Mastering Spin Bowling Variations: Leg Spin and Off Spin

Imagine you’re a spinner, and in front of you is Chris Gayle at the peak of his power. All your balls are being hit for big sixes, and you have nothing to stop it. So what do you do now?

Rashid Khan celebrates after taking a wicket

Credit: ICC Cricket World Cup

You bring out the deadliest weapon from your arsenal as a spinner, a variation. Spinners confuse the batsman by using various deliveries known as variations. A delivery that behaves differently from their typical deliveries is referred to as a variation. There are so many spin bowling variations that you could use. There’s a quicker ball that catches the batsman off guard, one that turns in a different direction than what it should, and one that could have a different trajectory than what you regularly bowl. A player who has some variations can easily make a fool out of the batsman and exert their dominance in the game. 

In this article by ZAP, let’s learn about the various Spin bowling Variations that you can use to dismiss batsmen. 

Leg Spin Bowling Variations:

The Googly:

The leg spin grip and release

Credit: BBC News

The googly is a leg spinner’s most lethal bowling technique. Having the googly variation can give you the unique ability to turn the ball in both directions with a significant deviation from the original trajectory. The googly is a lethal tool in the armoury of spinners. Leg break bowlers use this variant, which turns in the opposite direction from their standard delivery and confuses batsmen. A googly, when used by a right arm, goes from left to right in the direction of the batsman's batting pads. A googly turns from right to left, away from the batsman's body, unlike a left-armer's typical delivery, which goes from left to right. Although it's a challenging delivery to perfect, when done well, it can help you scalp numerous dismissals!

Having a googly as good as the traditional leg spin is what makes Rashid Khan arguably the greatest T20 spin bowler of all time. Batsmen often fail to judge googlies and fall prey to bowlers' abilities.

Read More: Who is the GOAT of Cricket?

How to bowl a googly?

A comparison between the the grip of a normal leg break vs a googly delivery


  • The googly grip is the same as a normal leg break delivery. 
  • Begin your normal run-up, building momentum as you approach the crease.
  • As your arm comes over and the leather ball is about to be released, rotate your hand so the back of your hand faces the batsman.
  • If you're a right-arm leg break bowler, the seam should point towards fine leg when delivered to a right-handed batsman. For the left arm, the seam should point towards the first slip.
  • Flick your wrist and drag your ring finger across the ball as it's released to generate revolutions.
  • With practice, you'll be able to deceive batsmen with your googly!

Top Spinner:

The Flipper grip and release

Credit: BBC News

Imagine a delivery that defies the laws of spin bowling; it neither turns away nor goes towards the batsman but maintains its original path, only to dip and bounce unexpectedly. This mystery delivery is known as the top spinner, or as some call it, the over spinner. It's a potent weapon as it can leave the batsman clueless, wondering where the leather will end up. It's a bit like a magician's trick, except the only disappearing act is the ball, leaving the batsman scratching their head in disbelief.

How to bowl a Top Spinner?

  • Hold the ball in a similar way as the leg spin grip
  • Follow your standard run up and strides towards the crease
  • Turn your hand slightly so that your thumb side is facing the batsman and the back of your hand is facing your head.
  • The palm of the hand should point eastwards of the pitch for right-arm leg break bowlers and westwards of the pitch for left-arm leg break bowlers.
  • By flicking the wrist and running the ring finger down the front, make the ball spin by giving it revolutions.  
  • Aim to give it a good air time and pitch it at the point on the pitch where it is most likely to surprise the batsman with the extra bounce. This area can be the good-full length, where batsmen get tempted to hit, and you can get a top edge when they try to play cross-batted cricket shots to clear the fence.  
  • Throughout its flight, try to keep the seam nice and upright.

Read More: Cricket Fielding Techniques

The Flipper:

The flipper is a variation that could be considered the most difficult skill to master for wrist spinners. It is delivered with an unconventional release, which sends the ball rapidly and with a significantly flatter trajectory out of the hand. The ball is more prone to skid low off the pitch when back revolutions are added to it. This delivery is notorious for being difficult, and mastering it takes a lot of practice.

The leg spin flipper grip and release

Credit: BBC News

How to bowl the Flipper?

  • Hold the ball with your fingertips instead of gripping it tightly in your palm.
  • Take a usual run-up to gather momentum. 
  • As the bowling arm comes over, position your hand as you would for a top spinner, with the back of your hand facing your head and the thumb side facing the batsman.
  • Squeeze your thumb towards the index and middle fingers of your hand as you release.
  • Apply pressure with the index and middle fingers on the lower side and the thumb over the top of the ball to create a backturn.
  • Remember that the thumb is a crucial part of the flipper grip, unlike the standard leg break, where it may not be needed.
Shane Warne bowls a flipper

Credit: Man's World India

The flipper master Shane Warne always advises practicing's the act of clicking your fingers together to master this challenging delivery. A trick variation: the flipper catches batters off guard with its speed, flight, and lack of deviation. Warne proved that non-spinning deliveries can be just as deadly as turning ones. But because of its difficult release, perfecting the flipper requires a lot of practice. Before attempting the flipper, it is important to concentrate on honing the leg break, googly, and top spinner. So follow the master's instructions and continue your practice!

The Slider:

How to grip for a leg spin slider and how to bowl it

Credit: Quora

Leg break bowlers' arsenal of tricksters includes the slider, which gives their technique a deliciously devious dimension. The ball seems to be travelling along a typical leg break trajectory with a release and flight that seem familiar. However, a slight change in spin is imparted with a twist of the wrist that makes all the difference. The slider adds a sneakily sideways rotation as opposed to the conventional diagonal forward spin, causing the ball to retain its line and glide towards the defenseless batsman like a cunning predator.

How to bowl the Slider?

  • Use the same grip as you would for a leg break.
  • Take your run up to gather momentum and prepare for the delivery.
  • Position your arm so that your palm is facing straight towards the batsman.
  • Angle your wrist slightly inward towards your body to impart revolutions in a different direction than a leg break.
  • Spin the ball slightly backwards using a flick of the wrist and the ring finger.
  • The ball will hold its line and "slide" towards the batsman, adding a deceptive dimension to your bowling.

The way the slider turns makes it challenging to play. It has a small amount of backspin, which causes it to travel straight and slow down as it lands. It's even more challenging because it resembles a leg break a lot! When the ball is coming at the batter quickly, it is difficult for them to distinguish between a leg break and a slider, even though the hand and wrist positions are different.

The batsman must look at the angle the ball is turning if they are unable to determine which direction it is going. A slider will rotate slightly backward, whereas a leg break will rotate forward at around a 45-degree angle. If the batsman is unable to recognise any of these indications, you may succeed in getting a wicket.

Off Spin Bowling Variations:

The Arm Ball:

Off-break bowlers often use the arm ball as a gimmick. It travels straighter and faster than a traditional off-break, almost like a medium pacer. If you align the seam upright, it may present an opportunity for an air swing like a fast bowler. This variation can be dangerous for you if not done precisely, making the batsman's job easier. Overall, this variation requires precision and expertise to be successful.

Ashwin's bowling comparison between the releases of Traditional Off Spin, Arm Ball or Carrom Ball

Credit: X

How do you bowl the Arm Ball?

  • The arm ball grip is different from the traditional off-spin grip. 
  • The middle finger is mostly off the ball, while the index finger is next to the seam, or over, just like the pacer. 
  • Take a normal run up to build up momentum and while doing so, try to hide the leather orb from the batsman to not let the batsman know and prepare to face it. 
  • Drive the delivery through like a fast bowler while keeping your wrist behind
  • The seam can be slightly angled in a direction to avail swing. 
  • With the index finger rotates the ball backwards, which adds negative rotation and if done properly, the seam will stay erect and raise the likelihood of an air swing.

The arm ball is an off break delivery that, due to its speed and lack of turn, can catch the batter off guard. For a batter used to slower deliveries, this can be confusing. The batsman who anticipates the turn may be fooled by this variation and miss their shot. They might play a bad shot and get caught behind in the wicket keeper's gloves. It's a beneficial variation that is simple to learn. Any off break bowler can add this skill to their arsenal and pose a threat to the batter with a little bit of effort.

Read More: Cricket Wicket Keeping Techniques

Top Spinner:

Top spinners are effective weapons for off break players and have the same principle as in case of leg break. In contrast to a typical delivery, the ball turns forward and moves directly in the direction of the batsman. As a result, when it bounces on the pitch, it continues on its original course, making it difficult for the batter to anticipate its movement. You gain an additional advantage thanks to the top spin's addition of dip and bounce. Any off spinner can master this delivery with practice and develop into a serious menace to the opposition.

How to Bowl the Top Spin?

  • Use the same grip as the off break grip.
  • Take your usual run up and build your momentum. 
  • Turn your hand so that the palm is facing inwards towards your body.
  • The little finger hand should be pointing directly towards the batsman.
  • Drag the Index and middle fingers forcefully down the front to impart forward rotations.
  •  For this delivery, it is necessary to keep the bowling arm high.
  • Bowlers with actions that do not have their arm up as high may struggle to deliver this variation well.

This is a delivery that can significantly benefit the finger spinners over the batsman. When released properly, the ball will go forward towards the batsman and dip and bounce in unexpected ways. For batsmen who like to hit across the line, this may be particularly challenging since if it is mistimed, the top edge could fly straight up into the air! In addition, the bowler might succeed in getting the ball to drift slightly in the air with good seam positioning and a little luck.

The Doosra:

The Comparison between the traditional off spin and the doosra spin bowling variation

Credit: BBC News

Off spinners frequently use the Doosra variant to confound batsmen. But there's debate attached, too! The Doosra makes an opposite turn from the typical off break. This makes it tough for left arm orthodox bowlers to turn the ball from left to right and similar for right armers.

The Doosra is controversial because it's challenging to deliver with a straight arm. Because of their actions, some players, including Johan Botha, have been prohibited from using this variation. According to cricket rules, a player’s arm may be bent up to 15 degrees while. While bowling the Doosra, though, some players have bowed their arms more.

How to bowl the Doosra?

A side view of Saeed Ajmal bowling the doosra

Credit: Wall Street Journal

  • The grip for the Doosra is the same as the normal off break grip, but you can modify it slightly.
  • Take a normal run up to build your momentum. 
  • As the bowling arm comes over, turn your arm to show part of the back of your hand to the batsman and cock your wrist slightly.
  • Contort your shoulder a little bit to get the arm and wrist in the right position.
  • For a right arm finger spinner, the seam of the ball should point towards first slip during release. For a left armer, it should point towards the fine leg.
  • A slightly bent arm during release makes it easier to bowl the Doosra.
  • The index and middle fingers are used to impart spin, with the index finger flicking the ball as it leaves the hand.
  • The middle finger generates rotation, while the index finger applies the direction of spin.

The Carrom Ball:

Ravichandran Ashwin bowling the carrom ball off spin bowling variation

Credit: ESPNcricinfo

You must’ve seen Ravichandran Ashwin use so many different variations. But one spin bowling variation he excelled at was the carrom ball. This variation behaves in a similar direction to that of the doosra. This means that left arm orthodox bowlers will turn the it in towards a right-handed batsman's body, whereas right-armers will take it away from the body of a right-handed batsman.

How to bowl the carrom ball spin bowling variation?

  • To bowl a Carrom ball, hold the leather  in a similar way to the regular off break grip, but more prominently with the thumb, index finger, and ring finger.
  • Take a regular run up to gather momentum. 
  • Just before your release, straighten your middle finger and roll it up the edge of the ball.
  • The palm of the hand must always face the batter when bowling.
  • At the same time, pull down on the opposite side of the ball with their thumb.
  • This makes it go in a certain way in the opposite direction to that of the traditional off break, which makes it difficult for the batsman to read and hit it.

Cricket spin bowling using the Carrom ball gives bowlers more control because it deviates less than other deliveries. To learn how to pitch well and set up batsmen with off breaks and carrom balls, watch videos of Ajantha Mendis and Ravi Ashwin. Even the highest wicket keeper of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan, had multiple off spin bowling variations to always trick the batter. To master this skill and develop finger strength for the proper tempo, it takes a lot of practice. You may master any cricket skill if you practise regularly.


With a lot of practice, no skill is difficult to learn. So continue practicing by looking at this expert spin bowling variation guide and become the best bowler in your team, haunt the batsman by making them dance to your spin and ultimately dominate the game! 

Now that you have learn about Spin Bowling Variations, here are some more articles we recommend you read so take you game to the next level:

Cricket Batting Techniques | Cricket Exercises and Workouts | Cricket Bowling Actions

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