The search for SA's elusive front-line spinner

2014-03-16 14:00

What defines a front-line spinner, as opposed to a part-timer, and are we close to finding one, asks Khanyiso Tshwaku

In a normal circle of test and first-class cricketing events, part-time spinners are used to break partnerships and rush through overs ahead of the new ball.

In a South African context, they are pushed into heavy traffic and often find themselves where the buses do not run.

During the recent test series against Australia, Dean Elgar and JP Duminy, batsmen by trade, were pressed into routine service.

The domestic Sunfoil Series, which is now into its eighth round, showed a set of bowling statistics that are decidedly un-South African.

Off-spinners Simon Harmer from the Warriors and Dane Piedt from the Cape Cobras found themselves at the top of the wicket-taking charts ahead of this weekend’s matches with 31 and 33 wickets, respectively.

Piedt even had the rare luxury of snatching a first-class hat-trick against the Dolphins in Paarl two weeks ago.

Something is being done right by spinners at the franchise level, but what about the lack of conversion at test level?

Former Proteas test spinner Paul Harris, who took 103 test wickets at an average of 37.97 in 37 matches, said the sight of part-time spinners doing the job of “front-line” ones was not very good.

But he said he was happy with how Piedt and Harmer have progressed, adding that their opportunity should come sooner or later. “You cannot keep playing test cricket without a spinner, so a plan has to be made,” said Harris.

“It is sad, being a former test spinner, that we do not have an out-and-out spinner, but either Dane or Simon need to be given a chance to show their wares. I’m glad for them and they have worked hard.”

Harris admitted he was the beneficiary of good backing by former captain Graeme Smith, but said class operators like Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson should not be discarded too quickly.

Harris pointed out that they have learnt to deal with their experience, the conditions they have to bowl under and the schizophrenic nature of how spinners are treated in South Africa.

“The two have been given opportunities, but it has not gone the way they would have liked but they still have something to offer. They are very good bowlers,” Harris said. “Whether they continue is entirely up to the selectors but roles need to be found for them should they continue, especially in the case of a bowler like Peterson, who at best is a holding bowler.”

Finding that elusive front-line spinner

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