V Ramnarayan bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s. His latest book is Third Man, Recollections from a Life in Cricket
T20 cricket. The flashing blades, breathtaking fours and sixes, acrobatic catches, and diving, sliding run-outs of today can dazzle your eyes, stop your heart.
Old school as old school can be, you may be a reluctant spectator to start with, but are inexorably drawn by the magic of the twists and turns of the shortest form of the game. Once in, there is no way out. You simply must stay up to watch that last-over finish, even the post-match interviews, so complete has been the power, the drama the show has exercised over you.
With the onset of the IPL, the action now moves to an altogether higher pitch, often over-loud and hyped up, but a welcome change nonetheless in at least one respect. Sworn rivals will now share locker rooms and dugouts. Snarling could be replaced by bonhomie, within if not across teams.
But giants that roam the earth will be benched by local talent, if not pygmies. Drama queens - some of them bearded - and fashion models dressed to kill will spout cricket wisdom of suspect quality. Superlatives and verbal diarrhoea will flow unchecked. We must suffer strategic timeouts during which advertisers persuade us in the least subtle ways.
Those born in the 21st century or towards the end of the last do not have much of a basis for comparisons between the past and the present. Could the bowlers of the past, especially spinners, even the great Indian quartet, have survived the onslaught of today's batting powerhouses, with their bludgeoning bats and innovative shot-making, they ask. Could they have measured up as fielders, as catchers on the boundary line, as run-stoppers in the ring? Were they capable of holding their nerve as death bowlers in the pulsating finishes of T20 cricket?
Looking at the profusion of slow-bowling talent in this IPL, and the kind of success the likes of R Ashwin, and more recently Samuel Badree, have had, I have little doubt that the spinners of the past would have adapted beautifully to T20. Unfortunately, back then popular wisdom had it that limited-overs cricket needed military-medium if not genuine pace. Today's selectors or team owners know better; they know that spinners, especially wristspinners, are brilliantly suited to this genre of cricket.
Pune have some special bowlers. Ashwin, the offspinner, is already a superstar of the IPL with his subtle variations of pace and turn, and superb temperament that enables him to come back - soon enough after a match, if not during it - from the rare punishments he receices. The new Ashwin, a legspinner from Chennai with a good record in T20 cricket for his state, is rated highly by his namesake, and has been enthusiastically welcomed by his team, judging by the price they paid for him. The other legspinner, Adam Zampa, is an impressive addition to the IPL, somewhat reminiscent of the young Shane Warne. It didn't need rocket science to pronounce Steve Smith guilty of gross misjudgement when he underbowled Zampa in the India game in the World T20 .
And what a variety of wristspinners! Within the Delhi Daredevils side, Imran Tahir present a study in contrast, the first the more flamboyant and quicker through the air. Left-arm spinners Shabaz Nadeem and Pavan Negi, and offspinners Jayant Yadav and Akhil Herwadkar (not to mention JP Duminy) bring tremendous variety to the attack. A surfeit of riches may pose them selection problems, though.
Gujarat Lions do not seem to have a great spin attack, but the left-armers Ravindra Jadeja and Shadab Jakati can pose a question or two on a helpful track, though neither may be a threat on placid wickets, thanks to their flattish trajectory.
Kings XI Punjab's spin cupboard seems almost bare, except for the left-arm slow of Axar Patel (again not the subtlest of spinners) and the relatively harmless offspin of Glenn Maxwell and Gurkeerat Singh Mann. Perhaps they have their secret weapon in legspinner Pardeep Sahu or the other unknown quantity, KC Cariappa.
Kolkata Knight Riders have a potentially destructive spin combination in Sunil Narine (provided he has settled down in his corrected action), the clever left-armer Shakib Al Hasan, and that rarest of specialists, in the chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav. The fastish offbreaks of Yusuf Pathan can come in handy too.
Royal Challengers Bangalore's Badree, the legspinner with the metronomic precision, will be supported by fellow leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, offspinner Parvez Rasool of Jammu and Kashmir, and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla. It is a lovely team of slow men.
Karn Sharma is yet another exciting legspinner in the T20 format, with his fastish legbreaks that tend to hurry the batsman. He will no doubt lead the pack for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Yuvraj Singh can be expected to perform his regular partnership-breaking act with his deceptive left-arm spin, while youngsters Ricky Bhui (wristspin) and big-hitting allrounder Deepak Hooda (offspin) can be useful with the ball.
Amazingly, India seems to now be bursting with talent in the wristspin department. Will the national selectors be watching the IPL with an eye on these bowlers while picking the India T20I teams of the future? In the recent World Cup, India was perhaps the only team without a legspinner. And where is Devendra Bishoo?
I look forward to the challenge slow bowling, particularly of the legspin and googly variety, will present to the batsmen in IPL 9.
Rising Pune Supergiant
Kolkata Knight Riders
Royal Challengers Bangalore