The sixth Indian Premier League is now moving into its second phase. Astonishing catches, innovative stroke-play and some good bowling during the death overs have all contributed in making it a pleasure to watch.
Most matches are ending up as nail-biters and not many batting sides have been able to put up gigantic scores.
The success of spin bowling is truly astonishing. The hat-tricks by Sunil Narine and Amit Mishra — his third in IPL history — clearly indicates that phantom finger spinners and an artistic leg-spinner have an important part to play.
The defining moment of the tournament for me so far was when Rajasthan Royals’ Ajit Chandila scalped the wickets of two legends, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar. The other enjoyable moment was the hat-trick by Mishra in which he got Bhuvneshwar Kumar leg-before-wicket with a slider, bowled Rahul Sharma with a genuine leg-break and then went on to castle Ashok Dinda with a beautiful googly to win the match for the SunRisers Hyderabad.
There was a perception that the 20-over format would be the death knell for the spinners. Aggressive batting, well crafted bats and shorter boundaries were all reasons given to justify that getting runs against them would be a piece of cake.
In the first edition, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan gave us a glimpse of what crafty spinners could deliver, but as both these legendary figures would be a handful in any form of the game, the useful trait and guile of a spinner was not taken seriously.
The importance of spin bowling came about quite accidentally in the 2010 IPL. Amongst the top six wicket takers, five of them turned out to be spinners.
Pragyan Ojha led the pack along with Anil Kumble, Mishra, Harbhajan Singh and Muralitharan.
Warne, the Rajasthan Royals captain, was the only one who bowled his spinners at the start of the innings and used them as wicket-takers, run-savers and most importantly as a tool to increase the tempo of the game.
A quick six deliveries gave the batsman less time to adjust and plan, and in the bargain, he got them to play rash strokes.
The IPL is played in April and May, when most of the pitches have had a full season of cricket played on them and so are well used and worn out. The hot Indian summer gradually plays its part and the surface makes the ball come slower and lower. This makes it very tricky for the batsman to play his shots or to play across. The fast bowlers have also understood the importance of varying pace and are using slow off-spin and back-of-the-palm leg-spin to outwit the batsmen.
Therefore, ironically, bowling at a slower pace seems to be the most effective tool in a game that is fast and power packed.
This year spin bowling is being used much more aggressively.
Captains seem to use spinners at various stages of the match. Spinners have become a means to buy wickets as well as to keep the scoring rate in check.
Captains and coaches also seem to be more comfortable in planning and setting a field for the slow bowlers. With every passing day, spinners will become more effective and more important.
Rahul Sharma tops the list in the number of dot balls bowled and is closely followed by Narine and Mishra. The importance of a Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin or Harbhajan Singh has already been felt and one can see that the outcome for the coming matches will be quite significantly dictated by the spin department.
Three cheers to the IPL for bringing out the best in another important ingredient of cricket - spin bowling!
Yajurvindra Singh played four Tests for India in the 1970s and holds two world records: most catches by a fielder in an innings — five — and in a Test — seven. (TAG:CYCSPL)