Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Mishra's struggles a bitter reminder of what India have lost
Chandrasekhar "could do things with the ball which were supernatural" said Richards
Amol Rajan was appointed editor of The Independent in June 2013. He was previously Editor of Independent Voices, a comment, campaigns and community platform across print and digital. He was earlier Deputy Comment Editor, Sports News Correspondent and News Reporter. He writes a restaurant column for The Independent on Sunday, and has a column in the Evening Standard (Thursdays). He presents ‘Power Lunch’ on London Live TV (Thursdays), a one-to-one interview with the most influential people in the capital. Previously, Amol worked on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, and at the Foreign Office. He is currently a trustee of Prospex, a charity for young people in Islington. He has also written a book called ‘Twirlymen: the Unlikely History of Cricket’s Greatest Spin Bowlers’.
Monday 22 August 2011
Of all the dispiriting sights in this Test series, few should cause as much concern as Amit Mishra toiling away for 38 wicketless overs in England's first innings at the Oval, a pitch taking spin from day one. The ineffective leg-spinner's chief contribution to the series has been providing a linguistic quirk: when bowling alongside Ishant Sharma, the scoreboards have read "A Mishra" and "I Sharma", the first instance of anagrams bowling in tandem at Test level.
Mishra's labours confirm all is not well in India's spin department. This column noted a few weeks back that Harbhajan Singh has lost his fizz after flirting with the doosra, and though Pragyan Ojha should be India's finest left-arm spinner since Bishen Bedi, the selectors seem determined to let Mishra toil in vain. India are yet to come anywhere near replacing Anil Kumble, who was their best bowler for over a decade.
A reminder of how far India's twirlymen have fallen in grace came from my colleague Brian Viner's magisterial survey of The Oval history last week. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest spells in the history of the game. B S Chandrasekhar's 6 for 38 in 18.1 overs at the Oval Test of 1971, which helped India win in England for the first time, had all the venom, spin, and guile that Mishra's paltry effort lacked. M S Dhoni, who must rue being captain of an Indian side rare in lacking top-class spin, would have dearly loved to call on Chandrasekhar in the current Test. He's not the only one.
Chandra, as he was universally known, was one of the most extraordinary players the game has produced. His method was similar to that of Tiger O'Reilly, the great Australian leg-spinner of the 1930s who bounded in, kangaroo-like, to deliver leg-spin at medium-pace. Like Kumble, he mostly bowled sliders and top-spinners, both of which go straight on, but responded to accusations that he couldn't turn his leg-break by mastering that delivery, eventually turning it twelve inches at will.
The extraordinary thing about him was that the brisk arm he brought over had been withered by polio when he was five years old, invaliding him for three months. In 1972 Wisden reported "the belief is that the thinness of his arm gives it the flexibility of a whipcord". He was ambidextrous, threw with his left-hand, and often bowled left-arm in the nets to provide variety. Even more remarkably, a missing bone in his right wrist meant that he sometimes involuntarily unfurled his wrist more than he wanted to, so producing a googly when he intended a leg-break.
He would have taken many more wickets had a scooter accident not curtailed his career and forced him to seek refuge in a bank. His best ball was a quick, straight one, which during the 1971 series was nicknamed the Mill Reef, after the Derby winner of that year. It was this ball that Chandra used to castle John Edrich at The Oval, having heard a demand from his fielders to bowl it, and deciding to follow their instruction halfway through his run-up.
Chandra is one of only two Test match players who scored fewer runs off his bat (167) than he took wickets (242) – the other being New Zealand's Chris Martin. During the 1977-8 tour of Australia his hosts gave him a Gray-Nicholls bat with a hole in the middle of it, in honour of his rabbit status. But when he came on to bowl, the joke was on the batsman. "He was the most teasing bowler I ever had to face," said Viv Richards. "His ability to lure opponents into a false sense of security was deadly... He could do things with the ball that were supernatural."
Would that the same could be said of poor Mishra. In the 40 years since Chandra's finest hour, Indian spin has gone from supernatural to soporific.
Gareth Bale reveals the two things he hates about Real Madrid: 'Getting nutmegged and Spanish spiders'
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid superstar 'sends his hair stylist to look after his waxwork once a month'
Six things we learnt: Louis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United; Henderson becoming the genuine heir to Gerrard
Terminally-ill Club Brugge fan Lorenzo Schoonbaert delays euthanasia appointment to see his beloved football club 'win one last time'
Steven Gerrard tribute match: An alternative XI the Liverpool player wouldn't want crashing the Anfield party
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin