I am a self-proclaimed cricket lover. It is a wonderful sport, full of subtleties and intricacies, and has adapted to modern culture really rather well. I love it so much that, even though I am appalling at the game, I try my best to get better at it when the opportunity shows itself; although, it doesn’t stop me from shouting to the facing batsman as I come in to bowl “Get ready for some target practise!”. If the term ‘part time’ in the world of cricket denotes someone who specialises in something other than the skill that is being described, I am most certainly a part-time cricketer.
However, that has never stopped me enjoying watching whatever cricket I can. With the rest of my family and I refusing to prop up the Murdochs, all England matches are off-limits. Therefore, I am restricted to that wonderful arena known as the Indian Premier League, the IPL. With grounds teeming with enthralled spectators watching the best in the world bash it out – yes, I do use that term intentionally – with bat and ball, it’s actually great fun, even if ITV4’s commentary leaves a lot to be desired. It is the place where the greats of tomorrow can be found, amongst the greats of yesterday who have been put out to grass: the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Daniel Vettori, Muttiah Muralidaran (yup, I’ve read Amol Rajan’s book), even the great Shane Warne until a couple of years ago. When you combine such names with subcontinental pitches, spin is very much prevalent. All the better for me, who tries right-arm leg spin. It’s amazing to watch.
Now, to the point. When I think about cricket, I think about spin. I’m sure all the coaches at PGS would advise me against it (and I wouldn’t blame them, after trying to coax SOME form of skill out of me), but it is great fun to theoreticise in these matters. Whilst watching the IPL, I was shocked by the number of left-arm leg spinners there were. They were EVERYWHERE. Now, I have no problem with them, not at all. I just think they’ve got it rather easy. Most batsmen are right-handed. That’s a fact. Therefore, balls that turn away from them, rather than into them, are harder to bat against, and the straight one will clatter into the stumps/trap them lbw if bowled correctly. Off-spinners don’t have that luxury. They have to vary their bowling much more to get a batsman out, as their variations are less scary, thus having a less psychologically detrimental effect. They have to bowl with, I would say, more intelligence then the leg spinners for this very reason. I will always maintain that one of the most impressive things I’ve seen is Graham Swann bowling dot after dot after dot, wearing away the batsman’s confidence as the run rate drops. He, arguably, is the best spinner in the world.
So, how to separate the right and left-arm leg spinners?
Both of them have it easier than the off spinners, as detailed above. I have a natural inclination towards the right-armers, but that’s probably because I attempt it myself. However, the main problem I have is with the action. Lefties have one of two actions; either bolt upright and very tall with a dead straight run up, or bounding in on a weird angle with a looping action. This, quite frankly, is dull. When compared to the right-armers, who skip and prance and (in Warne’s case) amble to the crease, lefties get more and more boring.
My final point is quite a simple one: if somebody tells someone with a small-ish amount of cricket knowledge (i.e. me) to name the greatest, most renowned spinners, they would come up with the likes of Warne, Kumble, Laker, Muralidaran, and possibly Swann. In order: right-arm leg, right-arm leg, right-arm off, right-arm off and right-arm off. The likes of Vettori, Giles and Tufnell pale into insignificance.
Until one considers the wider game. This brings me to my last point; I may think that left-arm leg spinners and boring, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Daniel Vettori is the best case in point here; a man who burst onto the scene as a brilliant spinner whose career was put in jeopardy by a nasty injury to his back. He adapted his action, and has now become New Zealand’s most capped Test player, and one of the best captains in the world.
So, although I think left-arm leg spinners are boring, I also think they can be wonderful cricketers and people. And, if you’re a left-arm leg spinner and you’re reading this in shock and disgust, I have just one challenge: prove me wrong.