The man who turned a curse into blessing

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17 May 2020 | 07:44 AM
authorAnirudh Kasargod

The man who turned a curse into blessing

On this day in 1945, one of the greatest spin bowlers India has produced BS Chandrasekhar was born in Mysore

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As said in the Bhagavad Gita “A man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is” - meaning, who believes in himself can overcome any obstacle and B.S. Chandrashekar is one of the best examples of it. A variety of challenges have been overcome by several athletes, be it mental or physical. The polio stricken right arm of Chandrashekar turned into a killing weapon that tormented even the greatest of batsmen like Clive Llyod, Denis Amiss and others. Chandra as he is popularly known, along with E.A.S Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan and Bishen Singh Bedi constituted the famous Indian spin quartet in 1960s and 70s.

Chandra was quite the different bowler among the quartet, his thin arm provided more flexibility that helped him flummox the batsmen. In fact, as told by him, he only sometimes never knew what he bowled. His bowling style would suit any kind of conditions as he relied more on his pace, his top spinners and sneaky googlies would make any batsman jump and skip around.

Among the quartet, Chandrashekar had the second most wickets after Bedi, but when it comes to wickets in wins, Chandra had an upper hand over Bedi. 40% of Chandrashekar’s wickets had come in wins. 

HOW SPIN USED TO BE THE MANTRA

India saw few of its firsts when the four bowlers were a part of the Indian setup, their first overseas win in Tests that came against New Zealand in 1968 - their first Test series win against the mighty West Indians in West Indies in 1970-71 and the first Test series win against England in England in 1971. All these victories were proportionate to the success of the spinners. Out of the 185 wickets India bagged in total in the three series, 142 were picked up by spinners, out of which Bedi, Prasanna and Venkatraghavan accounted for 112 wickets combined.

It has always been the case among Asian teams other than Pakistan, to be heavily dependent on their spinners even in the conditions that are not conducive to them. India’s success rate in Test cricket saw a steady raise in 1960s and 70s and most of those wins were dependent on the success of their spinners irrespective of the conditions.

These four were among the highest wicket takers for India from 1961-1980. Another rather interesting fact is the percentage of wickets taken by spinners in the 60s and 70s. Only across two decades have the Indian pacers have matched the spinners, rest it has been the spinners who have overpowered the pacers.

Till the 90s it was only Kapil Dev and Karsan Gharvi among the pacers who touched the 100-wicket mark, but both of them made their debut when the four were at their fag end of their career. Leave alone wickets, it was like as if pacers were just used to fill overs in the days play. A customary first spell just to wear out the new ball and then spinners used to take over, that too in away conditions and those times (1960s, 70s & 80s) away used overseas conditions. There have been instances in which, even Gavaskar has opened the bowling just take the shine off. For example, against England in the third Test match in Chennai in 1973, Sunil Gavaskar and Eknath Solkar bowled three overs in the first innings as opening bowlers before handing it over to the spinners. 

THE RISE OF INDIAN PACERS 

After two decades of spin domination and just as the spin quartet were at the aging end, it was time for someone to step up and then came a complete revolutionary of Indian fast bowling in Tests. With the introduction of Kapil Dev, probably the crave for a fast bowler in the Indian unit was satisfied to an extent. It was in 80s where the pacers were hand in hand with the spinners, that 10 years of Indian Test cricket from 1981-1990 was a watershed for pacers. The over-dependence on the spinners in away matches also saw a steep decline as the pacers started to set standards. 

Kapil still leads the wickets tally among pacers for India in Tests with 434 wickets. However, India now boast of having a good armory of fast bowlers. Especially under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, the pacers have been exceptional. Under Kohli, we can probably say that a fast bowling quartet comprising of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav has been formed.

Indian pacers have had joyous times under Kohli’s leadership in Test cricket. With 471 wickets under him, Kohli has been the most successful captain for the Indian pacers and it’s not all about the wickets which fascinates but the bowling average of the pacers under his captaincy is what highlights his support towards them.

To much of surprise, the Indian pacers have outsmarted the spinners in home condition in 2019 Tests. In the five matches played by India at home, the pacers have bagged 61% of the wickets. Astonishingly, there have been instances where Ashwin, who is considered to be the leader of the spin attack now for India hasn’t been bowled. In India’s first day-night Test at Kolkata, the pacers were so much on top that neither of Ashwin or Jadeja were needed.

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