By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was asked ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur in 2016 about the difference in bowling on India’s spin-friendly and England and New Zealand’s seam-friendly pitches. He replied, “Wahaan England mein toh spinner ki ball bhi hawaa mein hi swing hoti hai (There in England, even spinner’s deliveries swing in the air).” The swing he was talking about is the drift, explains former India left-arm spinner Maninder Singh.
Both Jadeja and off-spinner R Ashwin will be the key to India’s fortunes in the five-Test series in England that begins next month. And more than turn, they will look for drift.
“The most important thing for Indian spinners in England will be the drift. There won’t be as much turn there as it is in India. It (using drift) will be one way of out-thinking the English batsman. Because of the atmosphere there, the ball does drift and any spinner who can take the advantage of that drift will get wickets consistently,” said Maninder, who played 35 Test matches and was part of the 1986 India side that won the Test series in England.
“If you have the ability to drift, you will be able to deceive the batsmen in England,” Maninder told IANS.
Ashwin, who has picked 14 wickets in six Tests against England in England, is touring the country for Tests for the third time. It could be the last Test series trip for the 34-year-old. He hasn’t had great success there and has also missed matches due to fitness issues.
Jadeja has picked 16 wickets in five matches in England over the same two tours — in 2014 and 2018. He too hasn’t been threatening in England.
This time though they are going there with the benefit of more experience and a psychological advantage of having dismantled England batting (through Ashwin and Axar Patel) at home in February-March this year. Jadeja was injured then but his all-round ability and experience makes him first choice.
“Both drift the ball, Jadeja is a natural at that. Ashwin is a very clever bowler,” said Maninder.
Former India Test spinner Narendra Hirwani, who has also been coaching the current generation of spinners, says handling the shiny part is the key for drift.
“If you see [former Australian leg-spinner] Shane Warne’s bowling, his deliveries would drift into the [right-handed] batsmen and then move away from the batsmen after pitching. The batsmen would feel the ball is coming to them but then it would move away, beating them,” Hirwani told IANS.
“For an off-spinner [like Ashwin] the drift goes away from a [right-handed] batsman and then turns in. That is what deceives a batsman,” he added.
“The shiny part has to go towards the drift,” said Hirwani, who jointly holds the record for the best match haul on Test debut.
Along with the drift, the line will also be important.
Former England spinner Monty Panesar said that the key will be to stick to the off-stump line unlike in India where you have to keep bowling at stumps, especially the middle-stump.
“In India, you have to bowl slightly fuller and at the stumps, a little bit straighter. In England you can bowl slightly shorter, on off-stump line. So you are bowling on to off-stump. If it slides a bit, it hits the middle stump and if it turns then it catches the edge,” Panesar told IANS recently on being asked about the difference in bowling in India and England.
“In India, you can bowl the middle-stump line, maybe because the ball turns more and you have to bowl it fuller because the wickets are slower,” the spinner, who had helped England win the 2012/13 Test series in India, had said.