Saad Shafqat December 9, 2009

The Kaneria conundrum

Kaneria’s assets include a highly effective googly, an accurate stock ball, and the will to strike back after coming in for some stick

Despite Kaneria's ability and success, we are still left with a sense that he has not lived up to his promise © Associated Press

During the course of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington, wrist spinner Danish Kaneria inched past an important milestone on the ladder of Pakistani wicket-takers. With 238 wickets (from 55 Tests), he has now become the most successful spinner (and the fourth-most successful bowler of any type) in Pakistani Test history. Ahead of him lie only the truly hallowed names – Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. Kaneria is almost 29, and still has several years of active playing life left. If he continues at his current rate of 4.3 wickets per Test and six Tests per year, he could well end up with 400 wickets.

He is no Shane Warne, but then nobody is. Still, Kaneria is potentially a great bowler. His numbers (an average of 34.04 and strike rate of 67.9) stand up well against Pakistan’s other leggies; an accomplished fraternity by any standards. Abdul Qadir took 236 Test wickets at an average of 32.80 and a strike rate of 72.5. Mushtaq Ahmed had 185 at 32.97 and 67.7, and Intikhab Alam, the first Pakistani wrist-spinner to go past 100 Test wickets, took 125 at 35.95 and 83.7.

Although Kaneria has done exceptionally well against Bangladesh (34 wickets at an average of 16.41 and strike rate of 36.1), he has succeeded against all the frontline teams as well. His Man-of-the-Match awards have come against South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies, in addition to Bangladesh. During Pakistan’s 2005 series in India that was drawn 1-1, he performed better than his revered Indian counterpart Anil Kumble.

Kaneria’s assets include a highly effective googly, an accurate stock ball, and the will to strike back after coming in for some stick. Nevertheless, despite his ability and success, we are still left with a sense that he has not lived up to his promise. There is a feeling that he has not continued to grow as a bowler (he still cannot bowl a flipper, for instance), but to be fair, unimaginative selection is also to blame. With a respectable limited-overs record in domestic English and Pakistan cricket, he deserves greater opportunities in ODIs and Twenty20s. But in nine years of international cricket, he has played only 18 ODIs and not a single Twenty20 international for Pakistan.

Kaneria’s poor batting and fielding are cited as unacceptable limited-overs liabilities, but Saeed Ajmal, a tight spinner who is no better at batting and fielding than Kaneria, has shown you can be effective in limited-overs cricket on the basis of spin alone. The greater barrier is the presence of Shahid Afridi, a transformed wrist-spinner who these days can do no wrong. In the 1920s and 30s, Clarie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly wreaked havoc as an Australian wrist-spinning partnership, but these days it is sacrilegious to suggest that you play two wrist spinners together. So long as this stale mindset prevails, Kaneria is unlikely to play ODIs or Twenty20s for Pakistan.

He is certainly the best wrist-spinner in Test cricket today, although that isn’t saying much. His natural comparison is with Qadir, but he lacks Qadir’s intensity and repertoire, and has yet to rip through an innings the way Qadir did on a few memorable occasions. Unlike Qadir, he has not mastered the art of flighting the ball and don’t expect him to bowl the ball of the century, because unlike Warne, he cannot get serious turn from balls pitching outside leg.

The flip side of this argument, of course, is that if you just fall short in comparison to the likes of Qadir and Warne, you’re really not doing too badly. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Qadir, and Warne, along with Grimmett and O’Reilly, are five wrist-spinners who have made it into Christopher Martin-Jenkins’s ranking of the top 100 cricketers of all time. Will a similar compilation in later years find room for Kaneria? If he can learn one or two more tricks, it just might.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 27, 2009, 12:47 GMT

    It is true that Kaneria as a leg spinner may have some techniques to work up on, however you just cannot deny him a place in the odi and t20 squad. Critics who believe he is unable to spin the ball too well to their expectations or his inability to ball the flipper, well then he is definitely on the threashold of becoming the finest wrist sprinner considering the fact that he still cannot bowl the flipper.The 238 wicket achievement hallmark exibits it all since these number of wickets he achieved were not an easy task since he has been in and out of the team courtesy our lethargic, tunnel visioned board.

    He is not to be blame for his accomplishments but to be encouraged for his services and commitment to his country.

    The PCB needs a changeman to revamp the system around which is what all of us can merely hope for. Beaurucrats just cannot do justice to sports, they are too busy investing their efforts to pursue their personal objectives over the job at hand.

  • testli5504537 on December 27, 2009, 5:29 GMT

    No doubt he is one of the very best.But i think he has 2 improve his fielding & ODI performance!!!!

  • testli5504537 on December 25, 2009, 8:28 GMT

    He is the best spinner Pakistan has produced in statistics. He had no good supporting bowlers at other end, if we can analyze?

    He has not been recognized by our own countrymen. Why cant we evaluate greatness in our players and when we do that its too late. Do not forget how bad is our fielders and wicket keeper who have missed his innumerable catches and stumpings?

    Please give the devil his due!!!

  • testli5504537 on December 22, 2009, 3:09 GMT

    I am sick of reading articles about Kaneria - what he could have done or what he should do. Saad why don't you do an analysis and work out number of catches and stumpings Kamran Akmal has missed off Kaneria. I remember just in one series against England - about 14 to 16. Add up the others and the talk where he would be in terms of wickets. Stop talking about Bangladesh wickets - you take out Bangladest wickets he would still do better than Qadir - he has croosed Qadir in less number of tests - 12. I have seen Qadir in Australia - he was a goat. You talk about running through the innings - despite all those drops and misses by Kamran he has still taken 7 for on four times. Be fair - cricket is a game of numbers and numbers prove Kaneria is way better than Qadir. Also, don't forget Qadir had Imran at the other end. Who is with Kaneria at the other end - dibly dobly door knobs bowlers.

    or is it all about who you are?

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    I disagree that Ajmal is as bad a batsman and fielder as Kaneria. Ajmal's short career so far contain good examples of properly great batting and fielding and is thus an easy pick over Kaneria in ODI. Another factor is his economy in ODI but to be fair with Kaneria, he didn't get a fair chance in ODI. All Kaneria need to do is make a little difference in his batting or fielding or both. He does have a good variety and any addition will be a plus plus. His attitude is not of great players and thats something only he can change, and he should, for good.

  • testli5504537 on December 17, 2009, 10:49 GMT

    No doubt, Kaneria is a good wrist spinner for test cricket.However,untill & unless he masters some basic tactics & variation in spin,he doesn't seem to be considered for shorter version of the game since pak team has already got two quality spinners(Afridi & Ajmal) for this format.

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2009, 14:31 GMT

    I think Kaneria is a fantastic bowler. Kaneria is an improving bowler and his average is getting better i'm sure at the end of his career he will have an excellent career average. Pakistan need to play more Test Cricket and also play Shahid Afridi as well as Saeed Ajmal in the Test team. I think Pakistan should rotate their bowlers according to the pitches and Teams they play against.

  • testli5504537 on December 13, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    i think we ought to give kaneria more benfit of the doubt, he has had to contend with perhaps the poorerst fielding side, unimaginative fielding places and kamran akmal dropping catches. despite that he is closing in on 250 test wickets. per haps more help from the likes of qadir and we will have a true great. as previously pointed out murali and warne have taken a large percentage of their wickets against poor players of spin. We are often guilty of downplaying our heroes whereas the western countries over play theirs. warne is a great but we shouldnt forget our players neither.

  • testli5504537 on December 12, 2009, 18:14 GMT

    let me conclude this talk.danish kaneria is the best leg spinner in the world.this is not right to compare anybody with him.he is so enjoyable to watch, tests matches without danish kaneria are so incomplete.he is a kind of bowler who can be fit in any kind of cricket.he has the GOD gifted ability.come on dani come on dani, dani dani dani!

  • testli5504537 on December 12, 2009, 7:03 GMT

    The pace and bounce in NZ has certainly helped Kaneria, he is taller than Ajmal and can surprise batsmen with his pace, unless Ajmal. The flat , dead wickets of Pakistan are certainly no help to fast or slow bowlers, so he should be given credit for toiling on lifeless pitches against batsmen always plonking their front foot down. Look at India /SL --700 runs by the batting side? Even Murali was helpless, so you can imagine Kaneria's figures if he was bowling there. I like Kaneria because he is a fighter and I think he will do well with the pace and bounce in Australia, the aussies better watch out for this guy. And I hope Kaneria will play in all 3 Tests and in England next summer, where I am certain he will enjoy even more success. Good luck Danish!

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