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Washington Sundar's meteoric rise

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Washington_Sundar_Cricket_IndiaDebunking the myth that wrist-spinners have left finger spinners behind in the shorter formats of the game, Washington Sundar’s phenomenal success in the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy was built around astute thinking, proper execution and a calm head under pressure. Double-guessing the batsmen (i.e. anticipating their next move before the ball is bowled) throughout the tournament, young Sundar ended with 8 wickets at an astounding economy rate of 5.7 runs per over. He impressed all with his maturity and deception.

Thrown into the ring in the Powerplay overs, Sundar, unlike his fast bowling partners Mohammad Siraj and Jaydev Unadkat, stuck to his line and length, not bowling the deliveries wide off the crease. He varied his length and pace perfectly early on. The fact that he started off as a batsman helped him to read his opponents even better. He would bowl away from Mushfiqur Rahim, who likes playing closer to the body, and would cramp up Sri Lankan Kusal Perea for room.

What has impressed the most is his ability to watch and learn from his mistakes. In the league game against Bangladesh, where he ended up with figures of 3/22 in his 4 overs, he was struck by Liton Das for a boundary over mid-off. The very next delivery, after watching Das come down the track for yet another big shot, the 18-year-old bowled a wider delivery that got Das stumped. In the same innings, Soumya Sarkar was outdone by a smart ball on leg stump after the bowler had sensed that Sarkar was going to go for a big, leg side slog.

On pitches that offered almost nothing to the slow bowler, Sundar showed immense self-confidence in not shying away from flighting the ball and setting his own field. Though he does have the tendency to pitch some deliveries too short, allowing the batsmen the time to pull or cut, his control and adjustments worked wonders against the right-handers. Against the left-handers, he tended to bowl shorter, without it affecting his line.

 

His lines were impeccable and his tactic of taking the pace off the ball resulted in his impressive economy rate. He never conceded more than 30 runs in his 4 overs throughout the tournament – which now means that he has gone six T20I matches on the trot without conceding more than 30 runs. His career economy now stands at 5.66, the second best amongst Full Member players (behind Ireland’s Andre Botha) who have bowled at least 10 overs.

 

Coming after poor performances from Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who were dropped after dismal performances in Limited Overs Internationals, Sundar’s success reemphasises the fact that finger spinners can indeed be effective in the format, provided they are quick on their feet.

Sundar has said, “…wrist spinners are magical. However, I feel finger spinners can be as effective as left-arm and wrist spinners. Most teams prefer left-armers or leg-spinners, especially in the shorter versions.

“But I feel even off-spinners can be as effective as the other two, provided they are proactive. If you can double-guess the batsman and be one up on the mind-set every ball, then you can be good. Sometimes, an off-spinners’ classical delivery with a bit of loop and turn might not suit this format. Off-spinners certainly need to do a lot of homework before every game.”

His success rubbed off on Yuzvendra Chahal, who also started taking the pace off the ball after watching Sundar do so. With the duo set to play together for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League – the tournament that started Sundar’s rise – it would be interesting to see the magic he can recreate on wickets that will be tough to bowl on. Last year, under Steven Smith’s captaincy, he emerged an unlikely hero, scalping 8 wickets in 11 games for Rising Pune Supergiant, with an average of 23.12 and an economy rate of 6.16.

In stark contrast, the number one-ranked T20I bowler at the time, Imran Tahir, bowled at an economy rate of just under 8 in his 12 games. This reveals the impact that Sundar had in his first season in the IPL.

If the young cricketer indeed continues his performances at this level, there is no reason why he cannot take the flight to England next year. For all we know, we might end up seeing an off-spinner from Tamil Nadu in the World Cup after all.

 

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