Speaking on the Time To Talk podcast, Ian Chappell called Erapalli Prasanna the best spinner he faced, explaining why the Indian off-spinner was so highly rated during his Test career in the ’60s and ’70s.
When asked by host Sean Sennett about what goes into scoring a Test century, Chappell singled out two of his best works – the 156 against West Indies at the WACA in 1975, and the 138 in Delhi against India in 1969, his first overseas Test ton. Chappell called the WACA innings “a test of courage”, facing a line-up that featured Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, but called the Delhi ton “a test of your brain”, having to outwit Prasanna and Bishen Singh Bedi.
“If you ask me to rate them on satisfaction, I’d go nine Perth, ten Delhi because it is just that bloody battle of the brain, particularly up against Pras (Prasanna),” Chappell said. “I had conversations with him while we played. Best opposition spin bowler…yeah, the best spinner I faced because he was trying to get you out every ball. Bish was trying to bowl you out a bit, he was a good bowler, whereas Prasanna was definitely trying to bowl you out (sic).”
Prasanna, part of India’s famous spin quartet of the previous century, picked up 189 wickets in 49 Tests – the third-best by an Indian off-spinner and was renowned particularly for deceiving batsmen in flight. In nine Tests, Prasanna dismissed Chappell six times.
“I could never get to him,” Chappell said. “One day, we were having a beer after play. I said ‘You little bastard. You’ve got a string attached to that ball, haven’t you? Because every time it leaves your hand, I think I am going to get to this one, on the half volley or on the full, and I said, When it gets halfway down you pull it back on that bloody string and I never get to it’.
“The three guys I found most interesting to talk spin bowling with – Prasanna, [Shane] Warne, Murali [Muralitharan]. All fascinating to talk to about spin bowling for the obvious reasons because they are all very good. But Pras has got the extra little bit in that he was an engineer, and he applied a lot of the physics of engineering to his bowling, which probably just gave him an extra edge. The other two were fascinating to talk to about how they did things and so on.”