'If you lose your loop, you don't spin it on good pitches'

Dilip Doshi, the former India left-arm spinner, talks about his craft, what young spinners must focus on, and his greatest cricketing moment (00:00)

December 12, 2011


'If you lose your loop, you don't spin it on good pitches'

December 12, 2011

Dilip Doshi bowls, Warwickshire v Glamorgan, County Championship, 3rd day, July 14, 1982
"You've got to bowl a ball and not put a ball. If you are tossing the ball up then there is no body behind the ball" © PA Photos

Shekhar Gupta: Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta, at Bombay's CCI, and my guest this week is somebody who was a wonderful cricketer, now a brilliant entrepreneur, and on top of everything, a great human being. And if I may say so, Dilip Doshi is the last left-arm spinner who could win a match for India.

Dilip Doshi: Thank you, Shekhar, for having me on the show. It is a great pleasure.

SG: Left-arm spin, your art, is going extinct faster than the tiger or any of those other species.

DD: I think we have seen left-arm spinners continuously play for India and in world cricket. I think the strategies are changing…

SG: We have seen one comeback after a long time now - Pragyan Ojha.

DD: Yes, Pragyan Ojha has done very well. A lot of credit to him for being able to win games for India, and I hope he improves from here. The point is, the whole aspect of left-arm spin bowling, or offspin bowling, should I say, whether it is right-arm or left-arm…

SG: Right-arm offspinners have still continued on because, I think, a majority of batsmen are right-handers. They bring the ball in, but somehow the feeling has grown that in the era of heavy bats or good bats or one-day cricket, you can hit the left-arm spinners.

DD: I think, on the contrary, a left-arm spinner, or even two left-arm spinners worth their salt, is good for a team because the ball is going away from the batsmen, and it is always more difficult at the higher level to play a ball which is leaving the bat. So I would say that it's a misnomer really - whoever is thinking like that.

But I think [one] has to essentially spin a ball and has to bowl a wicket-to-wicket line as a left-arm spinner. The strategies have changed, because I see many left-arm spinners now begin to bowl with a deep point. So are they expecting to bowl a bad ball? I think it is a wrong setting. I think the whole equation seems to have changed. Captains are happy to save the boundaries. But I think we've got to look at taking wickets - that is the best way of stopping runs.

SG: You also see close-in fielders getting hit a lot. A lot more than before.

DD: I think the close-in fielders take a lot of pounding these days. With the helmets and all the pads on the body, I think still they get hit a lot. We have seen a few good cricketers take serious hits.

SG: But you know, what a left-hander does is the exact mirror image of what the right-hander does.

DD: Sure.

SG: With left-arm offspin, they always have this image of practising a much gentler, much classier art than any right-arm offspinners.

DD: I would say that left-handers, as it is, whether a tennis player or any other, looks a little different, or I daresay more elegant, because it is not a run-of-the-mill thing. You see more right-arm spinners than left-arm spinners and similarly more right-hand batsmen. So there is a little natural elegance about it.

And also to bring the ball in to a right-hand batsman when it is not spinning. And if the bowler is bowling a wicket-to-wicket line - and with today's umpiring, they will give you out for not playing the shot when the ball hits the pad, which is great. At the same time, if the ball leaves the bat, it gives him a double chance of getting an outside edge or making the batsman play against the spin.

SG: Do you regret the fact that left-arm spin has declined? Daniel Vettori is perhaps the only one in the last decade to have held his place and become captain. But he has also had to improve his batting for that.

DD: Improving your batting is an integral part of the game because you are required to play a very important role at some stage in the game. Daniel Vettori has been an outstanding cricketer for New Zealand and he is a very high quality left-arm spinner. His essence of bowling is flighting the ball. I think this is one of the things I love to see. He gets the batsman to push at him, which is a sign of a top-class bowler.

SG: But why has left-arm spin declined elsewhere, including in India?

DD: I think a lot of left-arm spinners have been used to restrict runs and therefore they lose the art of the loop. And if you lose the art of the loop, you don't spin the ball on good pitches…

SG: I know you have this theory that tossing the ball up is not the same as flighting the ball.

DD: No, tossing the ball is really leaving the ball without putting the body behind it. What I understand is: you've got to bowl a ball and not put a ball. And bowling a ball requires a fizzy action and leaving the ball at a certain angle from your...

SG: And using your hip…

DD: Yeah, yeah, body behind the ball. And if you are tossing the ball up then there is no body behind the ball. I think people do misunderstand the difference between the two. And tossing will never get you wickets.

SG: But do you find a lot of spinners these days tossing it instead of bowling with a loop?

DD: You see, some of the young spinners have emerged because of the advent of one-day games and they have done very well, where probably they do not really need to practise the nuances of the fine art of spin. Yet they have got somewhere. If then onwards they wake up and start learning the process, they will become better bowlers.

SG: But maybe it's not done at the training level.

DD: I think it has to come from within you.

SG: Has India erred in not training more spinners, particularly left-arm spinners?

"One of the national selectors, while I was playing my first Test series, was interested in seeing my grip and obviously he had wrong reasons to do that because they somehow wanted a way to drop me and bring some of the spinners from their region again. I refused to show the grip and the late Polly [Umrigar] kaka was very good. He said, 'Right Dilip, you don't have to show it'"

DD: I would say if I have to take 20 wickets of the opposition then my ideal combination would be two fast bowers and two spin bowlers. But these days it could be three seamers and one spinner.

SG: Particularly overseas.

DD: Yeah, but to me it doesn't matter as long as the bowler is capable of getting the batsmen out. That's what I need him for. I don't really believe that a green top is not going to help a spin bowler, because the moisture in the pitch is going to help the seamer and similarly a good spinner.

SG: Your autobiography was called Spin Punch. You turned the ball a lot, unlike many of the spinners these days.

DD: I was lucky. I was blessed with the ability to spin the ball and I had a slightly unorthodox grip.

SG: You used your wrist, I remember a picture...

DD: I find the classic MCC coaching book grip tires the knuckles and makes the fingers very stiff. The idea of spinning the ball and releasing is that you have to have suppleness and looseness in your fingers and the wrists, which I learnt naturally. I must thank both my late father and my late uncle who told me how to spin the ball: to hold the ball as comfortably as you can and then give a little rip.

SG: With the wrist…

DD: The wrist automatically comes into play because if it is stiff then your fingers and wrist are all attached. It is something you practise. I don't think a coach can teach you that, but a good coach really recognises this ability in a person and allows him to work freely rather than bring[ing] in a manual.

SG: Were you told by anybody that this was a peculiar grip?

DD: I [was]. Interestingly, one of the national selectors, while I was playing my first Test series, was interested in seeing my grip and obviously he had wrong reasons to do that because they somehow wanted a way to drop me and bring some of the spinners from their region again. I refused to show the grip and the late Polly [Umrigar] kaka was very good. He said, "Right Dilip, you don't have to show it."

SG: Take us back to your playing days, the great moments, the victory at Melbourne, which you and Kapil set up.

I would say that Karsan Ghavri and I set it up. Kapil helped us to finish it. So I must give a lot of credit to him…

DD: Because you guys left them at 24 for 3 the previous evening?

Yes, that is why Karsan and I were responsible, and then the next morning Kapil was fit enough to bowl. I think that is my single greatest cricketing moment.

SG: Nobody believed that we could win in Australia.

DD: Well, that appeared to be the case. Even our own team had doubts about winning the match but we did. And I think, for me, it was great satisfaction because I had a fractured toe, left toe…

SG: You remember a particular wicket in that match?

DD: I think the most important wicket was that of Kim Hughes, because he could have changed the course of the match.

SG: And he was batting very well in that series.

DD: He was a top-class player, and I think Kim Hughes was an underrated great player, and he got a lot of stick from the Australian press. But he was a great cricketer. And when I bowled Kim, I thought that now we can win, because till he was there…

SG: Do you have a graphic recollection of how it happened?

DD: Oh yes, these are the memories that you never forget.

SG: What kind of delivery was it?

DD: I think I did set him up because I remember that the wicket was very slow and I was bowling with a broken foot, so I had to maintain a lot of poise and balance. And he twice cut me to the square boundary for four, which wasn't short, but he saw the ball early. I didn't have a great arm ball because my action was spinning, spinning all the time. But I decided to roll one over and it got through his defence.

SG: Back to Indian cricket - have you followed any of the recent news in India about how to manage the BCCI, or the sporting associations or new laws?

DD: Yes, I have been following it. I think the BCCI has run cricket in India extremely successfully. Like any other institution, everybody can improve, and I am sure they are looking into it because it is run by very successful, entrepreneurial individuals. Sure, the government can give guidelines, but why take away the onus from a successful institution like BCCI? Look how the Indian cricket team has developed in the last 30-40 years - it's a testimony to their ability. There is no point in knocking down the individuals.

SG: And Indian cricket in now driving cricket around the world.

DD: Yes, absolutely. And for this you have to give enough marks to the BCCI for being able to foresee it or do it. I think at the end of the day, like any other thing, cricket is a part of entertainment... the whole package.

SG: Let me say one thing to you, Dilip. You had the toughest job in cricket, a tough and thankless job. You made your debut so late in life, yet it is wonderful to see you carry no rancour, no bitterness. Your face lights up when you talk cricket.

Dilip Doshi took five wickets in the match, England v India, The Oval, 3rd Test, 5th day, July 13, 1982
"If I have to take 20 wickets of the opposition then my ideal combination would be two fast bowers and two spin bowlers" © PA Photos

DD: See, first of all, I am very thankful to God and the people who made me able to play, including Sunil [Gavaskar]. I know he did back me, otherwise I wouldn't have played.

SG: Although, you were tough on him in your book.

DD:No, no. I had a certain view which I shared. It has never been personal. Sunil is still a very dear friend of mine. I respect him enormously but the point is, when you are able to play, you are lucky to play and then you don't want to hold any grudges because it is only a game. Life has to move on and I think that is the only way you can be a happy person.

SG: Thank you Dilip, and I am sure you are happy to be on the park with a cricket ball in your pocket, although it's a new one. We couldn't get you a nicely worn-out one.

DD: Yes, this is a wonderful feeling.

SG: But you've opened the bowling for India with the new ball, isn't it?

DD: I have opened for India with the new ball in Australia, so that's not a funny feeling anymore.

Posted by jayray999 on (December 13, 2011, 15:09 GMT)

Dignified guest, terrible interviewer. Did he have to wave his hands in poor Mr. Doshi's face? And the interruptions, as others before me pointed out, were cringe-inducingly awful. I couild not sit through the full 12:46. The transcript was better but lacked the flavor of a live interview. Ultimately, this was a wasted opportunity and a real shame.

Posted by ZoraxDoom on (December 12, 2011, 17:56 GMT)

Would be so much better if the interview didn't keep talking over Doshi and would just let Doshi speak.

Posted by TRAM on (December 12, 2011, 14:00 GMT)

Awful interruptions by the interviewer. Why would he not let Dhoshi talk?? I stopped watching after few minutes. Organizers, please train the interviewers first. Thanks

Comments have now been closed for this article

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