Monday, July 18, 2011

How does Saeed Ajmal bowl his doosra?

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Originally posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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I have been watching the West Indies v Pakistan Test series on TV, and thoroughly enjoyed watching Ajmal bowl.

He is a real craftsman, and looks like currently being the second best spinner in the world (after Swann).

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He also has the best doosra ever - in the sense that he is the first off-spinner to have a doosra good enough to be a stock delivery - it doesn't seem to cost much effort, seems impossible for the batsman to 'pick' from the hand, has a useful bats-width deviation and very good bounce.

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How does he do it?

Of course I don't know for sure - but I think this is the method:

1. He uses his middle finger as the spinning finger for the doosra (contrasted with using the index finger for spinning the off-break).

But the grip doesn't look very different for the two deliveries.

2. He also uses a flip of the wrist - specifically an extension of the wrist - to impart extra spin.

This is an important innovation, since without this extra wrist flip, the doosra would spin only slowly; but with this wrist extension he get good top-spinning revolutions which gives his doosra dip and bounce.

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The reason that the doosra is so rare is that the off break is usually bowled using a rotation of the forearm (anatomically called supination - like putting your elbow on the table with the forearm lying flat, and moving from having the palm on the table to palm facing upwards).

But supination cannot be used when the back of the hand is facing the batter (the forearm is already supinated), so most bowlers would need to rely on a small amount of finger-imparted spin, a small sideways movement of the wrist (called adduction) and perhaps an element of elbow straightening (a 'back-chuck').

But by flipping his wrist forward, Ajmal is able to produce plenty of spin without throwing.

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His other advantage is that (I guess) Ajmaal has built his bowling action around the doosra - with an almost vertical arm action, so that his off-break is bowled from a very similar action and hand position - his off-break is more of a top-spinner than most other off-break bowlers.

Most off-break bowlers build their action around optimizing their off-break - then they find that they cannot bowl a doosra - or at least not without chucking, or bowling something very obvious and easy to 'pick'.

So (leaving aside Murali as a one-off and unclassifiable bowler) I believe that Saeed Ajmal should be recognized as the first international quality true doosra bowler!

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