On Friday, the Indian Premier League’s 11th edition saw its first last-ball finish as Mumbai Indians lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad in their second game of the season.
Two standout performers emerged from both sides even as the game went down to the wire with Hyderabad requiring one run off the last ball. Surprisingly, neither of these performers were the ones who were actually involved in the last-ball drama.
The seeds of the nail-biting finish were sown a while earlier. Sunrisers leg-spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan and Mumbai Indians’ greenhorn Mayank Markande stole the show with their wily wrist spin to turn the game on its head in either innings.
As Sunrisers chose to field first, it was Rashid who took centre-stage with an effort that saw him concede just 12 runs in four overs with one wicket to his credit. The 19-year-old managed to bowl 18 dot balls during his miserly spell that would earn him the Man of the Match award and help his side to a dramatic one-wicket win.
Thanks to Rashid, Sunrisers were able to restrict Mumbai to a modest total of 147/8. With a star-studded batting line-up, Sunrisers were expected to sail through. Their openers - Shikhar Dhawan and Wriddhiman Saha - even got them off to a solid start with a 62-run stand. That was before Markande was brought into the attack.
The 20-year-old, playing only his second IPL game, handed his side the breakthrough as he sent Saha packing. He followed it up wickets of Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and Shakib Al Hasan to trigger a batting collapse that saw Sunrisers Hyderabad crumble from 62/0 to 89/4.
Both, Rashid and Markande, have showcased the effectiveness of wrist-spinners.
The Kuldeep-Chahal precedent
After Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s heroics in South Africa, wrist-spin had become one of the buzzwords in limited-overs cricket.
In the lead up to the Indian Premier League, many wondered if wrist-spin would in fact make an impact.
It was an art that had fallen out of favour with teams around the world as leg-spinners tended to leak more runs that finger-spinners. The belief was in some aspect was true considering the rising prominence of batsmen in wake of the T20 revolution.
A wrist-spinner can produce more variations than other spinners which forces batsmen to keep their big-hitting instincts in check and help the bowling side get a few quiet overs in as was the case with the Sunrisers when Rashid was in his element.
After Kuldeep and Chahal’s unprecedented success in South Africa has only added to the belief.
The strategy seemed universally accepted during the players’ auction. Most teams invested heavily on wrist-spinners. Chahal, Kuldeep, Karn Sharma, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla were sold in excess of Rs 4 crores. Rashid was the highest paid among wrist-spinners and pocketed Rs 9 crores. Even 39-year-old Imran Tahir went for his base price of Rs 1 crore.
Mumbai Indians went as far as off-loading veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. As the season began then even chose to give little-known leg-spinner Markande a start even as a more experienced off-spinner Akila Dhanajaya of Sri Lanka warmed the bench.
In two games, Markande has not only proven his worth, he has been instrumental in tilting the balance of the game in his side’s favour each of the two times they have taken the field. His seven wickets so far have already earned him the purple cap. With the season still in the nascent stage, one can only wonder how many more wickets can he go onto notch up and add to the rising aura of the wrist-spinner.
If the initial impact is anything to go by, then this IPL edition might well go onto be remembered as the season of wrist-spinners.