The mystery deepens
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As Hambantota, Pallekele and Colombo gear up for the World T20, this semi-columnist has decided, belatedly, to begin Shehan Karunatilaka's Chinaman. This seems as good a time as any to get caught up in a tale involving a mystery spinner who torments the world's best batsmen before disappearing, equally mysteriously, from the collective consciousness.
Pradeep Mathew, the chinaman bowler referred to in the book's title, bowls every variation imaginable, including a double-bounce delivery that turns one way, bounces again, and turns the other way. A very Sri Lankan bowler, in short, cut from the same cloth as Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. It's tempting to wonder how Mathew would have fared in Twenty20, which seems the natural habitat of the mystery spinner.
With the relentless pressure to score boundaries urging batsmen to premeditate nearly every ball, anyone possessing a bit of variety, even at the expense of accuracy, is an asset. Even more so on wickets that grip and turn. And few grip and turn as much as Premadasa Stadium, which will host most World T20 matches.
With this in mind, pretty much every team seems to have picked a spin attack heavy on deception. The hosts' squad includes not just Mendis and Rangana Herath, both exponents of the carrom ball, but also the 18-year-old
Akila Dananjaya, who is said to be capable of bowling off breaks, leg breaks, googlies, doosras and the carrom ball. It isn't known if he has mastered the double-bounce ball yet.
Pakistan are similarly heavy on subterfuge. Apart from Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez they also possess the 20-year-old Raza Hasan, who may or may not be the first left-arm spinner to use the doosra.
The West Indies, for their part, will rely heavily on the indecipherable Sunil Narine, while Australia reckon that Brad Hogg, at 41, can still diddle out batsmen with his chinamen and googlies.
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