Let’s talk about off-spin. Because batsmen, almost always, steal the headlines. Then there are days when a medium pacer bowls six perfect yorkers. And on those rare occasions when we are tired of being in awe of Andre Russell’s outrageous batting or Jasprit Bumrah’s accuracy, our focus tends to veer towards Yuzvendra Chahal’s googlies. Because wrist spin is sexy. The ball turns more. And we somehow tend to give more leeway to leg-spinners. Off-spin doesn’t command that privilege anymore, not if there isn’t any remarkable ‘doosra’ or ‘carom ball’ on offer.
Two Chennai boys, however, showed on Monday simple can be effective too. Washington Sundar and R Ashiwn are similar in many ways. They are tall batsmen turned bowlers who have similar release actions. They haven’t exactly hit pay dirt in terms of wickets but since economy is the benchmark of bowlers’ success in this format, they have proven to be a runaway success. And what also may have helped them a bit was bowling to left-handers upfront.
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Let’s start with Sundar who finished with 4-0-20-0 on Monday. Take his spell out of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowling and it means they were milked for 176 runs in 16 overs. Was it wise to choose to field afterall? Does Virat Kohli need to rethink his strategy?
Where Kohli did well however was in getting four good overs from Sundar early in the innings. Bowling in the shadow of Chahal, Sundar has made it a habit to vary his pace in a wicket-to-wicket line that batsmen find hard to hit out at. He started out with one over against Sunrisers Hyderabad, followed by two against Kings XI Punjab. But in the three matches since, Sundar has bowled his full quota and returned economies of 3, 5 and 5.
Not a regular anymore, Ashwin found a place the third time in the side this IPL. And while he may have irked Ricky Ponting by almost Mankading Aaron Finch in his first over, Ashwin did what he does best. He bowled straight as an arrow, choked the runs and forced the big-hitting Devdutt Padikkal into a slog that wasn’t on. For a side boasting the likes of Kohli and AB de Villiers, Padikkal was the big wicket simply because he gave RCB much needed stability at the top. Ashwin took that away in the third over. And then he finished his quota just before the death overs, finishing with 4-0-26-1. Both Ashwin and Sundar bowled nine dot balls apiece. That, in this format, is worth its weight in gold.