IPL’s Twenty20 Spin Buzz

Not even a week into the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League, already making waves is the talk about how spinners have been the unlikely heroes of the IPL’s Twenty20 story and why teams without spinners may go bust sooner rather than later in this edition of the IPL.

If one were to recall the early days of Twenty20, leave alone the days leading up the inaugural Indian Premier League edition in 2008, the talk revolved not only around how the fast bowlers would feel an even more unfair deal with the advent of the cricket’s shortest format yet but also, of how the spinners were potentially easy pickings for the batsmen not afraid to clobber every ball from the word go. There was fair skepticism when the first players auctions took place and it stemmed as much from the experienced spinners as it did from team strategists still coming to terms with the bombastic model of the game. The license for the batsmen to throw caution to the wind seemed to spell doom for the bowlers and more importantly, the slower bowlers including the spinners.

However, a decade into the IPL, one of the staunchest myths has been laid to rest. For one, apart from Mumbai Indians’ Lasith Malinga, no other fast bowler features on the list of the top five wicket taking bowlers of the IPL of all time. As if to emphasize the point, teams that have generally maintained a good spinner have rarely let him go. If anything, the trend has been to increase one’s spin repertoire in the dugout which would explain why although the Chennai Super Kings lost Ravichandran Ashwin, they have Harbhajan Singh, South Africa’s Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja amongst their team composition.

With the deconstruction of the myth surrounding Twenty20 as a mindless, bludgeoning-bat-on-ball sport, the spinners have since come to play a terrific role in not only bringing down the pace of the batsmen and their frenetic scoring but also, in showing the merit of holding onto a world class spinner who can turn the match on its head with his ability to strike at the heart of the opposition, picking up crucial wickets - detrimental to accelerating the rate at which the game is played.

Right into the heat of the battle in IPL 2018, twenty year old Mayank Markande has grabbed the headlines from the other spinners in the Mumbai Indians squad such as one IPL season old Rahul Chahar, under-19 sensation Anukul Roy, and Sri Lanka’s Akila Dananjaya. Not expected to make the first cut, Markande stole the limelight in the match against another spin heavy team in the Chennai Super Kings with an impressive debut of three wickets conceding barely over twenty runs. It was the second-best performance since Malinga which tells quite the story.

With the Chennai Super Kings banking heavily on spin as also, the Kolkata Knight Riders who have their established, successful trio in West Indies’ Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, it is with good reason that the IPL teams are packing spinners by the dozens. With the Indians pitches tending to get slower and tired by the end of the season - the gap the IPL has come to fill the interlude between cricket seasons, not only are the fast bowlers going to struggle to get assistance out of the weary pitches but also, the spinners would find it easier to control to the pace of the game on such spin friendly, slightly misbehaving pitches. Furthermore, with the batsmen in a frantic maximize-every-ball mode, it is the ideal opportunity for a spinner to slip one delivery past a circumspect or rash batsman to inflict pain on the opposition through the loss of wickets at a time when batsmen would look to be accelerating.

With the fast bowlers’ pace aiding the batsmen in their follow through to hit the ball clean across the boundary, the spinners and slow bowlers with their variations provide the ideal breaks. It is the reason why the most astute readers of the game have some fans bamboozled with teams such as the Rajasthan Royals, with Shane Warne as their mentor, not having made a similar case right off the bat in 2018.

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