Where have the spinners gone?

Firoz Mirza

Mumbai, Nov. 28 -- When one of the former selectors was asked about India's options in the spin bowling department, especially after Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha failed to capitalise on the tailor-made Wankhede Stadium surface in the second Test against England, he just laughed it off.

His sarcasm aside, the message was the dearth of quality spinners in India, once known as a spin powerhouse. This glaring fact came to the fore on Tuesday when the selection committee headed by Sandeep Patil retained the same lot for the third Test in Kolkata, ignoring the debacle suffered inside four days.

The only change in the 15 was pacer Ashok Dinda's inclusion in place of the injured Umesh Yadav. It means, Harbhajan Singh, who returned a sorry 2/84 on a track that assisted spin from Day One, has retained his place and could play his 100th Test if the thinktank again picks three spinners at the Eden Gardens next week.

"We've run out of stock as far as spinners are concerned. If the cricket board doesn't wake up now, the situation could take a turn for the worse. It's high time to think about the role of specialised academies. Can anyone justify what the bowling academies are doing at the moment? We need to be professional in our approach," said former ace spinner Maninder Singh.

Many other former India players share Maninder's concern. Haryana leg-spinner Amit Mishra, seen as a long-term candidate, was dropped after the England tour. In 13 Tests so far, he has taken only 43 wickets at an average of 43.30.

He went wicketless against England in the last Test at the Oval as the hosts completed a 4-0 drubbing in 2011. Though, he led Haryana against the England XI in the last warm-up and picked four wickets, he bowled few overs.

His younger UP counterpart Piyush Chawla was picked in limited-overs matches every time the team needed a specialist, but he has hardly emerged as a serious contender, especially keeping in mind the thrashing he received from Australia and England in World T20 and 2011 World Cup respectively.

The situation is summed up by spin great Bishan Singh Bedi: "Chiragh lekar bhi dhoondo to spinners nahi milenge (No matter how thoroughly you search, you won't get spinners). It's true there are no spinners in the country. It's ridiculous, but it's a fact".

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.