‘It’s about constant work’ – Ultra-modernist Akeal Hosein swings out Uganda

West Indies
Late on a warm Saturday night in Providence Guyana, Akeal Hosein made spin bowling look easy. Big turn first ball, a plumb lbw with his second, then four more dismissals – all bowled or lbw – only two boundaries conceded, and his team on track to a rollicking victory by the time he’d finished his overs.

An uninterrupted four-over spell, figures of 5 for 11… but all that only seems a cinch, Hosein said. Polishing up your skills to get to a place where batters, from however inexperienced a team, have no idea how to play you – all that takes time.

Because there was serious skill in how Hosein bowled against Uganda. And these are skills that very few players ever in the history of cricket have possessed. Hosein is one example of an ultra-modern breed of cricketer – the spin bowler who operates in the powerplay. More than that, he is a spin bowler who counts swing/drift (in terms of physics acting on the ball, they are basically the same thing, we just tend to call it swing when it is fast and drift when it’s slow), among his main tools.

While there was turn on offer for Hosein on the Providence surface, it is this drift with the new ball that brought him the majority of his wickets. He bowls at a fast spinner’s pace, but sends the ball down seam upright, a little tilted. On Saturday, he was getting the ball to swing/drift late. Batters frequently played down the wrong line, and as Hosein was frequently attacking the stumps, this meant a lot of lbw and bowled dismissals.

After the match, Hosein revealed he’d been working with Sunil Narine – another ultra-modernist, and a bowler who uses swing/drift to excellent effect.

“I’ve been doing lots of work here,” Hosein said. “We had a camp before we came into the World Cup, but I’ve been doing lots of work with Sunil Narine as well. He’s a very close friend of mine.

“So, it’s just about constant work. And especially when you start getting success your way, we know the game has evolved so much that guys are going to be reading about you. Guys are going to be doing their homework. So, you always have to try and stay one step ahead.”

Among the other reasons for Hosein’s success against Uganda is that he kept the length up, and the pace fairly quick, so batters had to keep committing to front foot shots to him.

“Today I thought I’d judge my spell mainly on the lengths that I bowl, and I know once I execute those lengths it’ll be tough for most batsmen to play,” he said. “I think it’s a pitch where if you really go searching, sometimes you can miss your length.”

With Hosein having bowled himself into some form in this match, West Indies are now looking increasingly ominous in what is a home World Cup for them. They have overcome two oppositions they were expected to beat – Papua New Guinea and now Uganda. But they have tougher games coming up – against New Zealand, and Afghanistan.

“I think going into the third game, we definitely are force to reckon with,” Hosein said. “We have been playing good cricket over the last 12 years and we have improved immensely in areas that we weren’t the best at.”

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