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ICC World T20 2014: There has really been no revival of leg-spin, or even all spin

There has been a notion that success of Imran Tahir (left), Samuel Badree (centre and Amit Mishra has resulted in revival of leg-spin bowling © Getty Images (File Photo)
There has been a notion that success of Imran Tahir (left), Samuel Badree (centre) and Amit Mishra has resulted in revival of leg-spin bowling © Getty Images (File Photo)

As the ICC World T20 2014 closes in on the final, a notion has been making the rounds that the tournament has marked the revival of spin (especially leg-spin). The hypothesis is based mostly on the success of the likes of Amit Mishra, Imran Tahir, and Samuel Badree. Abhishek Mukherjee probes deeper to find out whether that is indeed the case.

The fact that Imran Tahir, Samuel Badree, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Amit Mishra reside peacefully in the top six in the list of wicket-takers probably sends out a notion that the ongoing ICC World T20 2014 has marked the rebirth of leg-spin, especially in the shortest version of the sport.

The spinner, of course, is not the most glamorous among bowlers. Instead of emitting fire from their noses, sending stumps cart-wheeling, and intimidating batsmen he chooses a different path: he tosses the ball in the air, he doesn’t really care about giving away runs, he loves luring batsmen, he beats the batsmen in flight and loop, and he takes advantage of the gullible men who think they can easily hit him out of the park.

Let us check how valid the point is:

ICC World T20 2014

All T20Is

B

R

W

Ave

SR

Econ

B

R

W

Ave

SR

Econ

Seam

4,229

5,471

214

25.57

19.8

7.76

54,585

69,757

2,856

24.42

19.1

7.67

Spin

3,193

3,666

163

22.49

19.6

6.89

33,168

37,772

1,673

22.58

19.8

6.83

Mixture

59

53

2

26.50

29.5

5.39

659

850

31

27.42

21.3

7.74

If anything, there has been an improvement, however small, for the seamers; the spinners have been performing the way they have been doing. In other words, there has been no revival of spin.

What is it, then, that set the spinners apart from the others in the tournament? Let us consider the top 25 wicket-takers from each type of bowling, which also brings the cut-off down to five wickets. It is to be noted that the list contains 12 seamers and 13 spinners, which is not a substantial difference.

Bowlers with 5+ wickets

Bowlers with 5+ wickets

M

B

R

W

B/M

Ave

SR

Econ

M

B

R

W

B/M

Ave

SR

Econ

Seam

64

1,241

1,552

87

19.4

17.84

14.3

7.50

169

2,988

3,919

127

17.7

30.86

23.5

7.87

Spin

55

1,141

1,094

80

20.7

13.68

14.3

5.75

123

2,052

2,572

83

16.7

30.99

24.7

7.52

Mixture

3

59

53

2

19.7

26.50

29.5

5.39

Do note that there is a significant seam-spin difference in average and economy rate among the top bowlers. For the rest, however, seamers have done just as well as spinners.

This only means one thing: there have been some spinners who have done exceptionally throughout the tournament, but it can hardly be called a “revival of spin bowling”. These bowlers have sent down only 36% of the total balls bowled: the remaining 64%, on the other hand, have actually fared worse than their seam counterparts.

In other words, there may have been a few stars, but generally seamers have done a job as good as the spinners.

The leg-spin myth

The other myth that has been doing the rounds is the notion that the tournament has marked the revival of “the lost art of leg-spin”. How much truth is there in the statement? Let us find out. Since off-break and leg-break data is not available for all bowlers, let us consider these spinners (who have taken five or more wickets in the tournament):

5+ wickets

Count

B

R

W

Ave

SR

Econ

Right-arm leg-break

3

348

359

32

11.22

10.9

6.19

Right-arm off-break

3

326

266

21

12.67

15.5

4.90

Left-arm orthodox

7

587

600

39

15.38

15.1

6.13

There is not much to choose from between the top three off-spinners and the top three leg-spinners. The leg-spinners have picked up more wickets, while the off-spinners have conceded less runs. Do note that of the 13 bowlers who have picked up over five wickets in the tournament, seven are left-arm orthodox spinners, which makes the comparison with the other two groups somewhat unfair. If we consider the top five bowlers from each style (sorted by wickets, then economy rate), the numbers do not look significantly different.

Top 5 bowlers

Count

B

R

W

Ave

SR

Econ

Right-arm leg-break

5

474

499

39

12.79

12.2

6.32

Right-arm off-break

5

488

411

29

14.17

16.8

5.05

Left-arm orthodox

5

385

372

29

12.83

13.3

5.80

Not much to choose from there. The tournament, thus, has not really revived leg-spin: it has revived all styles of spin (which is partially true) to the same extent. In other words, there has been nothing special about leg-spin in the tournament.

ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details

 (Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

 

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