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Variations in spin bowling - A detailed explanation

Modified 25 Oct 2015, 15:49 IST
Ajantha Mendis was a phenomenon in cricket’s spin department – variations became the need of the hour

It is extremely difficult these days to make a mark for oneself as an established spin bowler unless he has a wide variety of tricks up his sleeve. It is not just enough that he bowls the conventional off-spin/leg-spin delivery well. The ability to surprise the batsman with the range of deliveries that he is able to produce is the thing that counts. To the common cricket viewer, it is always a mystery when a commentator mentions terms like ‘doosra’ and ‘googly’.

In this section, we attempt to explain these and more of such common variations used by spinners today to keep the batsman guessing.

#1 Arm ball

The arm ball is a variation typically delivered by a right arm off-spinner or a slow left arm orthodox bowler. In this variation, the ball does not turn off the pitch appreciably. Instead, it follows the trajectory of the arm. Hence the name, arm ball. 

An arm ball is bowled by rolling one’s fingers across the side of the ball. Another type of arm ball employs the imparting of some swing into the delivery. In this method, the ball is held in a grip that is similar to a seam bowler’s delivery (without the thumb). The ball is then bowled like a conventional out-swing delivery.

Spinners like Graeme Swann, Shakib Al Hasan and Daniel Vettori have used the arm ball to great effect.

#2 Doosra

The doosra is a very common variation used by an off-spinner. Invented by the Pakistani spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, the doosra aims to confuse the batsman by spinning in the direction opposite to the traditional off-break. 


The grip of the doosra is the same as the standard offspinner's grip. But at the time of release of the ball, the back of your hand should be facing in the direction of the leg umpire and the finger spins the ball similar to the off-break. The only thing that changes when compared to the normal delivery is the change in the wrist position. This causes the ball to spin in an opposite direction. 

Apart from Saqlain Mushtaq, players like Muralitharan, Harbhajan Singh, Johan Botha and Saeed Ajmal have used the doosra to good effect.

The use of the doosra has faced a lot of controversies, with many criticizing that it cannot be bowled legally. In fact, the teaching of the doosra has been banned in Australia.

#3 Googly


A googly (called the wrong-un in Australia) is nothing but a leg-spinner’s version of the doosra. Just like a doosra spins in a direction opposite to the traditional off-break, the google spins in a direction opposite to the traditional leg-break. It is also referred to as a Bosie, in honour of its inventor Bernard Bosanquet. 

The grip for the googly is the same as the normal leg spin delivery, just like in a doosra, where it is like the traditional off-spin delivery. The only place where the googly differs from the conventional leg-spin delivery is the change in wrist position. Again, notice the similarity to the doosra. The wrist must be in a position opposite to that when a normal leg-break is bowled. Ideally, the back of the wrist should be facing the region of the point fielder.

Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Danish Kaneria are some of the leg-spin bowlers who have been great exponents of the googly.

#4 Flipper

The flipper is a delivery used by a leg-spinner, invented by Clarrie Grimmett. It is the only leg-spin delivery that has a variation in the grip, and is touted to be the most difficult variation in spin bowling and can be bowled in a variety of ways. 


The grip is similar to a seam bowler’s with two fingers on the top and the thumb at the bottom. In this case, however, the ball is held cross seam. On release, the bowler pinches the thumb and forefinger and the ball should rotate in a clockwise direction. This produces backspin on the ball and the ball just hurries towards the batsman with greater pace than expected and a low-kept bounce, and does not spin much.

Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Brad Hogg are some of the very few bowlers who have been meticulous craftsmen of the flipper.   

#5 Carrom ball

The carrom ball is a very bizarre and mysterious delivery used in the game of cricket, and is considered as a third variety of spin bowling, after the off-spin and leg-spin. It is known as the ‘sodukku’ (means snapping of fingers in Tamil) ball in Tamil Nadu, a state in the southern region of India. It owes its invention to Australian Jack Iverson, and gained popularity in the game again when it was re-invented by Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis.

Other famous exponents of the carrom ball include Ravichandran Ashwin and Sunil Narine.


The ball is held in between the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. The ball is then released by snapping and flicking the fingers in a way similar to that of a carrom player flicking the striker. The direction of turn of the ball is dependent on the position of the centre finger. When it is gripped towards the off-side, the ball spins from off to leg, and vice versa. The carrom ball could also travel straight, depending on the degree the ball is gripped. 

Thus, the carrom ball is indeed a mystery delivery as the ball can turn the way a normal off-spinner turns the ball, or in a way a traditional leg-spinner turns the ball, or not turn at all! 

Published 25 Oct 2015, 15:40 IST
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