Can Steven Sankar fill the ‘leggie’ void?

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By Akeem Greene

Post 2015 ICC 50-over World Cup, which was held in Australia and New Zealand, limited-over teams began a desperate search to find quality wrist-spinners to use as a genuine wicket-taking option.

Since then, there has been a significant resurgence in wrist-spinners in International cricket and their effectiveness has been evident.

Rashid Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are the ‘leggies’ in the Top 20 ICC 50-over rankings, while they are six wrist-spinners in the Top 20 T20 International rankings.

It is fair to say the world may never see the magic of Shane Warne again, but they are tons of promising prospects who in their own right have done tremendously well.

In Guyana, there is a void of quality wrist-spinners. Throughout the inter-county youth matches, there is just a handful of young players bowling wrist-spin on a consistent basis, and they are certainly some years off from pushing their way into the senior team.

It leaves the experienced Devendra Bishoo, and former national youth player Steven Sankar as the main contenders for Guyana Jaguars, the country’s senior side.

Bishoo, 34, who lasted played for West Indies in March 2019, is not part of the contracted list of Jaguars players for the new season.

Sankar too is without an Academy Contract, but at 24, and a serious desire to make amends for his past, he could become a strong contender to break into the national 50-over team.

Sankar has the ability to spin the ball both ways and is a handy lower-order batsman (Photo: Royston Alkins)

In the last season of the local 50-over Franchise League, Sankar finished with 13 wickets, the most by any leg-spinner in the tournament and a best of 5-17 against West Berbice.

His potential has always been noted since he consistently dominated for Guyana at all age-group regional tournaments.

“I feel that leg-spin is always vital in a team and it is a great opportunity now to showcase my talent because there is a need for the art and it is my time to step-up,” he told News Room Sport in a recent interview.

He added, “It is a vital role and from a leg-spinner has a googly [a ball that spins the opposite way] in playing limited-overs cricket, they are always a wicket-taker and can build pressure.”

Leg-spin is a difficult art, one that Sankar could have easily chucked aside for the flamboyance associated with batting or the gentleness and guile that come with off-break bowling.

“My dad”, Sankar stated in response to where the passion came from. “Since I was small he always told me to bowl leg-spin. He saw it in me before I did and he just said keep practicing leg-spin.”

“If given the opportunity, I know I will do my best because since I was 13 I was performing the art and it is for me now to continue working and perfect.”

The lad, who moved from his elementary club Malteenoes Sports Club to Demerara Cricket Club, works overtime on his fitness with peers such as Sherfane Rutherford, Joshua Persaud, Sachin Singh and Ashmead Nedd.

He indicated the keys to success for him are discipline and bravery, and he knows it could just be one season away from a national team call-up. He referred to fellow ‘leggie’ Hayden Walsh Jr. who earned an international call-up after one outstanding season with the Barbados Tridents in the 2019 Hero CPL.

“As a leg-spinner you have to be brave, you cannot back down; you are going to go for runs, but you got to remember that you always take wickets.”

He added, “Fitness is not a big issue for me, it is remaining discipline and staying focus as I put out the work needed to make the team.”

Guyana Jaguars Head Coach, Esuan Crandon, in an invited comment, stated that Sankar has the ability to develop into a quality leg-spinner.

“Like I said before it’s a difficult art to master and it requires hard work, discipline, control and patience. If Steven Sankar’s intention is to be a quality leg-spinner, then he needs to relentlessly pursue the enhancement of his skills.”

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