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World Cup 2023: Do India have the best spin attack?

Last updated on 01 Oct 2023 | 11:39 AM
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World Cup 2023: Do India have the best spin attack?

We dissect the spin unit of all the ten teams participating in the 2023 showpiece event


(Kuldeep YadavRavindra JadejaR Ashwin)

The last-minute inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin in place of injured Axar Patel (quadriceps strain) has made India’s spin department more balanced. They now have all their bases covered and are arguably the best spin unit on paper. Indian spinners have the second-best average (28.4) and third-best strike rate (33.1) since 2022, and that’s largely because of Kuldeep’s resurgence.

The left-arm wrist spinner has scalped 45 wickets in his last 24 innings at an average of 19.2 and an economy of 4.8. Amongst the top-10 sides, no spinner has taken more wickets than Kuldeep in this period. There are not too many like him in the world. The 28-year-old isn’t just taking wickets. He is also controlling the scoring rate. He has been at his best in the middle overs (11-40) and Jadeja and Ashwin's presence will allow him to operate in his comfort zone.

Also read - How Kuldeep’s resurgence is making India formidable

The two experienced campaigners will compliment Kuldeep very well. Jadeja is averaging 32.1 since last year, however, has an economy of 4.9 and will build pressure from one end by bowling tight spells. Then you have someone like Ashwin, who played only two ODIs in the space of six years but is back in the mix due to a dearth of quality off-spinners on the domestic circuit. 

The 36-year-old recently played two ODIs against Australia and claimed four wickets at an economy of 5.2 on two completely batting-friendly surfaces. Ashwin has a lot of variations and can be India’s all-phase spinner. The two finger spinners also provide some batting, and it won’t come as a surprise if the Men in Blue end up playing all three of them in the majority of the venues.


(Maheesh TheekshanaDunith WellalageDushan HemanthaDhananjaya de Silva)

Wanindu Hasaranga will be a huge miss for Sri Lanka, however, his absence might not hurt the Islanders as much as everyone believes. There is no doubt that Hasaranga is a game-changer but his record against top teams in this format is quite mediocre. On top of that, Sri Lanka have enough quality in their spin department and could trouble every team in helpful conditions.

Sri Lankan spinners have the best average (25.8) and balls/wicket (31.4) since 2022. With Hasaranga injured, they don’t have an attacking spinner. Though they could beat teams with control and discipline. Theekshana is going to be the key man for Sri Lanka. The 23-year-old has 40 wickets at an economy of 4.5 since 2022 and can bowl across all three phases. 

Theekshana has an economy of just 4 in the powerplay since 2022 and has picked up the most number of wickets (8) amongst all spinners. Even in the last 10 overs, he has an economy of 5.7. However, has he fully recovered from a hamstring injury that made him miss the Asia Cup final? Theekshana didn’t travel to India with the first batch of Sri Lankan players and there have been some reports suggesting he might miss the first few games.

If that happens, Sri Lanka could struggle big time. Young left-arm spinner Wellalage was super impressive in the Asia Cup, but you can’t expect him to lead the spin attack. Dhananjaya, Hemantha, and Asalanka are all handy spinners in certain conditions, howbeit, Sri Lanka will desperately want the services of Theekshana from the start of the tournament.


(Adam ZampaGlenn Maxwell)

Ashton Agar not being available could cost Australia the World Cup. Yes, we know he hasn’t produced world-class numbers in this format, but the left-arm spinner was going to be the ‘balance provider’ for Australia. He has only featured in eight ODIs since 2021 and has an economy of just 4.6. He played a key role in Australia defeating India in Chennai earlier this year, and that’s the exact venue where these two teams will meet again on October 8.

Now that Agar is out, Zampa will need to have an extraordinary tournament. The leg-spinner hasn’t been at his best in his last four games, having leaked runs at an average of 51.2 and an economy of 7.7, and Australia can’t afford that. In fact, the five-time champions would want him to have a 20-plus wickets sort of tournament. And, Zampa is very much capable of doing so. 

Amongst the top-10 teams, only Mohammed Siraj (53 in 28 innings) has more wickets than Zampa (45 in 21 innings @ 22.5). Not just Zampa, Maxwell too will be expected to deliver a lot more, something like he did against India in the final ODI. Making his return from an injury, Maxwell took four wickets with his off-spin and played the role of a second spinner to perfection. He will now be expected to play the role of Agar and his performance with the ball could make or break Australia’s campaign.


(Shadab KhanMohammad NawazUsama MirIftikhar AhmedAgha Salman)

Two leg-spinners, one left-arm spinner, and a couple of off-spin bowling all-rounders, Pakistan have a well-rounded spin attack on paper, but that is it. The Men in Green have quite a few options but none of them are threatening. As an opponent, you wouldn’t be too worried about their spinners. They have the second-worst average (39.2) and third-worst balls/wicket (42.6) since 2022 and don’t offer too much support to their formidable fast bowlers.

Amongst spinners who have bowled at least 150 overs since 2021, Shadab has the third-worst average (40.5) and fourth-worst strike rate (44.7). In fact, Pakistan don’t have a single spinner with an average of less than 32 since 2022. It was because of their spin unit Pakistan didn’t have a great Asia Cup. For them to do well in the World Cup, Shadab will have to step up and complement the likes of Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf. 


(Adil RashidMoeen AliLiam Livingstone)

Rashid, Moeen and Livingstone are not phenomenal spinners, but they are street-smart and know how to get the job done. England captain Jos Buttler will use them depending on match-ups and more often than not they do the job. Rashid is England’s only frontline spinner, with others being spin-bowling all-rounders. He is their highest wicket-taker in the last two years and the only bowler with a strike rate of less than 30 (minimum 50 overs). 

England also have Moeen, who has enough experience of playing in these conditions, thanks to the Indian Premier League. Meanwhile, Livingstone can bowl both off-spin and leg-spin depending on the batter and could easily give you five-six overs every game. If needed, Joe Root can also roll his arm over. To put it straight, England spinners won’t steal the limelight, but also won’t become a burden.


(Nasum AhmedShakib Al HasanMehidy Hasan MirazMahedi HasanMahmudullah)

Bangladesh’s biggest strength is their finger spinners and they have loads of them. So, it’s not surprising that they have impressive numbers in the spin department. The problem though is they don’t have a wrist spinner and that affects them in good batting conditions, as their tweakers become predictable. Bangladesh play a lot of matches at home, where they have spin-friendly surfaces, but that is not always going to be the case in India.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz (5.3), Shakib (4.4), Mahedi Hasan (4.4) and Nasum (3.9) are all economically very good, but they are not wicket-takers. Not a single one of them has a strike rate of less than 35. Bangladesh are scheduled to play seven out of their nine games in non-spinning venues and it will be slightly easier for the opposition batters to target them. The good thing though is they have too many options and will always be match-up ready.


(Tabraiz ShamsiKeshav MaharajAiden Markram)

It’s tough to predict what South African spinners are going to do on a particular day, especially Shamsi. The left-arm wrist spinner has a strike rate of less than 30 since 2022, but can also leak a lot of runs. As a matter of fact, Shamsi (6.1) is the only one with an economy of more than six amongst spinners who have bowled at least 100 overs in this period. At the same time, he has gone wicketless only three times in his last 22 innings.

Shamsi is inconsistent and that’s where Maharaj will have to chip in. The left-arm spinner has an economy of 4.7 since 2022, which is the best amongst all South African bowlers (minimum 50 overs). Maharaj will have to provide control from one end to allow Shamsi to go for wickets from the other end. The Proteas also have Markram but the part-time off-spinner has an average of 47.9 and an economy of 6.2 in this time frame. 


(Rashid KhanMohammad NabiMujeeb Ur RahmanNoor Ahmad)

Afghanistan’s spin attack is as good as they come. They have the best economy (4.6) amongst all teams and could dismantle any batting unit on their day. What’s more, five of their nine league games will be played in Delhi, Lucknow and Chennai and all these venues are known to assist spinners. Rashid will be the main man, but Nabi, Mujeeb and Noor are also threatening.

Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi have an economy of 4.5 or below. The former will be the wicket-taker, while the other two finger spinners can do the holding job. On certain tracks, Afghanistan can also play left-arm wrist spinner Noor, who had a great IPL 2023 for Gujarat Titans. Afghanistan will use Mujeeb in the powerplay, while the other spinners will dominate in the middle-overs, where Rashid (4.2) has the best economy amongst all tweakers. In the last 10 overs as well, the ace leg-spinner has gone at only 4.7 since last year.  


(Ish SodhiMitchell SantnerRachin Ravindra)

Both Santner and Sodhi have been economical since 2022, but haven’t picked enough wickets, and that’s why the Black Caps spinners have the second-worst balls/wicket (44.1) and third-worst average (38.9) in this period. Their record in Asia is also not very great. In ODIs since 2022, Sodhi has a strike rate of 42.4 but that number would have been much worse if not for his six-wicket haul in a game against Bangladesh. 

Meanwhile, Santner has a balls/wicket of close to 60. However, the left-arm spinner has gone at an economy of less than 5. New Zealand have pacers who can pick wickets with the new ball and if Santner can bowl those tight spells in the middle overs, the likes of Sodhi and paceman Lockie Ferguson could go for wickets. Ravindra is still finding his feet at this level, while Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman can also chip in if and when needed. Expect New Zealand spinners to play the second fiddle to their seamers, apart from their two games in Chennai.


(Aryan DuttRoelof van der MerweShariz AhmadSybrand EngelbrechtSaqib ZulfiqarColin Ackermann)

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There are options, but it all depends on how they fare at the grand stage. Aryan has an average of almost 50 since last year, while Shariz has leaked runs at 6.2. Experienced left-arm spinner Van der Merwe, who hasn’t played an ODI for 22 months, will give them some control. As a spin unit, the Men in Orange have an average of way above 50 and balls/wicket of 58.1. So don’t be surprised if their spinners end up struggling against quality teams in this mega event. They can only do well if they click as an entire unit.

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