How to spin them...
- From: "Larry de Silva" <larrydesilva@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 2 Oct 2005 20:46:58 +1000
How to spin them...
by A. C. de Silva
There is nothing to compare with spin bowling in the wonderful game of
cricket. It is a difficult, often exasperating art to learn but like all
difficult skills there is nothing quite so satisfying once you have acquired
the ability to make the ball spin enough to beat the bat and mesmerise the
man holding it into error.
There are two basic types of spinners, the wrist spinner who relies on
rolling and snapping the wrist to give the ball spin, and the finger
spinner, who uses his fingers to impart spin to the ball.
The wrist spinner is the supreme artist of all the bowling arts, for only he
can produce so many different types of deliveries with a similar action,
whether he is left-arm or right-arm.
The finger spinner grips the ball with the tips of his first and second
fingers, using the thumb to cradle the ball, spreading the two fingers as
wide across the seam as possible. At the point of delivery, he has the wrist
cocked well back as he lets go of the ball, he flicks the forefinger down
and across the seam and simultaneously jerks the wrist towards the batsman.
The same basic finger spinning action is used whether you are right-arm or
orthodox left-arm and in these styles the index finger does most of the
Only a handful of Australian slow bowlers have earned as much admiration
throughout the cricket playing nations. Of the present-day lot, the most
spoken about bowler of the day is Shane Warne who holds the world record for
bowling with 623 wickets in 128 Tests.
England's Jim Laker achieved great success with finger spin and more
recently the West Indian Lance Gibbs got a Test match hat-trick with it.
To-day most bowlers concentrate on finger spinning or wrist spinning, but
such great bowlers as Australia's Bill O'Reilly and England's Douglas Wright
showed that a combination of both is possible.
Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan is a front runner to challenge Australian
Shane Warne for the world bowling record and has his tally at 563 wickets
from 95 Tests. The two Tests against Bangladesh brought Murali 14 wickets
and kept him in line for the record. Murali's "Doosra" got him many wickets
and had the Bangladesh batsmen "foxed".
In years gone by, there was Indian Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, who even with a
disability, stuck to his job of bowling effectively in Tests. He was striken
by polio at the age of 5 years but turned the handicap to his advantage with
an indomitable spirit and with a withered right arm, he became one of the
great leg-break bowlers of all time - just when the arm itself, was
At 17, he played for Mysore in the Ranji Trophy and a year later, took 4 for
67 in 40 overs on his Test debut against England.
Regarded as either a phenomenon or a freak, he would hold the ball in both
hands like a "bowls player", then trundle in some ten paces before sending
down a potpourri of leggies, googlies and top spinners at around 'Underwood'
pace. Although he bowled with his emaciated right-arm, he threw with his
With the ball, this slim bearded South Indian was a master, totalling 242
wickets at 29.74 in 58 Tests. Although his finest hour was at the London
Oval in 1971, his match figures of 12 for 104 runs in Melbourne bowled India
to a first Test win on Australian soil in 1978.
The West Indians had a champion bowler in Sonny Ramadhin. Born in Experance
Village, Trinidad on May 1st 1929, Sonny Ramadhin brought the magic of the
East to West Indian cricket. When chosen for the 1950 tour to England, he
was as big a mystery to his teammates as he would be to Hutton, Compton and
Co. An orphan, he had just played in two first-class matches before becoming
the first East indian to play for the West Indies.
Ramadhin and Valentine were probably the greatest gamble that any touring
side had ever taken for a Test series in England. Just 5'4 inches tall,
Ramadhin trotted in gently and bowled out of the back of his hand, his arms
loose, while windmill of button-down sleeved his maroon cap often still on
Although he bowled more like a leg-spinner, he bowled mostly off-spinners,
with leggies and quicker balls thrown in. Reading him was akin to
discipering sankrit, with straight balls leaving even the most literate of
Spin duo excel
The finest Test that the West Indies spin duo came alive was against England
at Lord's on June 24, 26, 27, 28 and 29 in 1950. E. W. Swanton observed:
"Ramadhin bowled magnificently, using the art and subtleties of a spinner in
a way extraordinary in one who had not a scrap of experience before this
The most fitting tribute was that thousands of West Indians burst on to the
hallowed turf and brought a touch of the Caribbean to S. John's Wood with
the immortal calypso:
West Indies made 326 and 425 for 6 wickets dec. England made 151 (Valentine
45-28-48-4; Ramadhin 43-27-66-5) and 274 (Valentine 71-47-79-3, Ramadhin
Result: West Indies won by 326 runs.
In all, Ramadhin took 158 Test wickets but was never the same force after
May and Cowdrey had blunted him with an epic stand of 411 at Edgbaston in
1957. After years in the Lancashire Leagues, he represented the county with
some success in the 1960s.
India was not to be outdone in the art of spin bowling. Besides
Chandrasekhar, there was much earlier in 1952 or so Ghulam Ahmed who looked
to be a world-beating off break bowler. He came off with a fine effort on
the first day of England's innings in the opening Test of the series at
Leeds. Classic became the struggle between the batsmen of England and the
very cunning slow bowler from India.
The odds were heavily stacked against the bowler. Yet he completed 46 overs
of which 17 were maidens, and took 4 for 75. No slow bowler in the world
could have done better in the double and heavy task of first containing
batsmen of the class of Hutton, May, Graveney and Simpson, and second,
luring them to destruction.
Ghulam Ahmed's control, turn and flight on that day represents one of the
greatest bowling performances the famous Yorkshire ground has seen in this
or any other age.
It was asking too much of a mortal man to continue to hold England, then
emerging as the best of the international teams, but at the end of the
four-Test series, Ghulam Ahmed had 15 of the 39 English wickets to fall at
the very moderate cost of 24.73 each.
To understand the value and quality of his bowling it is necessary to
breakdown those 15 wickets. This is what was found: He dismissed Graveney 3
times, May twice, Evans twice, Simposon twice, and Hutton, Compton, Watkins,
Ikin, Bedser and Trueman once each. As Evans scored a century in the second
Test at Lord's he could hardly be entered as a non-batsman. Therefore of the
15 wickets only Trueman and Bedser (both of whom have scored first-class
centuries) were in the lower order.
And on that first day at Leeds his five wickets were out of the first six.
Only May, who was bowled by Shinde, did not fall to Ghulam Ahmed. What
stronger proof can be offered in support of the belief that Ghulam Ahmed was
not only the best off-break bowler from India, but was one of the leaders of
his type in the world.
England's batsman, not unnaturally, had the highest respect for his
well-tried ability to keep going for hours - he once bowled 92.3 overs in an
innings for Hyderabad against Holkar - and the standard he was able to
maintain. His length was a model of consistency, he could turn his off-break
sharply, and an intelligent and active brain devised teasing flights and
changes of pace.
On another occasion he completed 85 overs against Bombay, and it is wondered
if too much was asked of him. Such marathon spells are exhausting both to
the body and mind, and in England in 1952 he could have profited by longer
rests. Sometimes, there was an unexplained lack of bite and penetration in
his bowling, which suggested a tired mind and limbs.
To bowl day after day, as the tourist does in England, needs considerable
physical resources, and the English professional soon learns to "pace" his
day. Perhaps this essential art was new to Ghulam Ahmed, and it would have
been interesting to watch his tactics had he made a second tour. But he did
For all that, he left the finest of impressions. All told he took 80
wickets, at the small cost of 21.92 each, and his value to India's cost is
shown in the fact that the next highest aggregate was Ramchand's 64 wickets
at 25.85 each.
On the topic of spin bowling finger spinning is much easier to control, and
is more economical than wrist spin and a bowler reaches maturity earlier in
his cricketing career using finger spin.
For a start a wrist spinner will find that control of length and direction
are a difficulty, so much so that a few deliveries an over are severely
punished. The only remedy to overcome this is practice and more practice, so
that after a night of constant bowling at the nets, fatigue will be felt a
great deal more than after a match.
There are many widely used grips for the wrist spinner, all successfully
used by top men in the past, and dependent entirely on the type and shape of
the hands. This allows a young bowler to experiment for himself to find the
grip most suited to his own structure.
Basically the index, second and third fingers are forced around the ball,
with the tips on the seam, with fingers widely spaced, and the thumb
directly opposite the second finger. I found that more control and greater
spin could be obtained in my case by leaving the thumb off the ball, and
placing it against the outside of the index finger for support. However,
practice and experiment will show the grip most suitable for each
The wrist is tucked back along the inside of the forearm, and the ball
released by snapping the wrist out with the palm of the hand facing the
onside, at the same time the fingers assisting to rotate the ball in an
It is impossible to lay too much importance on the need to ensure, at all
times, that the wrist must be "snapped". It is not uncommon for a wrist
spinner to bowl particularly well at the start of a day, and to taper off
towards close of play. This is brought about by wrist fatigue, and failure
of the wrist to snap as it did earlier in the day.
The anti-clockwise spin will make the ball turn from leg to off; however, if
the ball is spun square to the line of flight, it will be unable to grip the
turf or matting, and will consequently go straight through, or spin very
little. The ideal direction of spin is at 45 degrees to the line of flight,
that is, halfway between a square and overspin.
When the bowler uses his full height in bowling right from the top, together
with his spin, the ball not only dips in the flight, but tends to jump and
spin, which is much more dangerous for the batsman. Former Test players
("Tiger") Bill O'Reilly and Richie Benaud, were both very good examples of
how the ball should be made to bounce.
Wrist spinners need very strong fingers to obtain maximum efficiency, as
they must be able to bowl for long periods without losing any punch. This
places a strain on the fingers and wrist, and in the past I found that a
piece of plasticine, the size of a squash ball, assisted me greatly. I
moulded it with the fingers over and over again to strengthen them for the
The googly, or "bosie" as it is called after the originator, J. W. T.
Bosanquet, is in reality an off-spinner, bowled with a near leg-break
The grip is the same as that used for the stock delivery, and in the final
action, the wrist is turned further so that the back of the hand faces the
batsman on delivery. Instead of the ball being released from the inside of
the third finger, the snap of the wrist, and the additional turn of the
hand, allow the outside of the third finger to impart off-spin.
Needless to say, this was quite a difficult ball to control, but once again
the snap of the wrist not only imparts the major portion of the spin, but
assists in disguising the additional turn of the hand needed, making
The top spinner, or overspinner as it should be called, is bowled nearly in
the same manner as the bosie, except that the hand does not turn as far, and
at the moment of delivery is midway between that used for the leg-break and
This allows overspin to be imparted, and usually a great deal of bounce is
obtained together with a pronounced dip in flight. It is used more for
deception of trajectory, and a possible catch through dip and bounce.
Another good variation in flight is a leg-break spun square to the line of
flight, with the wrist snapping upwards and the palm of the hand finishing
up facing the batsman.
This has a very flat trajectory, and tends to float up to the bat more than
the higher looping leg spin and tends to float up to the bat more than the
higher looping leg spin and bosie.
Also on a good wicket the square spin will not allow the ball to grip, and
consequently it skids straight through.
The advantage of being able to master this delivery is that on a soft
wicket, when the normal leg-break comes off the wicket too slowly, it is
possible with practice to use this ball as a leg-cutter very effectively.
The palm of the hand being behind the ball on delivery gives the added
impetus, allowing the additional speed through the air and giving the
There is another type of delivery at the call of a wrist spinner, one that
should only be tried and persevered with after control has been learned and
you have mastered the stock deliveries.
This ball took me at least five years of constant practice before I
attempted to use it in a match. It is very effective when bowled properly,
combining the bosie and skidding top-spinner, together with a rather flat
trajectory, floating it further up to the batsman than any other delivery.
It has been called the "flipper", as the ball is flipped by the thumb and
second finger, much the same as clicking these fingers together, imparting
an off spin, which turns backward to the line of flight. The great advantage
of this delivery is that although acting like a bosie-topspinner, unlike the
bosie, the ball comes from the front of the hand like a leg-break, and is
harder to detect than a googly.
Once again as in all deliveries by a wrist spinner, the wrist plays a very
important part, and must be snapped out straight.
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