From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.16 :: Apr. 22, 2010
The third edition of IPL has managed to retain the suspense and interest (at the time of writing) and by the time the league phase gets over, the nerves will be jagged and the teams that can keep their wits will get into the top four. Of course, Mumbai Indians have scaled the ladder already and the remaining three slots can be anybody's.
The common consensus before the start of the IPL was that the bowlers will have to face tough challenges and the discerning were curious as to how the spinners will measure up to the challenges. To my delight, the spinners have made a big impact and with Pragyan Ojha and Muttiah Muralitharan leading the pack in terms of wickets, they have proved that the spinners have a role to play.
While Muralitharan has the benefit of enormous experience, the young left-arm spinner Ojha has held his own and has displayed excellent temperament. It is easy for a youngster to get flustered when he sees the batsmen going after the bowlers and especially when even mistimed hits clear the fence easily at times.
It can be argued that Ojha, being a left-armer has the advantage since his stock delivery leaves the right-handed batsmen who make up the majority. But in the end it is all about not losing one's composure.
This is where someone like Jakati has flattered to deceive and that too on occasions when there was a fair bit of assistance from the pitch. The reason why Ojha has earned the purple cap is because of the fact that he has the knack of bowling some excellent deliveries and thereby pick up wickets, which is the best way to put the skids under the batsmen.
The young man must be disappointed with his omission from the T-20 World Cup squad but he has not allowed that to affect his focus in the IPL. A dejected youngster can easily resort to sulking when he gets dropped from the National side but Ojha has done well to show enough character. Being an youngster, he has a clear field ahead of him and he can only get better with passage of time.
If Ojha has shown character, another young spinner Ashwin has shown that he has a big heart and the confidence to perform on the big stage. He has been utilised in the power play against the biggest of hitters but he has passed muster and it has to be said that he has to be the successor to Harbhajan Singh.
However, Ashwin has to realise that he has to play the role of an understudy as of now to Muralitharan and as such he will only get to play sporadically. He is on a learning curve and one of the biggest lessons he has to learn is that he has to be patient before he can earn a spot in the XI. He has developed a few variations to try and create doubts in the minds of the batsmen but it will be in his interest if he does not take the Warne route of chirping about his variations.
Much as the success of some spinners in the IPL was a delight to watch, it is imperative for the spinners in general to realise that they need to be crafty enough to pick up wickets when the batsmen are on a circumspect mode. This is not happening in the T-20 format but the flip side of youngsters getting picked for the shortest format is that they somehow struggle in other formats.
Piyush Chawla for one is at a loss when the batsmen don't go after him and his inability to bowl consistently in a limited overs game has at times made his State skipper tear his hair out in frustration.
Leg-spinners are not really expected to be as nagging as pecking seagulls in terms of line and length but it will do Chawla no harm if he can work towards developing his consistency. He would have seen Warne and Kumble bowl and it was their ability to bowl consistently more often than not that made them what they were in international cricket.
Chawla is at a stage where he has to improve his skills quickly failing which he will struggle to make an impact in other formats of the game.
He is the future no doubt as he has the talent but he should be wary of not getting into a mode of preferring the shorter version of the game because a genuine leg-spinner can be a match-winner in all the formats.
It will not be a bad idea for the selectors to ignore promising youngsters in the T-20 version of the game till they get their bearings right and this is where Ojha's omission might prove to be a blessing in disguise in the long run. Of course, I am referring to international cricket, as there is no way the youngsters can be kept out of IPL.
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