Spinners January 15, 2007

Kaneria: an enigma to all

The occasions have been few when Kaneria has threatened to run through a top order and he has achieved it on even fewer

Danish Kaneria's introduction to international cricket was accompanied by great optimism. Here was a young man whose bowling was mature beyond the age of his wrist. He spun the ball sharply, he could get it to drift in, he rarely bowled bad balls, and he had enough energy to keep going on and on and on. With Shane Warne's retirement, Kaneria has announced his desire to succeed him as the world's premier leg spinner. But Kaneria's career has been a triumph of ambition over achievement. The occasions have been few when Kaneria has threatened to run through a top order and he has achieved it on even fewer.

His first innings performance on a helpful wicket hinted that he might be a genuine threat if Pakistan could muster a sufficient lead. Well, Pakistan's lead might not have been great but it was possibly sufficient. Kaneria might not have had much back up but he had Mohammad Asif. That Kaneria failed to take a single wicket in these circumstances is bewildering, an enigma. Pakistan might still not have won but Kaneria, you imagined, might make it one hell of a task. He didn't. His failure in helpful conditions leaves Pakistan's selectors with a hellish dilemma: Pakistan need Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul back but can they be risked? All this might spell good news for Mohammad Sami?

Whatever happens with the pace attack it will be a surprise if Kaneria is not twirling away at the other end. But leg spinners are meant to be match winners not stock bowlers--and Kaneria has some matches to win. He might work on his flipper too. Without that he can forget following in Warne's footsteps.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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