Ravichandran Ashwin’s struggles is a reflection of poor performances by Indian spinners © Getty Images (File Photo)
Among the top 10 bowlers ranked in the International Cricket Council (ICC) ratings in the Twenty20 format, there is not a single Indian. While all looks fine as long as a team is winning, like in the case of Team India who have won both their matches in the ongoing ICC World T20 so far, one never knows when this chink in the armour becomes a major drawback. Devarchit Varma has more…
Batsmen all over the world adopt a different approach whenever a Sunil Narine or a Saeed Ajmal comes on to bowl. They get cautious when they are introduced early on in a T20 match. The impact that these two star spinners create is immense, and at times their mere presence is enough to send shivers down the spine in the opposition ranks. This fact was evident in the ICC World T20 2014 match between the defending champions the West Indies and Bangladesh, where they hosts were shot out for a paltry 98.
What was noticeable in West Indies’ win was not the comprehensive manner in which they achieved it, but the fact that two spinners, Narine and Samuel Badree — who are also ranked No 1 and 2 in the ICC T20I Rankings — shared seven wickets between them. Bangladesh’s sorry state of affairs is not something new, but what was surprising was the manner in which an Asian team’s batsmen struggled against spinners who are not from the subcontinent. The Bangladeshi batsmen failed to put bat on the ball as the required run rate soured, and Narine kept toying with them with a barrage of carom balls which the hosts failed to read consistently.
The West Indies, like Pakistan, are an unpredictable side. They rely heavily on their spinners as they do on their batsmen; spinners were among the main factors in their win in the 2012 edition of the tournament in Sri Lanka. Narine played only seven matches and claimed nine wickets. The scenario is same with Pakistan. Even though their squad for this World T20 is heavily loaded with pacers, they have an excellent spin attack consisting Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez.
In short, what these two sides have is spinners, not pace bowlers, who frighten the batsmen. Sri Lanka too are blessed with the likes of Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake.
The difference that these sides have in comparison to India is huge. India’s frontline spinner is Ravichandran Ashwin, who has not been among the wicket-takers on a regular basis. Of late, he has hung onto his position also because of his batting abilities. In the ICC Rankings, he is ranked at a distant 22nd spot. In the 2012 edition, he had only five scalps out of four matches. Indeed, these figures are worrying when someone like Yuvraj Singh, a part-timer got lot more bowling than the frontline spinner in the previous edition of the ICC World T20: Yuvraj had eight wickets to his name from five matches.
The Indians played only five T20 Internationals (T20Is) between the 2012 and 2014 editions of the T20 World Cup. What this means is that they have certainly not got the right amount of time and opportunities to try out team combinations, and identify the areas that needs some work to be done.
India rely heavily on the spinners when they play at home and even in the subcontinent. In fact, the Indians at times tend to rely more on their spinners than the fast bowlers outside the subcontinent these days. In this tournament, Amit Mishra has finally got his opportunity after waiting on the fringes for long time, and he has shown glimpse of form as well; and, of course, there is the ubiquitous Ravindra Jadeja, who somehow manages to fill in every possible boot. But in the shortest format of the game there are always uncertainties associated and it only takes a few blows for a batsman to put a bowler on back foot and score freely.
It’s not a compulsion for a side to have players in top 10 in all departments and across the formats. But when it comes to a team as big as India not having anyone in the rankings in the T20 format, it does hint some trouble.
The top 10 in International Cricket Council’s (ICC) rankings for bowlers in T20Is has only one seamer – Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Kulasekara. The other nine are spinners! Why are the Indians missing out here? After all, the 70 plus matches the Indian cricketers play every year in the Indian Premier League (IPL) can also yield some result in international cricket, isn’t it?
ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details
ICC World T20 2014 Points Table and Team Standings
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)