Spin can win in England, says Mushtaq

Published: Thursday, May 13, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Crawley:Mushtaq Ahmed has insisted there is no reason why England cannot develop top-class spin bowlers.

England's recent 3-0 Test series win away to the West Indies owed much to an emerging pace attack.

But when it comes to spin England have struggled to find a consistent match-winner since Derek Underwood in the 1970s.

Unresponsive pitches and the wet English climate have often been advanced as theories for the lack of homegrown spinners.

However Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq, who last season became the first bowler in five years to take 100 wickets in an English season as he helped steer Sussex to their first County Championship title, said blaming the climate was just an excuse.

Mushtaq, holding a spin clinic for schoolchildren in Crawley, said on Wednesday: "This excuse has been talked about for the last 15 years, 'we can't produce spinners because it's a cold country'.

"It's not that. How many spinners come here, play County cricket and perform well. They play well, in cold weather, there should be more worries for them because they come from the hot countries," added Mushtaq, 33, in a reference to the success enjoyed in England by Pakistan teammate Saqlain Mushtaq, Australia's Shane Warne and new Test world record wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka.

"Why do they perform well? Because they have no other options. When that's the case you work hard."

And Mushtaq, a veteran of 52 Tests, said young English players had to battle through an environment where too much was given to them too soon.

"Your surroundings make you a good player. If you know you have to earn your dinner you work hard for your dinner.

"But if I know that I'll get a week's worth of dinners for just one day's hard work then I will work for only one day," he explained.

English captains, from club through to Test level, have often been accused of mishandling spinners, more worried about the runs their slow bowlers might concede rather than the wickets they might take.

But Mushtaq, himself sometimes an expensive bowler, although his Test record of 185 wickets at just under 33 apiece is far from the most costly, said captains had to back their slow bowlers if they were to develop into stars.

"Obviously this is a big issue for youngesters. In club cricket captains and coaches tell you, when you've gone for a few runs, you are not bowling more than two overs because you are too expensive.

"That's why spinners lose their confidence. That's why I'm going to help their confidence.

"I can tell them when I was young I used to go for a million runs and even when I started playing for Pakistan, Imran Khan, the captain, used to tell me, 'I don't mind if you go for 2,000 runs, but I need five wickets from you.

"Don't worry about the runs. If you have confidence from your captain like that and you spin the ball and you know how to bowl then at the end of the day you start winning.

"Spinners must try to get people out rather than not to go for few runs. That's very important. They should act like fast bowlers.

"What do fast bowlers do when you hit them for six? They stare at you and say 'I'm going to give you a bouncer'.

"The spinners can't bowl a bouncer but they can do one thing. They can stare at the batsman and say 'hit me for six again if you can and if I get you out you have to walk to the pavilion'."

Mushtaq said he had no formula for success, only a mixture of his faith and hard work.

"Everything comes from God. I pray five times a day and I try to ask him if he can give us the same he gave us last year. You can only work hard."

Whether Sussex win the championship again or not this season, Mushtaq is all set to go on delighting and infuriating crowds with his all-action style.

And Sussex club coach Mark Robinson, a former teammate of Mushtaq's said: "Mushy creates theatre when he bowls. All of a sudden things happen. Sometimes he goes for runs, he hits the pads, there are appeals, there are shouts, there's boos from the crowd because they think he's over-appealing.

"It all happens. He creates theatre and that's what the game needs, a character.

However Robinson added: "Mushy is one of the most humble men I've ever met and that's for a man who last year took 100 wickets.

"He's a role model to anybody on how to carry yourself when you are doing well because every day he turned up and was the same bloke.

"And this was when he was in the middle of this most amazing season. He always showed humility."

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