Wrist Turn The Risen Of The Art, To Dominate The World Cup > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Wrist spin - The resurrected art that is set to dominate the World Cup

Kuldeep and Chahal will be key to India's chances in the World Cup.

On February 17, 2005, there was a new addition in a rather small family of cricket formats. With the advent of T20, many felt that wrist-spin bowling would fade into oblivion with one of Chris Gayle's stratospheric strikes. In those early days of T20s, picking a leg-spinner in the side was a gamble in itself; the general consensus was that the inconsistency of the ball coming out of the wrists would be the perfect foil for the batsmen to slog the ball out of the park.

The wrist spinners were seen as bugbears, most of whom would only end up warming the benches. And the retirement of Shane Warne and Anil Kumble almost coincided with the advent of this format. The increasing girth of bats, powerplays, and the stealthily decreasing radius of the boundary meant that the on-field action was being choked - the existence of this art was under threat.

Not surprisingly, only four leg-spinners featured in the inaugural edition of the T20 WC in 2007. And as it generally happens, the trend shifted to 50-over format too. As a result of this trend, in the 2011 and 2015 World Cup, Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi were the only wrist spinners who were regular members of their respective teams.

Nevertheless, as the threat of getting extinct loomed large, the wrist spinners resurrected themselves: 'Necessity is the mother of invention.' Trite it was, but the crafty 'turners' slowly but surely adapted to the changing modes of cricket.

Almost everything that becomes a vogue in T20 cricket these days transfers to the 50-over format too. And slowly but surely, the wrist spinners have turned the tables on the snooty batsmen in one-day cricket too. A glance at the ICC rankings for ODI bowlers will tell you that the evidence is damning - out of top ten bowlers in the format, five are wrist spinners.

So, did their fortunes change overnight?

No, it took years to gradually change the success mantra from flight, dip, and turn, to googlies, wide-outside-offs, and sliders. It was the accuracy, which wrist spinners weren't traditionally known for, that took them streets ahead of the finger spinners in the modern age. Accuracy that was forced upon them by short boundaries, field restriction, and bats on steroids. A few years of conditioning and the masters of chicanery were back in business.

Most ODI wkts after CT 2017:

87 - Kuldeep Yadav

66 - Yuzvendra Chahal

62 - Rashid Khan/ Adil Rashid

59 - Jasprit Bumrah

57 - Trent Boult

The term 'stock ball' has been thrown out of the domain as the frequency of leg-breaks and wrong 'uns has become almost identical. Afghanistan's Rashid Khan spins the ball away effectively from both the southpaws and the right-handers. In addition, he is more a googly bowler than a conventional leg-spinner.

The wrist spinner has become a vital cog in almost every limited overs team now, and with the biggest cricket tournament of all - the Cricket World Cup - just around the corner, their importance and influence on their respective teams' chances will be most telling.

Extra bounce and fifth-stump line

When troubled by spin, and uncertain about reading the variations from the hand, the stereotypical instincts of non-subcontinental batsmen holds true in general - it urges them to sweep. This can be a dangerous proposition against wrist spinners; the extra bounce that they can generate due to the over spin, regardless of the nature of the surface, often produces the top-edge, and subsequently, a wicket.

Then there are wrist spinners like India's Yuzvendra Chahal, who outwit the batsmen keeping it in the fifth-stump channel and enticing them to try the loft. In his record-breaking spell of 6/25 against England in 2017, four out of six dismissals were either via a googly or a ball in that fifth stump channel.

"Wrist spinners are becoming more successful because batsmen are trying to hit them for boundaries every ball. Batsmen generally premeditate the slog which makes the task easier for them," Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, former India legspinner, told Cricbuzz. "Since wrist spinners have a lot more variety and they are using the googly so much, most of the time the batsmen are slogging against the turn or they have to drag the ball from the fifth stump into the leg-side."

Both shots are tough to execute and fraught with risk.

The flatter trajectory

The flatter trajectory of the modern wrist spinners (relative to Warne, Qadir and Sivaramakrishnan himself among others from the 20thcentury) makes it tougher for batsmen to reach the pitch of the ball. Furthermore, it is even harder to get under the ball and provide the elevation.

Moreover, the quick-arm action of the likes of Rashid Khan and Imran Tahir makes it hard for even good batsmen to read these bowlers out of their hands. In an interview with TOI, Rashid revealed "I don't use my wrist a lot in my bowling. I use my fingers as I deliver using the tip of my fingers. That helps me to bowl quicker."

So, the speed at which the ball comes out of Rashid's hands makes it nigh-impossible for batsman to read him off the hands. That leaves the batsmen only with one choice of reading him off the pitch which means batsmen have lesser time to adapt and it gives Rashid a clear advantage.

So, unless wristspinners err in their lines and lengths, it is exceedingly tough to dominate against them even for the best players in the world. It so happens, that they have emerged victorious from the oppression created by the bat-dominated T20 generation and come out stronger and more lethal than ever before.

The relevance of middle overs

Wristspinners are currently acting as speed-breakers in the middle overs, which is subsequently halting the imminent acceleration in the death overs. In the ODI leg of India's 2018 tour of South Africa, the wristspin twins, Chahal and Kuldeep, played a pivotal role in India's historic 5-1 series victory in South Africa. They collectively bowled 102.2 overs, conceded 467 runs and picked up 32 wickets at an unprecedented average of 14.5 runs per wicket.

The numbers are baffling, but more than that, the manner in which they outwitted the Proteas was staggering - particularly in conditions that were, granted, drier than usual given the water troubles in South Africa, but far from the assistive dustbowls that are dished out in the subcontinent for the slower bowlers to merit such staggering numbers.

Adil Rashid's wonder-ball against Virat Kohli at Leeds last year left the Indian skipper flabbergasted. There was something special about the delivery as soon as it left Rashid's hands - it landed on the seam perfectly after dipping in slightly. It spun away startlingly, 5.5 degrees to be precise and deceived the bat of Kohli, defying its apparent affinity for the cricket ball, to hit his stumps.

At one stage, India were going along rather smoothly at 125/2 after 24 overs. But Adil Rashid dismissed both the set batsmen Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik and even got the better of Suresh Raina between that 25th and 30th over phase. His triple-strike pegged India back massively and they could only manage 256. A rough glance at the scorecard will not tell the significance of those three wickets in the middle phase but in actual they were absolutely decisive in the eventual outcome of the game.

Most ODI wkts between overs 21 and 40 after CT 2017:

46 - Kuldeep Yadav

36 - Adil Rashid

35 - Rashid Khan

31 - Yuzvendra Chahal

21 - Graeme Cremer

The middle phase for long in the 50-over-format was considered a hapless phase but wrist-spinners have transformed it into a happening one off late. And all these match-winning performances of the wrist spinners in the middle-overs can't be a coincidence. So, teams which have the luxury of wrist spinners in their armoury will unleash them in the overs between 20-40 not to contain runs but to get the breakthroughs in the World Cup.

Use of Merlyn, the spin-bowling machine

In the recent ODI series against India, England went out of their way to counter Kuldeep; they practiced against Merlyn, the spin-bowling machine, capable of producing any variation of which a spinner is capable. Merlyn does spin and bounce a lot more, so in a way, it prepares the batsmen for the worst. Previously, it was utilized by England in 2005 to counter Shane Warne, but the art of spotting the variations from the hand remains difficult to master.

Kuldeep's chicanery forced the English batsmen to use it 13 years later and that sums up the enormity of the situation - perhaps a revolution in modern limited-overs cricket. It's usage proved to be effective for England as they negotiated the spin-twins much better from the second ODI onwards and eventually came out on top in the ODI series.

Joe Root, in particular, looked like he had gotten the hang of decoding the wristspinners: he played off the back foot and allowed the ball to turn, relying on the top-spin naturally generated by the leg-spinners to give him more time and working them for singles. That, right there, seems to be the right mantra going forward. However, when the match situation demands power-hitting, it might not be the most apt plan.

For every 'revolution', there's a 'counter-revolution.' And sooner or later, batting sides would find a way to be more confident against wrist spin.

At the moment, no team in the world is dominating wrist spinners with confidence - and that makes them absolutely imperative for the 2019 World Cup on these placid tracks in England. It's fair to say, that the team that plays wrist spin the best or bowls it the best, is likely to have the odds stacked in their favor to lift that chalice of champions - the ICC Cricket World Cup.

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