Aakash Chopra
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Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

India's bare spin cupboard

Kumble's successor, Harbhajan, has faded, and the likes of Ashwin and Mishra aren't quite up to scratch yet

Aakash Chopra

July 5, 2012

Comments: 82 | Text size: A | A

R Ashwin appeals successfully for an lbw against Kieran Powell, India v West Indies, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 5th day, November 26, 2011
Ashwin: too many variations, not enough stock balls © AFP

MS Dhoni's decision to field a four-pronged seam attack in the Perth Test earlier this year took many by surprise. It was the first time in two decades that India went into a Test with an all-pace attack. As much as Dhoni's radical decision was about the seamer-friendly conditions in Perth, it was equally about the lack of penetration displayed by R Ashwin in the first two Test matches of the series. While the pros and cons of that decision could be debated, it certainly wasn't thoughtless. Even though Pragyan Ojha was in the side, like in the past, he failed to catch Dhoni's fancy. And India's best bet, Ashwin, played second fiddle to Australia's Nathan Lyon, even on a subcontinental track in Adelaide. By contrast, in 2008, on India's previous tour of Australia, Anil Kumble, the Indian captain, was spoilt for choice. He fielded two spinners in the four-bowler attack in three of the four Test matches.

It's common knowledge that fast bowlers hunt in pairs, but so do spinners. For over a decade, Kumble and Harbhajan Singh worked brilliantly together for India, for they complemented each other's style of bowling and sustained pressure on the opposition. These two players deserve as much credit for India's assent in Test cricket as the famous four pillars of Indian batting. After all, batsmen can only set up matches by putting runs on the board; it's the bowlers who win them by taking 20 wickets.

The downside of having quality performers at the top for a long time is that since there isn't an immediate need to replace them, one seldom looks for new and upcoming talent - so much so that you might completely ignore that particular skill set in domestic cricket. That's what happened with spinners in India too. Since Kumble and Harbhajan were doing a fine job, finding new spinners wasn't a priority, and the focus was always on finding fast bowlers - which paid off to some extent. It was convenient to believe that India being the land of quality spinners, there would never be a real dearth of them.

No matter what, every skill needs constant nurturing, without which it could die a slow death. Unfortunately, not many noticed that things were changing drastically on the Indian first-class circuit, where most state associations reckoned that an average medium-pace bowler was yielding more returns than an above-average spinner. This had largely to do with the SG Test balls used in domestic cricket, which were more conducive to swing bowling throughout the day. Also, the ease with which Indian batsmen have traditionally played spin played a role in prompting associations to focus more on fast bowlers. Nowadays the job of most spinners is to give medium-pacers a breather. I wrote last month about the radical decline of spin in the country.

The fact is, India is grasping at straws when it comes to spin-bowling resources. There is an urgent need to identify and empower key spinners to keep the legacy of spin in the country alive.

R Ashwin
Ashwin is one of the few Indian spinners who flights the ball even in the face of an assault. He also possesses enough varieties to keep batsmen guessing. His high-arm action and correct release of the ball coupled with his height give him bounce off the pitch too. While having a lot of options can liberate a player, it could in some cases have a detrimental effect, like in the case of Ashwin. With so much to choose from, it is almost as if he almost feels obliged to bowl a doosra, a slider and a carrom ball every over. Just that it isn't working in his case, for he is compromising on consistency to showcase all his wares. He would do well to take a leaf out of Graeme Swann's book and stick to bowling regular offspinners a lot more, using spin as the main weapon.

Pragyan Ojha
While there seems to be a lot going for Ojha on the cricket field - he has looked impressive in every outing for India - there's definitely something going against him off the field, for both the selectors and the captain seem to look through him on most occasions.

Like most left-arm spinners, he's extremely accurate, and he has the ability to turn the ball off the surface. He has a reasonably good arm ball, and on days when it comes out of hand perfectly, it drifts and dips on the batsman too.

Most spinners are captain's bowlers and Ojha is no different. Considering the obvious shortage of quality spinners in the country, it's imperative for the captain to show faith in him. On Ojha's part, he needs to understand that throwing darts isn't the only resort to counter an assault.

Rahul Sharma, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla
With 30 wickets in 14 first-class matches, it's anybody's guess how Sharma made it to the Indian Test team. To his credit, he did well in the fourth season of the IPL, but to consider Twenty20 performances when picking a Test team is quite astonishing. He has had a rather forgettable India A tour to the West Indies and it will be tough for him to find favour again soon.

Since Kumble and Harbhajan were doing a fine job, finding new spinners wasn't a priority, and the focus was always on finding fast bowlers. It was convenient to believe that India being the land of quality spinners, there would never be a real dearth of them

Mishra, a conventional legspinner, started his Test career with a bang. He relies on deceiving the batsman in the flight and with spin off the surface. While he has the ingredients to succeed at the highest level, his lack of pace off the surface led to him losing accuracy in the last few Tests he played and cost him his place in the side. If he can find ways to get zip off the surface (a very tough skill to acquire), he could be the ideal man to partner Ashwin.

Chawla, like Mishra, impressed everyone in his first few outings but soon found the going tough because of his inability to turn the legspinner. His googly, which turns a fair bit, is his main weapon, but that can only be effective if the orthodox legspin turns away from the right-hand batsman. If Mishra is too slow off the surface, Chawla is a shade too quick and doesn't allow the ball to drift, dip or bite the surface.

Harbhajan Singh
After Kumble's departure, it was a given that Harbhajan would assume the role of the lead spinner and ensure a seamless transition. Unfortunately it hasn't panned out that way. Harbhajan went on to lose his spot in the Test and ODI sides, and his return isn't on the horizon either, unless Ashwin does poorly.

The only fathomable reason for Harbhajan's decline is a radical change in mindset. More than the ability to turn the ball in to the right-hander or to take the doosra away, it was Harbhajan's attacking mindset that set him apart. When younger, he would constantly find ways to take a wicket without worrying too much about how many runs he conceded in the bargain. Video footage of Harbhajan's dream series against Australia in 2001 shows that he was flighting the ball back then, got drift in the air, spun the ball, and got many bat-pad catches; he also got bounce after pitching, bringing the backward short-leg fielder into play.

I wish that Harbhajan could turn the clock back somehow, for he's still the most talented spinner in the country. His stint with Essex can help only if the endeavour is to rediscover his old self, because with him it's not the number of overs he bowls but how he bowls them.

Then there's Jalaj Saxena, who was picked as an offspinner for India A's tour to the West Indies. He may have bowled well and taken wickets in one innings, but to wager your money on someone who has taken just 58 wickets in 41 first-class matches is rather ambitious.

Akshay Darekar, Vikas Mishra and Harmeet Singh are three young left-arm spinners who, if mentored and nurtured well, can form a supply line for the Indian team. The BCCI needs to find ways to ensure that these spinners don't lower their arms and sacrifice flight. They must be encouraged to spin the ball off the surface, and perhaps kept away from the IPL till their fundamentals are firmly in place.

Spinners must be taught to think and act like fast bowlers, which is to be aggressive and look for wickets, not bowl flat and fast and get reduced to being stopgaps.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Naresh28 on (July 8, 2012, 22:04 GMT)

@sonya jones - you are a stirrer. With Kumble India reached no1 in tests. Yes Warne was good but he himself felt that sachin got the better of him.

Posted by Snehaa on (July 7, 2012, 22:41 GMT)

Ashwin and Piyush Chawla can make a effective bowling partnership for India in tests. I believe top test teams must use five bowlers, three of them have to be all rounders. England has been very successful with Broad Bresnan and Swann who are all good batsmen. In fact I have seen Broad and Bresnan show tremendous skills with the bat saving and winning games for England. The lower order batting will become very strong with Ashwin and Piyush. I would like to see a good fast bowling all rounder emerge soon. Irfan pathan is the current best candidate but his bowling has fallen apart. Ishant seems like a compact defensive batsman, a good no 11. At this point Umesh must be improving his batting, but eventually I WOULD LIKE TO SEE A LINE UP WITH FIVE BOWLERS - Ashwin, Piyush, Irfan, Umesh, Ishant.

Posted by Cricketfan101 on (July 7, 2012, 21:16 GMT)

India need give their young spinners along run to really prove themselves and next three test series will be a great time start as they are all at home

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 19:38 GMT)

@ Arjun Calidas, andy is right , saqlain mushtaq was the best spinner in odi format , his bowlig average can tell you this , 21.78 better than murali better than warne and i think better than any spinner in the world .. harbhajan singh once said that saqlain mushtaq is his hero ..

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 5:18 GMT)

@andyzaltzmanshair that is the most ridiculous comment ever.. the most potent test and odi spinner is muralidharan, we have stats to prove that.. also amit mishra is the best spinner among the current lot.. the poor guy never had a shot after the bashing in the home series way back in 2010.. ashwin is a close second and ojha is a decent spinner.. but above everybody is murali karthik who certainly deserves his chance.. at least now..

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 2:59 GMT)

@Amu7 Kumble won India tests in Eng (Headingley 2001) and WI (Jamaica 2006) and Series in Pak 2004 and SL 1994. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT. he is also the main reason for BC Lara's poor record vs India. Kumble also came back from Injury in 2007 vs Pak and 2008 vs SL. He played many high scoring draws against both teams affected his avg. against them. Kumble only played 2 tests in NZ.the fact remains Warne's injuries only came about while playing India from 1996-2001 and not against SA and Eng.which is quite odd , isn't it?

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (July 6, 2012, 22:20 GMT)

India bare spin cupboard. If India plan to conquer world they will certainly need bowler. More than one. Maybe 4. They need wicket-keeper also, one who do not drop ball. And then there is issue of batsmen. Will need some age less than 25.... Going to need 6 batsmen then.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 20:45 GMT)

India has never produced or will produce world class spinners like Warne. They hype their average players and pretend they are world class. lol

Posted by Cricketfan101 on (July 6, 2012, 20:00 GMT)

I think murali karthik is very good spinner but i think his time is up because he is 35 and he wont last long in international cricket maybe if he was 32 then he should have given a oppunity so i can understand why they giving chances to the younger spinners like ohja

Posted by AndyZaltzmannsHair on (July 6, 2012, 16:24 GMT)

@Mozenrath Tabaqi: Saqlain Mushtaq is arguably the greatest ODI spinner the game has ever seen.

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (July 6, 2012, 15:35 GMT)

Good summary of the spin bowling choices although I must say that I have not yet given up hope that Murali Kartik will still play for India. He is a VERY good spin bowler and its a pity of how he was dropped from the side after some good performances. I think Kartik and Ojha need to be the 2 frontline spinners for Test Matches. Ashwin has stagnated over the past few months although luckily he is relatively quite young and can learn if he wants to and I understand that overseas tours are difficult.

I have higher hopes for the youngsters Akshay Darekar, Vikas Mishra and Harmeet Singh. The latter 2 can gain by India having a good U-19 coach. We need these 2 to be nurtured well.

Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra (and to a lesser extent Rahul Sharma) probably need to be allowed to play the English County season. I think playing in different conditions with good coaching may help them broaden their skills more than playing in India will.

Posted by omtheneo on (July 6, 2012, 13:06 GMT)

@WickyRoy.paklover .. Dont call Kumble as home made champiön.During 90s ,In india which got lot of grounds assisting spin,He bowled well.But he was not bowling well in Overseas. But After 2002 ,he became a match winning spinner at any pitch and under any condition.2002 England ,2003 Aus tour,2004 Pak Tour,2006 SA tour,2006 WI tour,2007 Eng Tour,2008 Aus Tour.In these serieses ,Kumble formed backbone of our bowling attack and produced some of precious spells.

Taking the case of Murli , Most of his wickets are from his Home that too in 3 grounds alone(India has got 10 + test cricket stadiums) and hav not performed against Aus which were strongest at time.(Kumble has taken 111 wickets against Aussies)

Taking the case of Warne,He was bowling along with Some greats and with a greatest Players.So he bowled under much lesser pressure.Also he dint bowl well against India and in India which is a spin paradise

Posted by DINESHCC on (July 6, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

Dear Akash and other guys: Bhajji was introduced in 1998 and he really started performing well on the Aus tour of 2001. Kumble was introduced in 1990 and he started performing in 1995 only. But you people expect that Ashwin should perform from his 1st match onwards. Even the great spinner Warne had a very worst debut of 1/206 against India in 1992. That too in his own backyard. In the 1994 Ashes only Warne announced his arrival. Ashwin may not be the likes of Kumble and Bhajji. But in 6 tests he scored 284 runs with one century and had taken 31 wickets which is not at all a bad performance. His bowling average could have improved had he played in Perth test where the pitch had uneven bounce. Please give him time to prove his credentials.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

@ Akash Chopra ! You dis not mentioned about Murli Karthik, the left arm spinner, still playing counties in England and Ranjis for Railways. What about Nadeem from jharkhand? You seems receptives to the signals only from BCCI's radar. Forget about nurturing od upcomming spinners, have you any statistics how many good spinners has been destroyed by BCCI recently?

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

@WickyRoy.paklover all your great spinners before Ajmal and Rehman like Qadir and Saqlain average 30+ in tests , you know that? really look at your your own so called spinning greats before dissing anyone. they were big underachievers,LOL.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 10:24 GMT)

Why doesn't anyone talk about Iqbal Abdulla???at the moment he is the best spinner in domestic circuit and a decent bat too

Posted by harekrishnaom on (July 6, 2012, 9:13 GMT)

This article doesn't exhaustively cover India's spin reserves. Murali Karthik and Ramesh Powar are still out there somewhere.

Posted by sweetspot on (July 6, 2012, 8:59 GMT)

Wow! People writing off Ashwin already? Give him time. For a guy who has had to adapt amongst three formats and to have such an impact like he did in the limited world cup matches he played - it takes a lot. He's far too much of a thinking cricketer to be compared to many others aspiring to bowl for India for a long time, purely based on one or two tours. Simple fact is, at the moment he is India's premier spinner. No, he doesn't have to be appreciated for his batting, but if he can bat when even leading batsmen fail, that is indeed in his favour.

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (July 6, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

Kumble was never a great spiner by any stretch of imaginatn.He was jst an above average bowlr nthng else n was prime example of what we cal"home made champiön" as he strugld elsewhere,check his record against gd teams and at their backyards,inspite of havng 10 for 70 odd against pak,he averages fairly high against pak,i dn't know why do indians rate him equal to warne or murali,thre was time when saqlain had great going in tests,had he cntinud his form n didn't sufr 4rm back injury,he would definitly had surpasd murali,warne(though saqlain his stil easily d best odi spiner by far).KUMBLE WAS A GREAT WORKHORSE N cntinud to playng 4 india 4 one simple reason,india didn't had his replacment

Posted by Amu7 on (July 6, 2012, 7:21 GMT)

@cswomi you conveniently forget ashwin averaged 65 on that tour,if that is not mediocre then id dont what is.Average high like that would have been okay if the economy was around 2.20 -2.5 , no it was 3.36 implying neither he stopped runs nor he took wickets.As for my warne point in 98 he was stretched and had shoulder injury and missed about a year of cricket after that.In 2001 he was playing his first match after a year.As for Kumble he never bowled you to victory in SA or West Indies or NZ or England or even SR where Aussies whitewashed the lions ,the way warnie just galvanised and put a complete block from one end.A case in point look at averages of Warne and Kumble in Pak and SRL,leave alone other teams,just two other good players of spin.Warnie averages 28 in Pak and 20 in SL,while Kumble averages 42 in Pak and 45 in SL.As for '04 series yeah we did have injuries but yeah Aussies did too in 03-04 and '98 .You can perform as much as given against an opposition.

Posted by AMAZINGFAN on (July 6, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

it's easy to blame ashwin but the thing is no off spinner has dominated aussies in their backyard.even the great muralitharan was poor in aussie pitches.the reason for india's debacle in aus was their pathetic batting display .ind never managed to score more than 300 in that series.people who r arguing harbhajan is better than ashwin has to remember the fact that harbhajan' figures in aus is worse than ashwin.the only ind spinner who did well in aus is kumble.at the moment ashwin is best spinner in india and he is the only indian bowler who is in top.5 in icc odi rankings.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

Iqbal Abdullah is a very good choice

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (July 6, 2012, 3:53 GMT)

I dn't know why they dn't try umesh,varon,vinay,paraveen to be transformd into wrld clas spiners 4 future,bcoz at d moment,paraven,vinay bowl 3 to 4 slowrs bals in an ovr and ths z their stock bal n they heavily rely on ths to give them wicket,i m sure umesh,ishant,varun going to folow footstps of thse two fast cum spin bowlrs in jst about 1 year or litle more time than that.lolz,india's spin department look bright 4 future

Posted by Siddharth_zenox on (July 6, 2012, 3:36 GMT)

i still remember a interview given by the great Sir Viv... He said that his dad advised him to go and play in India where he can find the best of spinners... and times have changed now.... England has produced a better spinner than India lol :D

Posted by jb633 on (July 6, 2012, 0:41 GMT)

Harbahjan was the best off spinner in the world but I think his time has gone. Unfortunatley the IPL has destroyed his attacking instinct. I agree with a few of the comments that Murali Khartki should have been given more chances. I think R. Ashwin is pretty average if truth be told and so are the two leggies mentioned. Looks like the effects of the IPL are coming into effect earlier than one may have expected.

Posted by Nampally on (July 5, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

If India is serious about developing good spinners, then they have to encourage them by including them in the XI. India is currently touring SL with 3 spinners. Kudos to the Indian Selectors. But the final XI is selected by Dhoni & luckily for India there are no "Specialist" all rounders in the squad. Will Dhoni go with 2 spinners duo + 3 Seamers? He already committed a cardinal sin by playing 4 seamers in the Aussie test. Expecting part time bowlers like Raina, Rohit or Sehwag to replace one spinner is not the answer. Play Ojha/Rahul & Ashwin as a duo. If only Ojha & Rahul played in XI in the past 3 tours, there may have answered India's need. By dropping M.Karthik, India deprived a V.fine spinner his due.If there are 6 batsmen, let them produce runs not "Ducks".India has young guys like Apanna, Abdullah, Nadeem who did well in IPL. Coach them. Vinoo Mankad & SP Gupte were extremely poor compared to modern cricketers. But they ruled supremely as world's top Cricketers & Spinners!

Posted by Nampally on (July 5, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

Aakash, Spinners do not grow on trees they have to be nurtured over the years. Although India currently lacks talented spinners, it must be known that Dhoni has shown strong dislike for spinners consistently. Rahul Sharma was in the squad but he has been benched 10 matches in a row followed by one appearance then benched again despite the fact that he bowled well. The same goes with Ojha being benched consistently just after Ojha & Ashwin duo won the series against WI.Compare this with Pataudi's captaincy - he played tests with 4 spinners!. India always had world class leg spinners like SP Gupte, Chandrashekar & Kumble. They also had world class left arm spinners like Vinoo Mankad, Nadkarni, Durrani, Bedi & super off spinners like Ghulam Ahmad, J.Patel, Prasanna, Venkat & Harbhajan. But after the exit of Kumble & Harbhajan the cupboard is really empty & cannot fe replenished because of Dhonis short sighted illogical tactics, including Jadeja's preference over a specialist spinner.

Posted by MysticMan on (July 5, 2012, 22:05 GMT)

Aakash's insightful article shows how well he reads the game! Ian Chappell and Ashley Mallett observed that Ashwin is not able to impart enough spin on the ball, perhaps due to ODIs. The best off spinner in Australia from India was Erapalli Prasanna in the '68 series (I am taking this off a Mallett article in espncricinfo, in itself a great read).

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 21:16 GMT)

It is so easy to blame Ashwin because he is the only genuine spinner for India. I agree Ojha has to be given a fair chance, but to put the entire blame on Ashwin and Dhoni is a little preposterous from Mr. Chopra.

Posted by Cricketfan101 on (July 5, 2012, 21:08 GMT)

I dont know how people can judge ashwins test quality after six matchs and in first he got 22 wickets at an average of 22 and i think if dhoni gives ohja a chance then ashwin and ohja could become a decent patnership

Posted by ProdigyA on (July 5, 2012, 19:09 GMT)

I wish BCCI had done half as much home work as Aakash has done. Now, having served the food in the platter, BCCI would please makes some notes and do something.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Ashwins stat in his on tour to Australia is better than Bhajjis all tours to Australia!!!

Posted by RashadBanna on (July 5, 2012, 18:48 GMT)

It doesn't make any difference, does it? With spinners or without, India's bowling line up will always concede runs consistently as they do not have a proper game plan. And how bowlers like Ashok Dinda and Joginder Sharma play for an international team I don't know.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

@Amu7 you conveniently ignored injuries and lack of form in the Indian camp in 2004(SRT MISSED THOSE TESTS).how come your 'injured' Warne did so well vs SA and Eng from 1997-2001. huh?? and promptly failed against India? WARNE WAS NOT INJURED IN THE FAMOUS 2001 SERIES, THAT IS A PATHETIC EXCUSE FROM HIS FANS. Kumble improved vastly overseas after returning from a bad injury in 2001. COMMENTERS SHOULD STOP CITING THE AUSSIE SERIES FOR ASHWIN, HE WAS DECENT WHEN BETTER OFFSPINNERS HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE THERE.

Posted by woodstock1969 on (July 5, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

Good article Aakash (as always) and very relevant. I am afraid in an attempt to overcome its weaknesses India has forgotten its strengths. Too much focus on pace bowlers who start out as great prospects and fizzle out in 2-3 years.

Posted by Venkatb on (July 5, 2012, 18:00 GMT)

I am unsure why the spin department is being highlighted as Indian cricket lays bare in every department. The reasons are not hard to fathom - T20 and the IPL are slowly killing Indian cricket and Dhoni as a captain for the longer version is another reason spinners have little to no chance of succeeding. One should ask how often Dhoni has set an attacking field for spinners - from that one can infer what his bowling instructions are. Batsmen can slowly grind the Indian attack, as evidenced by the slaughter at the hands of the English and the Aussie teams. In fact India almost lost to NZ on home turf but were denied by Harbhajan Singh's batting prowess, and Laxman. India needs a thinking captain and unfortunately at this time, not one player is an automatic selection into the team, with the second string faring even worse on the recent WI tour.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (July 5, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

Rahul Sharma has many supporters but his performances and figures are below average at best. I'm not sure what he did to get the chance he got but Ojha looks promising. As does Mishra but unfortunately for him he was that disastrous England tour where he had more more success with the bat than ball. That said he showed he could turn the ball big so it would be interesting what he could do with the right guidance and support. Many players have said that Dhoni is the best captain they have played under but his selection does at times seem inexplicable and would be a great shame and surprise if he suffered from favouritism or bias as it doesn't seem like his style. More worringly is the overall quality of spin bowling on spin friendly pitches in a country with a history of top class spin bowlers and where other countries have matchwinners such as Swann and Ajmal.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 16:40 GMT)

Traditionally we like to bar , more than we like to bowl.This reflects in the players we produce .We have produced more legendary batsman then legendary bowlers.

The decline in quality of spin bowling is not something new for us.

Posted by amarnath79 on (July 5, 2012, 15:58 GMT)

I think Bhajji needed a series off after the debacle in England last summer. Now they have kicked him out for one full year (and replaced him with people who are no better) and totally ruined his confidence. The man didn't take 400 wickets for no reason. He deserved more respect.

Posted by kingcobra85 on (July 5, 2012, 15:49 GMT)

Aakash convinently takes Harbhajan's home series and then compares it with Ashwin's Australia series... Welldone Aakash you proved your point

Posted by CamS71 on (July 5, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

davos217: I fail to see what Chopra's own Test career has to do with his ability to analyse the state of India's spinners. On that subject I agree with those who say that Kartik hasn't been given a fair crack at the Test side. Been brilliant in his couple of seasons at Somerset.

Posted by Amu7 on (July 5, 2012, 15:20 GMT)

Fact remains Ashwin doesnt hv a stock ball.the one he can bowl all the while.Amit Mishra is fairly pathetic,he requires the pitch to give him the zip and like Chawa he sidesteps to bowl googly.I think the problem with both spinners and fast men in India is that they relie a lot on SG ball.I think the sooner we get rid of this ball dont think our bowlers would find it hard to bowl with kookabura and dukes.Sure it would mean losing couple of series at home but it can be bargain to overseas glory too.Welll for those eulogising Kumble he never was effective outside India where you know he bowled compelling spells Like warnie.sure warnie struggled in India but look at his last series in India 3 matches 14 wickets,the only time he came fit without injury.Ojha is a stopgap he wont give away runs but he wont take wkts either or run thru a side ike Harbhajan.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 14:55 GMT)

It is not too late to give a run to murali kartik. He still has 3-4 good years in him

Posted by rayfanatics on (July 5, 2012, 14:24 GMT)

@Mrinmoy Dey : Aakash means the young under-19 player Harmeet Singh and not the punja medium pacer / leg cutter bowler. Nice article. Ojha needs to be in this team asap. Ashwin is aggressive but a little too arrogant and oblivious to the mistakes he makes. Srikanth has a big role in keeping him in the team despite repeated failures in the CB series and the subsequent IPL. It is time we looked at Ojha. If Ashwin's batting ability can make him a test no. 6 then it will be great for India.

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (July 5, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

Why is this a surprise? We don;t have anyone who wants to bowl anymore...Whta kind od system we have in place for the future? Scary even to think..

Posted by Raki99 on (July 5, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

I think the CupBoard is Really empty, when it comes to spin bowling. We need a spin bowling coach who can mentor this talent like chwala and mishra, Harbajan is nearing his end and I Don't think Ahwin has it in him to be even 50% as successful as harbahajan. We need to find some goos Offie. lets see how the series against the lankans go.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 13:25 GMT)

gone are the times when spinners got wasted due to lack of opputunity due toJUMBO-BHAJJI...i remember rahul sangvi,sharandeep singh in 2000,murali kartik,RAJESH PAWAR,ramesh powar,rajesh sutar,s.bahutule not getting enough chances or no chances...atleast mishra,ojha,ashwin ,chawla are getting some chances in the past few years as no jumbo-bhajji now....we dont want a side with yusuf.raina,rohit,jaddu as the only spinners

Posted by csowmi7 on (July 5, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

"ashwin played second fiddle to lyon" really ashwin took more wickets than lyon. 9 wickets in 3 tests is not really bad in a country where all spinners struggle. harbhajan's stats in Australia are truly pathetic. Plus he had to bowl when the batsman scored no runs whatsoever and was always under pressure.

Posted by Selassie-I on (July 5, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

maybe this is due to the captaincy, Dhoni always pushes all the field right back and asks the offie to bowl a leg stump line. That's what stopped harbajan spinning the ball as if he tried to rip it on that line then he is in danger of bowling wides or on the pads too much. I always feel that if the opposition get off to a good start then he just looks to contain them and await a declaration.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (July 5, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

As a non biased englishman I still think Mishra, Ojha or any of the bowlers mentioned should have more than enough to bother our lot over there. It's all in their minds. Can't wait for the series. One that won't be affected by rain.

Posted by Naresh28 on (July 5, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

Nice article again. The suggestion by someone on "rahul dravid article" today was that BCCI should open an academy which looks after the test bowlers and batsman. I think that is a good idea. Also BCCI should remunerate these potentials so that they dont think that the money is only in IPL. All formats can survive and makes for interesting viewing.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 11:29 GMT)

And MURALI KARTIK doesn't even come to mind does he? The BEST SPINNER INDIA NEVER HAD- MURALI KARTIK

Posted by davos217 on (July 5, 2012, 11:27 GMT)

Chopra worst batsman India has ever produced test average of 23 and didn't know what a backlift was. Ravi ashwin is even a better batsman than him let alone bowler.

Posted by jay_vkjay on (July 5, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

Ashwin was pathetic in the whole aussie tour.In the CB series he can't claim a single wicket against the aussies! Pragyan Ojha needs more opportunities:atleast 3-4 continuous series will make him more confident and secure.Bhajji still got atleast 4-6 years left in his career.Keep in mind his economical bowling in IPL5 he should have brought back to the T20 side atleast. Misra and Chawla dont deserve no more chances.Rahul Sharma shold not even deserves a birth in team India.

Posted by anuradha_d on (July 5, 2012, 10:47 GMT)

Many a potent bowlers have turned toothless under Dhoni's captaincy.....Maybe we should be looking at Dhoni's ability to be positive and supportive to aggressive breed of bowlers ?

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

i seriously dont know why they dont pick Karthik.. for bowling.......... he has been gud......

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

Harmeet Singh is not a left arm spinner.. he is a right arm medium bowler...

If he is considered a spinner so would be the case of Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Vinay Kumar and the likes.. lol..

Posted by liz1558 on (July 5, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

This article overlooks the fact that there were 15 years between Bedi, Chandra et al. and Kumble and then Harbajhan. In between times Doshi, Maninder Singh, Hirwani, Shiva, and even Ravi Shastri all made spin bowling contributions that were part flash in the pan and part wheelie bin. All the bowlers listed in this article look like the above inbetweeners rather than the greats. In spite of that, it's worth remembering that India managed to beat England in England in '86 because of their fast bowlers, Chetan Sharma and Kapil Dev. There may be lean times ahead for Indian spinners.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (July 5, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

good to see so many commenters agreeing dat ojha is a special talent. The fact is that he has NEVER failed on the international circuit. but still he has never been given the chance to cement his place. He has to play every format, simply. The problem in India is People mainly look at the results and not the process. Though both ojha and ashwin got equal no of wkts in the series against WI in 2011 at home ashwin was prefferd simply becos he had so-called batting ability. But the selectors forgot that the best bowler is not the one who gets most wkts , but the one who causes most troubles. And Ojha is simply good enough to challenge ANY batsman If you keep overhyped Ashwin mainly for his batting , its stupid becos batting is the responsibility of batsmen. Further If a spinner is picked he should be picked mainly becos he can spin the balll and get wkts on any track and not becos he can score a few runs against a bowling line up which will be usually tired by that time.

Posted by yadavrohit on (July 5, 2012, 8:11 GMT)

for upcoming 10 tests against NZ, Eng and Aus , we desperately need a wrist spinner ,in that perspective we should focus on either mishra or chawla bcoz Rahul Sharma is not impressed me as test bowler and that is proven in WI A tour. for Piyush chawla, yes his leg break does not spin too much but he is a confidence bowler , once he gains that he will look unstoppable....i have seen him in england where he troubled everyone where there is not much for spinners........ so my vote is for off spinner: ashwin and Left arm spinner: Ojha and Leg break: piyush Chawla...............................................................................

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 8:02 GMT)

It is a pity that Murali Kartick is not even mentioned. Talk about spinners being dependent on captains" vote of confidence. gangulay & Dhoni both messed up Kartik!

Posted by Cricketfan101 on (July 5, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

I think this should Indias bowling for the next test match against new Zealand ashwin,ohja,zaheer,yadav.subs mishra and aaron

Posted by Smithie on (July 5, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

All the more reason to accept DRS before England tours.

Posted by Asbah on (July 5, 2012, 7:31 GMT)

Out of these names only Ojha has the capability to be India's lead spinner. i don't see Harbhajan making a comeback and Ashwin is one of the most overrated bowlers that I have seen.

Posted by pulkit10 on (July 5, 2012, 7:24 GMT)

"Spinners must be taught to think and act like fast bowlers, which is to be aggressive and look for wickets, not bowl flat and fast and get reduced to being stopgaps.è

Except fast bowlers too are being told to contain and not to attack. I am not one to spring up and claim T20 is the devil but in this particular case, it is kind of obvious that it is the need to contain runs in the limited overs format that is forcing bowlers to bowl this way, be it fast or spin.

They only need to look at Swann to see how it is done; Swann rarely misses the chance to attack and that is precisely what keeps the batsmen on the back foot. He is always out there, trying to find a gap and that kills the run rate AND gets him wickets. His record in T20 and ODIs further proves this point.

Ashwin, Chawla or Mishra certainly have the talent, it is just that they need some proper guidance - a resource abundantly available but poorly used by the BCCI.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 7:21 GMT)

India's best spinner is Pragyan Ojha, by a mile. I hope Dhoni understands that and plays him ahead of the overrated Ashwin.

Posted by S.Jagernath on (July 5, 2012, 7:17 GMT)

There's a lot of excitement over Akshay Darekar,I hope he will managed well & become a world class spinner.Harbhajan Singh's main fault is his attitude,which is somewhat like M.S Dhoni's,they both just hope for the best but do very little to make an impact.Ravichandran Ashwin seems to be the type that will just be effective in India.Pragyan Ojha might actually be the best spinner in India at the moment.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (July 5, 2012, 6:48 GMT)

Ojha is the best spinner in the country .This was the statement of the coach of surrey where he played last summer:"I'm amazed he's not playing Test cricket. I strongly believe he will play 100 Tests for India, from what I've seen.I may be hitting high, but he's a wonderful bowler with wonderful skills." The other thing is though ashwin is good he is not penetrative and accurate enough for test cricket . Meanwhile i remember many home tests india played recently where batsmen got settled on slow wickets but ojha still used to get enough bite to get them out. You can trust ojjha to get even a batsman on 150 ouut. Maybe why many people dont rate him highly is because he doesnt speak too much and is not too flashy.

And aakaash , the key thing is :Mishra is not the ideal man to partner ashwin. Mishra is the ideal man to partner ojha. Though both of them turn the ball away from righties both are differnt bowlers.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

Mr. Aakash, its been a pity that you think Harbhajan has faded .... and there was no comparison between him and jumbo .. they both are altoghther different bowlers. Jumbo is a short run up medium pacer with good line and length and on other hand harbhajan is a traditional spinner and you have played with both so I guess you should be more aware about that fact that harbhajan has loads of cricket left in him. I hope he do some wonders in county and register his comeback with style.

Posted by ramab on (July 5, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

I strongly believe Ashwin and Ojha need to bowl in pair and will be a good attack. Also you can have 3 seamers with one of them like a semi allrounder like Praveen Kumar. Ashwin is good enough batsmen that you can drop a batsman (actually Ashwin fared better than most regular batsman). I do agree that he needs to follow the pattern of Swann and use his carrom ball like once every 2 or 3 overs to keep them guessing. Ojha seems to have gotten a raw deal from Dhoni.

Posted by Sakthiivel on (July 5, 2012, 6:09 GMT)

R Ashwin is the only blower in india on TOP 30 of ICC RANKING(5 place in ODI), will regain his form this SL series, Also a useful with the bat in the test matches, Still bowling in non sub continental pitches should be improved.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (July 5, 2012, 6:09 GMT)

Ban all youngsters from IPL until age 23.

Posted by pranab_380 on (July 5, 2012, 5:43 GMT)

To me this is the best piece in the current series of articles written by Mr. Chopra. For long, I used to wonder, that in our obsession with finding fast bowlers we are ignoring our traditional strength, i.e. spin bowling. I don't remember anybody in the first class arena who will make people sit and take notice. Aakash's observation regarding the problems with our current spinners is spot on. I particularly liked the analysis on Ashwin and Harbhajan. I think in Harbhajan's case ego has also played a part in his decline. And yes it is time, that people should accept the fact that T20 has a bad influence on spinners, especially early in his career. So it would make sense to protect spinners from early exposure to T20 and only allow them to play once they have established themselves in first class cricket.

Posted by vatsap on (July 5, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

The fact of the matter is that Indian spin has been on the decline since the 80s. Kumble was very good in Indian and sub-continent pitches. He perceived abroad due to sheer determination, but the averages speak for themself in Aust/SA/England. Bhajji started superbly but was over rated after that and even inside India was successful in helpful tracks. Murali Karthik was talented but needed a good track and a good skipper who was confident in his abilities. So there is no new malaise as far as Indian spin is concerned. Ashwin/Ojha/Mishra will continue to do well inside India.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (July 5, 2012, 5:34 GMT)

Piyush Chawla could be the big match winner if he keeps the ball at around 50 to 53 mph which is the pace at which Shane Warne bowls most of his wicket taking balls.I think Chawla used to run up slower before when he was making waves at the age levels of the game. He has the temperament and needs a good captain to become the match winner that he is. Adam Gilchrist brought out the best of him I think and Gambhir could do the same. Pawan Negi looked alright for his age and could be a surprise if he is groomed. The important thing is a good Captain. Shane Warne became a hit because his Captains were very patient with him. First Alan Border then Mark Taylor then Steve Waugh and lastly Ricky Ponting. All of them felt he was God and gave him a free run. His best came out because of that. We all know about his disastrous baptism in Tests. Then in Sri Lanka I think in 94,when as a last resort he was handed the ball he won the game for Australia That was the turning point for Shane Warne.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (July 5, 2012, 5:21 GMT)

I would like to point out that Anil Kumble was not very successful on his first trip to Australia. Even in 2003 Saurav played Harbhajan in the first Test at Brisbane. It was because of Harbhajan's injury that Anil played the next match in Melbourne and at Adelaide and Sydney. In fact Kumble got 24 wickets in just 3 Tests on that tour.We all know how intelligent and introspective the great Anil Kumble has been all his life.He adjusted his bowling according to the requirements for Australian wickets and the results came along. Ashwin has a very similar mindset. I am sure he has realised bwoling well in 20/20 is not the benchmark.We saw how successful he was in the earlier versions of the IPL.In the last one he was not too conspicuous by his performance,That may have been because he has introspected and decided to be a containing bowler for the IPL and a match-winning off spinner like Venkat, in the Tests. I think Ojha and he will be the elusive spin twins from now on.Maybe under Gambhir.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 5:11 GMT)

Mr. Aakash, its been a pity that you think Harbhajan has faded .... and there was no comparison between him and jumbo .. they both are altoghther different bowlers. Jumbo is a short run up medium pacer with good line and length and on other hand harbhajan is a traditional spinner and you have played with both so I guess you should be more aware about that fact that harbhajan has loads of cricket left in him. I hope he do some wonders in county and register his comeback with style.

Posted by AbAdvani on (July 5, 2012, 5:07 GMT)

what about Nadeem who played for Delhi DareDevils ?

Posted by RohithMedisetty on (July 5, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

Isn't Harmeet singh right arm medium bowler ? Also you didn't mention anything about Iqbal Abdullah .

Posted by   on (July 5, 2012, 4:36 GMT)

Hit the nail on the head. I think spinners like Ramesh Powar are simply not looked at because, they seem plain to the Indian batsmen who generally play spin well. Amit Mishra falls under the same category as Ramesh Powar. Brilliant bowler but selling himself short. I hope he makes a comeback to the test and one day teams.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (July 5, 2012, 4:31 GMT)


Posted by rod77 on (July 5, 2012, 4:24 GMT)

I personally feel harmeet singh is a very good bowler but mumbai has to give him chance ahead of iqbal and ankit.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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