SK Demystifies: Saqlain Mushtaq's doosra
"A person is made of this earth, which has not been discovered completely yet"
The words above were spoken by Saqlain Mushtaq, the talented Pakistani off-spinner and the pioneer of the most debated technique in the history of cricket, the "doosra". These were his words, as reported in ESPNCricinfo when asked if there could be more innovations apart from the doosra.
Few years later, he introduced the "teesra" to World cricket, dismissing Russell Arnold with the delivery in the forgotten Indian Cricket League while playing for Lahore Badshahs.
What made Saqlain special was his ability to master the art of bowling the doosra without violating the ICC law for bending the elbow. A task which future bowlers, Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Harbhajan Singh and Johan Botha failed to do.
Purists feel that the delivery cannot be bowled without violating the clause by ICC, but the Pakistani spinner has never had trouble when bowling the delivery, unlike his followers.
Saqlain Mushtaq in stats and numbers
Whichever way the controversy goes, there is no doubting that Saqlain Mushtaq, the youngest to take 100 and 200 ODI wickets will be remembered for this controversial delivery. A fantastic attacking spinner, Saqlain complemented a power-packed Pakistan pace attack in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He played 49 Tests and 169 ODIs, taking 208 and 288 wickets respectively. He was largely used at the death in ODIs for his umpteen variations which bamboozled batsmen on the charge.
He represented Surrey in England for eight consecutive seasons from 1997 to 2004. However, his most important contribution to the game is not based on statistics but an invention - the "Doosra".
Understanding the law
It is inevitable that the elbow rule is explained when talking about the doosra. There is a common misconception amongst cricket viewers that a bent elbow is equal to 'chucking', which is absurd. Many bowlers do bend their elbows. What is important is if the bowler straightens his arm beyond the permissible limit of 15 degrees.
The trick of the trade
Doosra or the "second delivery" was invented by Saqlain at a time when off-spinners were largely used as run containing options. Adding a delivery that spun the other way (towards the leg-side like a leg-spinner) with the same action put the batsmen in two minds.
The credit for the nomenclature of the delivery goes to Pakistani wicket-keeper, Moin Khan, who was heard calling it the "doosra" in the stump mike.
"You need to have strong muscles to bowl a doosra, then fitness matters, also grip, rhythm and follow through. If just one of these things is missing then you get out of limits," Saqlain had explained as quoted in report by the Sydney Herald in 2014.
The trick is rather straightforward in writing but difficult to master and bowl with conviction in a game situation. The grip for a doosra is similar to that for a traditional off-spinner. While delivering, the wrists rotate and a portion of the back of the hand is visible to the batsman but in real-time, it is much more difficult to read.
Unlike a normal off-spin delivery, fingers do not roll over the ball. Instead, the fingers just press against the ball and the shoulder does the rest.
Here is the method explained by the master himself when he spoke to BCCI.TV.
"My grip was so good that all I had to do was change the pressure I put with a particular finger. When I pressed the index and middle fingers on the ball, it was off-spin and for doosra the pressure was applied by the index and ring fingers. There were other things like locking the wrist and the use of shoulder. The use of glute and calf muscles and the foot position had to be right too."
The big scalps with the doosra
Saqlain describes his wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the Chennai Test in 1999 as the best one with his doosra. He also fondly remembers the wicket of Damien Martyn in an ODI in Trent Bridge in 2002-03. He also once bowled Rahul Dravid with a doosra in a Test match.