The delight of being a wrist spinner in T20s

Yuzvendra Chahal
Yuzvendra Chahal. (Photo Source: BCCI)

T20 cricket was described as an ‘instant killer’ for spin bowling. The fact holds true to some extent. Batsmen, armed with their big bats, have been at their brutal best playing on featherbeds inside small boundaries.

At the time of the inception of the T20 cricket leagues, there were orthodox spinners like Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh and Shane Warne who stuck to the old-school way of bowling and found great success. But, a large number of their new contemporaries found it tough to cope with the outrageous hitting of the batsmen, especially the finger spinners. The margin of error for spinners is almost non-existent these days.


But, one of the two facets of spin bowling – leg spin – has come out as the saviour of the art. If we go through the numbers in the stats file, the effectiveness of leg spinners are very impressive. While a majority of fingers spinners at the highest level, who had their own repertoire, are slowly fading away; the leg-spinners, who were considered as the most vulnerable initially, have turned out to be the most lethal ones. Their influence has been incredible and cannot be overseen.

Let’s start with the start of the 2016 season. In the Big Bash League, Australia’s premier T20 tournament, most of the sides had at least one frontline leg spinner – Adil Rashid (Adelaide Strikers & the 2nd highest wicket-taker of the tournament), Brad Hogg (Perth Scorchers), Adam Zampa (Melbourne Stars), Cameron Boyce (Hobart Hurricanes) and Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder).

In the recently concluded World T20, it was almost the same story. All the top four top teams had a highly performing wrist-spinner in their line-up. Ish Sodhi was a surprise weapon in New Zealand’s armoury, Adil Rashid was also productive for England and the eventual winners, West Indies had Samuel Badree (the best bowler in T20 cricket at the moment). All the bowlers were instrumental to their team’s success.

Both the tournaments took place in different parts of the world and had different conditions. The majority of pitches in the BBL were batting paradise (specially rolled out to make the bowlers sob) while the World T20 was played out in completely different spin-friendly conditions. No matter what, the wrist spinners have enjoyed success, taking more wickets at a less economy rate.

The Indian Premier League has also seen a similar trend with leg-spinner proving to be the game changers. Cricket analyst Aakash Chopra in one of his article states jokingly that the L in the IPL stands for “leg-spinners.”

Twirly men like Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg, Kuldeep Yadav, Imran Tahir, Murugan Ashwin and Adam Zampa all have tasted great success in the tournament which has reached it’s decisive stage now. In fact, the purple cap holder of the tournament very recently was a leg-spinner – Yuzvendra Chahal.

But what makes them successful slow bowlers in this format?

It’s all in the basics of the bowling style. Their ability to drift the ball at a flatter trajectory, lack of bounce and well-disguised googlies, makes the batsman think a few times before stepping out of the crease and going after them.

Much of their success can also be attributed to the bluntness in batting also. The batsmen these days might have shown their capability to play adventurous shots but they seem to be least bothered about reading the deliveries– a fact which has benefited the wrist spinners to a massive extent.

To conclude, going by the trend in recent months, we can safely say that the leggies will thrive in this tough business and make their way through.