Leg Spin vs Off Spin: Which One Is Better?

Leg spin and off spin are the two main types of spin bowling you will see in the game of cricket. Most cricket teams try to feature at least one spin bowler, and if that spin bowler is highly skilled then they will cause plenty of headaches for the opposing team’s batsmen. Both leg spinners and off spinners can be used in attacking roles to win games on the final day for their team, and they can also be used defensively, making it hard for batsmen to hit them for boundaries.

If you’re someone who is wanting to become a spin bowler, or even if you just have a slight interest in the craft, you may be wondering, which type of spin is better – leg spin or off spin? In this post I hope to help you answer that question. I’ll share the techniques that are required to bowl both kinds of spin so you can see which one is easier to master, and we’ll also look at which type of bowler is likely to spin the ball more. In addition to that, I’ll take you through which type of spin is easier to control and the different variation deliveries that are available to leg spinners and off spinners.

So, which is better – leg spin or off spin?

The answer depends on how you define the word ‘better’. If you think it’s better to have more control over your deliveries, then off spin would be better for you as they generally bowl more accurately. If you think it’s better spin the ball more and be able to bowl more variations, then leg spin may be better for you!

Basically, both types of spin have their advantages. You’ll just have to decide which one is more suited to you! If you can master either one of them this will allow you to become one of the elite bowlers in cricket. For example, leg spinners like Shane Warne & Anil Kumble were true masters of their craft, and this allowed them to become two of the highest wicket takers of all time. They were deadly in all formats of the game! As for off spinners, guys like Harbhajan Singh, Rangana Herath, Ravi Ashwin and Muttiah Muralitharan (although he wasn’t a conventional off spinner) are also ranked very highly on the all-time wicket takers list! With hard work and a serious commitment to working on your game, it may be possible for some of you reading this post to join them one day.

I’ll now take you through the specifics of leg spin and off spin so you can see where they differ! Hopefully this will help you to make a more informed decision about which type of spin you’d like to learn to bowl.

How To Bowl A Leg Spin Delivery

Grip

To bowl a leg spinning delivery, the first thing you’ll need to get right is the grip. The leg spin grip is often referred to as the ‘two up, two down’ grip because of the way the fingers are arranged. See my photo below if you want to know what the grip looks like!

The grip you need to bowl leg spin
The Leg Spin Grip

Your index finger and middle finger should sit on top of the ball, resting on the seam. The seam should be horizontal, running across your fingers. Your ring finger and little finger will sit alongside the ball to support it as it sits in your hand. When gripping the ball, make sure your index finger and middle finger aren’t stretched too wide apart that it becomes uncomfortable, but also don’t place them too close together. They should be a comfortable distance apart! Also, don’t grip the ball too tightly in your hand. A lot of youngsters feel that they have to hold the ball in this way, but trust me, it’s much better to use a relaxed grip! A loose grip will allow you to release the ball smoothly and ensures that your fingers can rotate freely over the top of the ball to apply the spin.

The Run Up & Release

The run up for a leg spinner is quite simple, it’s not really something that you need to overthink or over-analyse – especially early in your career! Most leg spin run ups are just a few paces long, and the spinner will usually approach the crease at walking pace or at a slow jogging pace.

The real art of leg spin comes down to how you release the ball. Ideally, leg spinners want their normal leg spin deliveries to be spinning at a 45-degree angle in relation to the batsman, and this will require you to release the ball in a certain way. You can see a diagram illustrating this desired 45-degree angle below! Spinning the ball on this axis allows you to get grip and turn off the pitch, but also allows us to extract plenty of bounce.

The desirable angle of spin for a leg spin delivery
The Desirable Angle Of Spin For A Leg Spin Delivery Bowled By A Right Arm Bowler. A Left Arm Leg Spin Bowler Would Need To Spin The Ball The Opposite Way

To bowl a good leg spin delivery, follow these steps:

  1. Stand at the top of your run up mark and approach the crease as normal.
  1. As you reach the ‘coil phase’ of your action, which is the part where your arms come up towards your head, your wrist on your bowling arm should be placed into the position shown in the picture below. The wrist should be kept in this position until just before the ball is released. A lot of work done when bowling a leg spin delivery is performed by the wrist, so we hold it in this position to prepare for that!
The required wrist position for leg spin bowlers
If You’re A Leg Spinner, The Wrist On Your Bowling Arm Should Be Placed Into This Position During The Coil Phase Of Your Action
  1. After the coil phase, your bowling arm should rotate 360-degrees until it is above your head. The ball is released when the arm reaches its highest point.
  1. The spin is applied as the ball leaves your hand. To apply the spin, rotate your wrist quickly in an inward direction. This use of the wrist is why leg spin bowlers are referred to as ‘wrist spinners’. The rapid rotation of the wrist helps the index and middle finger to begin the process of applying leg spin to the ball. Once the index & middle fingers have begun turning the ball, the ring finger is used to apply most of the spin. As the wrist rotates, the ring finger moves up and across the top surface of the ball, causing it to spin in the desired direction.
  1. When you’re about to release the ball, you should make sure the palm of your hand is facing in the correct direction. Doing this will ensure that you get the ball to spin at the correct 45-degree angle. When I’m teaching people to bowl spin, I tell them to imagine their hand on a clock face. For right arm leg spin bowlers, the palm of your hand should be pointing between the 1 or 2 on a clock face as you release the ball. Left arm leg spin bowlers should have the palm of their hand pointing between 10 and 11 on the same imaginary clock face. Check my photos below if you’re not sure what I mean!
The Required Palm Direction For A Leg Spin Delivery
The Required Palm Direction For A Leg Spin Delivery From A Right Arm Bowler

If you can stick to these steps, you should get the ball spinning nicely in the correct direction! If you want extra information about how to bowl the perfect leg spin delivery such as where you should be trying to land it and what speeds it should be bowled at, click here to read my post on it!

All spin bowlers are different, and each bowler will bring their own little variation in style to the art of spin bowling, but the steps above are good basics to start with! If it sounds like something you’d like to try, give it a go in practice and see how you get on!

How To Bowl An Off Spin Delivery

Grip

The grip required for a standard off spin delivery is pretty much exactly the same as the one that’s used for the leg break delivery. It requires you to place your index and middle fingers on top of the ball with the seam running horizontally across them. It also requires you to use your ring finger and little finger to support the underneath of one side of the ball, with the thumb supporting the other side. Again, I’d recommend not gripping the ball too tightly so that we can help ourselves release the ball smoothly. The main difference I like to note between the leg spin grip and this off spin grip is that this one requires you to split your index and middle fingers a bit wider apart. For an off spin delivery, the spin will be applied to the ball by your index finger, so I try to get this as far down the side of the ball as is comfortably possible!

Lots of off spinners use slightly different grips but the one in the picture below is the one I was taught. If you copy it you will have a great foundation from which to build your off spin skills!

The grip required to bowl off spin
The Off Spin Grip

The Run Up & Release

The run up for off spinners is also very similar to the one that leg spinners will use. It is usually a few paces in length and the bowler will approach the crease at walking or a slow jogging pace. All you need to get from your run up is a small amount of momentum to help propel the ball towards the batsman.

Again, the main art of off spin comes down to the way we release the ball. Off spinners also want their deliveries spinning at a 45-degree angle relative to the batsman, which can be seen in the diagram below! Getting the ball to spin at this angle requires us to position our hand correctly at the point of release, and it allows us to get plenty of spin and bounce from the pitch.

The Desirable Axis Of Spin For An Off Spin Delivery
The Desirable Axis Of Spin For An Off Spin Delivery Bowled By A Right Arm Bowler. A Left Arm Off Spin Bowler Would Get The Ball To Spin The Opposite Way

To bowl a nice off spin delivery, follow these steps:

  1. Stand at the top of your run up mark and approach the crease as normal.
  1. As you reach the ‘coil phase’ of your action, which is the part where your arms come up towards your head, your wrist on your bowling arm should be tilted back slightly away from the batsman. This allows us to extend our wrist forwards when we release the ball, which helps to get a bit of extra spin on the delivery. You can see the tilt of the wrist in my photo below!
The required wrist position for off spin bowlers
If You’re An Off Spinner, The Wrist On Your Bowling Arm Should Be Tilted Towards You Slightly During The Coil Phase Of Your Action
  1. After the coil phase, your bowling arm should rotate 360-degrees until it is above your head. The ball is released when the arm reaches its highest point.
  1. The spin is applied just as the ball is leaving your hand. To apply off spin to the ball you should first flick your wrist forwards slightly, this begins the motion of turning your fingers over the top of the ball. Specifically, you should make sure that your index finger rotates up the back of the ball and over the top of the ball as it leaves your hand. It is this movement of the index finger that allows us to get the maximum rotation on the ball. It is also why off spinners are often referred to as ‘finger spinners’. The movement of your hand as you are bowling off spin should be very similar to the way you would turn a doorknob. Thinking about that is a great way to visualise what you need to do with your hand to bowl an off spin delivery!
  1. To get the ball spinning along the correct axis, you’ll have to position your hand in the correct way as you release the ball. If you’re a right arm off spinner, you should be pointing your palm in the direction of the numbers 10 & 11 on an imaginary clock face. If you’re a left arm off spinner, your palm should be pointing somewhere in between numbers 2 & 3 on the clock face. You can see an example of the required hand position in the photo below! Getting your hand in this position will allow you to get the ball spinning on the required axis.
The Required Palm Direction For An Off Spin Delivery From A Right Arm Bowler
The Required Palm Direction For An Off Spin Delivery From A Right Arm Bowler

If you would like a bit of extra info about how to bowl the perfect off spin delivery, click here to read my full guide!

Like I said with leg spinners, there are many different styles of off spin bowling, and each bowler will have a different style. However, the guide above covers all of the basics that you need to bowl a good quality delivery! Start with that and you’ll have a good foundation from which to build.

Who Spins The Ball More: Leg Spinners or Off Spinners?

Now we’ve established the differences between how leg spinners and off spinners bowl, it’s time to look at which one generally spins the ball more than the other.

In order to answer this question, we have to acknowledge that not all spin bowlers are trying to spin the ball huge amounts. Leg spinners like Shahid Afridi relied more on their variation of speed and flight to confuse the batsman, and there are plenty of off spinners that do the same. However, when spin bowlers are trying to spin the ball large amounts, it is usually the leg spin bowler that will be able to spin the ball more! This is simply because the action of the wrist allows leg spin bowlers to get more revolutions on the ball, and the more revolutions you get, the more the ball will spin.

Shane Warne is the best leg spin bowler of all time, and he was able to bowl deliveries that turned massively once they hit the pitch due to the amount of revolutions he got on the ball. Check out the delivery he bowled to Andrew Strauss in the video below if you don’t believe me!

This Is One Of Shane Warne’s Biggest Spinning Deliveries

Off spinners can also get the ball to turn a lot, but it is rare that they will be able to get as many revolutions on the ball and as much spin off the pitch as Shane Warne did. It’s a lot more challenging to get lots of revolutions on the ball when you’re just using your index finger to impart the spin like off spinners do!

In all my years watching cricket I’ve also seen plenty of off spinners that were capable of bowling large turning deliveries, so if you’re an off spinner reading this part of the post – don’t be disheartened. Two examples that immediately spring to mind are Graeme Swann and Harbhajan Singh! Both of these guys could get the ball to turn in all kinds of conditions and on all kinds of pitches. It just wasn’t as easy for them as it is for most leg spinners!

If you want to be a spin bowler that gets the maximum amount of spin possible, I would suggest choosing leg spin as the type you want to bowl. However, being able to spin the ball like that doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to take wickets! Your spin must be accompanied by control and a good understanding of the tactical side of the game if you’re going to force batsmen into mistakes. This is what all of the great spin bowlers have in common! Once you have gained an ability to spin the ball, work on these things and you will become a deadly bowler.

Which Is Easier To Control: Leg Spin or Off Spin?

Both leg spin and off spin can be controlled if you devote enough practice time to them, but off spin is definitely easier to control for beginners and amateur bowlers.

Leg spin is harder to control because as you release the ball it basically has to exit the side/back of your hand before it travels through the air. After our ring finger has rotated over the top of the ball to apply the spin, the ball is allowed to slip out of the side of our hand towards the batsman. When the ball leaves your hand in this way, you will have less control due to the fact that your arm and your wrist are no longer directly behind the ball.

Off spin deliveries allow the bowler to get more of their arm behind the ball, which helps them with their accuracy. With off spin, the ball comes more out of the front of the hand rather than the side, and therefore the bowler can utilise their hand a lot more to guide the delivery.

On top of all that, it’s just harder to control a ball that has had more spin applied to it. Leg spinner usually will get the ball to spin more aggressively, and this can often cost them in terms of accuracy. Spinners that don’t try to spin the ball as much are more likely to be able to bowl accurately because they are more focused on the line and length of the ball rather than how many revolutions they are getting on it!

The hardest part of spin bowling for juniors and amateurs is often the accuracy. If all you want to be able to do as a spinner is bowl decent lines and lengths with a small amount of spin, then off spin is probably the type of spin bowling for you. However, with the right amount of practice any spin bowler can perfect the art of bowling accurate deliveries that spin sharply off the pitch. This is what we should all be striving for! For newcomers to the game, I always recommend learning to actually get the ball to spin first, and then worrying about perfecting your accuracy later! Practice is the key to everything.  

Which Type Of Bowler Has More Variations: Leg Spinners or Off Spinners?

All spin bowlers will have a ‘stock delivery’, which is the ball that they bowl 80 – 90% of the time. For leg spin bowlers, this stock delivery will be the standard leg break delivery that we described earlier in this post. For off spin bowlers it will be the standard off spin delivery. The most skilled spin bowlers will also have a couple of ‘variations’ that they can bowl to confuse the batsman and hopefully force them into mistakes.

A ‘variation’ is a delivery that behaves differently from the stock delivery from a bowler. It may spin the opposite way, bounce more than usual, or skid low towards the batsman. Variations form a key part of any spin bowler’s armoury and will make you much more of a threat to the batsmen you’re bowling to.

So, which bowler has more variations – leg spinners or off spinners? The answer is that both types of spinners have a similar number of variations available to them, but leg spinners are much more likely to try to learn to bowl variations and use them during matches. Some off spin variations like the Doosra are incredibly hard to learn and master. Think about it, most leg spin bowlers will be able to bowl a googly, but there’s not as many off spinners who bowl Doosra’s or top spin deliveries as regularly!

Here are the main variations that are bowled by leg spin bowlers:

  1. The Googly – Often referred to as ‘the wrong un’, this delivery spins the opposite way to a normal leg spin delivery!
  2. The Top Spinner – This delivery loops above the batsman’s eyeline before pitching and bouncing more than usual. This ball will not spin to either side – it goes straight on towards the batsman instead
  3. The Slider – This ball is designed to look like a normal leg spin delivery but instead of spinning sideways it ‘slides’ or skids on towards the batsman.
  4. The Flipper – This delivery is bowled out of the front of the hand rather than the back and travels through the air much quicker and on a flatter trajectory to deceive the batsman

The main variations bowled by off spin bowlers are:

  1. The Arm Ball – This delivery will not spin sideways and instead will go straight on towards the batsman. Because the bowler will drag their fingers down the back of the ball to bowl it, they can often also get the ball to swing through the air.
  2. The Doosra – This ball spins in the opposite direction to an off spin bowlers normal stock delivery.
  3. The Carrom Ball – This is a ball bowled out of the front of the hand that is made to spin by flicking the fingers in an unusual way. It will usually spin in the opposite direction to a standard off spin delivery
  4. The Top Spinner – This delivery behaves in the same way to the top spin delivery bowled by leg spin bowlers!

If you’re interested in reading more about variations in spin bowling, including a guide on how to bowl each type of ball, click here to read one of my others posts that covers that!  

Conclusion

I hope this post has given you a bit more insight into the arts of leg spin and off spin bowling, and has helped to highlight the differences between them. If you’re someone who wants to become a spin bowler, I hope this post has provided you with some relevant information that you can use to decide which type of spin you would like to bowl!

With the right amount of practice, you can be a hugely successful and dangerous spin bowler no matter which type you decide to bowl. Work hard and good luck!

Recent Content