There are many different types of spin bowlers in the game of cricket. They are a vital part of the game, often providing match winning performances and plenty of entertainment. Some spin bowlers are more dangerous wicket taking options, and prefer bowling to very attacking field placings, whereas some of them are used in conservative ways to restrict the run rate of the batting side. So what are the different types of spin bowler? What differentiates them? And how are they used? That is what we’re going to look at here!
Spin bowlers aim to get batsmen out by using the wrists and the fingers to impart revolutions on the ball as it leaves the hand. This causes the ball to change direction when it hits the pitch. The more revolutions spinners can get on the ball, the more likely the ball is to spin! There are four main categories of spin bowlers, which are as follows:
- Right Arm Leg Break
- Right Arm Off Break
- Left Arm Chinaman
- Left Arm Orthodox
If we know which of these 4 categories a spin bowler fits into, we can learn specific things about their style of bowling. In the rest of this post, I’m going to go through each of them and explore their main characteristics! I’ll also try to answer a few other commonly asked questions that you may have about spin bowling!
What Is A Right Arm Leg Break Bowler?
Before we begin, I want to point out that right arm leg break bowlers can also be referred to as ‘Right arm wrist spinners’ or ‘Right arm leg spinners’. All of these terms are referring to the same type of bowler, and you can use them interchangeably! A question I hear a lot is ‘What is the difference between leg break and leg spin?’ To answer this in an easy way, try to remember the following: A leg break is the main type of delivery that this bowler bowls, whereas wrist spin or leg spin is the method that they use to bowl those deliveries!
As I stated above, a leg break is the stock delivery of the leg break bowler. The direction of spin for a leg break bowled by a leg break bowler is from the leg-side to the off-side of a right-handed batsman. Basically, a right arm leg break bowler would be looking to spin the ball away from a right-handed batsman’s body, and spin the ball back in to a left handers body.
To bowl a leg break, these bowlers will impart spin on the ball by rotating their wrist and fingers to the left and over the top of the ball as it leaves their hand. This causes the ball to rotate in an anti-clockwise direction. Out of all the different types of spinners, leg break bowlers probably get the most revolutions on the ball. More revolutions mean that the ball is more likely to spin further, bounce more, and ‘drift’ or ‘dip’ in the air! Drift refers to the horizontal movement of the ball through the air that a spinner can achieve when they get enough side spin on the ball. Dip refers to the vertical movement of the ball in the air, which can trick the batsman into believing they are receiving a full delivery before the ball almost dies in its flight and pitches shorter of where they expected. Dip is achieved by getting a lot of top spin onto the ball!
Most leg break bowlers will bowl at speeds of around 70-95kph (45-60mph), and will also be able to bowl several ‘variations’. Variations are deliveries that will spin in different directions to the normal leg break, and they’re used to confuse the batsman.
Right arm leg break bowlers are a great wicket taking option in longer formats of the game! Shane Warne is one of the most dangerous bowlers of all time, and he really mastered the art of leg break bowling. Due to the revolutions that bowlers like him can get on the ball, they are especially dangerous on pitches that have dried out and worn over the course of multiple innings! This is why you’ll often see them trying to pitch the ball in the ‘rough’ patches caused by bowlers’ footmarks in the final innings of a match. In limited overs matches, right arm leg break bowlers are just as much of a threat! The amount of turn they can get along with their variations can make it hard for batsmen to attack them. It should be noted however that the leg break bowling action makes this the hardest style of spin bowling to control! Therefore, you’ll often see a lot of leg spin bowlers (especially younger and less experienced ones) bowl plenty of full tosses and inaccurate deliveries.
What Is A Right Arm Off Break Bowler?
Again, I’d like you to note before we begin that right arm off break bowlers can also be referred to as ‘Right arm off spinners’ or ‘Right arm finger spinners’. All of these terms are referring to the same type of bowler! The off break is the main type of delivery that this bowler bowls, and off spin or finger spin are the methods that they use to bowl them!
We know that this bowler bowls with their right arm, that much is obvious! Now for the type of bowling itself. As we’ve already established, off breaks are the stock delivery of the off break bowler. The direction of spin for an off break bowled by one of these bowlers is from the off-side to the leg-side of a right-handed batsman. The ball will turn in towards the body of a right hander, but away from left handers! Bowling an off break doesn’t require the same use of the wrist that bowling a leg break involves! Off breaks are more solely focused on the use of the fingers. An off break bowler can either use their index finger, or a combination of their index and middle fingers to spin the ball. As the ball is about to be bowled, a right arm off break bowler will roll their finger(s) down the right side of the ball, causing it spin in a clockwise direction. Because of the lack of wrist action in this type of bowling, you won’t see many off break bowlers spin the ball as much as leg break bowlers do. That being said, the best off break bowlers can still get dip and drift on the ball and be incredibly effective! Getting a bigger amount of spin does not necessarily make you a better bowler!
All spinners bowl at roughly the same speeds, so the speed that most off break bowlers will be bowling is around 70-95kph (45-60mph). They also have their own set of variations which they can use to put doubt in the batsman’s mind!
Right arm off break bowlers are common in all forms of cricket. Some of them really try to get drift and dip on the ball as well as making it spin a lot, whereas some of them aim to fire the deliveries in on a flat trajectory like a dart to frustrate the batsman. This dart style of bowling is easier for off break bowlers to achieve than leg break bowlers as their bowling action generally makes it a lot easier to control the deliveries. Off break bowlers that have performed exceptionally well across all formats of the game are guys like Saeed Ajmal, Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh. All of these bowlers were capable of getting a lot of turn out of the pitch, as well as having an air of mystery about them due to their variations. The most successful off break bowlers are those that are constantly threatening to take wickets whilst limiting runs at the same time, rather than just focusing on one of those things!
What Is A Left Arm Chinaman Bowler?
Left arm chinaman bowlers are probably the rarest of all the spinners! There are a few other names that you should look out for that are also used to describe them, these are: Left arm unorthodox, left arm leg spinners, left arm wrist spinners and left arm leg break bowlers. Yes, the stock delivery for left arm chinaman bowlers is also a leg break! If you remember from earlier, we said that right arm leg breaks spun away from the right hander, and in towards the left hander. Now because a chinaman leg break is being bowled with the left arm, it spins in the opposite direction, which is towards the body of a right handed batsman, and away from a left handed batsman.
The left arm chinaman version of the leg break is bowled in the same way as before, apart from a couple of obvious changes. This time the bowler will be using the left arm, and will impart spin on the ball by rotating their wrist and fingers to the right (instead of to the left) and over the top of the ball as it leaves their hand. This causes the ball to rotate in a clockwise direction. Most of their deliveries will be bowled between the standard speeds for a spinner, which is around 70-95kph (45-60mph).
You may be asking yourselves, ‘why is this bowler called a chinaman and not just a leg break bowler?’ That is an excellent question! I think left arm leg break bowlers get a different name because they are not seen as the norm. Most leg break bowlers bowl with their right arm, not their left, therefore in cricket a different word is used to differentiate them. If you want to know the reasons for the word ‘chinaman’ being used, I’m afraid that’s something that no one really knows the answer to! It’s one of those cricketing terms that originated so long ago that no one alive truly remembers the origin!
As I said before, there aren’t many of these bowlers at the top level of professional cricket! The most famous one I can remember was Brad Hogg, who had a lot of success playing for Australia in limited overs matches. The fact that these bowlers aren’t that common probably aided Hogg’s success. Most batsmen are not very used to a bowler that spins the ball in this way, making them less prepared to deal with it!
What Is A Left Arm Orthodox Bowler?
Left arm orthodox bowlers can also be referred to as: Left arm off break bowlers, left arm off spinners and left arm finger spinners. The stock delivery of the left arm orthodox bowler is the off break, except this time because it is bowled by a left arm bowler it will turn away from the right handed batsman, and back in towards a left handed batsman.
This off break is bowled in the same way as it is for right arm off break bowlers, except for the change of arms. As the bowler releases the ball, they will apply spin by rolling their fingers down the left side of the ball. This causes the ball to rotate and eventually spin in an anti-clockwise direction. You’ll see some left arm orthodox bowlers using just their index finger to spin the ball, and some others will choose to use a combination of their index and middle fingers. Most of the deliveries bowled by left arm orthodox bowlers will be between 70-95kph (45-60mph).
Dan Vettori was probably my favourite left arm orthodox bowler. He was very effective in all formats of the game and to top it all off he was a very competent batsman. Left arm orthodox bowlers usually won’t be able to spin the ball as much as a chinaman bowler, so more emphasis is placed on their accuracy and their ability to get dip and drift on the ball. A lot of the left arm orthodox bowlers you’ll see in limited overs games are the type that will bowl flat ‘dart’ like deliveries and aim to limit run rates, whereas in longer forms of the game you’ll see these bowlers are more willing to toss the ball up and get it above the batsman’s eyeline.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why Is It Considered Easier To Bowl Off Breaks Than Leg Breaks?
Off breaks are generally considered easier to bowl than leg breaks because of a number of factors.
The first one is the grip required for both deliveries. When running up to bowl, the grip is roughly the same for both types of delivery, with the index and middle finger on top of the ball and the thumb underneath the ball. The seam of the ball should be running horizontally, in the opposite direction to the conventional grip for a fast bowler. It should look something like the picture below.
The difference in grip for both types of delivery occurs at the point of release. The off break bowler can use their thumb to stabilise the delivery as well as help to impart spin on the ball. However, the leg break bowler does not use the thumb! Spin is imparted on the ball by the rotation of the wrist and the other fingers being dragged down the side of the ball. Because the thumb is not used it means that the leg break bowler is often more prone to drag downs and inaccurate deliveries.
Another reason is that leg break bowlers usually get a lot more revolutions on the ball than off break bowlers do. Spinning the ball harder on a more consistent basis can lead to more of your deliveries being less accurate! A simple way to test this is by spinning the ball up in the air and catching it. The more spin you put on the ball, the more likely it is to come out of your hand at strange angles rather than going straight up in the air!
When you watch limited overs cricket you’ll see a lot more off break bowlers bowling ‘darts’ than leg break bowlers. It is easier for them to be accurate when bowling this flatter trajectory!
If leg break bowlers can bowl enough and perfect their accuracy, then they will usually be a lot more effective than off break bowlers, but it is certainly a harder skill to master!
What Variations Do Spin Bowlers Have?
Leg break bowlers often have a few more variations up their sleeve than off break bowlers, and you’re more likely to see them use them in game situations! Some names of variations for leg break bowlers are as follows: Googly, Flipper, Slider and Top Spinner. Some names of variations for off break bowlers are the Doosra, Arm Ball and the Carrom Ball.
Some of you may want me to go into a bit more detail about spin bowling variations, and explain what they are as well as how they are bowled. For that reason, I’ve written a post specifically covering them! If I were you I’d check it out by clicking this link!
I hope this explanation post has helped you to clarify the differences between the different spin bowlers. Each one can be very dangerous in all formats of the game! Generally, spin bowlers will be more of a wicket taking threat on a drier pitch, especially one that has plenty of foot marks to bowl into. On these sorts of pitches, there is a lot of pressure on the spinner to take wickets due to the conditions of the pitch being in their favour. Because drier conditions are better for spin bowling, you see a lot of successful spin bowlers coming from countries like Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. On pitches that do not offer the spinner a lot of help, it is important for them to bowl a consistent line and length and build pressure by keeping the run scoring to a minimum. A spinner who can do these things will be effective on any surface!