OK, PIE-CHUCKER was maybe a bit too harsh, even by Kevin Pietersen standards. Yuvraj Singh’s bowling is innocuous yes, but not that bad. He did after all prove to be an effective asset for every captain he played under. How can we forget his bowling exploits in the 2011 World Cup? Still, to get inspired to become a spinner by watching Yuvraj bowl? That has to be a compliment that is likely to seem a tad too far-fetched if not facetious even for the man himself.
Understandably Aamir Aziz had to repeat the startling revelation a few times before you actually could recover from the shock of hearing it first and actually start believing the lanky left-arm spinner. It was a massive day for the 26-year-old as he snared his maiden five-wicket haul at the Brabourne Stadium to hand Jammu & Kashmir a handy first-innings lead against Andhra. But it’s safe to say that for all the mayhem he caused on the day with ball in hand, it wasn’t quite like the befuddlement he caused after the day’s play with his Yuvraj-themed confession.
Take that Kevin Pietersen. At least, no spinner has yet come out of the closet and admitted to have taken to giving the ball a tweak after seeing you roll your arm over with that awkward tall-guy pivot in the bowling stride. It’s not surprising that a young cricketer in the noughties would get inspired by Yuvraj. Not only was he arguably the most powerful striker of a cricket ball in his time, Yuvraj also had that presence and swagger that any teenager, impressionable or otherwise, would get attracted by. But what convinced 11-year-old Aziz, the son of a retired inspector growing up in Srinagar, to take up cricket seriously was the nonchalance Yuvraj exuded.
Ironically though, Aziz doesn’t really bowl like his idol. He doesn’t quite believe in testing the patience of gravity with the ball and doesn’t toss it up so high and slowly that a batsman at times can actually gather his thoughts and maybe even exchange sweet-nothings with the wicket-keeper before getting into position. Aziz, who claims to have even met Yuvraj on a few occasions, is more a modern-day left-arm spinner in the Ravindra Jadeja mould.
He prefers to amble in and operate at a more flatter trajectory with clever changes of angle and pace. And it was with very Jadeja-esque deliveries—where he puts in a lot of shoulder and gets the ball to rip off the surface, across the right-hander—that he ended the stubborn partnership between Dwaraka Ravi Teja and Ashwin Hebbar. The two had brought Andhra back to life with their 94-run stand with Teja finally edging Aziz to first slip for a stroke-filled 81.
Hebbar fell soon after getting a faint outside-edge that was lapped up by wicket-keeper Puneet Bisht before Aziz wrapped it up with an arm-ball that was too good for No.10 Bandaru Ayapppa to complete his haul. Aziz’s career so far has been a stop-start affair, and he’d only appeared in six games across four seasons for J&K.
In fact, he wasn’t even the first-pick for this match with former Mumbai left-arm spinner, Harmeet Singh, having finally joined the J&K squad after procuring the necessary NOC, and Aziz in many eyes was a surprise pick—considering he had all of six wickets in as many matches. With the pitch now beginning to show serious signs of wear and tear, he is likely to be in a position to bowl his team to victory on Sunday, and make this already-special match even more memorable.
Not to forget, give the ‘Yuvraj Singh the bowler’ cult a little more mileage. Just for the record, the only five-wicket haul in Yuvraj’s first-class career was also achieved at Brabourne—for India A in a warm-up match against England in 2012. And yes you got it right, his 5/94 included the scalp of who else but Pietersen.
J&K 334 and 31/2
Andhra 255 (DB Ravi Teja 81 A Aziz 5/62).