As this article is being written, England are hosting West Indies at Lords in the opening test match of the English summer. What may have gone unnoticed though, is the lack of leg-spinner in either squad; something of a common theme throughout cricket in recent years.
The fascination was brought about
by the obscurity of leg-spin. Which way was the ball going to turn? The
names mentioned earlier had a number of deliveries in their armoury –
the traditional ‘Leg-break’, the ‘Googly’ and the ‘Topspinner’. Shane
Warne even made a variant of the latter, christening it the ‘Flipper’.
But it wasn’t this ball that he made his name with; with his first test
match ball against England during the Ashes series of 1993, the magical
Australian dismissed Mike Gatting with a delivery now known as the
‘ball of the century’ – bowling the English captain around his front
pad with a leg-break.
Warne retired from international
cricket in 2007, four years after Mushtaq Ahmed, and followed a year
later by Kumble. So where are their successors?
is currently only one leg-spinner playing consistently on the
international stage – Pakistani born, South Africa player, Imran Tahir.
He is now ‘carrying the baton’ for leg-spin so to speak, but even he is
now reaching the twilight years of his career. Tahir has played
first-class cricket since 1998, but didn’t make his debut for his
country until 2011, at the age of 32.
The reason for
Imran Tahir taking such time to break through on to the international
stage is the same cause for so few quality leg-spinners being around in
the modern game – it is the most difficult spin to master and coaches
would rather not take the risk of a nurturing a player who bowls it.
This attitude starts at club level cricket. With more limited-overs
cricket gradually being introduced, it is now becoming just as vital to
stop runs being scored than to take wickets – something which leg-spin
bowling doesn’t always adhere to. Okay, a ‘leggy’ may go for a few
runs, but they’re also very likely to take wickets.
despite Tahir being a lone figure in test cricket currently, England do
have two exciting leg-spin prospects emerging; Adil Rashid and Scott
Borthwick. Both have had some experience of the senior international
stage, taking part in 7 ODI’s for England between them. Rashid, aged
24, has played 82 first-class matches for Yorkshire – taking an
impressive 271 wickets. Borthwick is two years Rashid’s junior, and has
61 dismissals to his name in 28 matches. Both performers are being
tipped as future England stars.
Whether it is simply a
lack of talent currently or a shortage of desire to bowl leg-spin,
international cricket is certainly missing the star names mentioned in
the opening to this piece.
Let’s hope fortunes change
and coaches strive to re-introduce quality leg-spinners into the game.
In 10 years’ time, the likes of Adil Rashid and Scott Borthwick could
leave us saying Shane who? Fingers crossed, and wrists spun!