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The importance of wrist spinners in limited overs cricket

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Wrist_spinners_Kuldeep_Yadav_Yuzvendra_Chahal_India_CricketCricket is a game that offers lots of variety in all three departments: batting, bowling & fielding. With the advent of T20 cricket, batsmen around the world have invented new shots to suit the requirement of modern day limited overs cricket, which has led to unprecedented high scores in T20Is and ODIs. At the same time, bowlers have pulled up new tricks to sustain in this batsman friendly limited overs format.

Over the last year, a common practice that most teams have adopted in limited overs cricket is the inclusion of a wrist spinner in their bowling attack. Wrist spinners offer more variety than finger spinners. Apart from the conventional leg break they have top spinner, flipper, arm ball and one delivery that is one of the best disguised and most difficult to face - the Googly. In limited overs cricket, the bowler often has to mix up his deliveries to make it difficult for batsmen to read. With so many variations in their quiver, wrist spinners have an edge over the conventional finger spinners.

If we consider the Indian team’s frontline spinners in limited overs cricket, wrist spinners have replaced finger spinners. In the 2015 World Cup, R Ashwin-right arm off spin and R Jadeja-left arm orthodox were, in the team. In the 2019 World Cup squad, they have been replaced by Yuzvendra Chahal-right arm wrist spin and Kuldeep Yadav-left arm wrist spin.

With new, constantly updating fielding rules and smaller boundaries in most venues, it has become difficult for bowlers to concede fewer runs. This is where wrist spinners come in handy as they have ability to take wickets at any stage of the innings. The stats of all the teams’ performance in the last year also underline the importance of wrist spinners and captains are clearly looking to wrist spin as their wicket-taking option. All the top six teams in the current ICC ODI ranking have a wrist spinner in their side who has performed remarkably well in the last year.

For India, ranked number 2 in ICC ODI rankings, Kuldeep Yadav & Yuzvendra Chahal are their highest wicket takers in the past year. They have taken over 40 wickets each, and their economy is under 5 runs per over. These two wrist spinners have been the go to spinners for Virat Kohli.

The Number 1 side in ICC rankings is England. While their robust batting is one of the reasons for their success, Adil Rashid has been the silent revolution in their team. Rashid has also taken over 42 wickets and is England’s leading wicket taker in ODIs in the last year. The next highest is Moeen Ali with 26 wickets having played the same number of matches as Rashid. This shows the impact Rashid has made with the ball.

Recently, England scored 418 against the West Indies. When chasing, the Windies had the target in sight. When they needed 30 off 18 deliveries, Eoin Morgan handed the ball to Adil Rashid. He took 4 wickets in an over to finish the match!

Just like Rashid, Adam Zampa has been the exciting bowler for Australia. Australia’s bowling attack is always dominated by pace bowlers. But in the last year Zampa is their 3rd highest wicket taker with 14 wickets in 10 matches, just 4 behind Pat Cummins, who is Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the same period. He was outstanding in the subcontinent during Australia’s triumph over India & Pakistan. Zampa is also 3rd in the list of all-time best bowling figures in IPL, having taken 6/19 in 4 overs against Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2016.

For Pakistan, 20-year-old Shadab Khan is the 2nd highest wicket taker with 15 wickets. He has proved his skills as a limited overs cricketer across formats. He bagged contracts with the Trinbago Knight Riders in the CPL and Brisbane Heat in the BBL. While South Africa & New Zealand always depend on their pace attack, Imran Tahir and Ish Sodhi have been their ace spinners. Tahir has taken 21 wickets in just 10 matches while Sodhi has taken 15 in 6 matches.

In this year’s IPL, the wrist spinners are proving effective for the teams. Imran Tahir and Shreyas Gopal are 1st and 4th respectively in the wicket takers tally. The veteran Piyush Chawla has been handy for KKR and rookie Rahul Chahar has troubled the batsman with his variations. The Royals rely on Shreyas Gopal while Delhi Capitals are juggling Sandeep Lamichhane and Amit Mishra.

One of the best leg spinners in the world, Rashid Khan, finished 9th in the wicket-takers list, and batsmen haven’t been able to hit him for boundaries. Considering his tricky bowling, batsmen are happy to see his spell off. Kings XI too have made use of M Ashwin when required. Thus, apart from Kings XI, all the other teams in IPL 2019 prominently featured a wrist spinner in their bowling attack in all the matches.

As the build-up for World Cup intensifies, teams will be expecting more out of their wrist spinners. Though the World Cup is taking place in England, which has either pace or batting friendly conditions, these wrist spinners are the ones to watch out for.



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