.
It is also interesting to note that while the likes of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have not troubled the Indian batsmen at home, it is the lesser known spinners like Moin Ali and Monty Panesar (England), Nathan Lyon (Australia) and Ranjan Herath (Sri Lanka) who have given a bad time to Indian batsmen on turning tracks.
“Yes there is no doubt that someone like Panesar and Herath have created a lot of trouble for the Indian batsmen. I am not saying that they (the Indian batsmen) are not good batsmen of spin. But the fact remains that we have instances when a bowler of the caliber of Panesar and Herath have troubled us. Now I would not include both of these in the top notch category of spinners,” said a former India batsman.
But then mere statistcs don’t explain the real problem. “For me its not just about the numbers—that is how many times our batsmen have failed against spinners—its about the number of times our batsmen have flopped at home against virtually second string spinners. That is a real area of concern,” said the batsman.
There is another side to this argument. In the era of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, India had some of the best batsmen who could play spin. It is worth mentioning that the trio were among the best in the world when it came to battling the spinners. Their technique to smother the spin was a class act, something the current crop of Indian batsmen should emulate, said a cricketer.
“I think the current crop of Indian batsmen should employ some of the ways in which these three legends used to negotiate spin. In Laxman’s case he used to play spinners on the backfoot—a ploy which helped him negate the spin. In the case of Dravid and Sachin, they would use their feet against the spinners and also keep the strike rotating. What generally happens against spinners is that batsmen tend to get frustrated and they eventually get out trying to play the big shots. If a batsman were to rotate the singles and move the strike they wouldn’t get frustrated and end up losing their wickets,” said the former opening batsman.