No. 43 May 22, 2011

The doosra

Anand Vasu
The delivery that gave oomph to offspin


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Saqlain Mushtaq: the inventor of the doosra © Getty Images

Late 1990s

The doosra did for offspin what the googly did for legspin more than a century ago: it invested a humble art with a touch of mystery and intrigue. Over the years offspinners had bowled many variations - the floater, the drifter, the under-cutter - but the trick was either confined to not spinning the ball, or at most swinging it away with the arm.

But the doosra - meaning "second" or "other one", in Hindi and Urdu - first mastered by Saqlain Mushtaq and then used to great effect by Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh, was the first instance of a ball that turned away off the pitch with an offbreak action, thanks to a cheeky tweak of the thumb and forefinger.

Saqlain explains it simply as "God's gift", but whether god-given, or as some suggest, a result of a kink in the elbow, the doosra has changed the well-established notion of offpsin as primarily a restrictive form of slow bowling.

This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003