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March 12, 2014
Ashley Giles has called for a change of attitude towards the doosra throughout English cricket to help improve the national side's ability to play spin bowling.
England have struggled against unorthodox spin bowling for some time. They lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the UAE at the start of 2012 largely due to their inability to combat the offspin and doosra bowling of Saeed Ajmal, while in the limited-overs series against West Indies, England have looked consistently uncomfortable against the unorthodox Sunil Narine.
Giles even questioned whether Narine's career would have been destroyed before it got underway in English cricket. Asked whether a young bowler such as Narine, developing in England, would be "snuffed out" even before he progressed to club cricket, he replied: "Quite possibly."
Part of the problem is the lack of exposure county players have to such bowlers in their development years. Not only have counties tended to be penalised for preparing pitches that benefit spin bowlers - Hampshire were docked points for such a surface in 2011 - but many coaches and umpires in English cricket still view the doosra with great suspicion, contending that it cannot be bowled legally.
While most of the world has embraced the change in regulation from the ICC that allows 15 degrees of tolerance in a bowling action, in England such unorthodoxy is often viewed as 'chucking' and is stamped out at an early age.
As a result, few unorthodox spinners make it to the professional game in England. And, judging by the example of Maurice Holmes, they are soon drummed out of it even if they do. Holmes, an offspin and doosra bowler, was signed to the Warwickshire staff by Giles when he was director of cricket at the club. But despite clearing tests on a couple of occasions, the ECB eventually concluded that his doosra was delivered illegally and he was squeezed out of the professional game.
Now Giles, England's limited-overs coach, has called upon English cricket to have a more open mind towards both pitches and bowling actions if they are to improve their record on the international stage.
"We've got to be careful not to try and kill off some of our great talent," Giles said in Barbados ahead of the third T20I against West Indies. "I'm not sure that too many mystery spinners come through our system anyway, but maybe that's because we don't necessarily develop it. It's something we certainly need to look at. It's been an ongoing thing for 10-15 years.
"But what we do know is that it's very difficult to play against and we need the skills to be able to combat mystery spin. It doesn't matter whether it is legspin or an offspinner who spins it both ways. We need to be able to deal with these situations. Otherwise we're trying to up-skill people heading into world tournaments and that's just too late."
"We need to make sure that, when guys come into this environment, they have the skills to deal with spin and spin that goes both ways. A bit of that is playing on wickets that do turn. I actually believe wickets are spinning more and more in England. They're getting drier and drier, which is maybe down to our new drainage systems.
"But it's definitely a case that, when they come into this environment, we shouldn't be teaching them new skills at that level. They should have some of that stuff ingrained, and then we fine tune it."
While Moeen Ali, a new member of the England limited-overs squad, can bowl the doosra - he was taught to do so by his friend Saeed Ajmal - he recently told ESPNcricinfo that he did not deliver one such delivery in the 2013 county season. It may well be that he feared the consequences had he done so.
It leaves England facing an uphill task in the World T20 tournament, where spin is expected to play a major role.
"I can only work with what I have here," Giles said. "And keep pushing forward with this team to try to do as well as we can in Bangladesh."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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