By Karthik Parimal
India A’s tour of the West Indies has been a riveting one thus far. The first unofficial Test was an absolute humdinger, and there was very little to choose between both these sides. It was skipper Cheteshwar Pujara who played a brilliant knock then to guide India A to a two-wicket victory. The second Test was no different either, with West Indies managing to triumph this time. There were quite a few youngsters from both India and the West Indies who managed to carve a niche for themselves. While not many Indian batsmen tasted success, the bowlers definitely had a lot more to celebrate throughout the series. One such example is spinner Akshay Darekar, who hogged the limelight with his six-for in the second innings of the second Test. But will his efforts reap rewards?
There has been some talk of the decline of quality spinners since the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL). India has always churned out more spinners than fast bowlers, but the worrying fact is that not many spinners have taken centrestage in recent times - especially after the exit of Anil Kumble. Many spinners have made sporadic appearances thereafter, but barring Ravichandran Ashwin, none have managed to be a regular feature. But is it just the IPL that should be blamed for the lack of quality spinners? Shouldn’t the selectors be faulted for not giving upcoming spinners a longer run at the top?
Pragyan Ojha has proved his credentials - more often than not - as a fine spinner. In the 14 Tests he has played, Ojha has scalped 68 wickets, inclusive of two five-wicket hauls. His First-Class record isn’t too bad either. Another observable fact is that his bowling average is impressive in the shorter formats of the game. He has the ability to slow down the opposition and is not afraid to flight the ball. This was evident during his tenure with the Deccan Chargers in the previous editions of the IPL. He was Adam Gilchrist’s go-to man during difficult junctures of any match. He essays the role of a spinner efficiently without worrying much about the consequences, and that’s what makes him unique.
Yet, it is unfortunate that Ojha is often sidelined. It’s surprising that he played his last One-Day International (ODI) two years ago in 2010.
Another promising spinner who shot to fame during last year’s IPL was Iqbal Abdulla. Despite some good performances at the first-class level, Abdulla is yet to don the national colours. Even during the IPL, he was a thorn in the flesh of some quality opposition batsmen. Abdulla, 22, has 101 first-class wickets in 34 games. It could augur well if his mettle is tested in the longer version of the game and not just the IPL. Although a few promising names did make the India A squad, it’s surprising that someone like Abdulla not making the cut. It could have been a wonderful platform for him to showcase his talent.
But one leg-spinner who was picked for this tour is Rahul Sharma. Albeit not performing exceedingly well in this tournament, it’s good to see him being presented with such opportunities. He too shot to fame with his performances while representing the Pune Warriors India (PWI) during the IPL, and was awarded a place in the ODI side immediately. However, he found himself in and out of the side thereafter. But such tours allow him a chance to regroup and find his foothold again.
Spinners like Ojha, Abdulla and newbie Akshay Darekar too must be given ample opportunities in the future. Agreed that it’s not right to make a judgement based on just one good performance, but the fact remains that spinners haven’t been nurtured in an appropriate manner since the last few years, and one hopes that an upcoming youngster like Darekar shouldn’t have to go through the same thing.
Since India does have a pool of good spinners, there would be nothing wrong in having a rotation policy between them. That way, each of them is bound to get an opportunity, and also, the way they react under pressure will easily be tested. The best amongst the lot will make the cut, whereas the rest can be nurtured or groomed accordingly.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)