“Four hundred wickets is 400 more than I thought I’d get” – Shane Keith Warne
The Blonde God of leg spin with his mesmerizing machinations went on to add a few more wickets to the tally of 400 before finally calling his innings a close. During the period that he set the cricketing world alight,there was an aura of invincibility firmly attached to his craft and a myth of dangerous proportions alluring his variety.
However the phenom from Down Under was by no means the pioneering purveyor of this glorious cricketing art. As Justin Parkinson goes to great lengths to clarify in his meticulously researched book, leg spin first reared its uncertain head in the Old Blighty. Popularised by the indefatigable B.J.T.Bosanquet (to whom the words “google” and “Chinaman” are attributed, albeit incorrectly), taken to new heights by the immortal Sidney Francis Barnes, leg spin bowling made its mark in England way before it was taken up in earnest by the world in general and Australia in particular. Before the dreaded duo of Clarie Grimmett and Bill “Tiger” O’ Reilly hounded hapless batsmen with their devious spin, inveterate toilers in English cricket had already perfected this Seemingly Mephistophelean bowling form.
That being the case what was it that triggered a plummeting decline in the fortunes of English leg spin bowling? A decline that now has England scrambling all over to even find a solitary leg spinner of acceptable caliber and worthy contention. In this book of valuable importance, Parkinson strives to arrive at the very root of the malaise. He reveals that a deplorable combination of mindset, methods and match conditions contrived together over a span of many years to lead England firmly onto the road to perdition.
Add internecine political wranglings, favouritism and a rigid stereotypical mindset and there emerges a roiling recipe fit for absolute and unmitigated disaster. The lamentable injustice done to the likes of “Tich” Freeman (ignored for most part of his career in spite of a first class haul of 3776 wickets) and Chris Schofield (dropped after a single Test Match) being classic cases in point.
The author also provides a few remedial measures to get the lost art back into recognition by suggestion a revival of the game Twisti-Twosti (a game involving the use of billiards balls on felt/baize that require cocked wrists, and a game that incidentally led Bosanquet to perfect the ‘Bosie’ a.k.a Googly) and a more concerted action on the part of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Meanwhile, the first Ashes Test has culminated in a resounding victory for England. But in a small footnote marring the body of victory, while Moeen Ali played the game (and with distinction at that), there was no room for the leg spinning potential, Adil Usman Rashid of Yorkshire and England.