T20 is like chess for spinners: Mushtaq Ahmed

Former leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed says tweakers need to have a plan for every batsman

With the Mushtaq with Mahela Jayawardeneadvent of T20 cricket, it was believed that a spinner will have no role to play and the batsmen would dominate. But the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League has shown that the role of spinners has evolved over the years.

They are as much a key to success for teams as are destructive batsmen like Chris Gayle and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

This season, two of the top five bowlers are spinners — Amit Mishra and Sunil Narine. Even the man with the purple cap — Dwayne Bravo – is someone who banks more on variations like off-cutters and leg-cutters than raw pace.

Speaking to Mail Today, Delhi Daredevils’ bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Pakistan leg-spinner, said that the role of a spinner in Twenty20 cricket is like that of a chess player. He believes that the spinners have come to realise that getting hit for a couple of boundaries shouldn’t force them to alter their plan of action and that makes them dangerous even in the IPL.

"For spinners, this game is like chess. You need to plan every move. Also, I feel every spinner needs to possess two things if he wants to be successful in the shorter forms of the game.

"Firstly, you must have a big heart and shouldn’t worry about being hit for a couple of sixes. And secondly, you must spin the ball. If you aren’t confident about your own strengths, you start worrying about the opposition.

"So a spinner should remember his strengths. He must spin the ball. The current lot of spinners has understood that and that is why they are so dangerous," he said.

Mushtaq feels that his role in helping spinners comes in only after the bowler has got the basics right — having a big heart and talent to spin the ball.

"As far as my guidance in concerned, I feel field placement is very important and that varies from batsman to batsman.

"One batsman might be good on the off, the other might be good on the leg. So you need to set the field accordingly. You need to outthink the batsmen," said the former Pakistan spinner.

But Mushtaq hasn’t restricted himself to helping only the bowlers. He is constantly helping the batsmen at the Daredevils’ nets, talking to the likes of David Warner, Unmukt Chand and Mahela Jayawardene among others.

And the result is evident as someone like Warner, who failed miserably in the Test series against India a couple of months ago, has looked a different player against spinners in the IPL.

"It is Warner’s own hard work and the fighting spirit in him. In the IPL, you don’t get too much time to talk to every player individually. Still, I try to spend as much time as possible with the players.

"I tell the batsmen how to play opposition bowlers. I have played for a while, so I know that if a particular player was good against spinners, what his footwork used to be, so it is all about passing that experience on.

"Having grown up in Pakistan, conditions which are similar to here in India, I can describe it even better. So what I have learnt is that at the end of the day, technique matters irrespective of the format," the 42-year-old said.

Having seen Mushtaq with the Delhi outfit, it is clear that he is involved as much with the batsmen as he is with the bowlers.

And Mushtaq doesn’t rule out taking up a bigger role as head coach of a team.

"Hopefully in the future I will get the opportunity to be involved in a bigger role with a team, and not be restricted to being just a bowling coach. When I do get such opportunity, I will express myself and bring on board all the experience that I have gained so far, playing for Pakistan, playing county cricket in England as well as being the bowling coach of England and Delhi Daredevils," he said.

Commenting on Delhi’s performance this season, Mushtaq said: "There hasn’t been any major reason behind our failure. But the point is that in tournaments like the IPL, momentum is very important. In three games we were definitely on the verge of winning and we lost. To be honest, you need a bit of luck. We do have a very good team, but the decision making becomes vital sometimes in this format.

"Also, the team has been badly hurt by injuries. Kevin Pietersen’s injury and then losing out on Jesse Ryder prior to the start of the season proved to be big losses. Losing two of your quality players even before the tournament started doesn’t help."

(TAG: CYCSPL)

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