How To Bowl The Perfect Googly

The googly (also referred to as ‘the wrong-un’) is one of the mostly deadly variations that a leg break bowler can possess. If it is bowled correctly and used at the right time, it’s capable of making even the best batsmen in the world look foolish!

Being an effective leg break bowler in cricket comes down to three main things in my opinion; the ability to spin the ball, the accuracy of the bowling, and the strategy! In this post I’ll explain how you can improve in all of these areas as they relate to bowling the googly. We’ll go through:

  • How you bowl the googly and how you can get it to turn off the pitch
  • Where you should be aiming to bowl the googly to left handed and right handed batsmen
  • How you should set the batsman up to make the googly even more effective!

Before we go any further, if you’re not sure what a leg break bowler is then click here to read my post that explains all of the different types of spin bowling!

I should probably start this post by explaining what a googly actually is for those of you that don’t know…so here goes…

What Is A Googly?

A googly is a delivery that spins in the opposite direction to a normal leg break. A right arm leg break bowlers normal leg break delivery will spin from right to left – away from a right handed batsman. Therefore their googly would spin in towards the right hander, from left to right! A left arm leg break bowler (also known as left arm unorthodox or left arm chinaman) will spin their normal leg break from left to right, in towards the body of a right handed batsman. Their googly will spin away from right to left, away from the right hander!

The diagrams below should illustrate the differences in the spin directions between the normal leg break and the googly if you are still not certain on which is which!

Photo showing difference in spin direction between leg break and googly
This Diagram Shows The Difference In Spin Direction Between The Leg Break & The Googly For Right Arm Bowlers

How To Bowl The Googly

There are a few different aspects of your bowling technique that you will need to get right in order to bowl the perfect googly. These are: The grip, the run up and the release. Let’s have a look at these now…

The Grip

The grip required to bowl the googly is exactly the same as the one required for bowling a normal leg break, and is often referred to as the ‘2 up – 2 down’ grip. To use this grip, place your index and middle fingers on top of the ball with the seam running across them. They should be a comfortable width apart, not too close together, but also not stretched so far apart that it is uncomfortable for you! Your ring finger and little finger should be positioned slightly beneath and to the side of the ball for support. Because the thumb is not directly involved with spinning the ball, it is also mostly used for supporting the ball while it is in your hand. When holding the ball for the googly and the other leg break deliveries, your grip should look exactly like the photos below!

photo showing the grip used for the googly
The Grip Used For The Googly

Another thing I want you to pay attention to is how the ball is relatively free in my hand, and not pressed back against my palm. In my opinion, leg break bowlers should always try to keep a small gap between the back of the ball and the palm of their hand so that their fingers can freely rotate over the top of the ball to apply the spin as the ball is released! Holding the ball too tightly can lead to it getting stuck in your hand and not coming out as smoothly! Always remember to keep your grip relaxed and comfortable.

The Run Up

Your run up does not need to change to bowl the googly. The run up that you use for all of your other deliveries is perfectly suitable!

Obviously no two run ups are the same, but if you’re someone who is struggling with how you approach the crease, take note of the following points:

  1. Most leg break bowlers will have a run up to the crease which is around approximately 5 – 10 paces in length.
  2. More often than not, the approach to the crease will start at walking pace.
  3. The last 40% of the approach to the wicket involves the bowler increasing the pace of their steps. These faster steps almost look like skipping, and allow us to build momentum towards the target.
  4. Try to minimise sideways movement during your approach to the crease. If your run up involves lots of side to side movement, then some of your forwards momentum will be wasted. If you are someone who likes to play with the ball and spin it between your hands as you run in to bowl, try not to make this movement too extravagant. Your focus during the run up should be on what you are trying to achieve with the next delivery.

The Release

The way the ball is released from your hand is the most critical part of bowling a googly. It requires you to turn your arm and your wrist around a bit further than you do when bowling your normal leg break delivery.

Whenever I teach someone how to bowl a leg break, I tell them to focus on the direction that the palm of their hand is facing. For right arm leg break bowlers, the palm should be pointing in the direction of the number 2 on a clock face, or in a north-east direction on a compass. For left arm leg break bowlers, the palm of the hand should be pointing towards the number 10 on a clock face, or in a north west direction on a compass.

Now for the googly! As I mentioned, the googly requires you to twist your arm and wrist around a bit further than for the leg break. You should almost be trying to show the batsman the back of your hand as you release the ball. If you’re a right arm leg break bowler holding the ball in the grip I showed you earlier in this post, you should rotate your arm and wrist round far enough so that the seam of the ball is pointing towards the number 2 on a clock face, or in a north-east direction on a compass. Getting the seam of the ball in this position means that the palm of your hand will be facing back towards the number 4 on a clock face, or in a south-east direction. All of this can be seen in the photos I’ve included below!

Photo comparing the actions required to bowl the leg break and the googly
Leg Break & Googly Hand Position Comparison

As the ball is about to leave your hand, apply the spin to the ball by forcefully rotating your ring finger and little finger over the top of the ball in the direction that the seam is pointing. Again, the photos above should demonstrate this! Getting your fingers rotating over the top of the ball in the right direction is key to bowling the googly, as this is the part of the action that makes the ball spin the opposite way to the leg break.

Photo showing how to release the googly
Once Your Arm Has Rotated Enough That The Seam Is Pointing Towards Fine Leg, The Fingers Must Apply The Spin In That Direction

Where To Land The Googly

The best leg break bowlers don’t just run up and bowl the googly and hope that it takes a wicket! They try to bowl it in specific areas that will cause batsmen problems. This is something you should always be thinking about when you decide to bowl it!

The main thing to remember when planning where to bowl the googly is to aim for areas that will give the batsman no clue as to which way the ball is going to spin!

In order to do this, whenever you bowl a googly you should always be aiming to get the batsman to drive the ball down the ground or through the covers! To put it simply, you should be aiming to land your deliveries a couple of metres in front of the batsman. As for the line of the ball, you should be looking to bowl an off stump line or just outside. I wouldn’t recommend bowling the ball wider than 30 centimetres outside the off stump! Check the diagram below to see the areas that I recommend you bowl your leg breaks in!

Photo showing where you should be aiming to pitch the googly
The Red Area In This Photo Shows Where You Should Be Aiming To Pitch Your Googly/Leg Breaks If You’re A Right Arm Leg Break Bowler

We want to get the batsman driving because that gives us an opportunity to beat both edges of the bat. If we get the ball to spin in towards the right handers body from that area then we are threatening the stumps, the pads and the inside edge of the bat. Spinning the ball away from the batsman from that area allows us to challenge the outside edge of the bat, meaning that a catch could be offered to the wicketkeeper or slip fielder! Whenever we bowl we want the batsman to be unsure whether they should be trying to cover the ball that spins in towards them, or the one that spins away! Bowling a full ball on that off stump line or just outside is the best way to do this!

The wider of the off stump that you bowl, the less threatening your deliveries will become due to the fact that you’re no longer challenging both edges of the bat as intensely! Bowling this wide line means that even if you spin the ball back in towards the batsman, it is still likely to be a pretty wide ball that the batsman can cut away. And if you spin the ball away from the batsman on this line, it will only get wider!

The same is true for the leg side. If you’re a right arm leg break bowler bowling to a right handed batsman and you pitch the ball wide of the batsman’s leg stump, then you aren’t challenging both edges of the bat as intensely. Landing the googly on that wide of leg stump line would lead to the ball spinning further down the leg side, making it a pretty useless ball! The only threatening delivery you could bowl on that line is the leg break, and the batsman will be able to cover it a lot easier! To make our googly more dangerous, we have to bowl areas that keep the batsman guessing which delivery we have bowled!

Of course, being accurate enough to land the googly where you want to consistently is very tough. It’s a hard delivery to bowl! The only way to improve your accuracy when bowling it is to practice it a lot. I’d recommend spending 10-20% of your practice time per week on the googly if you’re serious about learning to bowl it better!

When To Bowl The Googly

There are many moments in cricket where the googly is a great ball to bowl, and I couldn’t possibly cover them all here! That being said, here are a few of my favourite situations to bowl the googly in…

When Trying To Execute A Plan

In longer forms of cricket, leg break bowlers should be bowling to specific plans of how they would like to get a batsman out. A popular plan is to bowl a series of leg break deliveries to the right handed batsman, dragging them wide of their off stump. I’d recommend persisting with this line of attack for 2-3 overs, allowing the batsman to get used to the ball spinning away from them outside the off stump, and letting them become accustomed to hitting the ball in that area. Once you feel the time is right, you should bowl the googly. The aim here is to trick the batsman, making them forget that you can also bowl the googly that spins the opposite way. If the batsman is not concentrating and watching the ball out of your hand properly, then they may seriously misjudge the googly by playing the wrong line! This greatly increases your chance of taking a wicket!

Don’t get impatient when executing plans like this! The more thoroughly you set the batsman up, the more likely they will be to misjudge your surprise ball at the end! 

Limited Overs Matches

If you’re a leg break bowler that has a great and accurate googly, then you’re going to be dangerous in limited overs matches where batsmen have to score at fast rates! The more regularly batsmen look to play big shots and attack you, the more of a weapon your googly will be! In this kind of game, you should use your googly to unsettle the rhythm of the batsman in a similar way to how fast bowlers use their slower ball. In limited overs games (especially towards the end of the innings) you should be looking to bowl 1-2 googlies per over. This will make sure that the batsman does not get used to the ball spinning one way and start to plan their attack against one type of delivery!

If The Batsman Has A Technical Weakness

Let’s face it…some batsmen just have better techniques than others. If you’re a right arm leg break bowler and you’re bowling to a right handed batsman, make sure you keep a close eye on their technique. If they are driving at or defending the ball and leaving a huge gap between their bat and pad, then you may want to throw in a googly just outside the off stump to try to bowl them through the gap! Alternatively, if you’re bowling to a left handed batsman who is not moving their feet much when they drive outside the off stump, you may want to throw in a few googlies on an off stump line to try and take their outside edge!

Other Things To Remember

Here are a few of my final thoughts on the googly delivery…

Don’t Worry If You Don’t Spin The Googly Much

I know that a lot of bowlers think they’re only bowling the googly properly when they’re getting it to turn a lot off the pitch. This just isn’t true! The googly will definitely spin less than your normal leg break because you won’t be getting as many revolutions on the ball, so try not to worry about it.

Remember this: The accuracy is the most important thing. As long as your attempted googly is bowled in the right place, it can end up being a good delivery. Obviously, it’s nice to get the ball spinning sharply the other way, but even if you can only get your googly to go straight on you can still trick the batsman. Focus on bowling the ball on the correct line and length and forcing the batsman to drive the ball. From there, whether the ball goes straight or spins, you’re in with a chance!

Sometimes The Googly Comes Out A Little Slower

Because our arm is turned around as we release the ball and the ball is released out of the back of our hand, the googly will often come out a little slower than your other deliveries. This is just something to bear in mind! The more you practice bowling the delivery, the faster you will be able to do so. If your googly comes out so slowly that it makes it obvious to the batsman, experiment and take a little pace off your leg break in order to make the two deliveries seem more similar.

Bowling The Googly Can Put Stress On Your Shoulder

This is another one to bear in mind when practicing and bowling the googly in real games. Certain cricketers have had to stop bowling the googly due to the stress it puts on their shoulder joint. If you feel pain when you try to bowl this type of delivery, ask one of your coaches to see if they can spot anything technical that may make it more comfortable for you!

Also, always remember to do a full warm up and stretch fully before bowling. This can help you to avoid injury and becomes even more important as you get older!

Finally

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you can go and apply this knowledge and practice your googly in the nets, you should be able to bowl it well in no time! If you’re interested in reading about other spin bowling variations, click here to read my post that gives you the details on all of them!

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