Friday, February 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, March 09, 2004
On the benefits of variety

G. M. Bashar
Recent international events may suggest that a spin revival is taking place. With Warne and Murali stealing the limelights one might be excused to think that only spinners are the movers and shakers. Even more, the conclusion of the Under 19 cup is revealing, with spinners Enamul of Bangladesh, Mansoor Amjad and especially Tariq Mehmood of Pakistan, making headlines. So is it early days for the pace juggernauts, a la Sami, Shaiob and Irfan, to take the back seat? Yes and no. The pace age isn?t coming to an abrupt end but teams with more of a refined and varied bowling attack seems to be the flavour of the day.

All this is happening as part of a subtle ?evolutionary? duel between the bowlers and batsmen. So far certain events have clearly favoured the batsmen . ODI was one big event that had serious negative repercussions for bowlers. Combined with that, the plethora of new technology has shrunk any advantages that bowlers could rely on. Lastly, the huge increase in the amount of international cricket has also favoured batsmen by transferring the additional stress on to the bowlers. In particular, the fast bowlers are in distress.

With all these things happening in tandem it is no surprise that batsmen have increasingly dominated the games with 3 runs an over a regular feature of test cricket. Yet, the tenacious bowlers have not given up the challenge but sadly have responded with even more fast bowling. That is, extreme fast bowling. So much so that at one point some test sides have fielded five pace bowlers. All this has inadvertently sidelined the spinners.

India and Pakistan, to the immense benefit of cricket, have throughout their history picked wrist-spinners. Australia has also not forgotten its trust in leg-spin ever since Benaud?s magnificent haul of wickets in the sixties. For the sake of our next Home match a vital lesson is to be learnt here. Bangladesh would do well by following the sub continental example of ?always? having handy spinners, like Kumble or Murali, who are especially consistent at home matches.

Will the batsmen continue to dominate international cricket? Not necessarily. The googly, the flipper, bodyline, the yorker, reverse swing, the 'doosra' - all these revolutionary advances are testimony of the bowler?s creativity. Pakistan has stereotypically been associated with pace but credence must also be given to the cultivation of their spinners, such as Qadir and Saqlain, even in the shadows of their pace legends.

All this may be a blessing in disguise for Bangladesh. Without the constant clamour of hastily putting together a pace attack we may actually benefit more by nurturing an effective bowling attack with emphasis on variation. An internationally competitive bowling attack without 5 pacers is possible. The immediate concern is that in our quest to fill up the team with ?allrounders? we may have compromised on the quality of our medium pace and to some extent on spin. The onus will be on honing the skills to achieve the right balance between accuracy and variations in style.

The exciting breakthrough may very well be in our spin department. Today, Enamul Haque is promising. Together with one or two other spinners our bowling may get that variety that will be needed in international cricket. In the meantime, like the example of Mushfiq, we may have to pull up some past discards, such as Off-spinner Fahim Muntasir and spinner Musaddeq Hossain, to continue a process of experimentation that seems to be never ending.

But at the end of the day what matters are wickets. If a magical combination of bowlers can do the trick we should pay attention to the development of all types of bowling in our cricket and not just dream up a poor copy of a pace attack.