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Off spin bowling in cricket: All you need to know

Off spin bowling has always been a go-to weapon for spin bowlers, who have always played a fundamental part in the history of cricket. The art itself has evolved with time and specific hand techniques practiced over time have led to mastery in this day and age.

Unlike fast bowlers who rely on pace, swing as well as the implementation of the seam of a ball, spinners tend to rely on their intelligence and ability to turn the ball in order to outfox the batsmen. They are often beaten by the spin of the ball while failing to anticipate it.

Pitches also play a major role in determining the degree to which the ball turns when it lands on the surface. Slower pitches with cracks are helpful for spin bowlers who are able to generate more spin from the surface.

Without further ado, let’s discuss the off spin bowling technique below:

Off Spin: What is it?

Off spin is a type of finger spin bowling in cricket. The bowler who uses this technique is called an off spinner. They are also called finger spinners since they are using their fingers to spin the ball (as opposed to wrist spinners). Their dominant hand is their right hand and they depend on their fingers to spin the ball. The go-to delivery of an off spin bowler is the off-break.

From the bowler’s perspective, the usual off-break delivery spins from left to right when it bounces on the surface of the pitch. From the point of view of a right-handed batsman, this delivery comes from his off side and the ball spins to his leg side. The off-break drifts towards the right-hander and goes away from the left-handed batsman. Since the ball is said to ‘break’ away from the off side, it is called ‘off break’.

Off spinners usually rely on the off-break delivery. They can vary them by adjusting the line and length of the deliveries and varying the release points and where they land on the pitch. However, this is far from being the only delivery that they are capable of bowling.

The most important aspect for any spin bowler is to know and understand how to vary the speed, length, flight of the ball, and spin on the ball in order to deceive opposition batsmen.

Off Spin: Variations

An off-spinner shouldn’t rely only on his stock ball. He must have several off spin delivery variations up in his arsenal. Otherwise, he becomes very predictable and easy to read by the opposition batsman. The element of surprise and having a trick up the sleeve is very important in the art of spin-bowling.

Let’s take a look at few variations that off-spinners usually rely upon besides the off-break delivery:

Arm ball: It is an outswinging straight delivery that adds an element of surprise. The arm ball is delivered with rolling fingers down the back of the ball at the point of release. As a result, the ball doesn’t turn much and it travels straight on in the direction of the arm. It is largely used as a surprise delivery by an off-spinner who is turning the ball considerably. Batsmen often don’t expect it coming.

Doosra: Doosra is often known as the off spinner’s default delivery. It ends up deceiving the batsman and leads him to play a poor or mistimed shot. In Hindi, Bengali and Urdu the term ‘doosra’ means ‘the other one’. The ball spins from the leg side to the offside to a right-handed batsman.

Top spinner: Top spinner is a type of delivery used by both finger as well as wrist spinners. The ball is released over the top of their fingers causing it to spin forward in the air and drift towards the batsman. The off-spinner would largely try to pitch the delivery on or outside the line of off-stump expecting the batsman to anticipate a turn and play for it. 

Carrom ball: The carrom ball is also known as the ‘Sodukku ball’ in various parts of India and is probably the most exciting variation in an off-spinner’s arsenal. Like a carrom player flicking the disc on a carrom board, the ball is flicked by the fingers, from which it derives its name. The carrom ball can travel straight based on the degree of the grip on the ball towards the leg side. And therefore, it can travel straight or turn to either leg or offsides.

The carrom ball method was actually forgotten during the 1970s. It was revived by Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis during the Asia Cup in 2008. Following the revelation by Mendis, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin also made this delivery popular during his career.

He calls his variation in this delivery the ‘Sodukku ball’. In Tamil, Sodukku means snapping of fingers. Ashwin also mentions that he learnt this technique of finger spin bowling while playing street cricket in Chennai.

Off Spin: Differences with leg-spin

There are two types of spin bowling techniques in cricket – off-spin and leg-spin. The most obvious difference between off-spin and leg-spin bowling is the direction of delivery. A right arm leg spinner will usually turn the ball from the leg side to the off side when bowling to a right-handed batsman. An off-spinner bowls in the completely opposite direction as we’ve covered above. Of course, the angles are reversed for left-handed batsmen.

Leg spinners are also different because they rely on their wrist to impart spin on the ball. The ball will turn from leg to off side and because of their dependence on the wrists, they are often also called ‘wrist spinners.’ An off-spinner is also sometimes called a finger spinner in order to distinguish them from wrist-spinners.

Another major difference between the two bowling techniques relates to the degrees of spin. If a leg-spinner is capable and get their actions right and if the pitch supports the bowler, then they can get a much more degree of spin compared to traditional off-spinners.

Generally, leg spin is also considered more difficult to master. Since most of the work is done by the wrists, it can often get out of control. Sometimes, the ball also slips out of the side of the hand while off-spinners find it easier since the fingers control the ball, and have greater mastery over it.

Top 10 Off Spin bowlers in cricket history

BowlerCountryTest matchesTest wicketsAverage10 wicket haulsFive wicket hauls
Muttiah MuralitharanSri Lanka13380022.732267
Ravichandran AshwinIndia8644224.13730
Nathan LyonAustralia10842732.16319
Harbhajan SinghIndia10341732.46525
Graeme SwannEngland6025529.97317
Shakib Al HasanBangladesh6222431.12219
Saqlain MushtaqPakistan4920829.84313
Erapalli PrasannaIndia4918930.38210
Saeed AjmalPakistan3517828.11410
Ajantha MendisSri Lanka197034.7714

Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has taken the most wickets in both ODIs and Test matches. He is one of the greatest exponents of this technique of bowling. He finished with 800 wickets in Test cricket and 534 ODI wickets.

Harbhajan Singh, Erapalli Prasanna and Ravichandran Ashwin, the three legendary spin bowlers from India are also off-spinners. Ashwin is second on the list of bowlers with the most Test wickets for India in international cricket. Harbhajan Singh is the fourth on that list with 417 scalps.

Pakistan also had the likes of Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal. Saqlain is credited for the invention of the ‘doosra’ delivery. While the doosra looks similar to an off-break, it spins the opposite way.

Nathan Lyon, the third-highest wicket-taker in Australian Test cricket history is off-spinner. So is star Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.

England’s Jim Laker was also an off-spinner. He was the first bowler to take 10 wickets in a single innings.

FAQs

What are the different types of off spin?

Some of the variations in off spin bowling are doosra, carrom ball, arm ball etc.

What is the off spin grip and release point?

In an off spin grip, the ball is held in the palm of the hand. While it’s similar to the leg spinner’s grip, here the ring finger and the index finger are split either side of the seam. The seam runs horizontally under those fingers.

As the coil phase is approached, the off spinner’s bowling arm should be tilted back, away from the batsman with the ball tucked under the chin.

Spin is applied just as the ball leaves the hand. The wrist will firstly flick forwards and the fingers will rotate over the top of the ball. The action is similar to that of turning a knob to open a door.

Who are the famous off spin bowlers in India?

Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Erapalli Prasanna are some of the famous off-spin bowlers in India.

How fast do off-spinners bowl?

Bowling in the range of 75-85 kmph is regarded as perfect for off-spinners.

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