A leg-spinner with guile, deception and a bagful of tricks, Vaman Vishwanath Kumar was formidable in his time. Kumar, now 84, his mind as sharp as ever, rates the four Indian spinners.
1. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar would always top my list. He was a match-winner who could run through sides on a good wicket once he found his rhythm. You see, his right arm was afflicted with polio so he wasn’t always in control of what he bowled, there would be full tosses and long-hops. But someone like Tiger Pataudi understood his worth. Once Chandra hit the groove, he was unstoppable. Because of polio he had a quick-arm action. The other leg-spinners would cock their wrists. Chandra held the ball like a seamer. He was not a big spinner of the ball but could do considerable damage because of his pace off the pitch and also he could both get the ball to bounce or skid off the surface, And he had the repertoire — the top-spinner, the googly and flipper. His googly was very difficult to pick.
2. Erapalli Prasanna would be the second. He used to really spin the ball and if you were standing at silly-point, short-leg or silly mid-off, you could hear the bee-like sound as the ball sliced through the air. Prasanna top-spun the ball. So the sphere would dip on the batsman earlier than he expected. He could create the perfect parabola produce the Magnus effect, and forced the batsman to get on to the front foot. Deception was the key. He could understand the nature of the breeze and get the ball to drift away. Prasanna invariably bowled over the wicket, spinning the ball big into the batsmen and backing himself to hit the stumps. These days, off-spinners bowl round the wicket, which is not the ideal line and takes leg-before out of the equation.
3. Bishan Singh Bedi: The county stint in England helped him evolve. In conditions where it was difficult to spin the ball, he learnt to roll the ball. Bedi had a smooth easy action and he too had the parabola and the variations. Plus Bedi had a brute of an arm-ball that fetched him plenty of wickets. He too top-spun the ball, forcing batsmen to use their feet. If Chandra was running through at the other end, Prasanna and Bedi would play supporting roles.
4. S. Venkataraghavan: He had a wonderful action for an off-spinner. He was tall, had a high-arm action and got natural bounce. Because of his height, he did not get the same parabola as Prasanna and Bedi. On a conducive pitch, he could be dangerous. Along the way, he learnt to drift the ball away from the right-hander. He too top-spun his off-spinners which explains the bounce he could achieve.