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Bright future beckons for young Pakistan leg spinner

Cricket playing nations like Australia, South Africa and Pakistan boast great depth in their bowling

Rex Clementine
Cricket playing nations like Australia, South Africa and Pakistan boast great depth in their bowling. Steve Waugh and Shaun Pollock may be able to count on the services of a fearsome battery of fast bowlers, but Pakistan have it all: lightning pace bowlers and mysterious spinners.
Indeed, there are encouraging signs that they have finally unearthed a suitable partner for Saqlain Mustaq and replacement for Mushtaq Ahmed, who, sadly, has long since lost the fizz in his fingers.
Danish Kaneria is a leg spinner of great potential and was one of the stars of the recently completed Pakistan A tour of Sri Lanka, taking 21 wickets in the Test series. Certainly, the Sri Lankan batsmen, no mean players of spin, were impressed.
Far quicker through the air than Mustaq, he appears to be a combination of Abdul Qadir and Anil Kumble: Qadir for the bouncy run up full of twirling arms and Kumble for his pace through the air. He spins the ball more than Kumble though, and gets the ball to loop deceitfully in the air.
The 20-year-old has already played two Tests, both against England last winter. He took four wickets, but did not do enough to win a tour place to England. With New Zealand set to tour Pakistan soon and the Asian Test Championship now beckoning, Pakistan may want two spinners and that could provide Kaneria with his second chance.
Kaneria is focused on the challenge ahead: "I want to make it into the Test side. That's why I consider this series (Sri Lanka A) as very important. My performance in this series will be counted.
"My immediate target is to play against the New Zealanders, when they come over to Pakistan in a few months time."
He looks back philosophically on his Test debut: "It was very important to play against the English. All of my team-mates were encouraging me, but unfortunately I couldn't do well in those matches, which were both played on excellent batting tracks."
One of the special weapons of this young man is the googly, a perfect example of which was the dismissal of T.M. Dilshan in the first one-day in Moratuwa. Dilshan, one of Sri Lanka's brightest prospects, rocked back onto the back foot, hoping to force the ball though the off side, but was stunned when the ball ripped back through his gate to knock back his leg stump.
"The googly is my special ball and only the extremely good batsmen read it, as I bowl both the googly and the leg break with the same action," said the fresh-faced Kaneria without a hint of arrogance.
Competition for places in Pakistan's senior side is, however, intense and he knows he has to develop his repertoire and polish his skills: "At the present moment in time I am working really hard on my 'flipper', which I tend to overpitch too often. It is a very useful ball, however, especially in the one-day game."
Mudassar Nazar, the Pakistan A coach, identified Kaneria as one of the three most promising players on the A tour and has no doubt that he will play again for the senior side soon. "Mushtaq Ahmed has not played that many matches in the recent tour of England. New Zealand are coming to Pakistan shortly and we need a few spin bowlers to tackle them. I think Kaneria will give a good fight to Mushtaq," said Mudassar.
One suspects that he will. His feet are firmly on the ground and he bowls with a maturity and control that belies his age. A bright future beckons.