Former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed thinks the likes of Test greats Ravichandran Ashwin and Nathan Lyon not replicating their class in white-ball cricket could be down to the lack of variations in their repertoire.
Ashwin (365 wickets from 71 games), Lyon (390 wickets in 96 Tests) and Pakistan’s Yasir Shah (213 wickets in 39 Tests) have been match-winners in five-day cricket, only to be found wanting in ODIs and T20s.
“Look at Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. They have won so many [white-ball] games for India in the last two years,” Mushtaq told PTI.
“Maybe the likes of Lyon, Ashwin and Yasir don’t have enough variations to survive in one-day cricket.”
Mushtaq, who has coached around the world, feels identifying Test and limited-overs spinners is the need of the hour.
“Test cricket remains the ultimate challenge for the spinners as you get to know their true skills. The likes of Yasir Shah, Nathan Lyon, Moeen Ali, Ashwin. These are the guys I admire. Their contribution to Test cricket has been huge,” Ahmed said.
He added: “Some of them have been successful in one-day cricket but the game has changed drastically since the five fielder rule inside the (30-yard) circle came into being. For that, mystery spinners as well as wrist spinners have become more effective: guys like Like Adil Rashid, Adam Zampa, Yuvzendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Shadab Khan.”
Ashwin has not played white-ball cricket for India since the 2017 West Indies tour and his comeback in the format doesn’t look imminent.
“In one -day cricket, if the pitches are good and you don’t have variations or a mystery ball, you can’t survive. For example, a champion bowler like Lyon has been exposed in one day cricket. He has not been as successful as he has been in the longest format,” Mushtaq said.
Lyon has only featured in 29 ODIs and a couple of T20s for Australia. Mushtaq said the ever increasing role of power-hitting in the modern one-day game has made mystery spinners more valuable than the conventional ones.
“You need to have someone who can bowl leg-breaks, googlies, flippers, someone with a different [unorthodox] action. There is so much power hitting in the game, you need spinners with variations.
“In ODIs, you can still play one good conventional spinner but in T20s you need mystery spinners as he can get a wicket even with a bad ball as the batsman doesn’t have the time to read him,” said the 49-year-old.
“Also, the amount of cricket being played, you need to have different spinners for different formats. You zero in on five-six spinners and use them in different formats. That way their career is prolonged also.”
According to Mushtaq, skill-wise, Lyon and Ashwin are on par with greats like Saqlain Mushtaq and Muttiah Muralitharan but not best suited for the one-day game.
Mushtaq said: “We had four fielders inside the circle, there was extra protection in the deep. Now with five fielders inside, if you are consistent with your line and length, you may struggle.
“Ashwin and Lyon are as good as the spinners of the past. It is just that the limited-overs game has overshadowed Test cricket.”
Mushtaq sees more wrist-spinners in the game in the near future. “You will see a lot of leg-spinners in the next 10-15 years. Batsman nowadays are used to playing express pace but they still struggle against leg-spinners.”
He added: “Moeen Ali takes a lot of wickets against India and so does Lyon. The sub-continental teams don’t play spin that well anymore. In the past 10-15 years, we have been preparing more for pacers on overseas assignments and that is one reason why the batsmen have not been learning how to play spin.
“When I used to play against India, I knew that they would get a single off a good ball also. Technically, they were very strong. Their gravity levels, intent, trigger movement, use of crease, how to play on different pitches. It is not the same anymore.
“And thanks to IPL and PSL, the foreign batsmen have become good players of spin.”
Mushtaq was with the England team back in 2012-’13, plotting India’s downfall with Monty Panesar and spin great Graeme Swann. That was the last time India lost a series at home.
“We won in 2012 because we knew what fields to set, what pace to bowl at. Neither Virat was sweeping nor Dhoni. Only Sachin was there. The Indians were focussing on England seamers but the spinners surprised them. Swann and Panesar were much quicker in the air than their Indian counterparts and that was the reason for their success,” Ahmed added.