Why you should stop bowling leg spin | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Why you should stop bowling leg spin

“Oh, I’ve given up bowling leg spin,” the talented youngster said to me during the first game of the cricket season on a bright April day.

“I took up bowling pace in the winter at University and my coach says I’m pretty good.”

I sighed. It wasn’t a surprise because the leggie (or now former leggie) had often spoken of his frustration at bowling spin. It didn’t matter to him that he could bowl fizzing leg breaks that swung into the right-hander before dipping and biting off the turf because has also bowled a few long hops in his efforts to give the ball massive turn.

He wanted to be a fast man; to take off heads and growl at batsmen. Through the pressure of most of the senior players in the team he had continued to bowl leg spin in the last couple of seasons. He was 18 and in the 1st team.

But one winter away from us had given him the room to make the change he so desperately wanted.

So halfway through that first match (a pre-season friendly) the captain threw him the ball. The pitch was green and had been seaming around.

Becoming a fast bowler

I looked at first slip and we took a rough guess as to how far back to stand.

Our hero tore up to the wicket from an extended run and as ‘keeper I crouched in readiness. I had images of the ball whistling past the outside edge and crashing into my gloves, pushing me back. I was ready with the shout of “good wheels buddy”.

His first ball was down the leg side. It was medium paced at best. It bounced before reaching me and I had to sprawl in the spring mud to gather it. His second ball was a slow medium wide half volley outside off stump. The batsman made short work of it.

The slip was removed. I stood up to the stumps.

“I thought you were bowling pace?” I mocked hoping to fire him up.

He managed three overs before being taken off with figures of 0-23. He still insisted he was sticking to pace bowling so for the first competitive game of the season he was dropped as the first choice spinner for the 1st XI to the first change seamer for the 3rd XI.

He moved away the season after and no longer plays for us. But his story is a common one.

Young leg spinners the world over face the same dilemma and often come up with the same conclusion: leg spin just isn’t worth the effort.

Only brave cricketers can bowl leg spin

This happens because to be a leg spinner you need to be the bravest person in the team.

If you are not brave, you may as well forget it.

Wrist spin is easily the hardest skill to learn and master in cricket. It takes work, there are inevitable setbacks and there are hundreds of uncultured batsmen with little talent waiting to slog your good length delivery into the trees.

While you are learning you will bowl a lot more bad balls than the average medium paced seam bowler. Your rate per over will be high.

Yes, you are a match winner (taking 5-38) but you are also a match loser for a while (often taking 1-64 or similar). Your captain will be afraid to bowl you because he has never understood how to handle spinners.

It’s an easier option to switch to miserly medium pace and take your figures of 1-24 off 10 overs every week. You always get a bowl that way.

But it’s also awfully cowardly.

With a little of the right practice you can bowl leg spin with turn, accuracy and good figures every week. Bowlers like Warne and Kumble have proven that you can bowl leg spin without being costly.

It’s just you have to get over that first hump where you are inaccurate.

If you don’t have the guts and attitude to do that right from the start, yes, you should stop bowling leg spin. Let the really passionate guys bowl it instead.

But once you are on the other side it’s accuracy, dip and wickets all the way.

And wickets mean more bowling at a higher level than ever before.

Do you want to know exactly how to practice and play before you fall into the ‘seamers trap’?

Get the free PitchVision Academy newsletter and we will announce a way of doing exactly that very shortly. 

image credit: Senthil Prabu.S

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A good article that probably hits the nail on the head with regards the difficulties that Wrist Spinners face. You missed out on another one that 'Kills off' younger wrist spinners and that's the growth spurt issue. For some reason young kids have a tendency if inclined or shown, to bowl a leg break with ease and being small they throw the ball up nice and loopy. The combination of these 2 aspects if they get their line and length fairly accurate is they bowl wicket taking balls. With success coming with relative ease and the 'Shane Warne' buzz factor - e.g. it's thing to do these days in the wake of Warnes success, young kids are enthused and are carried along with the plaudits of being a Wrist Spinner that takes wickets. All’s well and good for years, the kid grows physically at a regular rate and his bowling grows with him. Then puberty strikes and the young boy suddenly grows inches in a season, he becomes far stronger, but more subtly his body mass grows faster than the bones within his ears and this affects balance and coordination. The nets result is that the kid will go through a season - maybe two, where he wouldn't be able bowl a leg break onto a barn door laid on the wicket let alone on to a Grimmett-esque hankie placed 4 yards in front of the off-stump. This kills off aspiring wrist spinners and turns them to the 'Dark Side' never to come back.

The recovery after this phase is probably hard work coupled with a more serious and a more aware and self concious teenager now looking at himself in a far more critical and self aware manner. The growing 'Alpha Male' in him wanting to be successful and aggressive, now at odds with his chosen perceived 'Trundling' Wrist spin. You can see the appeal of the seamer - aggressive and macho. Descriptions of guile and cleverness don't weigh up in the testosterone fuelled mind of the growing kid. One by one they're lost to the art.

There's other factors too I reckon. Todays world with its pace and immediacy chimes in tune with the mentality of the seamer. Kids play fast games, shoot em up games, racing games where things are fast and pacy, whereas Wrist Spinning is considered, it's like a game of chess, plans are made and executed not through brute force and speed but by being clever.

As David says wrist spin is for the brave, it's for the blokes that have something different about them. It takes real guts and determination to come through your teenage years and make it into your 20’s as Wrist Spinner. But if you do and you’re focused and determined the rewards are there to be taken.

Hi David, really good article.

You recently made a post on "becoming a classy leg spin bowler" with a link to purchase an online tutorial of some sort

ive never heard of the guy selling the product and cant find him on cricinfo. is it a scam, or have u purchased the product urself? if so, is it worthh purchasing?

You really think I would scam you after all the years you have been coming to the site Ty? Mate! What are you doing to me?!

Seriously though I can vouch for Haroon. He is the first Asian ever to be on the ECB Level 4 Programme, he coaches Huntingdonshire's spinners and he still plays a good level of club cricket as a professional. He also introduced me to a Pakistan Test level bowler he has coached. I've worked closely with him on his course and his knowledge is excellent. I highly recommend him. The best thing I can say is get the free video, if you think the advice in it is sound then you are on to a winner.

Great point Dave, we need to do everything we can to make sure young player's know leg spin is as aggressive as fast bowling, it's just the power is directed into the turn and dip, not bowling a bouncer.

Good Article but still I am not satisfied. I am a leg-spinner, and I rip the ball and turn it good but still my friends smash it away, Later i was tired of Leg-Spin and I moved to Fast bowling and I got about 13 wickets in the school series and I was the highest wicket-taker, But i felt leg spin more rewarding when trained a lot, So I trained for leg-spin 1 hour every day and I felt I'm prepared but the result was yet poor and everyone recommended me to bowl fast again because of my physical structure (I am Tall and Slim). I am Confused to continue with leggy or move to fast bowling again. Can anyone help me?

It kind of depends. If you are very good at bowling fast (genuinely quick, or get a lot of movement and bounce, or all of the above) then you should bowl fast. It's the equal of leg spin in being done well rarely.

If you don't have those traits, then become a leg spinner. With hard and smart work you will become excellent at leg spin, but it sounds like you are still not over the hump yet so be prepared to put in lots more work and get smashed around a lot more.

One thing you DON'T want to do is become yet another average medium pace bowler. That is the easy route but it's the most cowardly and least likely to give you anything except short term minor success.

Good, I am a leg spinner and I often am sighed at by my team mates for not being accurate enough, but it is good to know that even though I am young, I can still be good at leg spin even if I sometimes take 3/28 off four overs with only catches as my wickets.

Farvez, I was like you and I also got smashed around by my team mates all of the time, but if you focus on bowling spin, you can succeed, and not have to become a miserable military medium pacer

I bowled medium pace while I played from 15-17 years no success at all, then left cricket in frustration now at 20 started again as leg spinner in backyard nd I m enjoying it my performance has peaked. Watever happens to my career I can stand against mirror nd say to myself atleast I standed tall nd being brave. Thank u for ur motivatin mate