First published in Wisden Cricket Monthly, former Kent and England left-arm spinner, Min Patel, explains the tools any spinner needs to flourish in today’s game.
What makes a good left-arm spinner in the modern game?
Looking at the different styles you’re getting now, the best left-arm spinners are the ones threatening the outside edge in first-class cricket and keeping the stumps in play in white-ball cricket. The ability to spin it is still paramount, of course. I’ve seen a lot of the younger generation tending to threaten the inside edge more. It comes from the sheer volume of one-day cricket they’re playing.
Are the requirements of bowling spin in one-day cricket really so different from first-class cricket?
The dynamics are very different. In one-day cricket you have 10 overs and they’re coming at you, so you want to keep the stumps in play, knowing that if they make a mistake, then you get rewards. Similarly in T20, you don’t want batsmen to get under the ball, so you might go full and straight. But then when you’ve got a fourth-day wicket in first-class cricket, you want to be threatening both edges of the bat. The white-ball format doesn’t need as much craft.
So there’s less variety required in the white-ball game – accuracy becomes paramount?
Yeah, definitely so. You’re not trying to ‘do’ people in flight. If you’re bowling on a generally flat one-day wicket you’re not needing much craft. But in Test cricket and four-day games, your lines and your pace changes from day to day. It’s about having the nous and the skills to do that, but the big challenge for spinners in English cricket is this – if they’re not getting those experiences on a regular basis then when are they going to learn that?
What are the fundamental deliveries that a finger spinner needs?
If you’re a left-armer your best stock ball is generally going to have the seam pointing at a 45-60 degree angle towards first slip, with lots of overspin and lots of lateral spin. That’s your ideal stock ball.
Where’s the ball positioned in the fingers?
As a finger spinner, you’d look to spin it off your index and middle finger. In the long term you’d hope to develop calluses on the first joint of the index finger and the middle joint of the middle finger. This shows that the wrist is working nicely, over the top, and the ball is spinning nicely off both fingers.
When you release a conventional left-arm spinner, where should the back of your hand be facing?
The back of your hand should start either pointing at your face or actually just behind you, but as you transition through your delivery you actually want the back of your hand to be facing through to the offside, and then eventually the back of your hand should be, at some point, going down towards the batsman. Ideally you should be going through the full 180-degrees.
Patel took 589 first-class wickets for Kent, and played two Tests against India, the country of his birth, in 1996. After retiring in 2008 he is now on Kent’s coaching staff and contributes to the ECB’s Pathway programme as a specialist spin-bowling coach.