The sometimes obsessive quest for a New Zealand test quality leg-spin bowler has continued with the somewhat optimistic selection of Ish Sodhi for the tour to Bangladesh. Good stuff; he has been on the radar since age level, and a long-term successor to Daniel Vettori is needed. And he’s a leg-spinner too. Leg-spinners is where it’s at and his childhood hero was Anil Kumble.
So far so good.
But before we get too excited, it is only fair to have a look at a potted history of leg spinners selected to play at the top level
Let’s start with Graham Vivien. Picked for the mammoth India / Pakistan / England odyssey of 1965 on the basis of … an apparently awesome net session out the back of Eden Park. See; this is not a new thing.
His test debut, along with Bruce Taylor who became the only debutant to do the 100 – 5WI feat, happened to be his debut first class match. The wicket he took in that match proved to be his only test wicket in a five test career that spanned seven years.
The Greg Loveridge tale is an interesting one. The year is 1996, and the world is in love with the group of leg-spinners suddenly dominating test cricket; led by Sane Warne and his Ball of the Century. Coach Glenn Turner was clearly seduced by the idea of having a leggie and was thrilled to find one playing first class cricket.
He played one test, broke a finger while batting and never got to bowl. It should be noted though that the finger injury was not a career ending one. He never forced his way back into left-field test selection again.
Brooke Walker had the added advantage of even looking a bit like Shane Warne. Not that a complex was developing or anything.What followed was five tests, and a bowling average of just under 80.
His last test was the one where Inzamam scored 329 and New Zealand suffered their worst ever test defeat.
The next big hope was Tarun Nethula. He was a bit different from the rest in that he had a reasonable amount of first class cricket behind him, with the odd 5 wicket bag thrown in. Still, those wickets were at an average of around 40, and remember those matches were against New Zealand batsmen; not know for prowess against quality leg-spin.
He travelled to the West Indies last year, and played the warm-up game against the Board XI. 1/101 off 20 overs. At the other end Vettori, on possibly his last tour, took 6 / 48.
Lastly, Todd Astle. The jury is out here, and he was never considered for his bowling alone. He could well forge a career as a spinning all-rounder used mainly on trips to the Asian sub-continent. He must have been in contention for this trip.
So now it is the turn of Sodhi. A nation crosses all its fingers and toes that he will eventually realise his undoubted promise. But he is still 21 and has a first class bowling average of 48.
Let’s hope the national infatuation with joining the leg-spinners club hasn’t rushed him in too quickly. The art of bowling leg spin takes time.