Types of bowlers in cricket

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In the sport of cricket there are two broad categories of bowlers: pace and spin. Pace bowlers rely mostly on the speed of the ball to dismiss batsmen, whereas spin bowlers rely on the rotation of the ball.

Pace bowlers[edit]

Pace bowlers, or fast bowlers or pacemen, rely on speed to get a batsman out. This type of bowler can be further classified according to the speed at which they bowl the ball on average.

Most pace bowlers are medium-fast to fast in top level cricket. In general, bowlers of this type are described as right arm or left arm "fast" or "fast-medium". Another technique of fast bowling is the sling action. This action generates extra speed but sacrifices control. Exponents include Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Fidel Edwards and Shaun Tait.

The highest electronically measured speed for a ball bowled by any bowler is 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph) by Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan) against England on 22 February 2003 in a World Cup match at Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa.[1]

Swing bowlers[edit]

Swing bowlers are pace bowlers who, apart from being fast, also use the seam of the ball to make it travel in a curved path through the air. This is further encouraged by systematically polishing one side of the ball while allowing the other side to become roughened and worn. The differing airflow around the two sides will cause the ball to swing in the air, towards the roughened side. By changing the orientation of the ball in his hand, a bowler may therefore cause the ball to swing into or away from the batsman. In addition to a well-polished ball, other factors help the ball to swing, notably damp or humid weather conditions. However balls which have been in play for some time do not tend to swing so much due to the deterioration of the seam. In addition, bowlers of express pace do not tend to get as much swing as the fast-medium-to-medium pace bowlers.

Though younger pace bowlers tend to rely exclusively on speed, as bowlers age they tend to develop this more sophisticated art of swing bowling. Swing bowlers are more effective than sheer pace bowlers as the swing can confuse a batsman. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis of Pakistan, James Anderson of England and Dale Steyn of South Africa are masters of this skill, and are capable of causing an older, misshapen ball to swing the opposite way from normal, i.e. toward the shiny side. This is known as reverse swing and has become an increasingly important skill in the last 10 to 15 years. Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, England's James Anderson, Indians Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan are prominent bowlers known for the use of reverse swing.

Slow Bowlers have bowling action of a seam bowler, but bowl at a speed of 90-110 km/hr. They may use leg cutter and off cutter but mainly rely on variations and deception. Rajat Bhatia is one such example.

Other tactics[edit]

Pace bowlers frequently dismiss batsmen through variation and deception. A batter who has been "softened up" by a series of bouncers, which pitch nearer the bowler than normal and reach the batsman around head height, or even hit the batsman, may tend to play the next ball on the back foot, and thus be susceptible to a full length yorker delivery that bounces at his toes. Many bowlers also develop a "slower ball"; these are bowled with the same arm action as their normal delivery, but come slower from the hand, usually due the bowler gripping the ball differently or cocking his wrist at the last moment. With luck, the batsman will misread the pace, and will have finished his shot before the ball arrives. Other common variations include the leg cutter and off cutter, medium pace deliveries bowled with a spinner's wrist action, which can sometimes "turn" just like deliveries from a spinner.

Spin bowlers[edit]

Spin bowlers or spinners impart rotation to the ball to get a batsman out. The spin on the ball makes its movement hard to predict, particularly when it bounces, hence spin bowlers try to deceive batsmen into making a mistake. Speed is not crucial in spin bowling, and spinners tend to bowl in the slow-medium to medium-slow range, around 45-55 mph. There are two broad categories of spin bowling: wrist spin and finger spin.

Wrist spin[edit]

Wrist spinners are bowlers who use their wrists to spin the ball. A right-handed wrist spinner is known as a leg spinner and his or her mode of bowling is known as leg break. A leg break will move from right to left from the bowler's point of view, or from the leg-side to the off-side for a right-handed batsman. Wrist spinners include Shane Warne, of Australia and Imran Tahir, of South Africa.

Left-handed wrist spinners, who are much rarer than right-handed wrist-spinners, are called Left-arm unorthodox spin bowlers. This form of delivery was often termed a chinaman after an early left-arm finger spinner of Chinese descent, Ellis Achong, who sometimes bowled wrist spinners as a variation while playing for the West Indies. This term has fallen out of fashion. A ball delivered in this way will spin from the off-side to the leg-side for a right-handed batsman. Paul Adams and Tabraiz Shamsi of South Africa are the best-known recent left-arm unorthodox bowlers as is Kuldeep Yadav from India. Australian one-day all-rounder Brad Hogg is another current exponent of left-arm wrist-spin, as is his teammate, batsman Simon Katich. Beau Casson, another Australian is another fine[citation needed] left-arm unorthodox bowler.

Finger spin[edit]

Finger spinners make use of their fingers to rotate the ball. A right-arm finger spinner is known as an off-spinner and their mode of bowling is known as off break. The ball will appear to move just as the left-arm unorthodox ball does, from off to leg for a right-handed batsman. Muttiah Muralitharan (often called "Murali") of Sri Lanka and Graeme Swann of England, two of the most successful bowlers in Test and ODI cricket history, are off-spinners. Murali's bowling style is unique, while Swann's is more conventional. Indian Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin and Pakistanis Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal are amongst contemporary bowlers of this type, who also employ this bowling style. Saqlain Mushtaq invented a new delivery with this style of bowling called "Doosra", this delivery is bowled with almost same action as off break however it spins like a leg break or goes straight on with the angle of the delivery. This delivery has become one of the most effective deliveries in an off spin bowler's variety of deliveries. This delivery has been employed by other famous bowlers after Saqlain Mushtaq, such as Murali and Saeed Ajmal. Another type of delivery, the carrom ball, was invented in the 1940s but largely vanished by the 1970s before being revived in the early 21st century by Sri Lanka's Ajantha Mendis; Ashwin also uses this delivery as a second style.

Almost all left-handed bowlers are finger spinners. As a result, this style has no fixed name and the bowling mode is simply known as (slow) left-arm orthodox. The ball turns like a leg break, from leg to off. Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh, New Zealand's Daniel Vettori, Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath, and Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja from India employ this bowling style.

"Mixed" bowlers[edit]

A bowler equally skilled in both types of bowling is known as a mixed bag or an all round bowler. Such bowlers are rare. The great West Indian all rounder Sir Garfield Sobers bowled effectively in the left-arm fast-medium, left-arm orthodox, and left-arm unorthodox styles.

Slow seam bowlers[edit]

There are some bowlers who are just regarded as slow or slow seam; bowlers who bowl at the speed of spinners without turning the ball. Such bowlers need to be accurate in their line and length and have very good variation with the speed of the ball if they are to have any success. However, this type of bowler is now diminishing in the modern game because of their lack of pace and movement with the ball. Such exponents are rare, yet include some big names such as Sir Alastair Cook (not necessarily for his bowling, yet his only Test wicket yielded fame).


Bowling styles are often abbreviated in scorecards (and in player profiles on Wikipedia) as follows :

Right arm seam bowling abbreviations
Right arm pace/seam bowling RF/RAF Right-arm fast
RFM/RAFM Right-arm fast medium
RMF/RAMF Right-arm medium fast
RM/RAM Right-arm medium
RMS/RAMS Right-arm medium slow
RSM/RASM Right-arm slow medium
RS/RAS Right-arm slow
Left arm seam bowling abbreviations
Left arm pace/seam bowling
LF/LAF Left-arm fast
LFM/LAFM Left-arm fast medium
LMF/LAMF Left-arm medium fast
LM/LAM Left-arm medium
LMS/LAMS Left-arm medium slow
LSM/LASM Left-arm slow medium
LS/LAS Left-arm slow
Right-arm spin bowling abbreviations
Right-arm spin bowling
OB Off break
LB Leg break
Left-arm spin bowling abbreviations
Left-arm spin bowling SLA Slow left-arm orthodox
SLW Slow left-arm wrist spin