Leg-spin is an art not many mastered in cricket. Though there have fewer leg-spinners than their contraries, the formers have often dominated the game. Don’t believe me, believe Graeme Swann, as he once said,

“Leg-spin is by far the hardest thing to do in cricket. The skill level is above and beyond anything else. It is just too hard to be consistent.”

He must have been right! Why not? He had played during the era when two of the greatest leg-spinners in the game were active, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble. The records held by these two are not usual, and though it could get matched; I bet only a leg-spinner would better them.

So what’s this deal about leg-spinners? Are they the unique genre of spinners to have graced the game? And if yes, what makes them so special than others? Let’s answer them all.

What is leg-spin?

Leg-spin is a form of spin bowling where the ball deviates after pitching on the leg side of a right-handed batsman, towards the off side. In leg-spin, the revolutions get generated with the use of the wrist unlike in case of off-spin, where mostly the use of fingers is required to get the turn off the pitch. Since the ball tends to move away from the batsmen, it gets challenging to play in the line of the delivery.

Leg Spin
The graphic representation of leg-spin (where the ball moves away from the right-handed batsman). Image Courtesy: BBC

Why is leg-spin challenging to play than off-spin?

There are various reasons why the leg-spinners are more challenging to face; or even why they tend to pick more wickets than off-spinners. In the case of the leg-spinners, they get more torque on the ball, which allows them to get more drift in the flight. With the help of that, to read them off their hands gets tough. As a result, the batsman stays in limbo to go for it or not.

Not only this, but the leg-spinners have more in their arsenal to offer than the finger spinners. The repertoire of different types of deliveries is legbreak, googly, zooter, top-spinner, flipper, etc. What’s worse in case of a batsman? There’s not much of a change in the bowling action which keeps everyone guessing at the other end, sometimes a wicketkeeper as well.

Anil Kumble, leg-spin
Anil Kumble delivers a leg-spin delivery in the nets. Image Courtesy: Getty

Rarity keeps them (leg-spinners) ahead of the game

Moreover, the rarity of the leg-spin bowlers makes them less vulnerable to expansive hitting in cricket; it also brings them closer to the graph on picking up a wicket as compared to the off-spinners. Since not every backroom staff has a skilled wrist-turner, the batsmen become more likely to fall prey to leg-spin bowlers in a match.

Also, what differs from a batsman’s perspective is the line of defence. While facing an off-spinner, the first line of defence is the pad. Even if the ball misses the pad, it is more likely to hit the batsman’s body. The scenario is entirely different in case of a leg-spin bowler. There is no line of defence if the ball goes past the bat.

In order to reach the line of the ball and cut down the spin, the batsman tends to move forward; resulting in him leaving his crease in most cases, thus allowing the wicketkeeper to affect a regular stumping.

Good, great – Shane Warne!

For apparent reasons, Shane Warne remains to be the greatest leg-spinner cricket has seen. Forget his numbers for a moment and realise this; Shane had bowled two ‘Ball of the Century‘ deliveries, dismissing Mike Gatting in 1993 and Andrew Strauss in 2005. What’s common in them was, first, the drift in the flight he got and next, with the revolutions generated by the use of wrist the spin he got off the pitch. In other words, such balls are called Magnificent.

By now, you’d know why the leg-spin is difficult to play than off-spin!