Batting August 5, 2009

If I ever have a conversation with Warne...

I'd ask him whether he ever used the knowledge that Hooper's eyes widened and his stare grew a bit harder if he wanted to step down to the spinner
62

As some of you promptly pointed out, I forgot to mention Gautam Gambhir in my post on batsmen who use their feet against spinners. Hell, Gambhir even jumps down the pitch against the quick bowlers, and that takes some nerve. He was India's best batsman on their last Test tour of Sri Lanka, where some of his more illustrious colleagues struggled to decode Ajantha Mendis. Virender Sehwag's double-century in Galle was the innings of the series, but Gambhir was the most consistent and secure Indian batsman on tour.

For sheer viewing pleasure, though, I'd still go for Michael Clarke. Gambhir is quick out of crease, but he is more jerky, and he moves around a bit too much; sometimes he gives himself away by moving out too early. Clarke is more fluid and graceful and he keeps the bowlers guessing.

Traditionally, Indian batsmen have always used their feet against the spinners, as have the Australians. Good players of spin bowling don't merely hit booming shots after having come down pitch, but often knock the ball around for singles. Sunil Gavaskar, who had the surest footwork, did it all the time, as did Ravi Shastri. Gavaskar never swept. And he rarely lofted the ball.

So also VVS Laxman. Of the all the things he did at the Eden Gardens in 2001, his driving against Shane Warne was the most sensational. One ball, he'd drive Warne off the rough and against the spin through midwicket. The next, Warne would go fractionally wider and Laxman would drive it inside-out through cover. He was god that day.

Of course, no one did better for a whole series than Brian Lara. Warne has confessed to having nightmares about Sachin Tendulkar jumping down the pitch; I wonder what visions Muttiah Muralitharan had in his sleep in those days in 2001, when Lara tormented him with the most dazzling array of strokes you could ever see employed against a spinner. In picking the ball out of the bowler's hand, Lara had few rivals.

Carl Hooper, his team-mate, was one. I was told this delightful story about Hooper by a cricketer. Warne forever looked for little signs in batsmen that would give him foreknowledge about a possible sortie down the pitch. But Hooper proved impossible to decipher. He stayed still till the last possible moment, and never left the crease before the ball was delivered. Finally, after many overs, and many videotapes, Warne cracked it. It was in the eyes. If Hooper had decided to advance down the pitch, his eyes widened and the stare grew a bit harder in the stance.

If I ever have a conversation with Warne, the first thing I will ask him is if he managed to exploit this knowledge.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mark adams on January 11, 2010, 19:32 GMT

    Lara never did handle the Indian spinners in India over time. Minus his exploits against Murali in Sri Lanka in the 2001 series, he descends to the ranks of all the others mentioned who performed creditably against spin. For sheer artistry against spin bowling period, my money is with Hooper, Azhar, M. Waugh, VVS and Miandad

  • Andy on September 6, 2009, 1:25 GMT

    Well, I am a believer that spinners can play other spinners a bit better if they are an all-rounder. If I could ask Warne a question, why the hell is Adil Rashid considered a leg spinner when he barley turns the ball on a pitch? I watched the recent ODI against Aus (my home country) and he batted well but spun the ball like a left arm orthodox. He had no turn.

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Vinod Krishnan on August 31, 2009, 16:04 GMT

    Clarke..the BEST player of spin..? Well, I've gotta say he's certainly the BEST defensive player against quality spin I've ever seen. The best player of spin all-round..BC LARA...no question. Great eye-sight,good hands,superb wrists,quick silver feet..just MAGNIFICENT to watch when at or near his best.

  • Shannon on August 29, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    it's good to see how people backing up their fav players against spin, in my opinion no one can ever single out 1 batsman as a the greatest of spin (definitely not clarke), coz there were way too many good players against spin i think mahele jayawardena is one of them too

  • theeban tavarasa on August 28, 2009, 20:05 GMT

    how comes no one mention Andy Flower?

  • S.V.Ramanan on August 16, 2009, 4:51 GMT

    We are forgetting Alvin Kallicharan and our own G.R, Visvanath.It is a pleasure to behold both dancing down the pitch.Another player, whom we can not exactly call very good against spin, is Clive Lloyd, who , with sheer brute force and coming down half the pitch on two strides and whack!

  • Straddler on August 11, 2009, 11:49 GMT

    While I too rate Lara as the best modern player of spin (amazing footwork - as graceful as a ballet dancer), I don't believe he was better than other great modern players at reading it from the bowler's hand. He struggled to pick Saqlain's doosra in the Test series in Pakistan, 1997 (as did Tendulkar, etc.) and dominated Murli in the 2001 series, but that was before Murli developed the doosra too. But I do agree no batsman was more thrilling against spin in the last 2 decades.

  • mark adams on January 11, 2010, 19:32 GMT

    Lara never did handle the Indian spinners in India over time. Minus his exploits against Murali in Sri Lanka in the 2001 series, he descends to the ranks of all the others mentioned who performed creditably against spin. For sheer artistry against spin bowling period, my money is with Hooper, Azhar, M. Waugh, VVS and Miandad

  • Andy on September 6, 2009, 1:25 GMT

    Well, I am a believer that spinners can play other spinners a bit better if they are an all-rounder. If I could ask Warne a question, why the hell is Adil Rashid considered a leg spinner when he barley turns the ball on a pitch? I watched the recent ODI against Aus (my home country) and he batted well but spun the ball like a left arm orthodox. He had no turn.

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Biju on September 1, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    I think most people responding to this article are missing the point (maybe one person pointed out the same earlier).Sambit is not really stressing so much on the 'better' players of spin (Miandad, Sidhu etc) but on the most pleasing to watch. Definitely Azhar would fit. But didn't he look good against anything (except bounce which he could not really cope with!). So my thought is that there are some batsmen who look good....period! It does not matter what kind of bowling it is. If their innings lasted for any decent amount of time, it was a pleasure to watch. Azhar, VVS, Lara, Gower, Hooper, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, GV, Mark Waugh etc. all fall into that category? Or are there really batsmen who was pleasing to watch against only one type of bowling .I mean say Azhar, like I said he struggled against genuine bounce but if his innings lasted for a bit, then he used to 'look' good even against them (even if it was for just 30 or 40 runs!). Any thoughts anyone?

  • Vinod Krishnan on August 31, 2009, 16:04 GMT

    Clarke..the BEST player of spin..? Well, I've gotta say he's certainly the BEST defensive player against quality spin I've ever seen. The best player of spin all-round..BC LARA...no question. Great eye-sight,good hands,superb wrists,quick silver feet..just MAGNIFICENT to watch when at or near his best.

  • Shannon on August 29, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    it's good to see how people backing up their fav players against spin, in my opinion no one can ever single out 1 batsman as a the greatest of spin (definitely not clarke), coz there were way too many good players against spin i think mahele jayawardena is one of them too

  • theeban tavarasa on August 28, 2009, 20:05 GMT

    how comes no one mention Andy Flower?

  • S.V.Ramanan on August 16, 2009, 4:51 GMT

    We are forgetting Alvin Kallicharan and our own G.R, Visvanath.It is a pleasure to behold both dancing down the pitch.Another player, whom we can not exactly call very good against spin, is Clive Lloyd, who , with sheer brute force and coming down half the pitch on two strides and whack!

  • Straddler on August 11, 2009, 11:49 GMT

    While I too rate Lara as the best modern player of spin (amazing footwork - as graceful as a ballet dancer), I don't believe he was better than other great modern players at reading it from the bowler's hand. He struggled to pick Saqlain's doosra in the Test series in Pakistan, 1997 (as did Tendulkar, etc.) and dominated Murli in the 2001 series, but that was before Murli developed the doosra too. But I do agree no batsman was more thrilling against spin in the last 2 decades.

  • Cricpundit on August 11, 2009, 3:18 GMT

    Most Indian and Pakistani players are generally good against spin bowling but they are not very consistent. Hence Lara in the past decase stands out because he scored so many runs against them and rarely was he troubled by any spinner .

    But if we go back a few more years, I will rate Gavaskar and GR Vishanath higher. They were very good against spin bowling and they always used their feet and hardly ever employed sweep as a run making stroke, purists as they were. However, my most favorite player of spin will be Javed Miandad. The way he always built his innings, was something all youngster aspiring to be good cricketer should learn. He will hardly ever play a false stroke early in his innings. He could always find gaps easily where none existed. His stance or play will never show that he is unduly worried or play in haste. It all came so easily to him. I am not a big fan of statistics, so I don't care how well is he placed statistically, but he was a little master of wizadry.

  • Cricpundit on August 11, 2009, 2:52 GMT

    I don't agree with Sambit. Clarke is not the best player of spin but he is definitely good. The way he played against India in India on his debut is a testimony of that skill. Australia won in India after so many years, under Gilchrist's captaincy (last was by Bill Lawry's team in 60's). As soon as Ponting tookover in the last test, Australia lost the match in Mumbai but series was already secured for Australia. Next time when Ponting toured India as captain, they lost the Test series. Some sycophants of Ponting on this forum think that he is the best captain - hence this digression.

    Anyway, the secret to Clarke's nice play against spin however, lies not in the Sydney ground, (in that case anybody from Sydney will lay claim to be a better player of spin) but credit will go to his steadfast grooming as a youngster whose personal coach in his formative years (even after he arrived at the test scene) was an "Indian". It may surprise many (unknowledgeables galore) but that's the truth.

  • D.V.C. on August 10, 2009, 20:49 GMT

    Say, what was Bradman's average against spin? I know some have said he had a weakness against high quality Leg spin, but are there stats to back that up? I'm willing to bet that Bradman has as good an average against spin as any other player named here. You've all just not thought of him because he was great against all bowling.

  • VENKATESH on August 10, 2009, 17:49 GMT

    most of the players discussed above are all extremely good players of spin. On their day some of them have totally destroyed the spin bowling on display, but none of them has so consistently dominated and desimated spin bowling like Lara did throughout his entire career, with beauty and grace of course! just watch some of his innings against murali, warne, mcgill, saqlain, kaneria (24 runs in one over), kumble, robin peterson (28 runs in one over) and for that matter any other spinners on offer that day. to their credit the bowlers tried every trick from their celebrated bag but Lara never ever let them settle down and the door remained shut right from the word GO...such was his dominance.

  • M.R on August 10, 2009, 14:53 GMT

    Lara was obviously creme de la creme of good players. however, i do feel a man in form, no matter who it may be, can do well against spinners---

    having said that Inzamam ul Haq deserves a mention. in his heyday, Wasim Akram used his feet against the spinners too... but i do think mikey clarke is already a legend. he's too beautiful watch, aint he?

  • Prashant on August 10, 2009, 14:05 GMT

    @jay LOL. absolutely true. Thing is there is no other test cricket around or in the near future...so a little hyperbole with what we got is natural

  • Jay on August 10, 2009, 13:10 GMT

    Sambit's article smacks of sycophancy, Clarke is good but not so good as to provoke such hyperbolic flattery by ther writer.

  • ritesh on August 10, 2009, 7:34 GMT

    If we talk about the most dominant batsman of spin bowling then it has to be Virender Sehwag.You point out a single bowler who has dominated him over a period of time in any part of the world.In this discussion some one was talking about domination of Saqlain that "Saqlain was the hardest spinner to get on top of".Well where was his dominance in the last India's tour of Pakistan.In 2003-04 season Sehwag was playing him at his own will.You can talk about any batsman against spinners but what makes Sehwag distinct from others is his dominance over spinners,it may be Mendis in last series of Sri Lanka or Murli or any other bowler.He has dominated spinners in all forms of the game as well.Currently I see only two batsman dominating the spinners are Sehwag and Yusuf pathan.Yusuf has not played test cricket yet but the way he goes after spinners is awesome.Well ask to yourself what you feel when these two players are batting against spinners every time you expect it to be out of sig

  • sting on August 9, 2009, 2:42 GMT

    twisting the direction of this discussion a little... I think Saqlain was the hardest spinner to get on top of. I've seen him tie down Sidhu and Lara... who no other spinner could tie down. the only time i've seen him taken to the cleaners was by Sachin Tendulkar in Dhaka... and that was only after he'd been given not out caught behind of the glove when he'd actually gloved it. At test level, he wasn't quite as good as warne murali... not the same wicket taking abilities.... but as a bowler to hit about... he was IMO, better than either. Roger Harper's performances in the 96 world cup also were very impressive as far as resisting attempts at dominance are concerned... but he was a defensive bowler out and out with little wicket taking potential.

  • Prashant on August 8, 2009, 4:03 GMT

    Till 01/01/2003: Ten : 169 i; 8811 @ 57.6; 31 100s Lara : 157 i; 7572 @ 49.5; 18 “ Pont : 99 i; 4246 @ 48.8; 14 “

    Actually Lara gets even close because of ONE single year (NOT even several) In 2003, 16 (!) batsmen avg above 60! Lara with an avg of 74.66 is only 8th on the list! So, clearly, ANY good batsman if fit would have scored runs. In Lara’s leanest years: 1996(Lara 226@25.11,Tendulkar has 623@45.5) and 2000(Lara 497@29.2, Tendulkar has 575@63.9). So neither of those years if taken like 2003 alters the equation. The clear conclusion is Lara ONLY comes out on top of Tendulkar because of ONE good easy year (when Tendulkar was badly injured) and that happened to be a year where anyone could score runs. The period 2003-07 (approx.) was the most GOLDEN period for batting in cricket HISTORY. All that rubbish about Lara churning runs and hundreds etc are mostly in this period. BUT as mentioned more than a dozen and almost ALL good batsmen, if fit, had the BEST consecutive years of their careers in this span. Tendulkar missed out only due to many career threatening injuries, which almost threatened to end his career. Spin, swing, medium pace, Express pace,whatever…The Little Master is simply the Best.

  • Harry on August 7, 2009, 13:47 GMT

    No one is arguing Sachin's capability against spin...All I am asking is that look at the context in which Lara scored his runs...He was churning out hundreds after hundreds on a losing team. He was never given the freedom to bat freely, he was always under pressure, and produced with great consistency. Sachin, Ponting and co had support. They never had to worry the team will fold if they go out.

  • Saf786 on August 7, 2009, 12:55 GMT

    I think Inzamam & Anwar had the best record against murali, kumble, harbhajan, warne and I would say any spinner that player against him. Yes Lara & hopper were brilliant too but they did struggle against indian spinners whereas Inzi & Anwar dominated virtually every spinner of the 15 years. Anwar always dominated against kumble, murali and even warne was taken to cleaners but warne will never admit that. And I dont think Tendulkar, Lara, Laxman, Mark Waugh Hooper ever dominated Saqlain. In fact if you check the record they struggled against Saqlain. It is pity that Pakistan didnt consider Saqlain for selection since 2003 world cup. Had Saqlain played more matches then I am sure he would have surpassed murli and warne. Great thing about Saqlain was that he dominated indian batsman and took 23 wicket in India in just 3 tests. Now even warne and murali have struggled in India.

  • jaideep on August 7, 2009, 12:15 GMT

    B.C Lara is by far the best player of spin.The way he has dominated the likes of murali,warne,macgill,kaneria etc is needless to say.

  • Prashant on August 7, 2009, 10:35 GMT

    Firstly, the “avgs” on databases such as statsguru are not head to heads. They only provide avgs for those inn. in which the particular bowler has actually got a batsman out. In other inn. when this may not be the case ,those runs are not included. Second, for those typically using selective stats check out Lara’s record against Kumble,Raju,Giles etc

  • Roshan on August 7, 2009, 9:38 GMT

    During the last 20 years there has never been a better player of spin than Brian Lara. He skinned Murali alive in Sri Lanka. And yes Azhar, Hooper and Sidhu were great players of spin as well.

  • Vikas on August 7, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    Clarke....u must be joking! You have liberty to write, does that mean you will write anything. Deciding the best is always tough. But you have made mockery of all the best batsmen as well as spinners. Even Clarke will laugh on this joke!

  • Nabeel on August 7, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    I think Younis Khan is one of the better players of spin around nowadays. Generally the Pakistani cricket team has handled Murali, Mendis, Harbhajan, and Kumble quite well. A weakness against left arm spinners is evident - ask Panesar or Herath. But check the records and you'll see that Pakistanis have been among the best players of spin around the world in the past several years and Younis is one of them. Lara was the best player of spin I ever saw, absolutely no doubt about that. There is no spinner he did not dominate. No bowler of any kind at all, as a matter of fact. But he's retired. Who's the best of the current lot?

  • ritesh on August 7, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    Three cricketers who are missing from this discussion are Sourav Ganguly,Vinod kambli and Rahul Dravid.When it comes to Sourav's technique against spinners I feel its better than Sachin.Sachin against left arm spinners has not been aesthetic.But if you see Sourav he has not struggles against any category of spin bowler and he has been exceptionaaly well against spinners. Anothe batsman is Vinod kambli,though he din't played for a long period of time but his footwork was dazzling against the spinners - he once smashed Shane Warne for 22 runs in an over. How can we forget Rahul Dravid ,he is an artist and a craftsman.He has played against every spinners of current era and this "WALL" seems to unaffected.

  • Indian on August 7, 2009, 5:38 GMT

    Watching Lara and Hooper together at the crease was one of the most thrilling sights in cricket. One winding up with a huge backlift and full follow through.. the other, effortless and as silken as possible those memories are something u would love to describe to ur kids, grand kids, great grand kids...

  • Prashant on August 7, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    This is THE problem. The completely blinkered and selective use of stats to attempt to “prove” some preconceived notion. Sure, Lara was awesome against spin. But to pick some bowlers and say Tendulkar wasn’t is stupid. Saqlain? Saq himself says Tendulkar is the best. Check how Lara did against Saq.Murali? Lara has one (the only) SL tour where he avg. 100+ plus, Tendulkar had 6(!) matches in SL where he avg.100+! The last series was his only poor one in SL. Furthermore, from 2003 on for a few years Tendulkar was ravaged with injuries, the only reason Lara, Ponting and co. are even being spoken of in the same breath. Warne has always said Tendulkar is the best. Want stats? Check out Lara’s against Kumble,Raju,Giles etc(ALL when Lara was COMPLETELY injury free)…so,don’t just use stats selectively as and when they suit you, and attempt to shove them under the rug when they don’t.

  • Paddy on August 7, 2009, 2:51 GMT

    what about matty hayden as a player of spin? or even michael bevan to a lesser extent?

  • Arun on August 6, 2009, 20:12 GMT

    Kaushik,

    I dont buy the 'stare' theory either. I think Warne was just effing with the editor.

  • Arun on August 6, 2009, 20:12 GMT

    Kaushik,

    I dont buy the 'stare' theory either. I think Warne was just effing the editor.

  • Harry on August 6, 2009, 17:17 GMT

    There are good players of spin and great players spin. The good players - Laxman, Chanderpaul, Sehwag, Clark, Mark Waugh, Dravid, Hooper.....etc. The great players of spin, Ponting, Sachin, Miandad and the greatest of them being Lara. When players are rated, you have to take into consideration , the context under which they played. For the most part, Lara played under immense pressure almost everytime he walked to the crease, the team was always in trouble, but he always attacked the bowlers..ask Murali. He hardly had support (except Chanderpaul. Lara single handedly carried the WI batting for a number of years. How may other players in world cricket was in that situation. It is interesting to see if Sachin or Ponting was in his shoes, what their record would have been like....B.C. Lara - the greatest player of spin!!

  • Javed on August 6, 2009, 17:08 GMT

    It has to be Azhar .Azhar was poetry in motion against spinners. I still remember him using his wrist to flick legspin on the onside and his inside out cover drives. He was completely at ease playing spin. There has never been a more elegant batsman against spin that Azhar. He could destroy ordinary spinners and played Murali comfotably during his peak.

  • plush on August 6, 2009, 15:51 GMT

    One name missing from great players of spin here is Ganguly. Easily one of the best players of spinners- particularly left arm spinners I have seen. I've briefly looked at his stats- around 250 international sixes and I am willing to bet that most were against spinners. His technique when using his feet to loft was impeccable still head and all. Shastri does not deserve a place on this list. I have watched his entire career while growing up and his batting left a scar on my childhood. My memories of him consist mainly of stodgy batting and unimaginative bowling. 6 sixes against Tilak Raj is one thing- being mentioned in a list of top class batsmen against spin is quite another.

    Cricinfo has altogether been too kind to Shastri in any analysis of his career. It may be empathy for a fellow sports commentator- whatever. I remember his inclusion in the top 20 allrounders in cricket and cracked me up- 80 tests, 150 wickets, AVg. 40 +...barely an allrounder, forget best 20 ever

  • Vasu on August 6, 2009, 14:05 GMT

    I think the discussion has two parts to it & most of the feedback is centered around who is the best contemporary player of spin. The aesthetics & visual delight aspect (The central premise of the editor initially) is missing. Case in point: Sidhu, Shastri, Arjuna Ranatunga, Miandad. All good against spin, & Sidhu is probably as good as anybody, but none of them looked attractive & stylish. Since style is subjective and based on individual tastes, may be its fun if we can categorize the various great players of spin listed above with the appropriate adjectives / phrases. For example: Azhar Vs. Spinners: Rolex Clarke: Dancing Queen Hooper: Bittersweet Symphony Jimmy Adams: Football Lara: A fine 5 course meal Laxman: Surgical precision Mark Waugh: Michelangelo Miandad: Hungry tiger Ricky Poting: Kamikaze Sachin: BMW Sehwag: Shoot at sight Sidhu: Murder & Mayhem Zaheer Abbas: Poetry in motion

  • Jayanth R on August 6, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    There are a couple of batsmen who would have given Warne a positive migraine if he were to be bowling to them - I'm referring to the the twinkling footwork and cheekiness of Javed Miandad and the murderous (pun intended) intents of Navjot Sidhu. Warne's disastrous memories of India started with Sidhu from 1996-97 onwards and just kept becoming worse with each trip. Javed was well past his prime when Warne started his ascent but he would still be a handful to contend.

  • Reza Thahir on August 6, 2009, 12:43 GMT

    Lara is the greatest player of spin bowling, he single handedly dominated both warne, murali, saqlain & kumble. Ive never seen any spinner troubling lara. Tendulkar struggled against saqlain in 1999 & against murali in in 2005 & against paul harris in 2006. Lara dominated each n every spinner played against him. V.V.S. Luxman was in complete mess against Mendis in 2007.

  • mayank gupta on August 6, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    The greatness of Sidhu against spin can be measured by a commentator introducing him in the commentary box at Lord´s with the following statement ¨For the next half to take you through, here is a man who asked if he would like spinners or aloo paranthas (a delicacy of breakfast from Sidhu´s home province Punjab), he would choose spinners¨

    How can we forget his comfort and the delight in his eyes on watching the spinners come to bowl.

    Remember Ranatunga not introducing Murali in the attack in 96 WC final unless SIDHU was there. He has single handedly destroyed and almost ended the career of the two of the three greatest spiiners of 90´s - Saqlain Mushtaq and Muralidharn.

    It is amazing in this technologically advanced world, how do mediapersons forget to do a thorough research of players before writing an article like this.

    If we were considering clarke to be good against spin based on his sole innings at Edgabaston, then Azhar at capetown in 96 against Paul Adams

  • KS on August 6, 2009, 7:53 GMT

    The best player of spin has to face the best spinner,so tht would rule out Clarke.It should either be Azhar/Lara/Tendulkar. Ponting anyone?

  • Sheethal Gunjal on August 6, 2009, 7:34 GMT

    @ Vasu I don't think Sachin struggled against Mendis. It's just that he didn't spend enough time in the middle even though he was in good nick. Mendis got him only once that too when sachin was injured & batted @ 6th position. In fact Sachin smashed Mendis in IPL as most of the Indian's did. I would say SACHIN & LARA r the best players of spin bowling. SACHIN dominated Warne as Lara did to Muruli.

  • Darren on August 6, 2009, 7:18 GMT

    Arjuna was a great player of spin. And lets not forget Aravinda.....

  • sai on August 6, 2009, 6:08 GMT

    I was too young to watch batsmen of pre-Lara/Tendulkar era, and do not remember much of Carl hooper (except for his bowling). However, Lara had the most silkiest technique against spinners, while Clarke has the same (when compared to players of post-WC 2003.) Also, I think Azhar had the cleanest and most pleasure technique of all indian batsmen of his era. Lastly, we have to forgive Tendulkar as he has immense back problems, which is the reason he doesnt come down the track anymore.

  • Neel on August 6, 2009, 6:03 GMT

    Azhar should absolutely be on this list. As far as taking 3-4 runs off spinners per over is concerned, he was the best. Two other Indian names come to mind when thinking of batsmen who used their feet- and they should both be mentioned much before someone like Sehwag- Navjot Singh Sidhu and Saurav Ganguly. Not the best footwork, both of them, but when it comes to coming to the pitch and lofting over mid-wicket, these guys were awesome.

  • Niranjana Shetty on August 6, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Also you had excluded Darren Leman & Arjuna Ranatunga

  • Rev on August 6, 2009, 0:50 GMT

    surya - correct, the SCG is the premier spinning pitch in Australia. Hence why Hauritz moved there from Queensland to compete for a NSW spot with MacGill and Casson.

  • suresh kumar on August 6, 2009, 0:24 GMT

    even though he was known to be the best batsman of fast bowling (none other than clive lloyd said so), few used their feet with such surety the way mohinder amarnath did. the way jimmy played qadir is not only a pleasure to watch but an object lesson for aspiring youngsters. i don't remember jimmy ever getting deceived by the flight and getting stumped by a keeper. suresh kumar, singapore. hopeasha@gmail.com

  • Kaushik on August 5, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    I don't really agree that Warne decoded Hooper's advance by his stare and widening of eyes. If you observe every (successful) batsman, like Sachin, you would always see their eyes gradually open as the bowler advances in his run-up. And just before delivering their would be really wide. They don't blink, as they lose focus on the ball then. I think it is sheer luck that Warne decoded Hooper's advance down the track or he is trying to come up with some really ridiculous theory!

  • sting on August 5, 2009, 22:22 GMT

    two parts to playing spin. 1 - reading the spinner, and 2 - playing it. for example, Sayeed Anwar couldn't read Warne, but he could get down the track and hit him about. Lara is the best i've seen by far. He could read it, pad up so far outside offstump nobody even appealed, cut it very late, sweep it or go down the track to dispatch it - as well as all t he usual shots. i've seen lara and tendulkar playing warne, and IMO, lara played him much more easily. Mark Waugh looked so good, but got out so often playing casual flicks. Chris Cairns was also very good. Tillekeratne read Warne very well, but didn't really bang him about. Sayeed Anwar destroyed spinners, without promising he could keep doing it indefinitely without making a mistake. Pieterson can be a real butcher, and he's solid in defence too. Hooper played all bowling seemingly effortlessly, but its not enough to look cool: you have to actually not get out too, and Hooper would often inexplicably lose his wicket. Lara #1, sure

  • salim on August 5, 2009, 21:24 GMT

    Warne and Murali, statisically and generally thought of as the two greatest spinners (or bowlers) ever. Lara went after them both....with excellent results. nuff said!

  • Sorcerer on August 5, 2009, 17:16 GMT

    Zaheer Abbas and Miandad were absolute wizards against spin bowling. The way they tamed the Indian trio of Bedi, Chandra and Prasanna was awesome - accumulating a mountain of runs against them. Even though Zaheer scored more ehavily, I have always held Miandad to be the best player of spinners efore Lara arrived on the scene.

  • sunil kumar choudhary on August 5, 2009, 16:13 GMT

    I am also of the view that VVS laxman is the best player of spin bowling.Clarke is good but he is no where near VVS laxman.Though VVS doesnt come down the wicket that much but his use of feet and crease is just exceptional.He can also hit the ball against spin so effortlessly. I would also like to correct here the common view among many experts that sachin struggled against mendis in the srilankan tour.Infact he was one of the few batsman who was picking him during that series .It was just that he didnt spend time in that series and was out of form. Mendis dismissed him only once in the whole series.

  • MRP on August 5, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    Great, insightful article as usual from Sambit...Great work! Although, if I may, I'd like to add to some of it. I don't quite agree on Clarke being the best of the lot against spinners of the current lot. In addition, I think a few other current and past players of spin deserve an honorable mention. From the current lot, I was suprised not to have seen included in your list, Mohd. Yousuf, Tendulkar, and Jayawardene. These three are arguably some of the best palyers of spin on any surface against any opposition on any wicket. Additionally, I think, and this probably more of a emotional judgement than anything else, my favorite batsmen of all time and childhood idol, Mohd. Azharuddin, who i thought was an absolute artist with the bat, the most stylish and fluid of them all and an absolute gem to watch his feet against the spinners. An additional mention should also go to Dravid, who was excellent against spin.

  • Angus on August 5, 2009, 15:49 GMT

    When trying to make comparisons about who is the all time best- one needs to look at the stats. For example: How many times did a particular spinner dismiss a specific batsman, and the batsman average against the best spinners. So I dare all of you get the stats out and you will see who is the best batsman against the best spinners- Warne and Murali. Come on mates do your homework and stop relying on opinions.

  • surya on August 5, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    One of the things I have wanted to know was how did clarke manage to play spin so well at a very young age when his subcontinental counterparts struggle a great deal..Is his home ground SCG known to support spinners the reason?.I hoped that you would write something about that..But you didnt..I still havent been able to decipher the puzzle

  • Arun on August 5, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    I think Clarke is a favorite just because he's a novelty. When you see a white batsman jumping out of the crease against a spinner, you are tingled no doubt. But when VVS does the same it's old news. Sub-continental cricket is filled with players who use their feet and yet it's difficult to discern who amongst them used it the best. But it's always easier to notice the Cronjes and Clarkes play spinners well because, like I said, they are a novelty. When Cullinan is on the other end, you'd naturally think Cronje is the best player on the planet against Warne. So when Ponting's struggling against an offie, it's easy to notice how easily Clarke can play him. In anycase, I think Clarke is a lot better than most Indian batsmen. He's better than Sachin who rarely uses his feet and instead is always looking to sweep. Clarke will have to take the backseat to VVS though. And how can you forget the greatest player of spin ever - NS Sidhu. Everyone takes a backseat to him.

  • yadav on August 5, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    VVS laxman is an excellent player of spin. Clarke could be a treat to watch but I don't rate him as the best player of spin. That title must go to Brian Lara, the ultimate player of spin bowling. And right about Carl hooper. He was simply awesome, equally against spin and pace, provided his mood takes him. I wonder why WI are so much vulnerable against spin? WI have produced some of the finest players of spin. I guess Chanderpaul could be regarded as the best player of spin if we calculate the ratio of how many times a player is dismissed by a spinner to the total number of dismissals. That could be interesting.

  • Manikandan on August 5, 2009, 14:37 GMT

    I still say VVS is the best player of the spin. As far as the Sri Lanka Series is concerned VVS too played good and was a good contest against Mendis.He played till the end in all the tests except in Galle.Even though he was injured he still took Mendis and Murali with just 1 leg playing on the back foot.But in Gambhir's case whenever he wants to drive the ball too wide offside he gets stumped.Whenever he drives his back foot rises a little.So VVS I think is a better player given his wristy strokes against spinners.If 1 can remember the seried against Pakistan when he played Kaneria beautifully.

  • cricman007 on August 5, 2009, 13:59 GMT

    Carl Hooper was the best player of spin of those mentioned. He had grace, artistry and the sublime touch. He treated spinners with scant respect and his 149 in Pakistan against Abdul Qadir who was turning the ball at right angles is testimony to that.

  • Vasu on August 5, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    It surprising nobody mentioned another terrific batsmen against spin who is right up there with the very best: Azhar. I don’t think any spinner ever had dominated him, and while Lara, Sachin, Laxman, are great against spin, each of them had their tormenting moments against lesser known / freakish spin bowlers in their careers. (Sachin: Ashley Giles, Mendis, Lara: V. Raju, R. Chauhan, Laxman: Mendis). Azhar dominated all the average spinners thrown at him and milked the very best he faced (Murali, Warne, Vettori, Saqlain, Qadir) effortlessly, and never ever got tied down by spin. To top it, he never ever played the sweep as I suspect it would be too ungainly a shot for a man of his supple & magical wristwork! Mark Waugh never faced Warne, but I think he would have done well against him, and as for Hooper, he is potentially one of the best ever players of spin in the last few decades, but he never concentrated long enough against any bowling to translate his skills into a decent score!

  • Nipun on August 5, 2009, 12:58 GMT

    I still can't agree with your views of Clarke being the best player of spin of the lot.In the current days,it's got to be VVS;I still remember his cover driving to balls pitched on middle-leg from Shane Warne.TREAT TO WATCH.

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  • Nipun on August 5, 2009, 12:58 GMT

    I still can't agree with your views of Clarke being the best player of spin of the lot.In the current days,it's got to be VVS;I still remember his cover driving to balls pitched on middle-leg from Shane Warne.TREAT TO WATCH.

  • Vasu on August 5, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    It surprising nobody mentioned another terrific batsmen against spin who is right up there with the very best: Azhar. I don’t think any spinner ever had dominated him, and while Lara, Sachin, Laxman, are great against spin, each of them had their tormenting moments against lesser known / freakish spin bowlers in their careers. (Sachin: Ashley Giles, Mendis, Lara: V. Raju, R. Chauhan, Laxman: Mendis). Azhar dominated all the average spinners thrown at him and milked the very best he faced (Murali, Warne, Vettori, Saqlain, Qadir) effortlessly, and never ever got tied down by spin. To top it, he never ever played the sweep as I suspect it would be too ungainly a shot for a man of his supple & magical wristwork! Mark Waugh never faced Warne, but I think he would have done well against him, and as for Hooper, he is potentially one of the best ever players of spin in the last few decades, but he never concentrated long enough against any bowling to translate his skills into a decent score!

  • cricman007 on August 5, 2009, 13:59 GMT

    Carl Hooper was the best player of spin of those mentioned. He had grace, artistry and the sublime touch. He treated spinners with scant respect and his 149 in Pakistan against Abdul Qadir who was turning the ball at right angles is testimony to that.

  • Manikandan on August 5, 2009, 14:37 GMT

    I still say VVS is the best player of the spin. As far as the Sri Lanka Series is concerned VVS too played good and was a good contest against Mendis.He played till the end in all the tests except in Galle.Even though he was injured he still took Mendis and Murali with just 1 leg playing on the back foot.But in Gambhir's case whenever he wants to drive the ball too wide offside he gets stumped.Whenever he drives his back foot rises a little.So VVS I think is a better player given his wristy strokes against spinners.If 1 can remember the seried against Pakistan when he played Kaneria beautifully.

  • yadav on August 5, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    VVS laxman is an excellent player of spin. Clarke could be a treat to watch but I don't rate him as the best player of spin. That title must go to Brian Lara, the ultimate player of spin bowling. And right about Carl hooper. He was simply awesome, equally against spin and pace, provided his mood takes him. I wonder why WI are so much vulnerable against spin? WI have produced some of the finest players of spin. I guess Chanderpaul could be regarded as the best player of spin if we calculate the ratio of how many times a player is dismissed by a spinner to the total number of dismissals. That could be interesting.

  • Arun on August 5, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    I think Clarke is a favorite just because he's a novelty. When you see a white batsman jumping out of the crease against a spinner, you are tingled no doubt. But when VVS does the same it's old news. Sub-continental cricket is filled with players who use their feet and yet it's difficult to discern who amongst them used it the best. But it's always easier to notice the Cronjes and Clarkes play spinners well because, like I said, they are a novelty. When Cullinan is on the other end, you'd naturally think Cronje is the best player on the planet against Warne. So when Ponting's struggling against an offie, it's easy to notice how easily Clarke can play him. In anycase, I think Clarke is a lot better than most Indian batsmen. He's better than Sachin who rarely uses his feet and instead is always looking to sweep. Clarke will have to take the backseat to VVS though. And how can you forget the greatest player of spin ever - NS Sidhu. Everyone takes a backseat to him.

  • surya on August 5, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    One of the things I have wanted to know was how did clarke manage to play spin so well at a very young age when his subcontinental counterparts struggle a great deal..Is his home ground SCG known to support spinners the reason?.I hoped that you would write something about that..But you didnt..I still havent been able to decipher the puzzle

  • Angus on August 5, 2009, 15:49 GMT

    When trying to make comparisons about who is the all time best- one needs to look at the stats. For example: How many times did a particular spinner dismiss a specific batsman, and the batsman average against the best spinners. So I dare all of you get the stats out and you will see who is the best batsman against the best spinners- Warne and Murali. Come on mates do your homework and stop relying on opinions.

  • MRP on August 5, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    Great, insightful article as usual from Sambit...Great work! Although, if I may, I'd like to add to some of it. I don't quite agree on Clarke being the best of the lot against spinners of the current lot. In addition, I think a few other current and past players of spin deserve an honorable mention. From the current lot, I was suprised not to have seen included in your list, Mohd. Yousuf, Tendulkar, and Jayawardene. These three are arguably some of the best palyers of spin on any surface against any opposition on any wicket. Additionally, I think, and this probably more of a emotional judgement than anything else, my favorite batsmen of all time and childhood idol, Mohd. Azharuddin, who i thought was an absolute artist with the bat, the most stylish and fluid of them all and an absolute gem to watch his feet against the spinners. An additional mention should also go to Dravid, who was excellent against spin.

  • sunil kumar choudhary on August 5, 2009, 16:13 GMT

    I am also of the view that VVS laxman is the best player of spin bowling.Clarke is good but he is no where near VVS laxman.Though VVS doesnt come down the wicket that much but his use of feet and crease is just exceptional.He can also hit the ball against spin so effortlessly. I would also like to correct here the common view among many experts that sachin struggled against mendis in the srilankan tour.Infact he was one of the few batsman who was picking him during that series .It was just that he didnt spend time in that series and was out of form. Mendis dismissed him only once in the whole series.