Soon after the Gujarat Lions spinner Shivil Kaushik bowled his first delivery in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) against the Rising Pune Supergiants on Friday, social media was abuzz with instant comparisons to Paul Adams, the former South African chinaman bowler from a bygone era. It didn’t take long for news websites and content machines to flash headlines calling Kaushik, “the new Paul Adams" or “India’s answer to Paul Adams" and so on.

In fact, Adams himself took to Twitter to reveal his excitement about Kaushik, the 20-year-old left-arm unorthodox bowler from Bengaluru. Adams wrote, “Remind you of someone! Wow #Kaushik ! Great to see the art of #Chinaman bowling alive #IPL2016 #RPSvGL." Adams isn’t wrong, for Kaushik’s unusual bowling action and most parts of his finish resembled that of the South African, who played 45 Tests between 1995 and 2004.

Little is known about Kaushik, who emerged in a talent hunt for spinners in Bengaluru conducted by Anil Kumble’s company Tenvic. Kaushik won that competition, alerting some Karnataka Premier League (KPL) franchises. KPL is an annual state-level Twenty20 tournament conducted by the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). With a base price of 10,000, Kaushik was snapped up by the Hubli Tigers for 60,000. Although his numbers didn’t particularly stand out, with just the five wickets to show, just the uniqueness of Kaushik’s action was enough to interest IPL franchises. After a few trials for various franchises, Kaushik was picked up by the Gujarat Lions at his base price of 10 lakh.

“He was bowling well in the nets (during the KPL)," says Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, a member of the Hubli Tigers coaching staff. “He was a raw talent when he first came in. He mostly bowls googlies. But what stood out about him was the length he was bowling, and the speed he was generating. The only thing he lacked as a spinner was variations."

The just short of a length delivery that Kaushik typically bowls makes it slightly difficult for the batsman to line him up. A touch fuller, and he could well be easy meat for the seasoned batsmen in the IPL. Even as a fielder, Sivaramakrishnan says, Kaushik is unorthodox. “He may not be as good at the moment, but he has his own style. For a start, he throws with his right hand."

This isn’t about Kaushik alone, but also about Indian cricket’s growing affection for unorthodoxy.

Kaushik and a few others, including Uttar Pradesh chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, have come to represent a generation unhindered by the grassroots’ otherwise traditional approach to the sport. Yadav, who Mint profiled in 2014, reluctantly took to being a Chinaman bowler, having been groomed as a left-arm paceman growing up.

Unlike Kaushik, who is yet to play first-class cricket, Yadav represents Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, with a return of 39 wickets in 10 matches since his debut for Central Zone against North Zone in the 2014/15 Duleep Trophy. Yadav today represents the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. He is yet to make an appearance for the national team, having previously featured in the squad for the ODI series against the West Indies in 2014.

Being an unorthodox or ‘mystery’ bowler as they are often called, has its advantages, especially when IPL franchises leave no stones unturned to snap them up, come auction day. Take K.C. Cariappa for example, who like Kaushik made his name in the KPL before he was purchased by KKR for a whopping 2.4 crore. Cariappa, by most counts is a spinner who has the ability to bowl both the off-break and the leg-break, a skill which has increasingly been on the rise since Twenty20 cricket came into existence. Think Ajantha Mendis, Sunil Narine or even Ravichandran Ashwin for that matter.

While Cariappa is yet to justify his reputation in big-time cricket, he remains a bowler with immense potential. He played just the one game for KKR last season before the franchise chose to release him. In the 2016 auctions, Kings XI Punjab snapped him for 80 lakh, fighting off competition from the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Cariappa, who made his Kings XI debut against the Gujarat Lions on Sunday, returned with figures of 15 runs off his 3 overs.

And then, there’s Vidarbha’s Akshay Karnewar, currently the only ‘ambidexterous’ spinner in domestic circuit. Karnewar’s uniqueness comes from his ability to switch his bowling arm (and action) depending on the type of batsman he’s up against. For a left-handed batsman, he typically bowls his off-spinner, while he turns into a left-arm spinner with a diagonal run-up to a right-handed batsman.

Karnewar, the story goes, began as an off-spinner, before being nudged by his coach to try left-arm spin, given the paucity of left-arm spinners in Nagpur at the time. Gradually, developing his dual ability, Karnewar turned into a left-arm spinner who can also bowl off-spin, a handy mix of skills, especially in the shorter formats of the game. After an impressive debut season for Vidarbha in the shorter-formats (the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy), Karnewar was picked up by RCB for 10 lakh.

In many ways, its exciting to see many, young different types of cricketing talent come up through India’s otherwise ‘rigid’ system. And what better case study than the Mumbai Indians’ Jasprit Bumrah, who has, in a short span of six months, emerged as one of the most promising short-format bowlers in the world. Bumrah’s bowling action at the point of delivery is what you’d describe as slightly sling-on and high-arm, making it difficult to pick, given the release point. Add his ability to generate speed through his bowling arm, and you get a completely different type of bowler. Bumrah’s elevation to the national team has, in many ways, mainstreamed this unorthodox breed of cricketers.

While it is exciting that the cricket grounds of India are producing different types of cricketers, particularly for the shorter-formats of the game, the big question worth asking is if these cricketers can tolerate the rigours of four-day, if not five-day cricket? Can these unusual actions lend themselves to the demands of the game, where they’d be required to bowl 15-20 overs in day? Equally worth watching, is how this breed of cricketers reacts to familiarity i.e. losing their novelty factor and being “found out" as the term goes.

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