The Caribbean Premier League 2017: The Pinnacle of Spin Bowling

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It seems almost predictable of the West Indies Cricket Board to host their domestic franchise T20 tournament in the midst of their tour of England. Yet despite the absence of several key players, the 2017 edition of the Caribbean Premier League has already seen some incredible individual performances.

The Trinbago Knight Riders are currently topping the table with three wins out of four, including an all-round performance to thrash the Barbados Tridents yesterday. They have been lead by Colin Munro and Shadab Khan, who have the most runs and wickets in the competition respectively. And although the Caribbean Premier League may not gain as much attention as the Indian version of the competition, it is still host to some of the most talented players in world cricket.

Usually, it’s the batsmen who grab all the attention from the media, but the real stars of the tournament so far have been the bowlers. In particular, the spinners have been lethal, with Pakistani spinner Shadab leading the way, supported by Sunil Narine and Rashid Khan. These spin trio epitomise the sharp rise in the effectiveness of spin in limited overs cricket, with all three of them having tournament economy rates below seven. At the moment the Indian spinners are displaying a masterclass in Test bowling in Sri Lanka, but here on the other side of the world, the Caribbean Premier League is showing that T20 cricket is truly a bowler’s game.

Sunil Narine and Shadab Khan: A Lethal Combination

The Trinbago Knight Riders are exceptionally lucky to have two of the most talented T20 spinners at their disposal, boasting Sunil Narine and Shadab Khan. This spin attack have thrived in the tournament so far and have both featured in every game this campaign. Between the West Indian off-spinner and the Pakistan leg-spinner, they have bowled 40 overs thus far and have taken 14 wickets between them. While that may not superficially seem to be a startling amount, it is their miserly economy rates that distinguishes them from other players. Shadab’s tournament economy has only been 5.2, while Narine’s has been an even more impressive 4.75. To put these stats into context, the bowler with the best economy rate in the IPL (who played over four matches) was Pawan Negi with an economy of 6.12.

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An ideal example of the pair in action can be found in their recent match against the Guyana Amazon Warriors. Shadab was introduced in the fourth over, with the Amazon Warriors taking a huge 40 off the first three. He instantly struck with a wicket on his first ball, with a clever piece of bowling to draw the batsman into a loose stroke. Narine came on at the other end and started in similar fashion, also picking up a wicket in his first over. They ended up dominating the innings, as Shadab finished with 4-0-28-4 and his West Indian colleague with 4-0-16-2.

Why Has Spin Been So Effective?

The pitches in the Caribbean are usually friendly for the spinners, but that cannot account for their unexpected effectiveness so far. Most of the dismissals that spinners have claimed have not actually been down to lots of turn, but rather the countless variations they possess. A prime example of this can be shown in Shadab Khan’s ability to flight the ball up and draw batsmen into ambitious shots and the way in which Rashid Khan’s googly is so hard to pick. It’s not necessarily demons in the pitch that is doing the damage, but instead, we are witnessing a significant moment in the evolution of T20 cricket. Prior to this tournament, the vast majority of spectators would have agreed that it was a batsman’s game, but the Caribbean Premier League has shown a significant shift away in favour of the bowlers.

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