A book on famous, forgotten and magical bowling spells

A book on famous, forgotten and magical bowling spells

Kersi Meher-Homji reviews an unusual cricket book

Spell-binding Spells by Anindya Dutta, Notion Press, India, 315 pages, foreword by VVS Laxman. Kindle Version: available on Amazon Australia at the following link for A$ 4.42. https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/aw/d/B0771JHL51/

Paperback Version: available on Booktopia Australia online bookstore for A$ 18.25.

Currently, cricket books are written mostly on batsmen. Spell-binding Spells is different as it features bowlers’ incredible feats by cricket-lover Anindya Dutta.

The legendary leg-spinner Anil Kumble is on the cover of the book bowling his googly. This gives the book a “pick me up and buy me” appeal. Kumble’s unbroken spell of capturing all 10 Pakistani wickets for 47 runs in the 1999 Delhi Test is the highlight of the book.

Banker by profession, author Anindya Dutta goes lyrical describing England’s off-spinner Jim Laker’s spell-binding spell of 19 Australian wickets in the Manchester Test including all 10 wickets in the second innings 43 years before Kumble’s Delhi magic. Cricket devotees know about these amazing feats. But do you know that only one person, businessman Richard Stokes, watched both these incredible spells live?

Spell-binding Spells abounds in such little-known snippets.

Also flashed in 3-D effect is the mesmerising bowling spell of England’s current quickie Stuart Broad who captured 8 Australian scalps for 15 runs in 9.3 overs in the 2015 Nottingham Test.

The book took my mind back 37 years ago when Pakistan’s quickie and reverse swing innovator Sarfraz Nawaz converted an unwinnable Test into a memorable win. This was the 1979 Melbourne Test against Australia. Needing 382 runs to win, Australia was cruising at 3 for 305 with Alan Border and Kim Hughes going great guns.

As Dutta writes, “From nowhere, Sarfraz has conjured up a spell that earns him seven wickets at the expense of one run.” Sarfraz finished the innings with 9 for 86 and Pakistan won by 71 runs as the Aussies lost seven wickets for a paltry five runs. Next day’s headline screamed: “Aussies Sarfrazzled!” I was stunned then listening to the radio in 1979 and am stunned now.

There are many such spells dramatised in Dutta’s book. There is a full Chapter on incredible spells on bowlers’ debuts and farewells. He emphasises India’s small, moustached, bespectacled teenaged spinner Narendra Hirwani’s eye-catching first Test when he gobbled up 16 West Indians in the 1988 Chennai Test.

But Dutta does not restrict to Test cricket alone.

He enumerates brilliant spells in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 matches. Most surprising is the Chapter titled: Magnificent spells, heart-breaking losses. Among those is Australia’s part-time spinner Michael Clarke’s amazing spell of 6 for 9 in the 2004 Mumbai Test against India. Despite this heroic spell Australia lost by 13 runs.

Another heart-breaker is Charles Palmer’s spell of 12-12-0-8. His final figures in the match were 14-12-7-8 in a county match between Leicestershire and Surrey in England in 1955. Despite this super feat Leicestershire lost by 7 wickets.

Also there is a Chapter on astonishing bowling spells by bowlers who never represented their countries. Left-arm spinner Padmakar Shivalkar is one of them. Unfortunate to be a contemporary of Bishan Bedi, Shivalkar was never picked in a Test despite brilliant performances in Ranji Trophy. For Mumbai against Tamil Nadu in Chennai in 1973 he grabbed 13 for 34 as Mumbai won by 123 runs.

There are many quotable quotes: “Minefields lie in the eyes of the beholder”, “Shahid   ”˜Boom Boom’ Afridi was never about elegance, always about adrenaline; and pure unadulterated hormone-inducing, blood-pressure-raising, heart-stopping entertainment”,  among others. For an ODI against West Indies in Guyana in 2013, Afridi grabbed 7 for 12 contributing hugely to Pakistan’s 126 run victory.

Score cards of the matches are given at the end of each Chapter.

In short Spell-binding Spells is a book for the cricket pandits as also for those who want to read an exciting tale with sensational / surprise endings.

The Foreword is written by India’s legendry batsman VVS Laxman: “This book is a tribute to bowlers, a breed that has never profited from the benefit of the doubt in a sport whose rules have historically always favoured batsmen. This nice little treasure is a reminder that we must ensure that the history of this game continues to get passed on from one generation to the next.”

The book raises questions: Why did Australia’s Gary Gilmour with an ODI bowling average of 10.31 and another Aussie great Clarrie Grimmett after capturing 13 wickets in a Test never represented their country again?

The research by the author on 50 of these magical spells is staggering, spanning over 140 years ”“ covering Tests, first-class matches, ODIs, Twenty20 hit outs and matches played in the USA and Canada. The book is unique in the sense that it uses present tense throughout. Thus even a match played a century ago reads like it is being played now, in front of your eyes!



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