LEGGIES ALL (Clockwise from top left): Rashid Khan of the Gujarat Titans, Wanindu Hasaranga of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Yuzvendra Chahal of the Rajasthan Royals, Ravi Bishnoi of the Lucknow Super Giants, Piyush Chawla of the Mumbai Indians and Suyash Sharma of the Kolkata Knight Riders. All of them are playing pivotal roles for their teams in IPL 2023. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Leg-break bowlers are the preferred mode of spin attack in T20 cricket. That’s not new. They may be expensive, but their ability to take wickets makes them precious. In T20 games, the aim is to restrict the scoring, but what better way to put the skids than take wickets? That makes leggies an integral part of any T20 team.

The Indian Premier League is no different. Every franchise packs leg spinners who have played vital roles in turning matches around. So captains are unafraid to throw a leg-spinner into the attack to grab wickets even in the powerplay (the first six overs when only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle).

The new trend in IPL 2023 is a double leg-spin attack. The Kolkata Knight Riders have benefited from the introduction of Suyash Sharma to supplement Varun Chakravarthy, who has been a matchwinner for the past few seasons. But teams seemed to have worked out Chakravarthy, who has lost the air of mystery about him.

Leg-spinners can turn the ball away from right-handers with leg-breaks, and bring it in with googlies. The left-hand wrist spinner’s googly is called a Chinaman (it spins away from a right-hander). The more skilful ones can bowl a mean top spinner (it spins forward, drops faster and bounces) or a flipper (the backspin makes the ball drop slower and skids on straight). These days, some leg spinners even bowl off-breaks and carrom balls (flicked with the middle finger), making them mystery spinners.

Chakravarthy continues to take wickets, but he’s no longer the potent threat he was. That has paved the way for Sharma’s arrival, and the 19-year-old has made an immediate impact. He’s now become skipper Nitish Rana’s trump card.

The KKR are not the first team to depend on a double leg-spin attack. Last year, skipper Rohit Sharma, frustrated by Mumbai Indians’ thin bowling resources, drafted in Kumar Karthikeya to pair with leg-break specialist Piyush Chawla. This year too, Sharma alternates between Karthikeya and off-spinner Hrithik Shoukeen to partner Chawla, depending on the number of left-handed batters in the rival team.

Taking the cue, Lucknow Super Giants have opted for a double leg-spin attack. Ravi Bishnoi has been leading the spin attack, but captain KL Rahul relies on Amit Mishra to take wickets. The two are a complete contrast: young Bishnoi bowls fastish leg-breaks and googlies and relies on the speed off the pitch, while the experienced Mishra opts for the traditional tools of flight and a sharp turn to bamboozle the batters.

Why CSK don't have leggies

The Rajasthan Royals employed a twin leg-spin attack to stun the Chennai Super Kings in their Chepauk fortress. Skipper Sanju Samson deployed leg spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa, along with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, to checkmate CSK leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the spin game. Oddly, the CSK are the only team without a leg-spinner as they use the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner to take the ball away from right-hand batters.

Rashid Khan is without a doubt the best white-ball leg-spinner in the world. The Afghan has been shouldering much of Gujarat Titans’ spin requirements, although captain Hardik Pandya recently debuted left-arm leg-spinner Noor Ahmed against the Rajasthan Royals. The 18-year-old was impressive, and we may see more of the Afghan in the games to come. This means Gujarat too have have opted for a double leg-spin attack. They could also turn to Rahul Tewatia, whose leg breaks have previously provided breakthroughs.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad have two leggies but prefer to play only one in a match. Adil Rashid played the early games, and the England leg-spinner was more restrictive than penetrative. That prompted skipper Aiden Markram to pick Mayank Markande, and the 25-year-old has been grabbing wickets. It won’t be surprising if Hyderabad play both together if the situation requires it.

Hasaranga returns for RCB

Karn Sharma did the leg-spin duties for the Royal Challenger Bangalore with a fair amount of success. But he lost his place to Wanindu Hasaranga after the Sri Lankan returned from a tour of New Zealand. Hasaranga has been struggling with his line and length, and if he cannot find the rhythm, skipper Faf du Plessis may return to Sharma. It won’t be a surprise if the South African opts to field Sharma and Hasaranga together, given RCB’s bowling troubles. Even Mahipal Lomror can send down leg breaks if required.

The Punjab Kings have persisted with Rahul Chahar, although the leggie hasn’t been among the wickets as much as captain Shikhar Dhawan would have liked. In one game, Dhawan also fielded Mohit Rathee, but the twin wrist-spin attack didn’t yield dividends. Punjab could afford the luxury after Liam Livingstone becomes available for selection.

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Kuldeep Yadav is the lone leg-spinner in the Delhi Capitals’ side. The left-arm wrist spinner is backed by the left-arm orthodox spin of Axar Patel and the off-breaks of Lalit Yadav. Kuldeep Yadav hasn’t been taking wickets consistently for Delhi, whose fragile batting has been largely responsible for losing their first five games.

While T20 cricket breathed new life into the dying art of leg-spin bowling, its importance has soared in IPL Season 16 so much that teams are keen to field two leggies on pitches that afford turn. Spinners generally come into play in the middle overs and slow down the scoring. Wrist spinners are wicket-takers, making them lethal. That’s a captain’s delight, and these days it’s not unusual to see a leg spinner bowling the 17th over.

Pandya trusted Noor Ahmed to defend seven runs in the final over, but the leggie failed. But it doesn’t matter; it highlights the trust IPL captains place in leg-spin bowlers. After all, deliveries that come from the back of the hand are difficult to pick. Ask Harry Brook of the Sunrisers Hyderabad.