Will leg spinners ever have a future in Sri Lanka?

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Seekuge PrasannaFor a country that's known to produce good spinners, Sri Lanka is yet to field a world-class leg spinner. That's partly due to perhaps the impatience of Sri Lankan selectors, the fans and the media. A leg spinner needs time to develop at the highest level and that kind of opportunity has thus far never been presented.

After the 1996 World Cup, Sri Lankans expected their team to remain a dominant force but were unwilling to give young players a prolonged opportunity to prove themselves. A young leg spinner will need more time than a newbie batsman, a rookie off spinner or paceman.

Had Shane Warne played for Sri Lanka, it is unlikely his career would have gone the distance. After a few failures the selectors, who don't seem to be working according to any policy, would have more than likely given him the axe.

Of late, Jeevan Mendis and Seekuge Prasanna have made their way to the national squads. Neither have demonstrated that they can spin the ball much, which makes them less threatening. What that also means for them is, that they are unlikely to be regulars in the Sri Lankan side.

At the point of delivery, the leg spinner's bowling arm should be at a 45-degree angle in order to impart extra spin revolutions and spin the ball viciously across the right-handed batsman, according to Tony Grieg who once said this on commentary. But from what we've seen of Mendis and Prasanna, both appear to not know this or willing to try it.

That however highlights a bigger problem; who is coaching these two leg spinners at the national level and are the coaches willing to go back to basics with professional cricketers who have reached the national squad? Bizarrely, coaches these days are reluctant to mess with techniques once a player reaches the national squad - what are they there for then?

Perhaps if our cricket board was not bankrupt, we could invite spinners like Warne, Mushtaq Ahmed and other former greats to conduct coaching clinics. South Africa's Imran Tahir is currently in Pakistan with former Pakistani leg spinner Abdul Qadir preparing for the Proteas' tour of England in July.

But it is what it is - we have two new cricket stadiums, one named after our president in his hometown, which has cost us all dearly. The cricket board, with government 'yes men' running the show, can't afford to pay bills or offer contracts on par with other World Cup winners after the construction of these venues. The cricket board is still in huge debt. In this climate, I doubt investing in the future of our cricket and our cricketers is a top priority.

Not producing good leg spinners is perhaps the least of our worries, eh?


UppercuT's picture
Member since:
19 October 2011
Last activity:
1 year 22 weeks

yes good point abt leggies, but i think main problem for SL leggies is/was dat they rarely have the wrong'un/googly in their armory. chandana, bandara,lokuarachchi and prasanna(he has a one dat goes straight with the arm,not googly) none of them used the googly properly(may b they didnt know hw to bowl it). hence they were/are predictable.
dats y i think jeewan mendis is SL's best bet, as he has the wrong'un and used it to good effect against Paks, who failed to pick it.

Anonymous's picture

Among the current leggies, I think Jeevan Mendis is the best bet, as he can play as an allrounder who is more know for his batting. However he has proven that he can bowl good leg spin. But Sri Lanka Cricket needs a very good spinner, be it a leg spinner or off spinner, if we are to be the force once we were. For this the Sri Lanka Cricket board has to do island wide coaching camps, through which we will be able to find rare talents in the same way Malinga was unearthed.

Ravana's picture
Member since:
8 July 2010
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3 weeks 4 days

It is to do with the wickets as well. Our wickets are not bouncy enough for the average Sri Lankan(short by world standards)leggie to get bounce.

Bounce is a very important weapon for a leg spinner to get wickets.

So we need one of the big made quicks to turn to leg spin !

If I remember right Rumesh Ratnayake used to bowl leg spin sometimes.

kalu5678's picture
Member since:
21 January 2009
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1 week 4 days

for those who have seen him DS De Silva did spin the bowl appreciably. He debuted for Lanka at the age of 33, fiirst test at 40 years, last test at 42 years, and also debutised as Capt in a NZ as Dullep Mendis pulled out because of injury. A stint in UK helped hone his skills. Now DS the administrator is anothe r story, and I won't dwell on it. LOL

Just when he looked liked he was doing something quite mysteriously, only for reasons known to those who matter, the plug was pulled on Chandana.

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
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11 hours 26 min

Interesting point and leg spin is also the hardest art of bowling, and usually the most expensive as a result. The reality is there arent too many leg spinners around even in India - quality one's I mean. Jeewan Mendis certaily shows something and offers something with the bat but I feel SL are not too keen on using him even in one dayers.

Rajtih's picture

Leg spin a difficult art. As many have pointed out patience is key in seeing a talent develop. The simple act of trying to impart too much spin can easily result in a friendly full toss on middle or leg stump. The result is a definite 6 unless the batsmen is totally incompetent.

"*At the point of delivery, the leg spinner's bowling arm should be at a 45-degree angle in*"

In theory this might be true, but I've seen folks who spin the ball a lot with similar actions to Jevan or Prasana. The more important factor IMO is wrist position.

The chief complain seems (from the comments above), that the above two, are not spinning the ball much. The main reason for that IMO is they are not giving the ball enough air. They both seem to ball very flat and a bit fast.

This could be due to,

1. They are afraid of making mistakes.

2. They are told to do so in T20 and ODI matches bcos the captain wants to keep a tight lid on the runs.

3. Traditionally spinners were used to put on the squeeze. We were famous for the middle over stangle. So leaking runs was a no no.

Both those situations don't help with the confidence. If you are afraid of being hit, then you tend to bowl faster and flatter which doesn't result in much spin unless the pitch is a real ripper.

Confidence is key to a leg spin bowler. Shane Warne had that in buckets.

He never had a good googly, but it didn't matter. I've seen some kids bowl better googlys than him. But his confidence and tactics set him apart from the rest.

You don't need a googly that spins like an off spin (all though Abdul Qadir managed that). All you need something that slightly deviates the other way to beat the bat to get them bowled or LBW.

Shane Warne in reality had 3 deliveries. The leg spin, a google that was so so (and mostly went with the arm) and a slider that was bowled flatter and fast (often going straight instead of deviating). He used a lot of variations in flight and pace. He used the crease to create different angles - this makes a huge difference. Try it out and see :D To his advantage he had good bowlers in the team and Captains that were willing to give him a chance. By the time he came to bowl the opposition was already under pressure.

In our team the situation is different. Spinners were traditionally used for containment and wickets that result from pressure rather than attacking. Even Murali didn't attack as much in ODI or T20.

Leg spinners are at their best when they are used for attacking. If you want them to contain, they have to bowl a bit flatter and faster. So you sacrifice turn to be more safe.

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