Ashley Mallett
Former Australia offspinner


Modern spinners who could take any batsman on in any conditions and win

Ashley Mallett

May 10, 2012

Comments: 83 | Text size: A | A

Derek Underwood bowling
Underwood: sharp eye for a batsman's weakness © Getty Images
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My last piece was about the best batsman I've watched. In this one, I look at my top five spin bowlers.

Shane Warne's star illuminated the cricket firmament, inspiring generations with the majesty of his art. When Warne reigned supreme on the Test stage, you'd see kids in the park and in the nets trying to emulate him. They got the saunter right, but what they didn't see was Warne's amazing strength, drive and energy through the crease. Watching him, it all looked so easy. They would emulate his approach, release the ball, and more times than not watch it disappear out of the park. There was a general lack of understanding about energy and drive through the crease.

Warne turned up just when we all thought legspin had gone the way of the dinosaurs, who were bounced out when Earth failed to duck a hail of meteors. Sir Donald Bradman said Warne's legspin was the best thing to happen to Australian cricket in more than 30 years. I, along with thousands of television viewers, watched transfixed as Warne weaved his magic. Poor Mike Gatting, poor, hapless Daryll Cullinan.

I was in the South African dressing room when Warne destroyed them with 6 for 34 in their second innings at the SCG in 1998. And we all remember the time he got seven wickets for 50-odd at the MCG against West Indies, getting Richie Richardson with a flipper. Before that grand performance, which sparked his career, the camera focused on Warne in the field, and Bill Lawry said on air: "Now there's a young man who won't get much bowling today." The Phantom was right: Warne bowled 23 overs; not a lot of work for a slow bowler, but that was all he had to get seven wickets.

Warne's genius got him 708 wickets in 145 Tests. His physical skills were matched by an incredibly strong mind. He was frequently in a lot of controversy off the cricket field, but he managed to focus totally on his cricket when it mattered on the field of play. As with Don Bradman and Garry Sobers, he was a cricketing phenomenon.

The Indian offspinner Erapalli Prasanna was a small, rotund chap, with little hands and stubby fingers. Not the size of hand you'd think would be able to give a cricket ball tremendous purchase.

Pras, as he was affectionately called, bounced up to the wicket and got very side-on. He was short, so he tended to toss the ball up, and he spun it so hard it hummed. Unlike the majority of spinners, he could entice you forward with tantalising flight or force you back, and often got a batsman trapped on the crease. His changes of pace weren't always as subtle as Warne's, but Pras broke the rhythm of batsmen better than any spinner I've seen - especially with that quicker ball, which perplexed the best players of spin bowling in his era.

He possessed a mesmerising quality in that he seemed to have the ball on a string. You'd play forward and find yourself way short of where you expected the ball to pitch. In Madras once, I thought I'd take him on and advanced down the wicket only, to my horror, find that Pras had pulled hard on the "string" and I was miles short of where the ball pitched. I turned, expecting to see Farokh Engineer remove the bails, only to see the ball, having hit a pothole, climb over the keeper's head for four byes.

Pras was one of the few spinners to worry the life out of Ian Chappell, for he could trap him on the crease or lure him forward at will. Doug Walters, on the other hand, played the offspinners better than most - perhaps because his bat came down at an angle and the more you spun it, the more likely it was to hit the middle of his bat.

In 49 Tests Prasanna took 189 wickets at an average of 30.38. For a spinner who played a lot on the turning tracks of India, his average is fairly tall, but Pras was a wicket-taker and he took risks, inviting the batsman to hit him into the outfield. He always believed that if the batsman was taking him on and trying to hit him while he was spinning hard, dipping and curving the ball, he would have the final word.

For his tremendous performances in Australia in 1967-68, I place Prasanna if not above, at least on par with another genius offspinner, the Sri Lankan wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.

Murali's Test figures beggar belief - 133 matches for 800 wickets at 22.72, with 67 bags of five wickets or more (though, for some reason, he didn't shine in Australia).

He operated from very wide on the crease - which would inhibit the ordinary offie - but got so much work on the ball and a tremendous breadth of turn that he got away with bowling from that huge angle. At times he operated from round the wicket to get an away drift. Murali had the doosra, which fooled most batsmen, although the smart ones knew that his offbreak was almost certainly going to be a fair way outside the line of off stump to a right-hander and that the doosra would come on a much straighter line.

His changes of pace weren't always as subtle as Warne's, but Prasanna broke the rhythm of batsmen better than any spinner I've seen

Saqlain Mushtaq lost his way over the doosra, the delivery he created, because he ended up bowling everything on too straight a line, and thus his offbreak became far less effective at the end of the career than it was when he began.

As with Saqlain and Warne, Murali made good use of his front foot. When any spinner gets his full body weight over his braced front leg at the point of release, he achieves maximum revolutions.

As a youngster Murali attended the famous St Anthony's College in Kandy, and every Sunday morning he trained under the tutelage of Sunil Fernando. Ruwan Kalpage, who also trained under Fernando at the time, and is the current Sri Lankan fielding coach, maintains that Murali always had the same action that he took into big cricket.

As with Warne, when bowling, Murali had an extraordinary area of danger, as big an area as your average dinner table. The likes of Ashley Giles, say, on the other hand, who didn't spin the ball very hard, needed to be super accurate, for their area of danger was about as a big as a dinner plate in contrast.

The key to spin bowling is not where the ball lands but how the ball arrives to the batsman. As with Warne and Prasanna, when Murali bowled, the ball came with a whirring noise and after striking the pitch rose with venom. Throughout his career and beyond there has been that nagging doubt about the legitimacy of Murali's action, but the ICC has cleared him and that is why I place him among the best five spinners I've seen.

My No. 4 is Derek Underwood, the England left-arm bowler, who has to be categorised as a spinner, although he operated at about slow-medium and cut the ball rather than spun it in the conventional left-arm orthodox manner. On good wickets Lock was a superior bowler to Underwood, but on underprepared or rain-affected wickets, the man from Kent was lethal.

He had a lengthy approach, a brisk ten or so paces, with a rather old-fashioned duck-like gait, and a hunter's attitude, along with a keen eye for a batsman's weakness. In August 1968, Underwood demolished Bill Lawry's Australian team on the last day of the fifth Test. Heavy rain gave the Australians hope of escaping with a draw and so winning the series 1-0. But Underwood swooped after tea and cut them down, taking 7 for 50.

Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates his five-for, Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day, July 21, 2010
Murali: his extreme spin allowed him to get away with operating wide of the crease © AFP

A week later he joined John Inverarity, Greg Chappell (who had just completed a season with Somerset) and me on Frank Russell's Cricketers Club of London tour of West Germany. We stayed in a British Army camp just outside the old city of Mönchengladbach. We played a cricket match against the army, using an artificial pitch and welded steel uprights doubled for stumps.

A huge West Indian came to the crease and we pleaded with Deadly to "throw one up". Having faced him over five Tests in England, where his slower ball was about the speed of Basil D'Oliveira's medium-pacers, we were keen to see how the batsman - any batsman - would react, when Underwood gave the ball some air. He eventually did. As the ball left his hand we could see a hint of a smile on the batsman's face. The ball disappeared and was never retrieved. Underwood's face was a flush of red as he let the next ball go, and what a clang it made as it hit those steel uprights, while the West Indian's bat was still on the downswing!

Apart from his destructive ability on bad or rain-affected tracks, Underwood was also a brilliant foil for the fast bowlers on hard wickets. He kept things tight as a drum when bowing in tandem with John Snow during Ray Illingworth's successful 1970-71 Ashes campaign Down Under.

My fifth choice might surprise some for I've gone for Graeme Swann, the best of the modern torchbearers for spin bowling.

I first saw him with Gareth Batty and Monty Panesar, fellow spin hopefuls, in Adelaide in the early 2000s. Swann had energy through the crease, he spun hard, and he tried to get people out. At that time some of the coaches leaned towards Panesar and I couldn't understand it, for Swann wasn't just a fine offspinner, he could bat when he put his mind to it, and he was an exceptional slip fieldsman. In comparison Panesar did not seem to have the same resolve or the cricketing nous.

When he was finally recognised as a top-flight spinner, Swann proved himself straightaway. He was 29 years old when he played his first Test, against India in 2008-09, and in the four-odd years since, he has played 41 Tests, taking 182 wickets at 27.97. Swann doesn't have the doosra, but he does have the square-spinner, which looks like an offie but skids on straight, and he can beat either side of the right-hander's bat.

There's a cheerful chirpiness about him that may annoy his opponents, but that is part of his make-up, just as the aggression of a Bill O'Reilly, or the cold stare of Warne, helped them dominate batsmen. Statistically Swann's record so far compares well with Jim Laker's (193 wickets at 21.24 from 46 Tests) and Tony Lock (49 Tests - 174 wickets at 25.58 with 9 five-wicket hauls).

There are lots of good spinners who I have had to omit, including Lock, Laker, Abdul Qadir, Lance Gibbs, Richie Benaud, Daniel Vettori, Anil Kumble, Sonny Ramadhin, Intikhab Alam, John Emburey, Pat Pocock, Ray Illingworth, Fred Titmus and Stuart MacGill. But the five I did pick - Warne, Prasanna, Murali, Underwood and Swann - would do well against any batsmen in any era.

Ashley Mallett took 132 Tests wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. An author of over 25 books, he has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson and Ian Chappell

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Posted by   on (May 13, 2012, 18:28 GMT)

@getsetgopk Lara has ZERO hundreds against donald ,pollock,wasim,waqar. He was very badly inconsistent and at times awful from 1995-2000 except one series at home vs Aus. You call him better bat?

Posted by gibbons on (May 12, 2012, 23:23 GMT)


'Aussies back Aussies'.... then why is there only one Australian in the list? Did Mr Mallett forget he was Australian half way through? Or are you suggesting Warne is unworthy? Not quite sure what you're going for there.

Posted by Beertjie on (May 12, 2012, 21:03 GMT)

Werner Rousseau, there's no anti-Saffa bias here. How can you write Tayfield "lost several years due to the WWII" when he was born in 1928? Ashley wouldn't have seen him since he was too young when Tayfield toured Oz in '52. It's about those he saw! What surprised me was his inclusion among those he rated of Illingworth! That guy was no spinner, just a damn good all rounder and very astute captain.

Posted by rajnish.sinha on (May 12, 2012, 15:44 GMT)

@getsetgopk: check ur premises man; he gave it to tendulkar "for his superior technique and consistency throughout his career" not longevity. neways as pointed out to you earlier it is his personal opinion

Posted by samrao on (May 12, 2012, 13:13 GMT)

This is Ashley Mallet's personal favorites list . He himself was one of the better spinners to have played the game . I am sure in present era Prasanna would have done even better because of higher number of games being played and generally deteriorating technique against spinners. Very few bowlers have been sidelined at their peak for whatever reasons. I am sure Chandra,Bedi, Kumble are equally great but then this is Mallets personal list of only five out of many hundread to have played this game.

Posted by CKfrombrisbane on (May 12, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

AUSSIES BACK AUSSIES. This article is very bias and does now have the legitimacy.

Posted by Nair_saab on (May 12, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

I wold add shahbaz Nadeem & K P Appanna in my all time favorite 5 list in place of grame swann & Derek Underwood coz only bowlers of the same class and caliber can be replaced.

Posted by   on (May 12, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

hugh .................murali is the greatest.........................murali is far ahead when it comes to the spirit of the game............shane warne is a great bowler when it comes to sledging........

Posted by kentjones on (May 11, 2012, 15:10 GMT)

Mr. Mallett is certainly one of the players I recall from the bygone era. I respect his selection of batters and bowlers, although I believe it represents an Australian point of view. Just shows how parochial the mind can be.

Posted by   on (May 11, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

Hard to compare players, but we all love doing it :) My top five bowlers in general, in no order that I have seen (Am 26, so only modern I'm afraid with the respect to legends like Marshal, Lille, Inter Alia) : Alan Donald, Glen McGrath, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and that's an attack :) I think 5 batsman of the now generation to watch would be: AB devilliers, Virat Kholi, Amla, M Clarke and Warner (Just for pure excitement, reminds me of how Gili used to play)

Posted by anantbio on (May 11, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

I am surprised Turbantor is not in this list, wonderful spinner of the ball, who has won matches single handedly and handy batsmen

Posted by adm21 on (May 11, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

This is his list of spinners he's seen play. Mallett was about 14 when Laker played his last test.

Posted by Meety on (May 11, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

@getsetopk - regardless mate, it is just opinion.

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 11, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

@Meety: In his five best batsmen article Ash went for SRT over Lara for his longevity even though Lara was a better bat, but lets just say longevity alone could take a player to the top, in this article somehow longevity doesn't count (kumble). The author is deviating from his own pattern. And to base your opinion on bowling performances in just one country is highly narrow minded for some one who has written over 25 books.

Posted by   on (May 11, 2012, 3:46 GMT)

Choices are okay but just as he mentioned about Murali not being successful in OZ he should also have mentioned Warne not being successful in spinner friendly tracks in India. I would have prefered Saeed Ajmal better than Swann!

Posted by   on (May 11, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

How can you ignore the hawk-eye precision and gritt of Jumbo? One of the most consistent spinner after Warne and Murli. And yes I agree Saqlain or Saeed are better spinner than Swan.

Posted by Meety on (May 11, 2012, 2:59 GMT)

@@getsetgopk - I respect Mallett's opinion as well as any INFORMED opinion. I admired Qadir, however in Oz - he averaged 61 with a S/R of 110, Saqlain was better but ave 34 & S/R 74 is ave. All of the bowlers he has commented on are players he has seen a fair bit of, one way or another. He had a bit more to do with Murali away from Oz, regardless the point is, no matter who he selected - somebody will complain. Saqlain & Qadir got honourable mentions. @howardroark_fh - thanks mate, I actually do think I have biased views - its just I try really hard to reign them in! LOL!!!!! @Raghav Kartik (& others) - its undeniable that Kumble's longevity & class was of at least borderline great or better. One of the things I think that works against Kumble, is that overtime, he comes across as a very unassuming character, & it is easy to underestimate him as a person & as a player, (IMO a lot of batsmen underestimated him at their ultimate demise!)

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (May 11, 2012, 2:28 GMT)

Was half expecting all the Pakistani's to be on here complaining that Ajmal didn't get a run. Whoever suggested Harbahjan, you must be joking right?

Posted by Meety on (May 11, 2012, 2:17 GMT)

@Hamzaad - read the last paragraph. @Bilal_Choudry - excellent point, (although the preference for Underwood is slightly at odds). Mallett has a preference for spinners to loop the ball, therefor, he'd be more pleased with the methods of Prassanna. Unlike other commentors, it has NOTHING to do with being bias, just preference. @samuelcolt0928 - re: Swann, have a look at his stats, they are world class, if he maintains this trend for another 40 tests, he'll have well over 300 test wickets, & be a worthy player of the term "Great". @Xolile - I have seen enough of your posts to know you know how to use a simple stats filter. On averages - its Laker all the way, however, Swann has a superior wickets per match ratio, AND his S/R is 6 balls per wicket BETTER than Laker. IMO, it was a fair call by Mallett.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (May 11, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

Quite a biased article if you ask me. How Murali rated 3rd below some Indian Spinner from the 70's who had an average of 30 at a time when bowlers had advantage defeats me. Also, while Graeme Swann is showing up to be promising, it is WAY too early to be putting him as the top 5 bowlers in the world. The man has only played 40 tests! Thats like putting Philander in the top 5 Fast Bowlers club. As with Warne and Murali, debate always rages, it is a given that they will hold the top 2 positions nonetheless. Prasanna's inclusion in this list is incredulous, I really can not figure out how he rated above Bedi, Kumble, and Harbhajan from India.... The author seems to be in love with an isolated performance against the Australians from Prasanna. My 5 (in order): Murali, Warne, Kumble, MacGill, and Harbhajan. No players from before the 90's because spinners simply weren't competitive enough those days. Murali is a class of his own though and even Warne trails him by a lot

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 23:07 GMT)

Your opinion. Other than Warne and Murli who are automatic candidates. Anyway, wasn't Saqlain the only spinner in the history to have dominated the Indian batsmen (undoubtedly the biggest challenge for a spinner) in their own backyard?

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 23:02 GMT)

No. You're incorrect about the Doosra, which is understandable because you didn't have it yourself, the Doosra would actually best be delivered straight, with a little bit of in-drift, pitching about on or slightly outside off-stump, because that leaves the maximum unpredictability to a right handed batsman, Saqlain did not lose his way over the Doosra, because Saeed Ajmal still does what he did and remains completely (literally) unreadable. The next effective method would be bowling round the wicket which Murli started, not just to create the drift as you say, but to also amplify the Doosra while maintaining a decent amount of unpredictability for a right handed batsman (over which one to expect/play). Saeed Ajmal currently masters this as well. Not saying he should definitely be in the list, just correcting your false comprehension over the brought up points.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

Ashley Mallett probably never heard of Subash Gupte - quite easily the best leg spinner, who played cricket. Sir Garfield Sobers, endorsed him as such. The selection of Graeme Swann and Saglain Mushtaq didn't impress me. There were clearly others who did better. A certain Lance Gibbs might have earned a nod. Bishen Singh Bedi? He was always there, in the top bracket.

Posted by nakihunter on (May 10, 2012, 22:19 GMT)

Disapointed that there is no mention at all of Bishan Bedi and Harbajan Singh. The 5 are Mallet's personal favourites and that is fine. But how could one miss out the two "Sardars of Spin" when you mention people like Pocock & illingworth who hardly ever won a match with their bowling!

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 21:06 GMT)

If you are asking "Where is ____?" you should realise it's Ashley Mallett's article and he is telling about his choice. he hasn't set out to pick 5 all time best spinners. If he think he pref Swann over another great spinner, he has the liberty to do that. Not mentioning Bedi/Chandra/Laker in this article doesn't mean that they are not great! It is just his opinion.

Posted by mamboman on (May 10, 2012, 20:50 GMT)

I'm amazed the comments section isn't overrun by Indians complaining that Tendulkar hasn't been named one of the 5 greatest spinners ever

Posted by puneet88 on (May 10, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

Saqlain's name should have been there above Swann ... That is why I am not a huge fan of these top5 lists because you can never limit the diversity of the game in a 5 man list ... Its Ashley Mallett's opinion and everyone can have their different opinion !!!

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 20:26 GMT)

Once again South Adfrican players are simply overlooked. Hugh Tafield averaged only 25.91 at 1.91 runs an over for his 170 wickets. He only played 37 test so he took 4.6 wickets a match which is better than gibbs and laker the other great spinners of his time.. He once boled 35 8 ball overs unchaged including a secuence of 137 dot balls. He also lost several years due to the WWII.

He may not be a top five spinner but surely he should get a mention with the list at the end? Most cricinfo writers espescially ozzy writers seem to dismiss south african crickiting greats.

Posted by zphoenixz on (May 10, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Well.... given the list that you have, you picked the best 5 among them. But it looks like you don't seem to have the complete list of all the good spinners. I think these spinners deserve at-least an honorable mention even though in my view they are better than Graeme Swan Bedi, Venkat Raghavan, Saqlain Mustaq, Mustaq Ahmad

Posted by hhillbumper on (May 10, 2012, 19:51 GMT)

anyone else getting the feeling that if Indian players aren't named top players at everything then it is wrong.

Posted by howardroark_fh on (May 10, 2012, 19:18 GMT)

@meety it s been a pleasure to read ur posts mate.unbiased n insightful. as far as the article, Warney is by far the best spin bowler rather the best bowler for me.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 18:21 GMT)

I was a big fan of Ashley Mallet back in the '70's. Good to hear from him.

Posted by peterhrt on (May 10, 2012, 18:19 GMT)

Ashley Mallett's choices may be more perceptive than they first appear. Remember he is stressing spin bowlers' effectiveness in all conditions. Only nine spinners have taken a hundred Test wickets outside their home country at an average under thirty. Six of them played during the period under review, of whom four appear in Mallett's top five. The odd man out is Prasanna with 94 wickets at 33. Away from India and Australasia he was economical but not penetrative. The two omitted by Mallett are Gibbs, who was past his best when Mallett started, and Saeed Ajmal who only qualifies if his Tests in UAE count as away matches. The records of the nine are: Grimmett (111 wickets average 23), Warne (389 av 24), Benaud (144 av 24), Ajmal (107 av 26), Ramadhin (100 av 26), Murali (307 av 27), Underwood (152 av 27), Gibbs (183 av 28) and Swann (108 av 28). Three Aussies, two Englishmen, two West Indians, a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan. On this evidence Warne's number one position looks justified.

Posted by amumtaz on (May 10, 2012, 17:41 GMT)

Abdul Qadir, Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal are all miles ahead of Swann. Whoever thinks he is a great bowler has obviously not seen Qadir, Saqlain or Ajmal bowl their masterful deliveries. Saqlain even had Indian batsmen hobbling (1999) in India during a tight test series. Swann at best is overrated and not of the same quality as the rest.

Posted by doesitmatter on (May 10, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

Where is Chandra?..Did AM look at his BA accidently? :)..Give Chandra a worn out pitch he would be lethal..

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

where is ajmal? this report is incomplete with out him, how can u not recognize a world class spinner

Posted by Simoc on (May 10, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

I really liked spinners. Teeing them off over the clubrooms and onto neighbours properties used to make my Saturday afternoons. If you're not scared you need to take them on. Great fun is to be had. They're smarter than fast bowlers but not much.

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 10, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

Let me guess in advance, Ash's favourite fast bowlers 1) Joe Garner 2) Mcgrath 3) Bret Lee 4) Denis Lily 5) Ashok Dinda

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 10, 2012, 15:40 GMT)

@Meety: I guess Ash hasn't seen much of Abdul Qadir and Saqlain Mushtaq either.

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 10, 2012, 15:31 GMT)

Saqlain Mushtaq had 208 wickets from 49 tests and 288 wickets from 169 ODI's with remarkable economy and average and he not only invented the doosra, he actually mastered it at the same time, the same delivery latter on learned and used by bowlers like Murali, Ajmal and Bhajji (to an extent) to deadly effect. Saqi actually contributed to the game that alone should have been enough to rank him one of the all time best. But...

Posted by mk49_van on (May 10, 2012, 15:09 GMT)

Pras - he was something else. I saw him when I was a kid (and he was towards the end of his career) out think Windies batsman Larry Gomes in a tour match ('79). Two flighted deliveries led to two cracking cover drives, Gomes looked might chuffed. Pras followed this with a 'ball on a string' - looked identical to the other two, but dipped late and bounced. Poor Gomes thought he was going to get another cracking boundary, but the ball simply lobbed back to Pras for a caught and bowled. A master off-spinner at work.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 15:07 GMT)

I'm not sure why Swann is considered to be automatically better than Saeed Ajmal - at worst, they're the same level, at best, Ajmal is miles better. He has variation, subtlety, big turn, and accuracy, and is equally dangerous to both righties and lefties. Swann can get stick if the pitches are unhelpful, Ajmal seems to be more suited to bowl on any track. And if it turns big, I'll take Ajmal over Swann any given day.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 14:55 GMT)

Kumble >> Swann. any day, anywhere.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 14:46 GMT)

I know stats don't tell the whole story, but it's very hard to look beyond them. Warne and Murali are undoubtedly the greatest spinners in the history of the game, at least statistically. Prasanna and Underwood don't have anywhere near their record in terms of wickets, run rate OR averages EVEN in first class cricket, and it's important to note that in the Murali-Warne era, the run rate and batsmen domination has been the greatest. I'd definitely rate Murali as the all time best simply because, while he has struggled in Australia, he has outperformed Warne in every other condition in the world (INCLUDING ENGLAND AND INDIA- check their records).

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 14:43 GMT)

dude what about saeed ajmal he is way better then swann

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 14:25 GMT)

A very good article,Mr.Mallet.Genuine Spinners who attack and outfox batsmen are virtually gone today.They were such a joy to watch.However I would disagree with the choice of Swann here.Anil Kumble would have been a better choice.612 wickets with 91 of them in Australia and South Africa together is exceptional considering India have been short of match-winning bowlers.But with the number of choices you had including yourself you have picked a pretty good 5 and given a mention of the others in the end.

Posted by serious-am-i on (May 10, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

I would go with Jim Laker or Abdul Qadir or for the matter Anil Kumble ahead of Swann. I find Swann dangerous only to left handers, he is not such a great guy against the right handers.

Posted by REH223 on (May 10, 2012, 13:18 GMT)

what about saeed ajmal??????

Posted by TATTUs on (May 10, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

Well, just make it a four-fer! Four-fer here is much better than the given 5-fer!

But its Ashley Mallets personal choice. So I have nothing much to say apart from "I disagree on your fifth".

Posted by Rally_Windies on (May 10, 2012, 12:57 GMT)

in my OPINION ... Roger Harper and Rangy Nanan are both better than Swan ...

unfortunately both being West Indian ...... I shouldn't need to finish this story ....

There are many great WI spinners who are unknown outside the West Indies...

Rangy may not have played Test Cricket... but the batsmen he bowled against in the WI domestic competition in the 80's (the WI second stringers) were no push overs.

Posted by indianpunter on (May 10, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

how could he not include tendulkar and his brand of leg/off spin. Blue murder..!!

Posted by BellCurve on (May 10, 2012, 12:33 GMT)

Mallet finds Swann's 182wkts@27.97 comparable to Laker's 193wkts@21.24. Maybe he also finds Tendulkar's batting average comparable to that of Ganguly? Outrageous!

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

I think I disagree about Laker not being there, and I would include Bedi as well. An interesting article by a pleasant man and a good spinner himself!

Posted by HumungousFungus on (May 10, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

Very good article Ashley, Although I never saw Prasanna, your description of him makes me wish I had. I played against Underwood in a charity game many many years ago, and once he'd actually convinced the keeper to stand up to him (he was bowling about the same pace as league seam bowlers and the keeper wanted to stand back) he was unplayable to a quite ludicrous degree. Goodness only knows what facing him on a sticky would have been like. Enough has been written about Warne and Murali, and I won't add to it other than to say that, in my humble opinion, Shane Warne is the greatest bowler who has ever lived (I am not Australian). Leg spin is the most difficult of the cricketing arts, and nobody has, or will, do it better. Swann has taken wickets everywhere he has bowled, and has never resorted to bowling negatively. His figures would be better if England's other bowlers weren't so excellent. In identical conditions I would always back him to outperform Harbajhan, Kumble, Vettori etc...

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

Definitely Kumble is a better spinner than Swann. Remember how Dravid played Swann in the recent Ind tour of Eng series. Even though Ind were whitewashed Swann could not undo Dravid. Kumble has proved several times he can bowl anywhere at any condition.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

Those who reckon Bhaji is up there with the greats need their heads read. He was very handy and very good on his day - but he still averaged over 32 and strike rate of 68. Also has no consistency. No where near good enough to be considered a great when you consider the stats of folks like Kumble, Benaud, MacGill, Gibbs, Laker or Bedi.

Posted by Tigg on (May 10, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

@Mazher Arayin

He mentioned Saqlain. Quite rightly pointing out that his over obsession with the dossra, to the detriment of his otehr deliveries, made him less of a bowler. Good but not great. With Kumble he was great player, had enormous guts, but isn't really a spinners spinner. He didn't use flight and he wasn't a massive turner of the ball (although he got better at both with age).


Bhaji had a purple patch, but he isn't a great spinner. Not a massive tweaker, rarely overly attacking. He took so many wickets in my opinion because throughout most of his career he has a) played largely on turning tracks and b) there was little or no other spinners worth their salt.

Posted by Chris_P on (May 10, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

It is highly amusing that those uninformed, untalented readers disagree with Mallett then proceed to name their preference, most of which would be disagreed by the majority of readers anyway! It is only his opinion, someone who has played at the higest level, coached the best and would have a better idea than all of us about spin bowling. Good account here, all guys have one thing in common, they have performed well in Australian conditions, one of the toughest tests for spinners to perform. For all their talent & stats, I'm afraid Murali, Kumble, Bhaji & Qadir didn't perform anywhere near their potential here, which probably influenced Mallet's opinions. Subjective lists always tosses up discussion, I have my thoughts, but certainly acknowledge Ashley's knowledge.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

Graeme Swann !!! What is his performance against SPIN PLAYING nations aka India ? Also even for Shane Warne, what was his performance against India ? How come Anil Kumble does not feature in this list ?

Posted by on (May 10, 2012, 9:15 GMT)

good article , Shane warne will be the best for me any day , never a dull moment in the field when he was in action...

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 8:53 GMT)

holy cow!!!! how on earth can one put swann above the likes of Jim Laker, Abdul Qadir, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble, etc?!!!!! A pathetic compilation in my opinion!!!

Posted by samuelcolt0928 on (May 10, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

Well Ashley u got Warne in the first place, i appreciate as for a wrist spinner to show that amount of control,is emaculate. But as everyone says, i dont agree over Swann. Just because he can turn the ball big. Doesn"t mean He is a better bowler than Harbhahan or Kumble. Man Kumble is the Guy who has 10 wkts in an innings. Swann, is a great bowler to the left handers, but is a rubbish bowler to right handers. Man if no 9, 10 ,11 can constantly take u to cleaners, u dont deserve, to be the best. Look at the figures of kumble, and compare them to swann. And sir I strongly object, to underwood being called, a spinner. He was not a spinner.

Posted by tusharkardile on (May 10, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

Okay, so you are picking swann for his energy, his efforts to try and get batters out, his good slip fielding, his batting and the fact that he is better than Monty. That sums it up very well.

Posted by smudgeon on (May 10, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

c'mon guys, this is Ashley's opinion, not a definitive list that's been run by every single cricket fan in the world - it's not like he picked Phil Tufnell or anything, and i think (hope?) we can all agree these are all fine tweakers in their own ways. as a pair with his recent batsmen list, you'd have to assume he's talking about spinners he's seen enough of. those whinging about Kumble's exclusion? he's mentioned right there in the last paragraph, and in fine company too. to me, there's few better sights in test cricket than watching a quality spinner ply his trade. the thing i loved about watching Murali and Warne is that aside from the beauty of their strategies, there was such a theatrical quality to their bowling. i think we were lucky to have them (and Kumble) playing the game at the same time.

Posted by AnshulNagar on (May 10, 2012, 8:19 GMT)

My list not of the best but spinners of all kind n types--- Shanw warne(legge), Murli(offie), Chandra(unconventional legge like underwood n kumble), Bedi(left arm spinner), Sunil Narin(Modern Day Mystery Bowler).

Posted by sandy_bangalore on (May 10, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

400+ wickets and Harbhajan Singh not even mentioned even once! Inferior names like Swann, pocock,lockwood whi have a fraction of what Harbhajan has are all given a mention. He may not be in the greatest form now, but until 2010 was among the very best. ANd his 32 wickets in 2001 was among the greatest display of spin bowling ever!

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (May 10, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

the author doesnt seem to like the modern sub continent spinner where flight is no longer the key ... its making the best use of slow wickets by bowling more top spinners than the conventional spinners .. look at what happened to england in UAE .. do u think Ajmal and Rehman spun the ball ? it was all in the flat trajectory .. look at how the bangladesh spinners bowl .. or afridi or kumble .. classical spinner is never going to compete unless they learn from this

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

Good Article.But I Guess I would go for Bedi over Underwood & a toss up b/w Subhash Gupte @Abdul Qadir over Greame Swann

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (May 10, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

i dont agree with the assessment of kumble .. cause kumble after 2000 could perform anywhere and on any track ... and i am pakistani :)

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 7:47 GMT)

good article.but i still would prefer Bedi over Underwood & either Subhash Gupte/Abdul Qadir over greame Swann

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 7:43 GMT)

Quite a biased article. I wonder what stopped Mr Mallet considering likes of Saqlain Mushtaq, Abdul Qadir and Anil Kumble. He could have considered at least one of the three, I mentioned.

Posted by Hamzaad on (May 10, 2012, 7:20 GMT)


Can you please name any bowler who achieved 1st or 2nd rankings of all the three formats at the same time? Ajmal is a wonderful bowler and needs a mention IF Swann is mentioned :)

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

No ANIL KUMBLE looks like a bad call...he has troubled the best of all batsman

Posted by gibbons on (May 10, 2012, 7:10 GMT)

You had me right until Swann. I've always dismissed him as every time I see him play he looks pretty average, with inflated stats against weaker sides (averaging 31, 40 and 40 against the other three top 4 test sides). But then, you've got a better idea than me so I guess time will tell.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 6:50 GMT)

i think saqlain mushtaq is under rated by ashley.....

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 10, 2012, 6:08 GMT)


Posted by Hamzaad on (May 10, 2012, 6:04 GMT)

Enjoyed the article a lot. But having seen abdul Qadir in your time, I am a little amazed you did not mention him, he was a true maestro of the spin bowling, in fact, shane warne visited him in Lahore and got some tips too! Saqlain Mushtaq should come in If we talk about ODIs.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

soon to join the list will be Sunil Narine of Trinidad and Tobago!

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 5:38 GMT)

kumble was far better than swann

Posted by Meety on (May 10, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

@Sohaib Alam - it maybe he simply hasn't seen enough of him, or at barely 20 test matches, hasn't played enough to be in the same league as the others mentioned. @Satadru Sen - I think most Ozzys that had seen Prassanna respect him more as he did better in this country (Oz) than the others in the great Indian quartet!

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

Lovely; thanks for this. The Australian admiration for Prasanna is interesting, since conventional wisdom places Chandrasekhar and even Bedi higher than Pras. He obviously made a big impression on you guys in 1969! You bowled pretty well in the Madras Test yourself, of course.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

I was expecting a mention of Saeed Ajmal. In the last England Pakistan test series he went head to head with Swann and if you look at thier respective performances it is quite clear that Ajmal will outperfom Swann in the longterm. the reason I think Swann is more recognised is because England play much more test matches.

Posted by YogifromNY on (May 10, 2012, 4:34 GMT)

I really enjoy your articles, Ashley! This one was no exception. I am an Indian team supporter, though I live in the States (where they play this blighted game called baseball, not the noble sport of cricket!). My favorite spin bowler of all time has to be Shane Warne. Not only was he a great bowler but he made for riveting watching. He spun batsmen out with his mind as much as with his deliveries. My one regret is he never made captain. He would have ranked as one of Australia's finest captains ever! Thanks again for your polished, enjoyable writing.

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