Till the last season,a match against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy used to be a test of a batsmans ability to play spin,with the wily trio of Ramesh Powar,Sairaj Bahutule and Nilesh Kulkarni in action. While the 2008-09 season has seen a resurgence of pace with Dhawal Kulkarni and Rahil Sheikh in addition to Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan towards the latter half Mumbais spin department,Bahutule in particular,has lacked the bite.
One of the main causes for concern for Mumbai captain Wasim Jaffer in the semi-final in Chennai was the number of overs bowled by his seam bowlers. While Zaheer bowled 31 overs,Agarkar and Kulkarni also ended up with around 25 overs,and while Powar was among the wickets,a second spinner was sorely missed.
We knew that the first-innings lead was going to be the only thing that would matter. And we decided to pack our side with batsmen,and Sairaj had to miss out. Maybe having a second spinner might have reduced the burden on the other bowlers, said Jaffer. He added that another factor that didnt go in the favour of Bahutules selection was the high number of left-handers in the Saurashtra batting line-up.
Jaffer did hint though that the veteran leg-spinner may play in the five-day final against Uttar Pradesh in Hyderabad. We will have to bowl two times during the game in all likelihood. And the fast bowlers will require enough rest in between spells, he explained. Coach Pravin Amre however said a final decision would only be taken after looking at the pitch.
The fact that the 36-year-old leg-spinner has played six matches managing only 9 wickets at an average of 48 indicates the lack of options. Left-arm spinner Ankit Chavan is the only other recognised spinner to have rolled his arm over in the season,and he seemed no better in his two outings against Orissa and Punjab.
Jaffer believed that it was certainly a concern. Ankit is very talented but still has a long way to go to even challenge for the No. 1 spinners slot or even establish his place in the side. But there are very few spinners coming up the ranks even in junior cricket,which is quite alarming, he revealed.
Both captain and coach though were all praise for Powars performance so far this season,and believed that he had led the charge for Mumbai,in tow with Dhawal. He (Powar) was aware that he would be bowling a lot of overs and he has played his role of the frontline spinner amazingly well. His two five-wicket hauls came at important times, said Jaffer about the off-spinner,who has 31 wickets to his credit at an impressive average of 25.64 this season.
While UPs Piyush Chawla has also failed to impress this season,the fact that he had taken a five-wicket haul against Australia in a tour game in Hyderabad earlier this season,is enough indication that spin could end up being the deciding factor next week.