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S(pinn)ing is King
by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Aug 15, 2008
S(pinn)ing is king!

Srinivas Kanchibhotla

There is something strangely, and somewhat sadistically, pleasing about watching solid batsmen squirm against spin. Obviously, handicapped of the ability to menace and intimidate, spin relies purely on its wits, thinking constantly on its feet (Well, fingers, to be precise). And the battle immediately becomes one between brains and brawns, having all the makings of the classic David-Goliath story.

While the pacers huff and puff through their routines, bounce and beam the batsmen to vent their frustrations, spinners silent swallow their pride, endure the slaughter, summon their wills yet again, and try to trick the opposition into committing the cardinal sin. Spin is all about tact; it is all about guile; and above all, it is all about patience. Though they say, that pacers hunt in pairs, the real world truth is far from it. That statement reeks of gross misappropriation of the verb, 'hunt'. Pacers don't hunt, they go for the kill, instead. It is all or nothing, a do or die for them.

While, for the most soft-spoken brethren, the spinners, the name of the game is hunt, as they carefully lay their trap, and wait for their game to walk into it. Until then, and this is most important, they patiently wait, lobbing one expected delivery after another, before finally slipping in the silent killer. Immediately, immaterial of the who is inflicting the pain - the home side or the visiting side, the audiences minds cheer in unison, for, they all know, deep down, that there is nothing more gratifying than watching the underdog triumph. Even for the opposition, however much they are reluctant to accept that they have been comprehensively outfoxed, they surely do nod their heads at one thing, as they make their long walk to the dressing rooms - they have been had.

It has been a treat to the eyes, a true joy, as spin took center stage, for the past few speaks, and put on a dazzling show, one marked with splendor and filled with wonder. It has been great watching spinners on either sides sit at the poker table, dead-panned, as they tried to out-do each other, constantly raising the stakes, and cashing in at the right time, by calling it right - "I'll see your googly, and raise you a doosra; I'll see your flipper and raise you a flicker".

It was back to the days of the 70s, and the glorious era of the spin quartet (Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan), when the job of the pacers wasn't to take out the batsmen. It was, instead, to take out the sheen of the ball and roughen it up, so as to be able to gripped by the men, who were the true entitlers to the wickets - the spinners. And till the spinners came on, it was all a clown act - the runs, the boundaries and the sixers. And once the ball was tossed to the tweakers, the game was on. The batsmen braced themselves, and looked to settle in for the long haul, at least in intent, barring Sehwag, of course. And the close-in fielders, with hawk-like movements, preying around the hapless victim, creating chances out of thin air, piled on the misery for the batsmen.

Nicks, edges, lemon cuts - runs came more fortuitously than forcefully. And this was once of those series that the Spin Gods have smiled through out, welcoming the arrival of the new delivery - the carrom ball, the flicker, the Doosra Jr. (or should be it called, Doosra, the Third, or plainly, the Teesra?) While the grip shows the ball is going to come into the batsman (the classic off-spin), the flick with the middle finger in the last moment causes it to turn the other way (like a leg-spin), and a new ball is born.

The tear drop shaped nation has always been a spot of bother for the Indians, in tests and ODIs, home or away. Much has to do with the continued dominance in their bowling department over the past decade and half. This series, for all intents and purposes, was going to be the last touring stint for the famed Indian middle order, and therefore, their last chance for winning a series there, in a more than a couple of decades. After making great inroads in series abroad, the Indians looked like finally getting over the hump, what with the aging shoulders of the Sri Lankan bowlers.

As it turned out, the flesh might be weak, but the minds were very much intact, willing and raring to go. And that's all that was needed, even for the aging horses, to run away with the series. The Indians return, yet again, empty handed, unable to breach and break through the Sri Lankan defenses. And standing guard to the Sinhalese fort, bidding the visitors a fond farewell, Murali and Mendis, as though saying 'not on our watch'. The baton has successfully been passed from the old guard, and as long as the new one keeps strict vigil, the Spin Gods will see to that the fort continues to remain fortified.

More Views by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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