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Monday, January 18, 2016

Akshay Karnewar of Vidarbha bowls left handed and right handed !!

India sadly lost at Melbourne making it 0-3 – how many of us know Akshay Karnewar, the 23-year-old from  Vidarbha ? ofcourse, a Cricketer !!  Today’s breaking news is : former Rajasthan Royals offspinner Ajit Chandila has been banned for life from all official cricketing activities for his role in the IPL 2013 spot-fixing case. Former Mumbai batsman Hiken Shah, who had been suspended by the BCCI in July 2015 for making an "illegal approach" to a player, was handed a five-year ban.

When we followed Cricket in 1970s, there was this gentleman, disciplined who was imbued with devotion,  dedication, concentration – who would give the bowlers all the due in the first hour and slowly start making runs in style.  His attire, batting style, strong defence, straight drive – all treat to watch – that was Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. Until Kapil Dev burst on the scene, we had pure batsman like Sunil, Gundappa Vishwanath, Vengsarkar and bowlers like Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna – in between there was Mohinder who do bit of both and Venkat the great offie, who can bat too.  A rare group existed – those who fielded well – Eknath Solkar, Abid Ali, Venkat, Wadekar.. ..

There were not many left-handers – saw little of Durrani and Wadekar.  Surinder Amarnath faded too quickly.  Gaekwad, Chauhan, Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Patel, Yashpal, Sandip Patil, Mohinder – were all right handed.  Ravi Shastri was seen a bit differently – a right handed batsman, who bowled left arm spin.  The Cricket World has been ever changing.  Remember that in my childhood days, the pitch would be covered and guarded – the  covers would be off only few hours before the match. Players would not be allowed nearer the playing arena and the way it would look and behave would remain a secret, would be the topic of hot debates.

When England toured India in mid 1970s, Alan Knott the great wicketkeeper kept sweeping the Indian spinners – repeated by Graham Gooch much later in 1987 Reliance Cup semi finals.  Old timers would remember this – in the semi-final of the 1981-82 Ranji season, Karnataka left-arm Raghuram Bhatt spinner who went on to play a couple of tests spun a web around Bombay batsmen.  In trying to negate him, Sunil Gavaskar played left-handed and scored a dull unbeaten 18. Bhatt was unplayable and Gavaskar resorted to unorthodox method of tackling him. Later when Vijayakrishna bowled, Gavaskar turned right hander !!

For more than 2 decades we have seen batsman play reverse-sweep to exploit the vacant area.  A bowler cannot change his action and if he were to change his bowling from over the wicket to round the wicket, he has to inform the Umpire and the Umpire would soundly tell the batsman so.  A fielder cannot move from out of his position during delivery stride, especially when field restrictions are on.  At Sydney, it was awesome – when David Warner struck Ashwin into a clean 100m hit over long-off fence – was that a long off or long on ? – because David Warner a left hander, seconds before the delivery became a right hander and tonked it out of vicinity.   That was  one shot which  generated quite some controversy with many questioning the legality of switch-hitting.  Kevin Pietersen showed  the way it could be played; Paul Nixon also played it with great effectiveness. 
India has had some quality left-arm spinners.  Nadkarni, Bishan Singh Bedi, Padmakar Shivalkar, Rajinder Hans, Rajinder Goel, Raguram Bhatt, Dilip Doshi, Maninder Singh, Pragyan Ojha and more ….they turn the ball from left to off… there are some unorthodox left-arm spinners – who use the  wrist hand action to spin the ball which turns from off to leg side of the cricket pitch. The South African Paul Adams, known for his unusual bowling action, is perhaps one of the best-known left-arm wrist spinners.  Uttar Pradesh’s left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was spoken off for his chinaman that turns into the right-hander and the wrong ’un that spins away.

Now in this lengthy background, read this piece from ESPN Cricinfo -  a week ago, Himachal Pradesh captain and allrounder Bipul Sharma was trying to chase down Vidarbha's 183 in a crucial league match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20. The winner would earn a ticket to enter the Super League. Bipul, a left-hander, was facing Akshay Karnewar, the 23-year-old Vidarbha left-arm spinner, who he dealt with effortlessly. Then Karnewar told the umpire he was switching to right-arm offspin. "Yeh kaise kya ho sakta hain? [How can this be possible?] He [Bipul] was absolutely shocked," Ravi Thakur, Karnewar's room-mate, says.

"Sorry, what?" is an expression frequent among those who have faced the nearly six-foot tall Karnewar. Ever since his first coach, seeing him bat left-handed, instructed him to bowl left-arm spin, Karnewar has posed doubts in the minds of batsmen and umpires with his double act. Ambidextrous spinners are a rarity in cricket, and bowling with both arms is something that has only been tried in international cricket for a bit of light relief. But despite his freakish ability, Karnewar remains modest.  His tactic could challenge the batting order – if the captain sends a Right hander, he would bowl left arm and if the incumbent is a  southpaw, he would bowl right arm offspin. 

Karnewar originally started as a right-arm offspinner when he took up cricket seriously as a 13-year-old. His coach then, Balu Navghare, having noticed that Karnewar was doing everything else with his left hand - batting, throwing, everything except writing - encouraged him to try bowling left-arm spin, too. It took Karnewar about two years to feel comfortable bowling left-arm, since when he has bowled with both arms.  He has come a long way (ambi)dexterously.

Karnewar is a good batsman as well, and again Thakur says he gets far less credit than he deserves.  Karnewar has for the first time registered himself for the IPL auction, but he is not disappointed that no IPL franchise has come forward to recruit him so far. "This is the first time I am playing [for Vidarbha] at the senior level [in Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali]. No one knows about my talent. The more I play, the more it will be reflected, and I would imagine people would take notice."

So – many a times, being different brings success !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Jan 2016-01-18

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