England October 24, 2012

Wristspin? Whatever abomination next?

In the land of the pucca, there's only one acceptable method of imparting spin on a cricket ball

We British love a crisis. From time to time, particularly if there's not much on television, we like to work ourselves up into a proper panic about something or other. It need not be anything dramatic. Civilisation is such a delicate creature that almost anything could be the cause of its demise: the price of fish, the preponderance of badgers in the countryside, the circumference of Victoria Beckham's waist.

And then we usually forget all about it the following week, when a politician is caught trying to sell his donkey without paying donkey duty, or a new series of Britain's Got Lots Of Singers Who For Some Reason All Sound Like Michael Jackson is launched.

Cricket is not immune to this kind of thing. At one time or another green pitches, wide seams, one-day cricket, three-day cricket, four-day cricket, television, money, bad language, Ray Illingworth, and stubble have all been the panic de jour. Now, in the aftermath of the World Twenty20, we are in the midst of another. "Why oh why are our spinners so boring?" goes the plaintive cry, "Everyone else's are so much more exciting and mysterious and foreign!"

But the cricket folk of England should stiffen their upper lips. Just as we have conclusively proved that we don't care that the IPL makes loads of money, and just as we stubbornly refuse to accept that khaki three quarter-length shorts are the most pathetic item of men's summer wear ever to spew forth from the fetid depths of a fashion designer's imagination, so we should remain immune to the latest trend in spin bowling.

History tells us that there are only two kinds of proper spinner, and of those, only one that could be considered "sound". I refer, of course, to offspin. Offspin is natural, it is seemly and it is correct. Offspinners are usually men of a certain weight, men of physical ballast and moral rectitude. You can rely on them. You would never catch Jack Simmons or Eddie Hemmings getting involved in something unnecessary outside a nightclub or partying with the prime minister's niece at three o'clock in the morning on the eve of the Lord's Test.

Left-arm spinners on the other hand, are tolerated, but not to be trusted. They come in various sizes, but they are usually eccentric and you never really know where you are with them, because left-arm spin is the signpost at the top of a very slippery slope. As it says in the Old Testament, (Book of Geoffrey 1:10):

"Blessed are the offspinners, for they shall come on for a quick over before lunch and they shall be called salt of the earth and shall be hard to get away. But be wary of the man who chooseth to bowl even with the wrong arm, for his is the dark path that windeth through the thicket of doom and leadeth to the evil of legspin."

The English view is that God didn't give us a perfectly serviceable spinning finger only for us to turn our noses up at this stroke of good fortune and attempt to use our wrists to impart rotation. Wrists were designed for pouring tea, shaking dice and throwing the javelin, not for spin-bowling. If various double-jointed Sri Lankans want to wander from the path of righteousness, then let them. When it comes to spin, we know what we like.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England