How should one prepare to play quality spin?
You should try to get as close to the ball as possible, to stop it from spinning and bouncing. Footwork becomes very very important. The trick is to get close to the ball, which means you go right forward. Or, if there is a short ball, then you go right back so you are covering, you are waiting for the turn, you know how much the ball is turning and you adjust your shot. The primary thing obviously is to get close to the ball, stop it from spinning. But in case it is bowled short, play as late as possible, that way you are letting the ball do its bit.
Do you think young batsmen don’t use the crease well? They rarely go on the back foot or down the track, they just lunge from the crease.
They are not going on the back-foot as much as they should and therefore losing out on varieties of shots. I think judging the length of any bowler is very important. Good players generally pick the ball as soon as it is released, not just the length but also the line. And they try to get in a position to play it. If the batsmen make better use of the back foot, they will open up lot more areas in which to score more runs. The whole ground becomes available. When you play off the back foot, you can play the late cut or the glance, which goes either side of the wicket-keeper. You can play the cut shot, you can play the pull shot, you can play the flick shot, so many options you give yourself when you make use of the crease, the depth of the crease. Making use of the depth of the crease…also holds good against pace bowling.
You used to talk about soft hands a lot while batting pace or spin. These youngsters seem to go hard at the ball.
Because these players play so much limited-overs cricket they hold the bat firmer in their hand. And therefore that soft bottom hand or even sometimes that soft top hand is not generally seen. But I think it’s a temperamental aspect. Temperamentally if you make the change from limited-overs format to four-day or five-day format, you can make the bat-speed adjustments. That is why sometimes good captains attack with the new-ball bowler from one end and a good spinner from the other. With the quicker bowler, the ball is generally below the eye-line and with the spinner, because he tosses the ball up in the air sometimes, it is above the eye-line. In a way it is also affecting the stillness of the head of a batsman. Of course you need quality bowler to exploit all this.
How did you tackle spinners in your days?
I always looked at the release of the ball. See the air that is been given, mentally you tell yourself that if there is some air in the ball I will go down the pitch. Mentally, you are keeping ready for the flighted delivery. And be ready to go back too. Look, in domestic cricket, I don’t think I scored too many runs against spinners. Bishen Bedi got me out several times, as did Chandra, Prasi (Prasanna) and even Venkat. Against Rajinder Goel sahib, I didn’t score many runs because they were exceptional bowlers. They did not need spinning pitch to do the damage. Against them I think it was difficult because they were so superb, but you try to get down the pitch as much as possible. With Bedi and Prasanna it was sometimes possible because they would toss the ball in the air. Venky was slightly flatter but he too would sometimes give flight to the deliveries. But with Chandra it was not possible, his speed was such that you could never think of going down the pitch.
Harbhajan Singh once criticised the kind of pitches we have for domestic cricket which takes spinners out of the equation.
We need to get our pitches right. At times they are so loaded that teams end up scoring 700 runs with only one innings played in four or five days. Or we have pitches where matches get over in two days. A balance has to be obtained for the wicket to be competitive and challenging for both teams. There is a difference between green pitches and making sporting pitches. Once they get the balance right, it will be fine.