England might fear being bamboozled in a trial by mystery spin over the next five weeks in India but they are unlikely to react to the machinations of Ravi Ashwin and, perhaps, Kuldeep Yadav, with quite the same look of disbelief as was written on Tom Banton’s face when he faced Kevin Koththigoda’s first ball in the ongoing Abu Dhabi T20 League.
The Somerset opener is certainly too young to have seen South Africa’s Paul Adams in his pomp but if he has pored over the YouTube clips he would have realised, with some incredulity, that he was up against his mirror image.
Adams was a left-arm spinner with an action that become so contorted at the point of the delivery that his head would almost brush against the ground, forcing his eyes to look straight up rather than at the batsman, while his arm came over in a strange, mesmerising arc. It was memorably likened to “a frog in a blender”. Koththigoda is a leg spinner whose release, with the right arm so far beyond the perpendicular it seems to be emerging from the centre of his forehead, is not so much bowling action as yoga position.
Adams had an injury-ravaged career that restricted him to 45 Tests in nine years, Koththigoda managed to injure himself bowling the first of his two overs for Maratha Arabians against the Lahore Qalanders on Tuesday, falling over as he twisted himself into his unnatural shape; he should probably consider himself fortunate that he got away without a dislocation.
Koththigoda hails from Sri Lanka, the land of the unique bowling action – think of Lasith Malinga and the ambidextrous Kamindu Mendis – and will be worth watching if he gets another chance for the Arabians to see whether the ball does as many odd things once it hits the turf as his action would suggest.
It was all so much simpler for Adams, who never hinted that he was capable of the kind of alchemy of an Ashwin or a Rashid Khan.
“I just bowl inspinners and outspinners,” he once explained, rather charmingly.