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They are renowned for producing some of the best spin bowlers in the game so let’s now take a look at the cream of India’s slow men.
Best Indian Spin Bowlers
1. Anil Kumble
In terms of his statistics and volume of wickets, Anil Kumble is the greatest spinner that Indian cricket has ever known. He bowled leg breaks but he didn’t get sharp turn: Instead, he bowled quite flat and with higher speeds and that proved to be a deadly combination for many batsmen.
As of 2022, Kumble remains as India’s leading wicket taker in international cricket and he is one of only three men to claim all ten wickets in a test innings. He finished with a tally of 619 victims in tests and we can add a further 337 wickets in 271 ODIs.
2. Subhash Gupte
We’re going further back in time now to take a look at the career of Subhash Gupte who played 36 tests for India between 1951 and 1961. He was one of the best exponents of leg spin during his time and was declared the best of his kind by both Garry Sobers and Jim Laker.
Born in Trinidad, Gupte could baffle batsmen with sharp turn and he also possessed two different types of googlies. He didn’t play many tests during his career but his returns were prolific. Gupte’s test best of 9/102 against West Indies in Kanpur in 1958 is the fourth best set of figures in a losing cause. Overall, he claimed 149 wickets in just 61 test innings.
3. Harbhajan Singh
We’re back up to date now with one of India’s most prolific spinners in recent years. Harbhajan Singh could be an abrasive figure who could get under the skin of the opposition and that’s one reason why Indian fans loved him.
Bhaji made his debut against Australia in 1998 and he would go on to take part in many great battles against this side. In 17 long years as an international cricketer, he would play 367 games across the three formats.
Harbhajan was a conventional off spinner but he could get prodigious turn. In total, he claimed 711 international wickets with best figures of 8/84.
4. Ravichandran Ashwin
R Ashwin’s career crossed with that of Harbhajan Singh and he remains an important figure in Indian cricket today. He’s also an off spinner but is very tall and can therefore get extra bounce from most wickets.
Ashwin also tries out a lot of variations and it’s interesting to see him change his point of delivery. It’s certainly very effective and, at the time of writing in February 2022, he has 430 wickets in test matches plus 152 in ODIs and 61 in T20is.
5. Bishen Singh Bedi
Bishen Bedi was a clever left arm spinner who used flight and drift to entice batsmen into playing a false shot. He did impart great spin too but he would often deceive batters in the air before the ball even reached them.
He played for 13 years between 1966 and 1979 and also captained the Indian side in 22 test matches. He could also be economical in ODIs but played in just ten of those games.
Bedi’s greatest value came in the test arena where he took 266 wickets in just 67 matches with a best of 7/98.
6. Erapalli Prasanna
When I first started watching cricket, I can remember that Indian spinners used to bowl at the very start of an innings. When playing in home conditions, the seamers would take the shine off the ball early on and the slow men came on before the first hour.
Erapalli Prasanna was one of the spinners I recall and he was extremely effective in those home conditions. E.A.S Prasanna, as he was commonly known, was an off spinner who also mastered the art of flight – getting batters into awkward positions before the ball had landed. He played exclusively in test matches – appearing in 49 games between 1962 and 1978, taking 189 wickets with a best of 8/76.
7. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar
B.S. Chandrasekhar would often bowl in tandem with Prasanna and they made a perfect pairing. As a leg spinner, Chandrasekhar was an ideal foil for the off spin at the other end of the pitch.
Unusually for an Indian spinner of his day, he was very successful away from home with 42 wickets in five overseas tests. The highlight came at The Oval in 1971 when his figures of 6/38 helped India claim their first series win in England.
Chandrasekhar had a longer run up than usual and his deliveries were close to medium pace. He could impart great spin and bounce and, like all good leg spinners, he also had a fearsome googly.
He played in 58 test matches between 1964 and 1979 and took 242 wickets with a best of 8/79.
8. Srinivas Venkataraghavan
He was known by many as a respected umpire but before he donned the long coat, Srinivas Venkataraghavan was one of India’s most effective off spinners. When he played the game, it was a time when India used to play three, and sometimes even four spinners in the same line up.
Venkat, as he was more commonly known, had to stand out when playing with Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna and he certainly did that. He spun the ball of course but nagging accuracy was his key weapon. He was difficult to get away and batsmen used to get frustrated in trying to score.
For that reason, Venkat played more ODIs than his contemporaries but he was more effective in test cricket where he claimed 156 wickets in 57 games with a best of 8/72.
9. Ravindra Jadeja
As an all rounder who has scored triple hundreds in first class cricket, Ravindra Jadeja’s left arm spin can be underrated. He’s been important for Chennai Super Kings in many IPL seasons and is effective in the one day format. He’s also played 57 tests up to February 2022 but is often left out in favour of R Ashwin.
Jadeja is left arm orthodox but can push the ball through quickly in the air. After his first 57 tests, he’d claimed 232 wickets plus another 234 victims from 223 limited overs internationals.
10. Yuzvendra Chahal
He has a lot of competition but many would agree that Yuzvendra Chahal is the best Indian leg spinner in the game right now. With so much competition for places, Yuzi has, so far, played exclusively in limited overs international cricket but he surely offers much in all formats.
He bowls a tight line and is a lot like Anil Kumble in terms of his pace. Following the first T20i against West Indies in February 2022, Chahal had claimed 169 wickets in 112 limited overs internationals for India.
Everyone will have their favourites from this list. I grew up watching Bishen Bedi and I can still remember the times he used to get batsmen into the wrong position before the ball even reached them. In the modern era, Anil Kumble was the best spinner in terms of his stats but there are many still playing the game who would hope to overtake him.