Author(s): Amol Rajan
They are the masters of deception, the jokers in the pack; illusionists conjuring wickets out of thin air with nothing more than an ambled approach and a wonky grip. Not for them the brutish physicality of the pace bowler nor the reactive slogging of the batsman. Theirs is a more cerebral art. They stand alone in a team sport. They are Twirlymen.
Having himself failed through a combination of injury and indolence to become a leg-spinner of renown Amol Rajan pays homage to that most eccentric of all sporting heroes – the spin bowler. On a journey through cricket history Rajan introduces us to the greatest purveyors of that art, from W. G. Grace to Graeme Swann via Clarrie Grimmet’s flipper, Muttiah Muralitharan’s helicopter wrist, Shane Warne’s ball-of-the-century and all the rest. Rajan reveals how these men are joined through time and across national borders by their shared drive to win, and desire to deceive. Tricks of the trade are literally passed on from generation to generation, sometimes in clandestine hotel-room encounters. When threatened with extinction by the ubiquity of pace bowling and the advent of the shorter game, Twirlymen have dug deep, rallied and survived. Against all odds they are now more important than ever – ours is a golden age of spin.
Delightfully packaged with illustrations that lift the lid on even the most mysterious deliveries, Twirlymen is full of remarkable matches, incredible stories, and characters with more twists than a googly.
Amol Rajan is Assistant Comment Editor at the Independent, having previously been a news reporter and Sports News Correspondent for the newspaper. He grew up in Tooting, south London, and from the age of 11 played for Sinjuns Cricket Club (now Sinjuns & Grammarians) in Wandsworth, becoming the youngest captain of a men’s team when leading the Sunday First XI in 2002, aged eighteen.