Laxman Sivaramakrishnan believes that the reluctance of captains at the domestic level to trust off-spinners has led to the extinction of the latter breed in the country. Sivaramakrishnan further feels that there is no quality offie to take the reins over from Ravi Ashwin when the time beckons.
India, a country known as the hub of off-spinners, having produced greats like Bishan Singh Bedi, Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin, is currently in the midst of a scarcity of sorts when it comes to finger spinners. Since Ashwin’s debut back in 2011, Jayant Yadav is the only off-spinner to have played Tests for the country and the Ranji Trophy circuit has also been predominantly dominated by left-arm orthodox spinners.
The lack of young off-spinners in the country has become a growing concern and former Indian cricketer Laxman Sivaramakrishnan feels that defensive captaincy in the Ranji circuit is to blame for the same. Sivaramakrishnan, a leg-spinner who represented India in nine Tests, feels that domestic captains do not entrust their off-spinners against right-handers when the former are taken to the attack. Captain’s trust, Sivaramakrishnan feels, is a key component for an off-spinner’s success and he pointed towards the example of Ganguly and Harbhajan and made his case.
"I haven't seen a good off-spinner at the Ranji level. That's because of bad captaincy at the Ranji Trophy level. If an off-spinner gets hit by a right-hander, captains take him off and that hits his confidence. Harbhajan Singh became a great bowler because the captain was Sourav Ganguly, who gave him encouragement," Sivaramakrishnan told PTI.
The 54-year-old, who took 26 Test wickets for India, feels that Ashwin still has three years left in him at the elite level, but emphasized the importance of grooming a young off-spinner who can take over the reins from the veteran. He further opined that Jalaj Saxena, albeit being prolific at the domestic level, is a bit too old to be considered for selection and went on to brand Karnataka’s Krishnappa Gowtham as ‘not good enough’ for the Test level.
"Ashwin is a very hard-working bowler and he has not taken his place for granted. He still has three good years left and it's time now that we find the next crop of young spinners which is ready to take over when the time comes.
"Jalaj's is a classic case of his career completely coinciding with Ashwin's best years. But right now we can't look at players who are 33 or 34 years. Because by the time another three years go by, the fitness levels might be an issue. He (Gowtham) is good but I don't think good enough for Test cricket.”
Another former cricketer, Harbhajan Singh, though, attested that age should not be a decisive factor for selection and batted for the selection of both Saxena and Akshay Wakhare, both of who are in the wrong side of their thirties.
"Jalaj Saxena and Akshay Wakhare have performed year after year at the domestic level, at times on flat tracks. I have seen Akshay closely at the Mumbai Indians nets. Age for me is just a number. I don't believe these two can't be tried," Harbhajan said.