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27 Apr 2009 08:27
Twenty20 was considered a spinners’ graveyard till a skilful band of slow bowlers changed it all with bewitching shows in the ongoing Indian Premier League in South Africa.
Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Daniel Vettori and Harbhajan Singh have proved that the shortest form of the game is not only about batsmen whacking the ball out of the park with audacious stroke-play.
Batsmen have so far struggled against quality spinners on pitches offering turn and bounce, with Indian leg-spinner Kumble and his Australian counterpart Warne setting the trend on the tournament’s opening day.
Kumble suprised himself as much as the opposition when he grabbed 5-5 off just 3,1 overs in Bangalore Royal Challengers’ win over defending champions Rajasthan Royals.
“I was quite intrigued with my performance,” said the 38-year-old Kumble, who quit international cricket last year with 619 Test and 337 one-day wickets.
“I am coming off a long break and may be retired but the moment I’m on the field, ball in hand, the feeling is the same as always.
“And in any format, a five-wicket haul makes you feel you are in the thick of things.”
Kumble has now completed a unique Indian hat-trick—best figures in a Test innings (10-74 v Pakistan in 1999), one-day internationals (6-12 v West Indies in 1993) and a Twenty20 game.
Warne retired from the game in 2007, but can still outwit batsmen with shrewd variations. He was Rajasthan Royals’ best spinner against Bangalore, finishing with 2-18.
“You really need to pinch yourself to believe that he [Warne] can still spin a web around the best of batsmen in the world,” said Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
“He retired in 2007 and now spends more time on the poker table than on cricket pitches, but give him the ball and the magic resumes.”
Harbhajan was on target in the opening game itself as he took 1-15 off three tight overs in Mumbai Indians’ win over Chennai.
“Harbhajan’s performance was the first sign that spin could be a factor in this competition,” said Sri Lankan off-spinner Muralitharan, the world’s leading wicket-taker in Tests (770) and one-day internationals (505).
“Since then we have seen Warne rip leg-breaks like the old days, Vettori turned a game for Delhi Daredevils and I had a good night against Bangalore.”
Muralitharan was named man of the match for his 3-11 effort in Chennai’s victory over Bangalore.
“The fact that we are playing on tired squares at the end of the season may also be having an impact.
Whatever the reasons, as a spinner, I’m delighted,” said Muralitharan.
New Zealand left-arm spinner Vettori took 3-15 off three overs to help Delhi beat Punjab in a rain-hit tie.
Indian left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha has yet to establish himself at international level, but has made an impact in South Africa.
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