While this IPL has seen some dramatic hitting from the Maxwells and the Millers and those two CSK openers who look like they have been batting together all the time, the bowlers are presenting a slightly different flavour. Dare I say, a slightly different accent too! There is a group of young Indian bowlers that is peeping through what has been thought of as a batting game and demanding to be seen. Even it is only four overs and T20, it is wonderful to see.
I am particularly delighted by the leg spinners and they come from all corners of the age spectrum; from Yuzvendra Chahal to Pravin Tambe. They bowl the leg break, the googly and they are not afraid to toss it up. Only Karn Sharma, different but effective in his own way, tends to push it through most times. The ball turning across the right hander, often thought of as needing preservation in a power obsessed game, is seeing good times. Maybe it will thrive again.
There is a reason the leggies are doing well. At the heart of their craft is deception and they spend a lot of time in the longer formats trying to lull the batsman into coming after them. When a batsman does that, he is dangerous but he also presents an opportunity to the bowler. Here in T20 the bowlers don’t have to wait because the batsmen are on the prowl. Sometimes the batsmen win but occasionally they play into the bowlers’ hands too. At times like these you need someone with enough turn to defeat the swing of the bat and that is where the wrist spinner is seizing the opportunity.
And yet it is interesting that neither Tambe, nor Chahal nor Sharma have outstanding first class records. Shane Warne often talks about the need to have captains who can understand the art of leg spin bowling but maybe, just maybe, they aren’t yet as good when the batsmen are not coming after them. We see that with the mighty Sunil Narine too, one of the finest in T20 cricket, not quite as feared in the few tests he has played.
In fact the manner in which Narine has been handled is fascinating. At the start of the tournament it was clear that the batsmen were happy to play him for singles and allow him to bowl his four overs for 18-20 runs. But KKR needed wickets and so they are pushing Narine to bowl at a time when the batsman simply have to attack him. The batsman’s desire to clobber a bowler is the fuel that feeds Narine’s armoury. And that of the leg spinners in the tournament.
Two other Sharmas have had a good tournament as well. Mohit Sharma who can hit the deck, but who gets most of his wickets taking the pace off the ball and the latest in the line of old-fashioned swing bowlers from the north, Sandeep Sharma. Sandeep is the more exciting of the two, though that doesn’t always tell you who the better bowler is. But like the leg spinner the swing bowler gets lateral movement which is critical in defeating the bat, and that is where Sandeep has been so impressive.
The first of their breed was Manoj Prabhakar, who was attitudinally a 150 kmph bowler trapped in a small swing bowler’s body. Then there was Praveen Kumar who was a joy to watch in England in 2011 until his pace dropped so much the batsmen had enough time to check their shots. And of course there is Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who has been mighty impressive in the manner in which he has turned around a run of poor form.
He has been the best Indian bowler on view and his death bowling must please his captains. But Dhoni will look on from the opposition dug out and wish he carries this form to England where the conditions will help him the way they did Praveen Kumar three years ago. Sadly, Mohammad Shami has gone the other way. I don’t know if he is tired but he has a right to be and I hope he is the first person to be rested for these three one-dayers in Bangladesh. India needs him fit and happy in England.
Sadly, another Sharma hasn’t had much to do. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, and the need to play two spinners, has kept Ishant out of the Sunrisers team. Now, he must go to Dhaka along with two others who have shown good pace, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. And it may not be a bad idea to take a look at Sandeep Sharma in a slightly longer format before you decide whether or not you want a second swing bowler in England.