Sunday, August 03, 2008

Almost all spin is wrist spin: Mendis is the only finger spinner

The distinction between 'finger spinners' (e.g. orthodox off-spin and left arm spin) and 'wrist spinners' (e.g. leg-break and chinaman bowlers) is nonsense. Almost all spin bowling is wrist spin. Ajantha Mendis is, in fact, the only finger spinner in world cricket.

If this wasn't the case, then all 'finger spinners' would be able to bowl a doosra using their fingers. Try it, it is easy to flick the ball the opposite direction using only fingers - but this is a very weak spin and very tiring for the fingers, so it is un-usable in match conditions.

It is precisely because of the difficulty of rotating the wrist forward and fast in both directions that it is so rare to be able to bowl a doosra without throwing.

(I think Murali can bowl a doosra only because of his bent elbow and massive shoulder rotation; and I think Saqlain's doosra is rolled, rather than spun, over the top of the fingers and out from under the thumb, using an unusual arm action which brings the arm over towards slips. They confirm that the doosra can be bowled legally only by people with unusual anatomies.).

But there are a few rare finger spinners, and these are the spinners who can flick the ball with their middle finger - Mendis is the latest (and perhaps most impressive-ever) example.

And because they do not use the wrist to impart spin, these finger-flick spinners can turn the ball in either direction, the wrist is simply rotated to point the thumb in the direction the ball needs to spin and turn.

The difficulty with this true finger spin is - I think - fatigue. If it was not to prevent fatigue, then Mendis would presumably bowl his flicker/ carrom ball all of the time. As it is, he apparently bowls wrist-spun off-breaks as a stock delivery, and uses the various finger-flicked-deliveries as a variation.

After all, Mendis can bowl off-breaks using his finger flicked googly - so why would he want/ need to bowl off-breaks from the front of his hand? There is no reason for Mendis ever to bowl front-of-hand off-breaks except for the need (in long bowling spells in the long form of the game) to reduce fatigue on his middle finger

I haven't yet seen an extended video of Mendis, but my guess would be that he probably bowls half or more deliveries as off-breaks; i.e. using his wrist to impart off-spin and cutting-down the number of times he needs to use the finger flick, and thereby preventing exhaustion.

I would predict that the longer the spells Mendis bowls, the more off breaks he would need to bowl - or else his middle finger muscles would simply become exhausted.