29 Feb 2004 21:04:15
Roebuck: Top Spinners

...Of course the pair are in some respects as different as pulao and
pie. But they have more in common that meets the eye. Most
particularly, they understand the importance of theatre and bluff.
Watching them prepare to bowl is to see a predator teasing his
opponent, using nerves and the roars of the crows as potent weapons.

Bluff comes in the form of the annual announcement of another new
delivery discovered in the dead of winter. At such times the pair
resemble witches concocting a brew with secret ingredients. Of course
it is nonsense. Cricket balls move left, right or go straight. Batsmen
listening to these tales told by artful performers became convinced
their deliveries enter a third dimension.

Warne manages to turn straight deliveries into lethal parts of his
armoury. Murali contrives to persuade the world that his doosra has
just been found, though he has been bowling it for years.

These men have revived a craft by adding artistry and darkness to it.
Cricket had become dull and predictable, a hard game reflecting the
speed and aggression of the age. Now it is fun again as these grinning
magicians cast their spells.

Doubtless their best days are behind them. Batsmen are familiar with
their tricks TV has seen to that. But they are enchanting, exciting
and experienced and will find a way of taking wickets. Always they
have been able to take care of themselves and, even now, there is no
reason to fear for their prospects

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