Hyderabad: Having been in the transition phase where shorter game began to take over from the longer format in the eighties, SL Venkatapathy Raju is aware of the difficulties the current spinners encounter in modern day cricket. The 47-year-old spinner, who played two World Cups, has more sympathy for spinners now.
“It is a big challenge to any bowler, particularly spinners. You have to adapt to all three formats of the game. It is no more traditional way of getting the batsman out at slip or short leg. There are a lot of restrictions in both T20 and ODIs, where one can’t bowl on the leg side. I have to give credit to these spinners for adapting to the different formats by varying their pace,’’ says Raju while talking to Telangana Today.
Raju, who is the International Cricket Council (ICC) coach in Asian region, feels that cricket is gaining popularity in the non-Asian cricketing nations. “Hong Kong is doing well. Countries like Nepal, Oman are playing T20. Women’s teams are emerging in China and Thailand.’’
He said that these countries get funding from both ICC and ACC. “We conduct different coaching courses in those countries and we try to coach in their regional languages. Most of them are ethnics except for the Middle East countries where expats play. We try to support them to conduct courses in their own languages.’’
The spinner said most of them play in T20 and 50 overs games. “It is not easy to raise players in these non-cricketing nations but now they are learning the ropes. They are also watching a lot of ODIs and T20 games in Youtube. More first class cricketers are emerging in the countries.’’
Raju pointed out cricket has changed, thanks to the shorter format of the game. “It was more of traditional batting earlier and now if you see, there are lot more innovative shots and it is not easy for bowlers. But if the basics are strong, they can apply pressure on the batsmen. We may be harsh by saying that spinners are no more traditional. For example, Ravindra Jadeja, he was creating problems for the batsmen from the spots. If you see Ashwin he is playing in all the three formats. All these bowlers know their limitations. They are bowling a lot more overs. That is the reason I’m very firm believer of playing domestic cricket. The more matches you play, you get to bat or bowl more. Once you bowl more, you can adapt to longer or shorter format of the game.’’
The former Test spinner was all praise for Ashwin. “He has taken the role of a match-winner or strike bowler admirably the same way Harbhajan or Kumble played a significant role for a long time. I like his aggressiveness and the variations. He has the confidence of the captains MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. He has been more consistent and is reading the batsmen very well. If you are not skillful you will not get that many wickets. To bowl well on turning wickets needs skill. Period.’’
Ashwin’s role, according to Raju, will change while bowling outside the country where the spinners have to rely on the length. “One cannot expect a turning track. You may not be a match winner but can chip in with useful wickets. One has to be realistic. That is what I liked the role of Mohd Shami in recent series against England. It was not a question of taking five or more wickets but it was about giving crucial breakthroughs. That is what Ashwin needs to do outside India at the right time.’’
On the decline of spinners in Hyderabad, Raju said the youngsters enjoy playing T20s. “They are more happy to be a part of the four overs. They have their own way of asking questions. In the past, we used to talk about flight and loop. But now if we ask the young kid, he will talk about variations, carrom ball, slider.’’