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HomeFantasyCricketWhat is a Doosra ball and how is it bowled?

What is a Doosra ball and how is it bowled?

The doosra ball is delivered by an off-spinner in cricket and is a mystery delivery that spins in the opposite direction to an off-break, which is an off-spinner’s default delivery. As a result, the batsman is left confused and fails to judge the trajectory of the ball.

The doosra ball has had an interesting and fascinating journey in international cricket. From being invented and developed by Pakistani spinners Prince Aslam Khan and Saqlain Mushtaq, to being the cause of bans, chucking as well as several ICC rule amendments, it has seen its fair share of highs and lows.

At one point, it was an interesting tool in the armoury of most off-spinners. However, today it has become quite rare. Without further ado, let’s delve deeper into it:

What is the doosra ball and how is it bowled?

The doosra ball is a deceiving delivery bowled by an off-spin bowler. Instead of turning in the traditional manner, from off stump to leg stump for a right-handed batsman, the doosra delivery spins from the leg side to the off side. It seems to be an off-spin ball but it turns out to be a leg spin delivery. A subtle change is involved in the usual delivery process which makes it hard for the batter to read and anticipate it beforehand.

The word ‘doosra’ means second in Urdu and Hindi. Since it is the off spinner’s second delivery compared to the usual off-break, it is called doosra.

The entire differentiating element for spin bowlers is surprise and since the doosra is a surprise delivery, it is very important the bowling action cannot be read and judged beforehand. At the time of the release of the delivery, the back of the bowler’s hand should face towards square leg and the fingers hold the ball in a similar manner to the off-break

Much of the bowling action for a doosra involves the same as a regular off-break delivery. The wrist action is more or less the same as the wrist is locked and the index and ring fingers are used instead of the usual index and middle fingers where the middle finger is normally used to impart spin. When the centre finger is gripped towards the leg side, the ball spins from leg to off; when the centre finger is gripped towards the off side, the ball spins from off to leg.

In order to make the doosra ball more effective, the ball should be pitched on the line of the middle and off stump because it will result in the ball spin away from the right-handed batsman after pitching. However, in order to accommodate for extra turn on the wicket, sometimes a bowler may have to adjust his line to the middle and leg stump.

The best bowlers of the doosra also provide a little flight to the ball in order to invite the batter into attacking the delivery by stepping out of his crease. That is when the doosra spins away from him and he is either stumped by the wicket-keeper or only manages to edge the ball for a catch to the fielder.

History and origin of the doosra ball

In the history of spin bowling, the doosra is a relatively new type of delivery which has originated quite recently. The delivery is said to be invented by former Pakistani cricketer Prince Aslam Khan but was popularised in international cricket by Saqlain Mushtaq.

The name of the delivery is actually attributed to former Pakistani wicketkeeper Moin Khan who would ask Saqlain Mushtaq to bowl his ‘doosra’ from behind the stumps. Tony Greig, who was commentating on one of Pakistan’s matches eventually ended up linking the word ‘doosra’ to the delivery after confirming it with Mushtaq in a post-match interview and thus, the word stuck in cricketing culture. The doosra delivery has now become an almost indispensable tool in the armoury of off-spinners.

What is the difference between a doosra ball and a googly?

The doosra is actually the off-spinner’s equivalent of a googly in the sense that it spins in the opposite direction to the regular stock delivery. The primary difference between a doosra and a googly is the fact that a googly is bowled by a leg-spinner and the ball spins from left to right. Meanwhile, the doosra is delivered by an off-spinner and the ball turns from right to left. The doosra is relatively newer compared to googly and is said to be more difficult to master.

Doosra ball: Top 5 list

BowlerCountryCareer SpanInternational matchesInternational wickets
Muttiah MuralitharanSri Lanka1992-20114951347
Harbhajan SinghIndia1998-2016367711
Saqlain MushtaqPakistan1995-2004218496
Shoaib MalikPakistan1999-present446218
Johan BothaSouth Africa2005-2012123126

Muttiah Muralitharan

Considered to be the best spin bowler alongside Shane Warne in the history of cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan holds the record for taking the most wickets in Tests and ODIs. The doosra was an important delivery for Muralitharan but it was also the cause of several controversies.

He was no balled by umpires during the early stages of his career and his doosra also became the subject of a match report by referee Chris Broad during the Australian tour of 2004 as an illegal bending of the arm at the elbow.

He was found to be straightening his arm up to 10 degrees, thus violating ICC’s acceptable degree of 5 degrees. As a result, Sri Lanka Cricket asked him to not bowl the doosra. However, in order to save face, the ICC rule was amended which allowed a bowler to straighten his bowling arm up to 15 degrees and thus, Muralitharan’s doosra was considered legal once again.

The statistics speak for themselves as Muralitharan took 800 wickets in 133 Test matches and also finished with 534 wickets in 350 ODI matches.

Harbhajan Singh

While several Indian spinners have tried bowling the doosra over the years, Harbhajan Singh is said to be the true master of the art and is widely regarded as the best bowler from India to utilize the delivery.

However, the doosra of Harbhajan was also the subject of an official report by match referee Chris Board and on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Mark Benson during the second Test between India and Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2004. It was later reported that his arm was straightened up to 10 degrees, which was 5 degrees lower than ICC’s new tolerance levels.

Mixing his arm balls with the doosras, Harbhajan became extremely difficult to read and showed plenty of varieties. He ended his cricket career with 711 wickets across all formats of international cricket.

Saqlain Mushtaq

Saqlain Mushtaq is the man who is credited for popularizing this delivery in international cricket. While the delivery had already been invented and was in use for a while before he began his career, it was extremely rare at the time.

A batsman had no answers to when Mushtaq started bowling the doosra and many believe that he is the greatest exponent of the craft since there was no distinguishable or detectable change in his bowling arm action.

While his form dipped towards the end of his career, he was among the best off-spinners in world cricket for a while during his career. He finished his career with 496 wickets across 218 international matches.

Shoaib Malik

Pakistani all-rounder Shoaib Malik is more reputed for his skills with the bat. While run-scoring is a vital part of his game, his bowling is rather underrated and he has an extremely impressive doosra ball.

He has also been involved in controversy because of his use of doosra. His action was tested and he had to undergo remedial work before he was allowed to bowl. Malik had also opted for elbow surgery in 2006 to correct his bowling action and he refrained from bowling the doosra in subsequent years.

Johan Botha

South African spinner Johan Botha is an underrated spinner who enjoyed a good few years at the top level in cricket. Botha was also reported for bowling the doosra in a Test match against Australia in 2006.

His bowling was later illegal and he was banned. However, the ban was lifted in November 2006 and in 2009, he was called for a reassessment of his bowling action after the series against Australia. Later that year, he was cleared to bowl all kinds of deliveries except the doosra, which had been deemed to exceed the 15-degree limit.


Who is the inventor of the doosra ball?

Former Pakistani domestic cricketer Prince Aslam Khan is said to be the inventor of the doosra. Meanwhile, Saqlain Mushtaq popularized the delivery all over the world and made it a household ball.

Is the doosra ball banned in cricket?

No, the doosra ball is not banned in cricket and it is considered perfectly legal. However, the bowlers need to meet the requirements laid down by ICC where the bowling arm cannot be straightened beyond 15 degrees. With such rules in mind, players find it extremely difficult to bowl the doosra and are often unwilling to take the risk. As a result, the delivery has become rare in recent years.

What is the teesra ball?

The inventor of the doosra delivery, Saqlain Mushtaq had mentioned in 2004, that he had developed the teesra. It was a back-spinner disguised as an off-spinner. It is a slightly round-arm delivery, having more pace than either doosra or offspinner and can surprise a batsman. The delivery can also be used in limited overs cricket to stop the flow of runs and keep the run rate in check.



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