England in West Indies 2013-14 March 12, 2014

Giles calls for England to embrace doosra


Ashley Giles has called for a change of attitude towards the doosra throughout English cricket to help improve the national side's ability to play spin bowling.

England have struggled against unorthodox spin bowling for some time. They lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the UAE at the start of 2012 largely due to their inability to combat the offspin and doosra bowling of Saeed Ajmal, while in the limited-overs series against West Indies, England have looked consistently uncomfortable against the unorthodox Sunil Narine.

Giles even questioned whether Narine's career would have been destroyed before it got underway in English cricket. Asked whether a young bowler such as Narine, developing in England, would be "snuffed out" even before he progressed to club cricket, he replied: "Quite possibly."

Part of the problem is the lack of exposure county players have to such bowlers in their development years. Not only have counties tended to be penalised for preparing pitches that benefit spin bowlers - Hampshire were docked points for such a surface in 2011 - but many coaches and umpires in English cricket still view the doosra with great suspicion, contending that it cannot be bowled legally.

While most of the world has embraced the change in regulation from the ICC that allows 15 degrees of tolerance in a bowling action, in England such unorthodoxy is often viewed as 'chucking' and is stamped out at an early age.

As a result, few unorthodox spinners make it to the professional game in England. And, judging by the example of Maurice Holmes, they are soon drummed out of it even if they do. Holmes, an offspin and doosra bowler, was signed to the Warwickshire staff by Giles when he was director of cricket at the club. But despite clearing tests on a couple of occasions, the ECB eventually concluded that his doosra was delivered illegally and he was squeezed out of the professional game.

Now Giles, England's limited-overs coach, has called upon English cricket to have a more open mind towards both pitches and bowling actions if they are to improve their record on the international stage.

"We've got to be careful not to try and kill off some of our great talent," Giles said in Barbados ahead of the third T20I against West Indies. "I'm not sure that too many mystery spinners come through our system anyway, but maybe that's because we don't necessarily develop it. It's something we certainly need to look at. It's been an ongoing thing for 10-15 years.

"But what we do know is that it's very difficult to play against and we need the skills to be able to combat mystery spin. It doesn't matter whether it is legspin or an offspinner who spins it both ways. We need to be able to deal with these situations. Otherwise we're trying to up-skill people heading into world tournaments and that's just too late."

"We need to make sure that, when guys come into this environment, they have the skills to deal with spin and spin that goes both ways. A bit of that is playing on wickets that do turn. I actually believe wickets are spinning more and more in England. They're getting drier and drier, which is maybe down to our new drainage systems.

"But it's definitely a case that, when they come into this environment, we shouldn't be teaching them new skills at that level. They should have some of that stuff ingrained, and then we fine tune it."

While Moeen Ali, a new member of the England limited-overs squad, can bowl the doosra - he was taught to do so by his friend Saeed Ajmal - he recently told ESPNcricinfo that he did not deliver one such delivery in the 2013 county season. It may well be that he feared the consequences had he done so.

It leaves England facing an uphill task in the World T20 tournament, where spin is expected to play a major role.

"I can only work with what I have here," Giles said. "And keep pushing forward with this team to try to do as well as we can in Bangladesh."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Amir on March 13, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    The idea of bringing in outside bowlers who can bowl doosras into the County Cricket and let the ENG batsmen play them has some merit to it. However, the real solution is to learn it and have a permanent bowler in the team because that will help the ENG team the most.

  • riz on March 13, 2014, 12:44 GMT

    Typical England, cant understand something then it must be wrong and illegal. England is a poor pathetic team with no form of sportsmanship at all. Cricket would be a much better place without them and their ignorant excuses.

  • Abdul on March 13, 2014, 11:17 GMT


    I wonder why only English recognize Swan as a great spinner. In the rest of the world he is considered very ordinary bowler

  • Kendal on March 13, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    @zoot364...spot on, chap. England were just as crap against Abdur Rehman as they were against Ajmal. As far as I can tell, everyone struggles against Narine. The Aussies were hilarious trying to fathom him on their last tour there. The English are just not good players of spin, although they seemed to overcome that in India last time they were there. Those were different players, though.

  • sunday on March 13, 2014, 11:03 GMT

    While the discussion about legitimate deliveries is valid, the reference to Narine's bowling is misguiding. The typically suspicious doosra (e.g. of Murali and Ajmal) is set up like an off-break but with an action that rotates the shoulder inwardly rather than outwardly and so creates a leg break. Narine however bowls a version of the carrom ball, one flicked by the middle finger on the right side of the ball, bowler-side of the seam. The effect is also that of a leg break but the technique is different and does not need the elbow to go from flexed to extended. If Narine is seen to break the rules the problem is not intrinsic to the technique of the delivery, it is more to do with his personal method.

  • Dimuthu on March 13, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    as someone born and raised in Sri Lanka who now plays league cricket in England, I have first hand experience at the difference in attitudes in many aspects of the game in the two countries. I can see Gile's point about England batsmen treating doosras and carrom balls like alien objects because they are so unfamiliar with it, but if it's the batsmen's ability to play them that concerns him, I would suggest bringing in doosra bowlers from abroad into the county game - rather than changing English bowlers to those who bowl them. Further, Murali bowled all types of deliveries with a brace on which proves the doosra can be bowled without chucking. (yes, game situations are different, but my point is that it CAN be bowled with 0 degrees flexion, let alone 15). A lot of clubs are run by old fuddy duddies who wouldn't tolerate modern phenomenon such as the doosra. Even the reverse sweep is huffed at.

  • John on March 13, 2014, 9:36 GMT

    How can a junior cricketer or a club cricketer know whether or not his attempt at a doosra is legal? Without the proper facilities, it is easy to see why authorities and coaches will play safe and discourage experimentation

  • Owen on March 13, 2014, 9:34 GMT

    This again?

    I remember the same points being brought up when Paul Adams was bowling against us and everyone was saying that he wouldn't have been able to go through the English coaching system with that action. That was 15 years ago.

    Nothing changes, and now that they have stamped out the last remnant of confidence that the '05 ashes gave, the ECB are back doing what makes them comfortable; toeing the line and embracing mediocrity.

  • andrew on March 13, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    England batsman can't play spin, period. Not just mystery spin. Watching them play Samuel Badree in the T20s has been embarrassing. Focusing on the doosra misses the point: there are much more fundamental questions about deficiencies in the way young English players are coached. It's about footwork, using the wrists, developing an appropriate mental game plan. What Giles says about mystery spin may be true, but it's a much wider issue.

  • Trevor on March 13, 2014, 9:29 GMT

    @Bubba2008 Whatever you think about the doosra, and the change in the laws that have made it a legitimate delivery, I think there is no doubt it is here to stay.

    I'm not convinced Ashley Giles is a good choice for England coach, but I'm dead sure he has made a well thought out argument here. England have to do what he is suggesting or they will be forever lacking a potent and important weapon in their bowling arsenal. A weapon other countries have welcomed with open arms (hehe).

    By the way, some of the commenters in these pages would do well to think before they type (and while they are typing). Some pretty thoughtless and ordinary comments coming out these days.

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