Generally in cricket the fast bowlers take all the spotlight. But the real craft of thinking bowling is practised by the spinners. Bowling at slower speeds, spinners have their fingers and wrists to do the talking. They need to use the flight, the pitching and the spin of the bowl to bowl the batsman out. It is not easy. Specially against the batsmen from South Asia, who learn to use their feet well against spinners from very early on. No wonder that a lot of great spinners have come from the Indian sub-continent.
Although my personal favorites are the leg spinners (a style which I practised as well at school level), off spinners have their own charm. Specially, if you are as gifted as a Murali or even Prasanna! There are many bowlers who would have made it to the top 10 list, but I picked these. Some who would be very close are: Erapalli Prasanna, Bishen Bedi, Saeed Ajmal, and Bill O’Reilly.
1. Shane Warne
Shane Warne is often considered the best spin bowler ever in the international cricket. Warnie, as he is fondly called was a classic leg spinner Australia. He has taken 708 wickets in 145 Tests and 293 wickets in 194 ODIs. Warne’s action was simple, yet sophisticated with every type of delivery in his arsenal for the batsman.
2. Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan was surely one of the most amazing spin bowlers of all time with a crazy action – often bordering on “throwing”. Muralitharan has taken a record number of 800 wickets in 133 Tests at an average of 22.72 and 534 wickets in 350 ODIs (avg 23.08). Muralitharan took five or more wickets in an innings on 67 occasions in Test cricket, which is a world record. In comparison Shane Warne who is in 2nd place performed the feat 37 times. Murli beat Shane Warne’s test wicket haul of 708 in his 116th Test – 29 fewer than Warne – and had conceded only 21.77 runs per wicket compared to the Australian’s 25.41.
3. Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble is another leg spinner – a contemporary of Shane Warne and completely different in style and tenor. Known as “Jumbo” among his teammates, he was a fighter at the core and a thinking cricketer. He has taken 619 wickets in 132 Tests and 337 wickets in ODIs. He is only the second bowler in the history of cricket who has taken 10 wickets in an innings – the first being Jim Laker.
4. Jim Laker
Jim Laker was one of the most successful English bowlers who hold a record of taking 19 wickets in a match, the first man to take 10 wickets in an innings. He has taken 193 wickets in just 46 Tests with an average of 21.21 in his career. He was a very dangerous off-spinner with off-breaks which were totally unplayable.
5. Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain Mushtaq is legendary Pakistani spin bowler who gave us the ‘doosra’. His doosra was a regular off-spin which would turn away from the batsman leaving him clueless. He ended his career with 208 wickets in 49 Tests and 288 wickets in 169 ODI matches.
6. Lance Gibbs
Lance Richard Gibbs was a legendary West Indian cricketer and one of the most successful bowlers in the test cricket. He was an off spin bowler and taken 309 wickets in 79 test matches with an average of 29.09. He was the second bowler and the first spinner to cross the 300 wickets mark.
7. Abdul Qadir
He is a former Pakistani spin bowler who has taken 300 wickets in his career. He was one of the most successful bowlers during the period of 1980’s. Qadir packed six different ones in an over surprising the batsman over and over again. His distinct bowling action has been copied by many a young leg spin bowler.
8. BS Chandrasekhar
Chandrasekhar was a former Indian leg spinner. One of the quirkiest spin bowler ever. He was fast, almost medium pace, with a lot of leg spin. is a former Indian cricketer and a world class off spin bowler during his time. He has represented India in 58 test matches and taken 242 test wickets with an average of 29.14. His 6 for 38 against England in 1971 at Oval won him Wisden’s award for “Best bowling performance of the century”.
9. Derek Underwood
Derek Underwood is one of the best spin bowlers in England during the period of 1960 to 1970. In a career spanning over a decade, he took 297 wickets in 86 Test matches for England. Nicknamed ‘Deadly’ by his teammates, he was well known for his accuracy and precision.
10. Richie Benaud
Richard Benaud is the former successful Australian test cricketer and a spin bowler. He has represented Australia in 66 test matches where he has taken 248 wickets for his team. Benaud was a wicket taking machine. His best bowling figure is 7 wickets for 72 runs.
This was our list. Who will be on your list?