Don't Be Afraid of the Big Bad Zooter | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Don't Be Afraid of the Big Bad Zooter

Menno Gazendam is author of Spin Bowling Project. Get your free 8 week spin bowling course here

The backspinner, or zooter, is not that hard to bowl.

That's the ball where you push it out the side of the hand with backward revolutions. It is certainly not easy, but it is within the grasp of most good leggies. It’s simply a matter of understanding what a back spinner really is, and working hard enough at perfecting it.


The biggest problem I found with trying to bowl the leg spinning back spinner most spinners think that the angle should be vertical down the pitch. That the ball must be a perfect opposite of a top spinner. And if they do not get this right they have not mastered the delivery yet.

This is not necessary.

The seam can still be angled (it really is difficult to get a perfect up-and-down seam for the back spinner). Once it pitches and enough revolutions is on it, it will still 'hold up' on the pitch and shoot through lower.

As long as most of the ball is in the right position it will work. A few degrees angle here and there will not matter at all.

Remember to practice your backspinner by "going-round-the-loop" (Peter Philpott’s method), which means you go round from googly to top spinner, leggie to back spinner: Then start over again. Otherwise you might perfect the back spinner, but lose your big spinning normal leggie. And you do not want that to happen.

So, do not worry about a perfect seam angle with the leg spinner. You should still bowl it, even if not perfect. Wickets will come - I promise - and besides, how else are you going to improve it if you do not bowl it in games?

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This ball is certainly not impossible, it is very far from it. It took me about 6 months to perfect it, and I can assure you it is very lethal. There are two ways to bowl it, one with more side spin and one with more back spin. The first type has a seam angled at 45 degrees so the seam points towards fine leg (spinning backwards) If you keep the rough side of the ball on the right you can get plenty of in swing. This delivery has the potential to get you a bagful of wickets if you disguise it well. The most important thing is that you put as much revs on it as possible. I discovered that if you make it drift enough it will skid on with the drift! When it drifts towards fine leg (same angle as the seam) it acts like a ball bowled from the cover region! But to achieve that it has to drift an enormous amount.
The second type with an upright seam is a lot easier to pick. The wrist position is so different to that of the leg spinner that some batsman will even pick it as an off break. However it is still effective since it has much more back spin and stays as low as the flipper if you get it right. With a new ball it will swing, and I have noticed it wobbling a lot through the air.
The following might sound impossible, but you can go even further around the loop from this back spinner! The back of your hand will face towards the batsman and you still spin it with your ring finger so it has 45 degrees back spin and 45 degrees off spin. Then you can stop using your third finger, instead just flipping the ball with your wrist spinning it forwards (back of the hand facing the batsman, thumb towards the leg side) and then flipping it towards the off side (doosra)
Who ever thought that leg spinners could also bowl the doosra by going around the loop?
So now you have those two back spinning deliveries as variations, but these can also be utilized as stock balls. Keep spinning them hard, landing them fuller than expected with drift, carry, and skid. Just bowl back spin for a few overs and observe the batsman's weaknesses. Then after all that back spin, bowl a top spinning leg break. Can you imagine how confused the batsman would be. If you toss it up high he'll immediately think FULL TOSS, but because of the top spin (and previous back spin) the ball will land miles shorter than he expected, and also turn and bounce more.
The reverse of that can also be used (top spin followed by back spin) So it is essential that you master at least one type of back spinner.

I can bowl a slider but sometime i cant control whether i bowl a slider or big leggie sometimes i try to bowl a slider instead it comes as a massive turning legbreak some times i am trying to bowl a big leggie and it just goes straight on so how to control this and secondly when i bowl the flipper it just doesnt skid instead it slows down when it hit the pitch it turns like a leggie so what to do...........

It is difficult to control the slider perfectly. What you have to do is understand what your wrist and fingers do when you bowl the big leg break, and when you bowl the slider. Get yourself a rubber ball with one red halve and a white halve, and study the seam of your deliveries. If the slider comes out right but still turns, it's probably the surface or the ball. Get on a pitch as often as you can and just bowl different deliveries, on pitches they should act normally (leggies will turn and sliders will skid) and if they still don't then you know your not bowling them correctly. You then have to go back to learning the wrist positions for each and try to get the actions into your muscle memory.

If your flipper slows down your either giving it too much flight, bowling it too short, too much back spin in comparison to the speed, or it is the surface/ball that is causing it. The flipper has to travel very flat, with just the right amount of back spin, and at just the right speed. A flipper that travels downwards from the batsman's eye level at a fast speed, with lots of back spin but not too much should skid through and stay straight. You are experiencing a problem that many others also do. Your flipper probably has a bit of side spin on it, try to bowl it with the back of your wrist slightly more towards your face.

Good point will try this and i can bowl two kinds of slider one with the third finger and one like a legcutter as i have seen in international cricket they mostly bowl front of the hand legcutting slider only warne bowled the real slider am i right...the one opposite to a topspinner with karate chop like wrist position.

Actually if you look closely at Warne's wrist position when he bowls the slider, it's more of a palmed backspinner than the slider in the article. Nobody I know of bowled the karate chop slider in international cricket, as it's fairly easy to pick. Warne mearly pushed the ball with his strong wrist, pulling down and slightly to the side of the ball so it spins at 45 degrees backwards and 45 degrees sideways. (my version of this is just with the normal way of bowling a leg break, third finger imparting spin) I have abondoned the karate chop slider recently since it is way to easy to pick and doesn't have the potential to take a wicket. (in my case anyway) It may work well for someone else.

There is a delivery that is shrouded in a lot of mystery at the moment, and it does sound like a very useful variation. It was pioneered by Clarrie Grimmet who called it his flipper, and was considered a mystery ball by batsmen at the time. His flipper wasn't a back spinning flipper, but a top spinning one, which increased it's pace after pitching.

I have tried bowling it and it does seem very difficult to bowl it with sufficient speed. It always comes out with too much off spin on it and way too slowly. It does seem like a wicket taking ball and Grimmet certainly had success with it! But it is really painfully difficult to bowl.

Is it even worth the effort? In the time it will take you to perfect it you could have been practicing getting more revs on your usual top spinner. The top spinner is harder to pick, and much easier. So which sounds like the best option?

No it wasn't, it was a backspinner. There is no such thing as a topspinning flipper.

There's a leggy on the internet that wrote a whole article on it, he recons it was a top spinning flipper, with proof from Grimmets book on Getting Wickets.

Regardless of whether it was a top- or backspinner, is it worth the effort to try and bowl it?

I just cant understand the round the loop theory can someone explain it in easy wordings and secondly i bowl the googly sometimes but the path or flight of a googly is completely different then a leggie as my leggie comes with a more side arm action and is fizzing and curving in the air while the googly just tends to be a slow flighted bouncing ball ready to be hit out of the park so how can i bowl my googly a little flatter and quicker and i bowl two sliders one which is flicked backed towards u wth a karate chop action and the one which i bowl wth exactly the same action as the first slider but this time my thumb is facing me almost like when u are writing smthng the only difference b/w these two is the first one comes with a straight seam and the other one with a scrambled seam so need some help as i dont have a caoch and learned legspin and practice all by myself...

Barely any of us have quality leg spin coaches, if you do have one your very lucky! But you don't really need one, there's more than enough info in books and on the internet, I learned everything that I know just from reading these sources.

The round the loop theory is not meant to be complicated, although some people misinterpret it all the time. Basically it's just meant to be a way to learn the hand positions for various deliveries and learn each of the types of spin and what you have to do to achieve them. Start with the hand in a position so that the back of the hand faces your face and you can't see your palm. That's the release for the sqaure leg break (maximum drift and turn, no dip) Now move your hand a bit further so that your fingers are pointing slightly to the left and forwards, that's the 45 degree leg break (dip, turn, bounce, drift) Move your hand a bit further again so your fingers and thumb are pointing away from you, that's the top spinner. (Dip, bounce) Move it even further so the back of your wrist faces away from you, that's the googly. (Dip, turn, drift)

Those are most of the deliveries that you have in your arsenal, the slider is further around the loop from the big leg break, just in the opposite direction. The flipper has the back of the wrist facing to the left, if you move your wrist sideways from that position you get different releases which result in all kinds of combinations of side spin, top spin and back spin.

These combinations are the key to leg spin, because they upset the batsman's judgement of length, and force errors.

The googly is difficult to bowl fast, but it doesn't neccesarily have to be fast. If you get enough revs on it (which might be harder to do since you have a round arm action) you can pitch it very full (the batsman has to drive at it) and bowl the batsman through the gate. I bowl my googly with a low arm action, and have no problem doing this because I have a double jointed shoulder and flexible wrist, but I suppose just increasing your general flexibilty in the shoulder helps just as much. It took me 6 months to develop a good googly, that's very long compared to my other variations, and it's because I rarely practiced it in fear of getting googly syndrome again after my first attempt. ( Whatever you do, don't bowl too many consecutive googlies, big mistake!)

If I were you I would drop the karate chop slider as soon as I got the chance, I've tried that one, and trust me the best you'll be able to do with it is get a number 11 out on a bowling pitch (but then again, I don't know you, you might have success with it) you should rather be working on the Warne-style slider, or a backspinning leg break. You bowl the backspinning leg break by having the fingers pointing slightly towards you and slightly to the left at release. If you get it right it skids on and nips into the right handed batsman.

Spin each of these deliveries as hard as you can, it's okay if you start out by just rolling them, but once you can bowl them you should focus all your energy on applying vicious spin to the ball.

Nice advice mate which level of cricket do u play and i am pretty new to cricket started playing at the age of 15 and now i am 17 when i first started bowling legspin the batsmen attacked me and i got my wickets but now they see me as a threat so they dont even try to attack me and happy to give away some dots and singles and suddenly i am becoming less effective against teams i have played alot so wht to do now how to take wickets and spin a web around the batsmen........

I started playing last year at u/13 level and currently playing at u/15 level. I have actually had the exact same problem at times. The key is to get a very early wicket. So against a team that knows what I can do and will block and nudge the life out of me I take an amazingly attacking approach. Sometimes resorting to bowling a variation first ball ! (It works better than you think) Of course you need lots of accuracy and trust in your ability to pull this off, and hopefully have some past experiences with the pitch. As a leg spinner your a ticking bomb, if your good your bound to get a wicket, you can't always decide how early or how late, but your going to get a wicket and you have to believe that. From ball 1 set off to take that wicket with every ball (not in all situations just this particular dilemma where the batsmen know you and want to defend all the time) Even if that means bowling a few wides in the process. Discuss it with your captain and set attacking fields, this will also scare the opposition.

As I said before, a variation like the googly first ball has a 50/50 chance of taking a wicket if it's well placed and not picked. That's a good margin for success ! So you've bowled a googly first ball, next ball try the leg break. And ball after ball just bowl leggies, the batsman will be waiting forever for a googly that isn't coming and he starts to imagine all kinds of things in your action (this tactic was used brilliantly by Saeed Ajmal against South Africa yesterday) Use the crease well, vary your pace, vary flight, angle, type of spin, line, length, everything. This can go horribly wrong, but you learn from our mistakes. So there's no better way to learn than making mistakes (that were inspired by someone on the internet)

Start looking at the way spinners lure batsmen into false strokes in test cricket when the batting side are looking for a draw. Great way to learn! And practice with a batsman in the nets who wants to learn how to defend against spinners, see if you can deceive him.

The phrase I use whenever I bowl once I've started going (Peter Philpott classic) : If you can think of anything positive and attacking, do it as soon as possible. If you can think of something negative and defensive, don't rush into it, it can wait.

Some batsmen will defend for 12 balls, then transform into Chris Gayle, be aware of these mood swings and exploit them.

Remember that if a right handed batsman is blocking a right handed leg spinner he has to play slightly to the right of the ball to allow for turn. Any ball that goes straight will beat the inside edge and any ball the turns a lot will beat the outside edge. The slider and big leg break will come in handy.

Nice tip mate and u can add me on facebook if u want i will send my email and the tatic is use it when the batsmen is defending tht i go round the wicket and attack the stumps it is surely a negative line but i am very good at attacking with tht line and one more thing i havent yet even played any club level cricket i will surely join an academy after my exams i can land 4 out of 6 ripping leggies at a spot so wht are my chances and how will i perform at club level or higher.....and i am also a good middle order batsmen..

Club level is difficult if your still very young. I am currently playing for a club that has only a second and first xi. I have not been selected to play a game yet, because the club will always give a chance to the older spinners and only use me as a last resort when the other spinners aren't available. They have seen that I can get wickets consistently (by that I mean every second ball) when bowling to players 5-30 years older than me, but have no idea how I would fare in a match situation against quality players. So I have to wait until they want to give one of the other spinners a rest to prove what I can do in a game. You have to be 16 to take part in a game and I'm only 14 now, but luckily no one ever checks your ID.

Going around the wickets is seen as negative but I don't think it is, it depends on how you use it. Shane Warne bowled around the wickets a lot into the rough outside leg stump, but we are not Shane Warne, so we don't have to do the same. Against left handed batsman I go around the wickets (This is the mirror image of a right handed leg spinner around the wickets to a right handed batsman) and I aim to drift the ball from outside off stump to middle and leg stump. Left handers are so confused by this line that they always play for a ball coming into them (drift confuses them) and they find it unplayable. Once they get used to it I start bowling from wider on the crease and outside leg stump. Most left handers like this because they are good off the pads and play good sweep shots. Any batsman knows that if a leg spinner bowls outside leg he wants to bowl you around the legs, so thy expect the ball to be outside leg. When I bowl a googly outside off from around they think it was a failed leg break and chase after it, only to have it come back into them and dislodge their bails. Top spinners also work in the same way (Shane Warne's 300th test wicket is identical to my topspinner dismissals againts lefties) LBW's are supposedly more difficult to get if you go around the wickets. But your not pitching outside leg every ball, and you have a googly that can get any batsman out if he doesn't pick it, if it pitches on middle stump the batsman will play for lots of away-turn and even if the googly just straightens it's enough for an LBW / clean bowled.

4 out of 6 ripping leggies on the spot is a great good ball / bad ball ratio. But I think you should look to improve it just slightly since the batsman only needs one ball to relieve the pressure you have built up with the previous 4 balls.

But if you can bowl ripping leggies I think it's already enough to get loads of wickets at club level. Just don't expect too much from clubs, they don't have master spin bowling coaches falling out of the sky.

I was a playing for a new team yesterday i took 2-10 in my 2 overs as it was just a 10 overs match but what is troubling me is that some of the seniors in our team told me i was bowling well but was bowling a little slow so what to do to increase speed and as i have never measured my bowling speed so i dnt knw wheter i am really bowling slow or its that conventional comment coming from a pacer as those two seniors were pacers..

Spinners very rarely bowl too slow. Anything from 45-80 kilometers per hour would be ideal for an u/17 spinner in my opinion. But one thing that stood out for me when I read your comment was that they told you you were bowling too slow in general, which means you weren't varying your pace enough. You should be varying your pace all the time, never letting the batsman settle and get used to one particular pace. If your stock pace is for example 50 kilometers per hour (stock pace only means the pace you usually bowl most of the time and the speed that your comfortable with) you should vary it from 10-15 kilometers every few deliveries.

I use a method to suddenly increase / decrease my pace that is quite subtle. When I want to increase my pace I twist my non-bowling hand the other way round from usual, and and pull it back with a bit more friction against my ribs which increase my pace about 15 kph. If I want to decrease my pace I brace my front leg more, but I don't bowl over it, I deliver the ball from much further back which decreases the pace with about 10 kph. That small difference in pace can do a lot more than you expect, the slower / faster the ball is bowled the more / less it will turn and / or bounce.

It's hard to determine if the speed you're bowling is too slow without a video. But the best clue is: Your probably bowling too slow if the batsman has enough time to play back at you even if you pitch very full, they can get in position with amazing ease for shots like the dill scoop or if they can adjust their shot at the very last moment.

Don't take advice from seamers too seriously, they don't know much from spin bowling. You'll now what advice to implement into your bowling.

Thanks for the advice and i will surely send u my bowling video as soon as i can find someone who will capture the video and one more thing is i do get lots of turn and dip sometimes but i dont get any drift mostly so how can i add drift to spice things up and i know it bcz i am not having the complete fun of beating the batsmen in the air i only beat them off the pitch.......

And one more thing is tht i have space at my home to bowl but its not big enough to practice with runup so wht is happening is tht i bowl superbly without runup as soon as i bowl with runup it feels unnatural so how much my runup shd be i usually bowl with a very small runup...

A little drift is a very potent weapon against any batsman that doesn't have experience against spinners, but against a good batsman you need a bit more. Drift helps you to bring your turn into play, since most batsmen find it difficult to play a delivery that doesn't move in a straight direction through the air towards them but they can play a delivery that bounces sideways off the pitch. Dip is better than drift sometimes, because a really good batsman won't be bothered by drift too much but any batsman will be bothered by a dipping, kicking delivery. - Shane Warne getting an impossible amount of drift. The more revolutions you get on the ball, the more it will drift, dip, and turn. The more side spin the more drift. The more UFO spin the more drift. More flight = more drift, and the distance you bowl the ball also affects drift.

If you don't drift the ball a lot but want to, you need to try and put as much revolutions on the ball as possible, bowl with a bit more side spin, and work on your pivot. The leg break with the seam at 45 degrees (which has both top spin and side spin) will drift enough, dip, turn, and bounce more so it is the ideal delivery to bowl if you want all 4 effects. The top spin also causes the ball to drift much later. Backspinning deliveries can also drift, but because they have a flatter trajectory they don't drift as much. - A discussion on drift in the bigcricket community, some of their theories are wrong, but it's a very good discussion nonetheless.

If you don't have enough space to bowl with a run up just do the stand start drill:
(Demonstrated by Beau Casson) The run up supplies you with enough energy to explode at the crease in your action and enough momentum to bowl with adequate speed. It is a necessary part of the action so you must have a run up. It doesn't have to be very long, but it must give you enough energy so your able to bowl the ball with power (which is used to spin the ball and propel it forwards with enough pace) - Look at this excellent use of resources to practice flight. With, and without a run up. Practicing your run up is crucial.