Slow bowlers have called the shots this season and hold all the aces going into the crucial half of the T20 tourney.
From Delhi's Shahbaz Nadeem to Rajasthan's Brad Hogg, Kolkata's Sunil Narine to Punjab's Piyush Chawla, spinners have influenced the outcome of topsy-turvy Twenty20 matches that have invariably gone into the last over without an assured victor.
IPL 5 has been a paradise for left-arm spinners, who have won five Man-of-the-Match awards. Pawan Negi of the Delhi Daredevils has been the latest to impress after taking a four-wicket haul against the Rajasthan Royals last Tuesday. Negi joins the list of left-armers, starting with Ravindra Jadeja of Chennai Super Kings, who picked up a fifer against the Deccan Chargers early in the season.
Among others are Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan of Kolkata Knight Riders (three for 17 against Rajasthan Royals) and Royal Challengers’ KP Appanna, who was handed over the award for his 4-19 against Rajasthan Royals by AB de Villiers after the South African limited-overs skipper was adjudged Man of the Match for his match-winning 59.
Delhi Daredevils left-arm spinner Nadeem (2-16) produced a Man-of-the-Match performance against Mumbai Indians, impressing his team-mates Kevin Pietersen of England and Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene with his tidy line and length. Bowling on placid surfaces in the Indian subcontinent, spinners are constantly on the look out for new variations, mixing speed with varying line and length. It’s most likely that they will hold the aces in the playoffs stage too.
Shahbaz Nadeem (Delhi Daredevils)
The 22-year-old Shahbaz Nadeem, who plays for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy, has sent down impressive spells in IPL 5 but with minimal reward. He has eight wickets from ten matches at a good economy rate of 6.67. In fact, Nadeem has carried the mantle of leading Delhi's spin department this season. His 2-16 performance against Mumbai Indians went a long way in impressing teammates Kevin Pietersen of England and Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene. Nadeem could very well be in content_cnion for India’s squad for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka later this year.
Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Bowling miserly and taking wickets at regular intervals, West Indian Sunil Narine of Kolkata Knight Riders has bamboozled batsmen with a bunch of mystery balls. His spin mesmerised Kings XI Punjab batsmen on April 15 as he finished with figures of five for 19 in four overs. With 12 wickets from seven matches at an economy rate of 5.53, he has emerged the biggest trump card for Gautam Gambhir.
Marlon Samuels (Pune Warriors India)
Being reported for a suspect action notwithstanding, Marlon Samuels, with eight wickets from eight matches, has been a crucial bowler for Sourav Ganguly’s Pune Warriors India. Samuels’ quickish off-breaks have troubled many batsmen this IPL. He has faced problems with his action in the past, particularly when bowling his faster deliveries. However, Ganguly has firmly backed him.
Pawan Negi (Delhi Daredevils)
Though this left-arm spinner has only four wickets from three matches, he has made a quick impact playing for Virender Sehwag’s table-topping Delhi Daredevils. The most impressive aspect of his performance is his economy rate of five. Negi claimed his career best T20 bowling figures of 4 for 18 against Rajasthan Royals last Tuesday evening. He was instrumental in breaking the momentum of the Royals by dismissing Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Ashok Menaria.
Piyush Chawla (Kings xi Punjab)
With 12 wickets from ten matches, the legspinner has been almost instrumental in Kings XI Punjab's resurgence this IPL. His economy rate is an even more impressive 6.70. Ever since the first edition of the IPL when Punjab finished runners-up, the Preity Zinta-owned franchise has barely managed a handful of wins in the regular season. This is perhaps the best side they've put forward since IPL 1, and have a realistic chance of making the IPL Playoffs that gets underway on May 22. Chawla, who leaked 27 runs in the 19th over to pave the way for Mumbai Indians’ win early in the season, has bounced back strongly for Punjab.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Royal Challengers Bangalore’s most successful bowler this season Muttiah Muralitharan may not play any further part in this year's Indian Premier League, according to captain Daniel Vettori. Taking his eight wickets at an average of 14, Muralitharan has played just four matches this season but is Bangalore’s joint-highest wicket-taker. Vinay Kumar has played ten matches for the same number of wickets. But with six matches left in IPL 5 for the southern franchise, captain Vettori said the team’s focus now was on qualifying for the semi-final and he believes RCB have the right combination without the legendary off spinner. But the wily old wizard can walk into any match situation and make an impact.
Brad Hogg (Rajasthan Royals)
With 10 wickets from eight matches, the veteran chinaman bowler has led Rajasthan Royals’ spin-attack with distinction this IPL. Bowling on the flat track at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Hogg has maintained a steady economy rate of shy under seven.
The flop turners!
R Ashwin (CSK)
With only five wickets from 11 matches, R Ashwin has been the biggest disappointment for the defending champions. In previous seasons, Ashwin maintained economy rates below six, but this time around, he has gone at close to 6.5 runs per over. CSK will be hoping for a turnaround.
Amit Mishra (DC)
With just six wickets from eight matches, the legspinner has been a huge letdown for the Deccan Chargers. In previous seasons, Mishra was invariably in the race for the Purpe Cap. Last year, Mishra took 19 wickets from 14 matches at a good economy rate of 6.60.
Pragyan Ojha (MI)
With just seven wickets from seven matches, the left-arm spinner hasn’t quite lived up to the pre-season hype. He remains the spinner with most wickets in IPL history. Ojha had been with Deccan Chargers since IPL-1, and took 62 wickets in 56 matches. He was the leading wicket-taker in 2010 (21 wickets).
D Vettori (RCB)
With only five wickets from nine matches, the RCB skipper is in a tough spot as he has kept veteran Muttiah Muralitharan out of the XI. Vettori is usually not a big wicket-taker, but someone who stems the flow of runs. Unfortunately for RCB, their captain has conceded close to seven runs per over.
Rahul Sharma (PWI)
More than the lack of wickets (eight wickets from nine games), it’s Sharma’s economy rate that must worry Sourav Ganguly. The leggie was clobbered for five consecutive sixes by Chris Gayle earlier in the season, and has leaked close to eight runs per over in almost all the matches.
Though he is regaining his rhythm slowly, Harbhajan Singh still hasn’t hit his stride. With five wickets from 10 matches, the Mumbai Indians skipper has become merely a third or fourth bowler for his side. In fact, he didn’t bowl himself during one of the earlier home matches.