Types of bowlers in cricket

Types of bowlers in cricket

In the sport of cricket there are two broad categories of bowlers: pace bowlers and spin bowlers. 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

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. For details see Fast bowling.

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 right arm or left arm "fast-medium", and so on. Though Jeff "Thommo" Thomson of Australia was long regarded as the fastest bowler in the world (with a fastest ball clocked at 99.7 mph and rumoured to have broken the 100mph barrier), today Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait of Australia are considered the fastest bowlers in the history of the game. Shoaib Akhtar has been timed at over 100 mph and was the first bowler that has broken the barrier, though his pace along with colleague Mohammed Asif's was both questioned, after it was discovered they had both taken the banned substance Nandralone, a steroid which enhances performance. It is widely considered that the pace either can bowl at was not genuine. Muhammad Sami of Pakistan was also clocked at 100 mph but reading from speed gun were thought not to be right at the time, raising eyebrows at the claim, Sami was then clocked on 100 mph in the same match.

wing bowlers

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 were masters of this skill, and were 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.

Other tactics

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.

pin bowlers

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

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. Shane Warne of Australia, one of the most successful bowlers in Test cricket history, and Anil Kumble of India are two of the contemporary bowlers of this type.

Left-handed wrist spinners, who are much rarer than right-handed wrist-spinners, are called chinaman bowlers, 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. A ball delivered in this way will spin from the off-side to the leg-side for a right-handed batsman. Paul Adams of South Africa is the best-known current chinaman bowler, though he no longer features in his country's national side. Australian one-day all-rounder Brad Hogg is another current exponent of left-arm wrist-spin, as is his teammate, batsman Simon Katich.

Finger spin

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 chinaman does, from off to leg for a right-handed batsman. Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka, one of the most successful bowlers in Test and ODI cricket history, is an off-spinner, although his bowling style is unusual. Indian Harbhajan Singh also employs this bowling 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. Monty Panesar of England and New Zealand's Daniel Vettori employ this bowling style.


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 chinaman styles. He is considered the greatest All-rounder of all time, followed by many other greats such as:
- Sir Ian Botham
- Sir Richard Hadlee
- Imran Khan
- Kapil Dev
- Wasim Akram
- Christopher Cairns
- Jacques Kallis
- Andrew Flintoff
- Daniel Vettori

There are also batsman, who have part-time duty of bowling, some of them are known as partnership breakers because of their knack of getting good/settled player out. The most prominent ones are:
- Sachin Tendulkar
- Sanath Jayasuria
- Andrew Symonds
- Shahid Afridi

There are some bowlers who are just regarded as "slow", 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. The most famous and recent example is Chris Harris from New Zealand.

There are also a few occasional medium fast bowlers who consistently show their talent on the pitch. Sourav Ganguly of India has been on numerous occasions integral to the bowling side and also took wickets when handed the new ball in the middle of his overs during a match against Pakistan in 2007 at Delhi showing his seam abilities.


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

{| class="wikitable" width=50%
+ "Bowling abbreviations"
rowspan="8" align="left" | Pace bowling
RF || Right-arm fast
RFM || Right-arm fast medium
RMF || Right-arm medium fast
RM || Right-arm medium
LF || Left-arm fast
LFM || Left-arm fast medium
LMF || Left-arm medium fast
LM || Left-arm medium
rowspan="5" align="left" | Spin bowling
OB || Off break (right-arm)
LB || Leg break (right-arm)
LBG || Leg break googly (right-arm)
SLA || Slow left-arm orthodox
SLC || Slow left-arm chinaman

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