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The Rediff Interview/E A S Prasanna
'Attacking is an important word in spin bowling'
June 24, 2003
It is a treat to watch him spin the ball with his own magic. Legendary off-spinner Erapalli Anantharao Srinivas Prasanna was at the nets at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, training spinners. Clad in white T-shirt and navy blue tracks, he instructed the boys with his customary mix of humour and acerbity. Off the field, he held court for a small group of admiring boys for a few minutes, instructing them on the finer points of turning the ball before he spoke to Special Contributing Correspondent M D Riti exclusively about the fine art of spin bowling, the legendary bowling quartet he once belonged to and the future of spin in the country.
What, in your opinion, is the secret of good spin bowling?
Simple. He [the bowler] has got to take wickets at the earliest. This is my simple formula.
Do you see any good spin bowlers at this NCA camp?
Not only here, but I have been associated with many camps and I see an abundance of talent available. What may be lacking is continuous monitoring, nurturing and upbringing like any human being. By this, I mean practice. That may be lacking because of the fact that while all these boys have been given expert coaching here during this six-day spin bowling camp, when they go back they will be with a different set of people who will nurture them. Unless and until their line of thinking and ours coincide or are in alignment, there is a possibility of the ward getting confused about who is right and who is wrong.
Any particular young hopefuls who you think are good spinners for the future? Actually, there are two good leg-spinners. Piyush Chawla is one; Abhishek is the other. There are a couple in other departments. There are quite a few promising off-spinners. You know what I am saying. Nurtured properly, they may help you out in some problems. It looks to me that this scenario is very promising.
Looking back at the days when India had B S Chandrashekhar, Bishan Singh Bedi, S Venkataraghavan and yourself, we have never had bowlers who can spin that kind of magic again...
It was not magic. It was the ability to make a batsman make a mistake as quickly as possible. The problem now is that they are taking too long to make batsmen make mistakes. That is the quality of a good spin bowler. In my opinion, he is one who makes a batsman commit a mistake quickly. We had that quality, and it is missing now.
What are the different skills you need to be good at in one-day cricket as against Test matches?
Simple. You have got to take wickets in both forms. And to take wickets, you have got to bowl good lengths. And if one has to create a mistake, you have to use the line as an option. The bottom line is wickets.
Gone are the days when one-day cricket is looked at as a restrictive type of attack. Now either the side gets the wicket and takes the lead, minimizes the chasing score, or they are asking for trouble.
At the spinners conclave you said the under-15s and under-17s should not play one-day cricket. Why is that?
The mindset. Even today, from this group, I can tell you the mindset is that they want to restrict the rate of scoring. This age-group has not yet realized that. Whether they apply it in one-day cricket or five days, at the end of the day, if someone bowls 10 overs and concedes 55 runs without a wicket, they do not realize that they have not played an important role. They may think they have played an important role.
I have posed the question that if the opponent is 130 for no loss in the 30th over -- that is 10 overs of the spinners have been bowled -- what is going on in the mind of the fielding side captain? 130 overs, no loss, no wickets in hand. There is no way the side can come back into the game unless a miracle happens and a wicket falls. So, being in that scenario or situation, I expect that whichever bowler bowls, he will have to take wickets. 130 for 8 , you are definitely in the driver's seat than when you are 130 for no loss.
How is it that a team like Australia, which is now acknowledged as the best, has youngsters playing one-day cricket and still coming up well?
Their attitude is to take wickets. Have you ever seen their bowling stop trying to take wickets? No. The moment they do it, they lose matches. The moment a side has pushed them to a stage where they are on the defensive they have lost matches. You can see that in the matches against the West Indies, and even India. In two games in the World Cup, they were at the receiving end. They came out of that scenario only because of their positive, attacking attitude. Attacking is an important word in spin bowling. A batsman attacks a bowler, yes. But a bowler too must learn to attack batsmen.
When you used to bowl, you played on uncovered wickets, which are supposed to be easier for spin bowlers. Now Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowl on covered wickets, which are far harder. Yet, they have a better strike and economy rate than you. Why is that so?
Maybe they are better bowlers than we were.
Piqued by the question, Prasanna ends the interview.