CARDIFF-ICC: In the modern age of uber-talented batsmen relentlessly unfurling scoops, sweeps and slogs to pepper boundaries, there is one rare art that still proves a bowling attack’s great equaliser in one-day international cricket.
A quality leg-spinner is, and always will be, worth their weight in gold, the craftsman who can bamboozle and stem the tide that increasingly dictates the flow of an international limited-overs encounter. Their ability to operate at multiple stages of an innings, easing the burden on seamers tasked with facing ever-more-skilled batsmen armed only with two new balls that don’t often reach the point of reverse swing, is as critical as it is desperately sought.
In previous eras, wrist-spin was the scarcest of skills, that mysterious knack bestowed upon only the gifted few. Come this summer, however, it will be showcased like never before, with 12 operating at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and only two teams – Bangladesh and Wet Indies – not unleashing a frontline option.
Of those, one of the most exciting is Pakistan’s 20-year-old Shadab Khan, a bundle of tricks and treats who boasts 47 wickets across 34 games at a tick over 29. But just why are he and contemporaries such as England’s Adil Rashid – who has taken more wickets than any bowler since the previous World Cup – so difficult to face?
“Because wrist-spinners spin every way,” Shadab tells the ICC. “If there is spin there it’s very difficult to play if you bowl in good areas, and it’s very difficult to play on any surface. That’s why it’s important. With a leg-spinner, yes you may score runs, but he is a wicket-taker. You’re always looking for wickets so that’s why we’re always in the game.”