FADED AND JADED GEMS OF CRICKET Part IV ‘The Spinning Heads’’


This edition of the Jaded and Faded Gems deals with spinners who showed fantastic promise to just die out. With regards to the modern game where the batsman gets his way more often than the toiling bowlers, spinners with guile come as a breath of fresh air…….the guile and skills to outfox the batsmen is what stands them out of the pack.

STUART MAC GILL

This New South Welshman bowled with a beautiful open chested action-a rarity for leg spinners who generally tend to be side on. He was often regarded more orthodox than Shane Warne and relied on leg spins more than the flippers and rarely bowled a googly. He turned the bowl as much as Warne if not more and was also one of the most well behaved player on the field. The fact that he still possesses the best strike rate for any leg spinner in the history of the game says a lot about the calibre of the player. His biggest mistake-to be born in the ‘wrong era’ as Shane Warne was at the peak of his prowess and got an opportunity whenever Warne missed out and on an occasion or two even managed to bowl in tandem-like the match against World XI in Sydney(Supertest in 2005).

Though he was not born and did not start his career in NSW, rather Western Australia was the home for him where he made his first class debut in 1993/94 and turned to the Blues in 1996/97. Since his debut in 1998 against South Africa where he came in for Warne, taking 3/22 he made strong claims for a berth…..a subsequent trip to Pakistan as the most successful bowler and a good Ashes series was a delightful beginning to his career. When Warne returned to the team, there was the expected switching on and off thing with Mac Gill returning only as a stop gap arrangement, this did have an adverse effect and it saw Mac Gill lose the edge and appear as only a second fiddle, his big break was Warne’s one year test ban that saw him play some substantial and regular top notch cricket in 2003/04. Everyone hoped for a good few years from Mac Gill when Warne retired and sadly that did not happen as a dipping performance forced a premature retirement. One wonders the role that the sidelining and hanging on for years after performing as well as the best had in this. It would be an understatement that he would have made into any test XI of his time. Apart from the cricket Mac Gill was passionate about reading and once read 24 novels on a tour against Pakistan. Richie Benaud often argued about his five bowler and two sinner theory as he himself was a pretty good leg spinner. Mac Gill ended his career with more than 200 wickets with only 44 test match caps.

NARENDRA HIRWANI

The Indian leg spinner who made his debut in the only test captained by the extemporaneous Ravi Shastri ( who sadly could never captain India thereafter) and picking up 16 scalps on his debut against the West Indies. He boasted of match figures of 16/132 in that final test in Madras. The first four test matches of his career had 36 wickets against his name and this still is a record, while the next 13 tests accounted for. When India had to tour West Indies the following year he was attacked and was singled out by the West Indians . Then he did contribute well in the one day series in Australia and his performance against West Indies, which was a crunch match and the key for India to the final saw Hirwani back in reckoning, but could still not fetch him a world cup spot. The emergence of Anil Kumble in the home series against England and mediocre performances in the domestic circuit saw him totally out of favour. He then made a couple of returns on the international stage, but failed to make any impact whatsoever.

SAQLAIN MUSHTAQ

The father of ‘Doosra’ would probably be the best way to give a description about the off break bowler from Pakistan. He still has the distinction of being the fastest to reach 200 ODI wickets. He also happens to be the Wisden cricketer of the year 2000 and the bible of cricket even regards him as the greatest off spinner of all time. Owing to the balance that Shoaib Malik brought to the Pakistan side and the use of Shahid Afridi as more than just a part timer made sure Saqlain was sidelined post 2002/03 season. He has to his credit not one but two ODI hat-tricks. He was recalled to the Pakistan side for a home test series against India in 2004/05, but the match that saw Virender Sehwag score first triple for India also witnessed mauling of Saqlain’s bowling and his end at the International arena.

He is reported to have developed another tricky delivery called as ‘Teesra’ or ‘Jalebi’ that is nothing, but an off spinning flipper. Departure from International cricket has not effected in Saqlain becoming passive in cricket. Rather, he has done remarkably well for Surrey and even contemplated playing for the Union Jack.

LAXMAN SIVARAMAKRISHNAN

Another classical case of a spinner drafted in at very young age, who got swayed away from the work ethics and thus success. Someone regarded highly by all in the domestic circuit, Siva as he is known amongst his peers made it to the side touring Pakistan in 1982/83 (aged 17)where India were mauled and managed to shoot into limelight by performing exceptionally against England in the home series. He was a part of the Indian under 19 team in 1980 at a mere age of 15 under the captaincy of Ravi Shastri, after that it took him just three first class matches to break into the national squad. Known for his slider, dipping deliveries and a beguiling flight he had all that makes a great leggie.After the metioric rise , perhaps it boiled down to self-discipline than anything. The epoch of his life has to be the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985 where he topped the bowling charts helped India win, he even contributed in India defending a paltry 120-odd score against Pakistan in Sharjah few days after the tournament down under , but then it was just a nosedive thereafter as far as his career is concerned and was dropped from the national squad once and for all after 1987 world cup. Siva continued another 10 years in the domestic arena and even improved his batting.

A major contribution of his would go unmentioned if his stint with Sachin Tendulkar in 1998 is not mentioned, where he bowled for hours in nets in scorching Chennai sun to Sachin Tendulkar, trying to create various angles that Shane Warne would deliver from and even creating a rough patch outside leg stump and trying the legendary Shane Warne round the legs clean-up. Needless to say, but the world is a witness to how Sachin massacred the greatest leg spinner ever and continued to outperform him thereafter.

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