ICL: Indian Cricket League

Testing times: Clarion of Murali call puts a fresh spin on things



The West Indies have so far proved a tough nut to crack on the field but one off-field decision they’ve made may eventually have a bearing on the result of the Test series with India. By not scheduling a Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, the Caribbean ground that has historically encouraged spin bowlers more than any other, the administrators have definitely done the West Indies a favour.

The fact that Anil Kumble was by far the most effective Indian bowler at the normally placid St. John’s Recreation Ground is an indication of the trouble he might have caused. Kumble and Harbhajan Singh would have been a serious threat at the Queen’s Park Oval. The West Indies batsmen, with the exception of Brian Lara, are suspect against good spinners, and the pair would have been difficult to play. The Indian team should still prevail because of their better balanced attack but what is now probably a 60/40 proposition would have been a sure bet in their favour if they’d played in Trinidad.

In fact, the deeds of two of the world’s most dominant bowlers in the first week of June presented another instance of what has been a regular occurrence this decade - spin bowlers holding sway over batsmen. While Kumble’s efforts didn’t quite carry India to victory in Antigua, Sri Lanka swept aside England at Trent Bridge on the strength of yet another spell-binding performance by Muttiah Muralitharan.This pair - and Shane Warne - are among the top ten wicket-takers over the last two decades but it’s fascinating to note the difference in their performances from the 1990s to the 2000s.

In the 1990s all had their strike rates in the 60s, a fairly common abode for the best spin bowlers up to that time. However, in this decade both Warne and Murali have upgraded to the luxurious high 40s, an exclusive domain previously reserved for extremely successful pacers. Whilst Kumble has significantly lowered his strike rate, he still dwells in the (now) less salubrious surroundings of the low 60s.

The amazing thing about Murali’s performance has been not only the way he’s increased his output of wickets but the fact that he has lowered his economy rate. He’s reduced it by 14 runs per hundred overs, which may not sound a lot but in the same period Warne has been conceding extra 60 runs per hundred overs. The improvement by Murali is significant as he has succeeded in reducing his economy rate in an era where the overall trend is the reverse.

Muralitharan has also succeeded in putting a significant dent in England’s chances of retaining Ashes. His dominance at Trent Bridge, followed by the news that Simon Jones is now doubtful for the Ashes, must make Australia clear favourites to regain the urn.It will also enhance Stuart MacGill’s chances of playing a few Tests in tandem with the blond bamboozler.The West Indies batsmen, apart from Lara, also tend to play spinners from the crease and with a fair amount of distrust. If the Indian batsmen can play to their potential and pile up a decent first innings score, the pressure on the hosts will increase. A large total would allow Kumble and Harbhajan to attack with confidence, and in such circumstances only Lara - and to a lesser extent Shivnarine Chanderpaul - has the wherewithal to counterattack successfully.

Once again Muralitharan has sent out a rallying call to his brothers: “Spinners of the world unite.” There is no doubt the West Indies batsmen have heard the bugle, and the result of the series will depend on whether their opponents heed the call, even if there isn’t a Test at the Queen’s Park Oval.

Source:India Sports

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 11th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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