The World Beware
by Ateeq Abdul Rauf

Player:Danish Kaneria, SK Warne, DR Martyn
Event:Pakistan in Australia 2004/05

DateLine: 17th January 2005


Danish Kaneria - Pakistan's legspin bowler
Danish Kaneria: 'another tasty morsel in cricket worth craving for' © AFP
Cricket is a beautiful sport: be it the ballet-like genuflection of a batsman placing a leather covered cherry-red sphere to the cover fence and in doing so, making us hear a sound similar to biting into a ripe red apple; or be it the stampeding run up of a voracious fast bowler hungry enough to smash the badge off the batsman's helmet; or be it a point fielder's gazelle-like leap to prevent the ball reaching its hallowed destination beyond the intertwined strings some 70 yards from the point where it was first caressed. Ah, yes these are some of the more sumptuous moments, never sufficient to satiate our appetite for of the gentleman's game.


Now though, I would like to reflect on another cricket connoisseur's delight, one that many a critic might agree is perhaps the most delectable of the lot.


I am alluding to the tactical battle between a wily leg-spinner, so prepared to befuddle the opponent into a false move, and the batsman, so ready to defend the three-pronged timber behind him as if he were defending his stumps for his heart to continue beating.


In particular, I would like to highlight how a young leg-spinner has announced his arrival on the world stage and been so prepared to pursue such tactical battles. Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have become household names and now Danish Kaneria may just become one in the near future.


The ravishing art of leg-spin bowling has continued down the years from India’s famous spin quartet to Warne, Murali and Anil Kumble today. If the world was looking for a successor to continue this honourable tradition, then Kaneria looks set to be just the man to take up the mantle.


Kaneria has the makings of a talented leg-spinner. His repertoire includes a consistent stock legbreak which he has persistently been honing since he first came onto the world stage. He also has a highly effective googly which he wisely recruits occasionally. But perhaps, Kaneria's greatest weapon is his courage and tenacity to keep coming back at a batsman even when he has been lambasted over the boundary – an unerring desire to probe and rebound, something so essential in a quality spinner.


Kaneria's talents do not end there, for he has an untiring aptitude to bowl long spells, something spotted quickly by Essex management, who invited him to play county cricket last summer. This exposure has no doubt developed him into a more versatile tradesman, something all Pakistan greats have been gifted with from their playing days in the British Isles. Moreover, it gave him the opportunity to bowl long spells and work on his stock ball and experiment with his other artillery.


Kaneria's enthusiasm and undying grit, over and above making life difficult for batsmen but offering them some additional advice has led him into warmer waters already. In the recent Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne he dismissed Damien Martyn and indulged in some vocals to end up bowling 50 overs for free. Fortunately this lapse is something easily mended with a little counselling. And perhaps is a sign that he has the psychology and ardent spirit that is singular to the best spinners, past and present.


I feel one can liken Kaneria to either Murali or Warne in different ways. Kaneria is similar to Murali, not because of an unorthodox bowling action but because, at the moment, he is a sure contender to be the spearhead of a bowling attack which apart from Shoaib Akhtar, looks deflated (Murali has carried this burden with Chaminda Vaas, of course).


Kaneria can be compared to Warne too as he has the makings of an intelligent bowler ready not only to bowl on a consistent line and length but also ready to outthink batsmen as he so brilliantly showed on the fourth day of the final Test at Sydney by dismissing Justin Langer with a well thought out googly. As if just to buttress my point on his similarity to Warne, Kaneria reached 100 Test wickets in the same number of matches (23). His average of 37 on this Australian Tour may not be something to shout about, but take away the first Test in which he mainly had to bowl in Australia's first innings (spinners are most effective on the third day onwards of a Test), his average dips to 29. That still may not be electric, but considering it was his first trip to the world champions’ home, he did make a statement. Comparing this to Warne's first trip to India, where he averaged a staggering 54, one may then give a second thought about Kaneria's abilities.


In Australia Kaneria also showed he has the knack to contain batsmen, something the other Pakistan bowlers could not do. This aspect of his ability is another asset and it may not be too long before we see Kaneria make himself a place in shorter version of the game.


If a pinch of spice is added to his confidence, skill and the ability to bowl long spells – a wee bit of guidance – we would have the perfect recipe for Danish Kaneria to become another tasty morsel in cricket worth craving for. Of course if he isn't one already.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2005 Ateeq Abdul Rauf


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