Legspinners – a misunderstood species?

With yesterday’s announcement of leg-spinner Chris Schofield’s departure from Surrey came a reminder that some things never change in English cricket. For those that don’t know, he was widely hailed as the English Shane Warne and cut his teeth at the beginning of England’s professional era when central contracts heralded the new dawn and laid the foundations for the current team’s success.

While most players since then have benefited from the increased security that these contracts and the resulting consistency in selection that they bring, leg-spinners still appear to very much play by the old rules.

Take the example of Adil Rashid – he burst onto the scene during the latter half of 2006 and was immediately fast-tracked into England’s set-up before being discarded at the end of 2009 after a fleeting, and unsuccessful, appearance in limited overs cricket. He has since been overtaken in the pecking order by Scott Borthwick and quite possibly others such as Somerset’s Max Waller.

As for Waller, he could offer the latest example of mishandling. He appeared for Somerset in the Champions League and impressed all, including the notoriously hard-to-please Ian Chappell, before being ruthlessly dropped when Ireland’s George Dockrell became available for selection. The list could go on with Yorkshire’s Mark Lawson and Somerset’s Michael Munday both disappearing off the county circuit in recent times. Sussex’s Will Beer is also sadly in danger of going the same way.

Why this repeatedly occurs is open to debate. Perhaps it is because leg-spinners take longer to learn their craft than other players? Or maybe it is just such a difficult art to master?

Either way it would be a shame if more was not done to encourage them as the sight of a leggie on a worn pitch ruthlessly exposing their victim’s weaknesses is one of cricket’s most harmless and fundamental pleasures. Surrey’s release of Chris Schofield simply provides a neat link between the old era and the new and serves to remind us that some things never change.

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