England in West Indies 2013-14

Giles calls for England to embrace doosra

George Dobell

March 12, 2014

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

Ashley Giles talks to his players, England Lions v New Zealanders, Tour match, Grace Road, May 8, 2013
Ashley Giles believes England's culture undermines their ability to play spin © Getty Images

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

RSS Feeds: George Dobell

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by AH_USA 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.

Posted by r1zzy 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.

Posted by ABKhanISB 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

Posted by gimme-a-greentop 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.

Posted by AdmiralKhirk 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.

Posted by CricketPissek 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.

Posted by John-Price 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

Posted by Harlequin. 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.

Posted by zoot364 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.

Posted by UmpirezCall 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.

Posted by colinham on (March 13, 2014, 8:30 GMT)


Sorry, were you not watching any England cricket during Swann's tenure as one of the leading spinners in world cricket? Spin, loop, dip & drift.

Posted by ShayneShan on (March 13, 2014, 7:29 GMT)

I can see stats do not suggests that Narine has taken so many wickets to make an excuse like this. In ODI and T20 both played Narine is not on top of the most wicket takers list and same time not that very good in economy rate too. Looking at the stats I don not think we could accept this excuse. Looks like searching for a coaching role has an affect.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on (March 13, 2014, 6:33 GMT)

Well at least all the English spinners have their 'zooter' as standard, the one that pitches and goes straight. Coined by @FFL I seem to recall.

Posted by EdwinD on (March 13, 2014, 6:08 GMT)

The only English spinner in that last 20 years who has actually spun the ball was Tuffnell - the rest have just bowled.....slowly

Posted by haq33 on (March 13, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

Just like reverse swing. Learn it.

Posted by   on (March 13, 2014, 4:06 GMT)

England will start embracing the doosra when one of their bowlers starts bowling it. Soon after, it will go from being something to be suspicious about to being an art form.

Posted by Bubba2008 on (March 13, 2014, 2:01 GMT)

I find it hard to disagree with the way that the doosra is seen in England. In spite of the changed laws, which allow a 15 degree straightening of the arm, I see many bowlers getting away with a much higher amount when bowling the doosra. Ajmal may be amongst the most blatant to disregard the allowed amount; I cannot help but feel he simply runs in and throws the ball at the batsman. At least bowlers like Narine and Shillingford have the decency to try and hide a bowling action in their delivery of the ball. Call me old fashioned but cricket and baseball were different sports for a reason. If youngsters prove an inability to maintain straightness in their arms while bowling, we should send them to a baseball coach instead of changing the way the entire game is played.

Posted by Viratkohlirocks on (March 13, 2014, 1:41 GMT)

@manxmuppet but they were shotty against a nonmystery spinner during the Ashes in very nonspin pitches. nathan lyon

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (March 13, 2014, 1:20 GMT)

High hopes.But face the facts- Eng's chances of unearthing a bowler who can 'bowl' dosara-be it from school,univ.,club level-are no better than them having a bowler like Mitch of their own-next to nil!

Posted by mshyder on (March 13, 2014, 0:36 GMT)

There are 2 aspects to it. Firstly the inability of English batsmen to handle doosra and secondly the deficiency of their bowling line up. Although it is a fact that as per the acceptable bowling action until a few years ago, doosra can not be bowled with a legitimate action (I have been bowling Off spin for good 30 years and I can say this with surety). If ECB wants to stick to the yesteryear's standards, good for them but to improve the ability of their batsmen to face such unorthodox spinners the least they can do is to lure such bowlers to play for the counties as overseas players, thus provide the necessary exposure to English batsmen to face these deliveries in international matches.

Posted by SoyQuearns on (March 13, 2014, 0:04 GMT)

@simon_w - It's not an awkward one at all, the rules allow it and thus it should be accepted. This is tantamount to India's ridiculous 'dark ages' approach to the UDRS.

England like and want their cricketers to play and bowl and speak a certain way. If anything (refer KP, Samit Patel in recent history) strays from that preconceived mould then they reject it outright, or attempt to water it down and then spit it out when it doesn't fit their archaic preferences.

If a bowler (such as in the Maurice Holmes example) is accepted to have a legal delivery (several times) by the international standards then that should be good enough.

England were not destroyed by spin in Aus, but it is this inflexible mentality that stales their cricket and ultimately reduces its quality.

@mnkhands - Not an acceptable excuse, refer to the specific and recent example involving Holmes. When it does crop up it is isolated, examined and then discarded anyway.

Posted by MWaqqar on (March 12, 2014, 22:34 GMT)

What is the spin bowling coach Mushtaq for.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (March 12, 2014, 22:34 GMT)

If it's not written in textbooks, England are very reluctant to try/accept anything new in cricket. Unorthodoxy wins matches. Embrace change/progress please England!

Posted by UndertheGrill on (March 12, 2014, 22:29 GMT)

"I can only work with what I have here" says Giles. True, but when you have been in charge of the team for over an extremely mediocre 12 months, and it was you who picked who is there, you've got to take some responsibility for the materials you've got to work with. And he's favourite to be head coach of the test team. Good work ECB!

Posted by MrKistic on (March 12, 2014, 22:02 GMT)

If they need a mystery ball, go with the carrom. At least it can be delivered legally.

Posted by richcricketguru on (March 12, 2014, 22:00 GMT)

I get it, no Swann anymore, it's too hard to bowl leg spin and no other class spinner around so let's just drop our standards, give up and allow 'mystery' off spinners to get some elbow and wrist into it....problem solved! Who cares about the game and its standards. The game will in time morph into a version of baseball, particularly in the shorter versions.

Posted by Frill on (March 12, 2014, 22:00 GMT)

This coming from a team with Giles and Mushtaq Ahmed in the coaching staff! what spin advice are these guys actually giving the team???

Posted by wc1992 on (March 12, 2014, 21:57 GMT)

eng need to understand that they no longer own the game and are not the leader in the game in any way .....its been Pakistani and other that have created all the innovation in the game .... there attitude toward asian has been discusting throughout the history its cricket leave your attitude home ... they deminise the Pak short bowling and then yorker, even their Umpires were giving worning to WW for bowling dangrously and then they went after the reverswing till they learn it and now its called art ....lol..... i guess they have to catchup again to call doosra art as well .... to be honest even Rahman cut through english side like kife through butter WITHOUT any DOOSRA

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (March 12, 2014, 21:48 GMT)

Its totally wrong to say that ICC changed its bending rules to 15 degrees to accomodate doosra. Actually the research study found all or most of the great fast bowler of the past been bending their arms at more than 13 degree. Endland batsmen have problem playing spinners just as the Asians suffer playing swing. Yet there have been some great batsmen on both sides to perform on each others territory

Posted by Starvybz on (March 12, 2014, 21:35 GMT)

so basically what this entire doosra situation boils down to is "If you can't beat them join them" West Indies realised this and so should England as they have some extremely talented young players

Posted by   on (March 12, 2014, 21:08 GMT)

maybe stop calling it mystery spin....

Posted by   on (March 12, 2014, 21:05 GMT)

win the last t20 go into the warm ups confident, win those, then get most players with games under the belt, especially Bell then go and win some super 10 games, but it is unquestionably impossible for England to make it past the super 10s

Posted by wapuser on (March 12, 2014, 20:55 GMT)

Yes England have never been good to their unorthodox spinners .It started with Johnny Wardle the chinaman spinner .Pity its still pretty much the same after 80 years or so.Wardle had a better avg than Lock and Laker and his avg was lower abroad than at home .Some 20 I think.

Posted by PFEL on (March 12, 2014, 20:39 GMT)

If you can't play spin, and you can't play fast bowling (see ashes), then what on earth are the England cricket team supposed to be able to play???? Maybe they'd do ok against a team of slow medium pacers?

Posted by Manxmuppet on (March 12, 2014, 20:19 GMT)

It wasn't mystery spin that lost us the Ashes, it was an inability to cope with aggressive fast bowling. So if we can't play spin on slow, turning wickets and we can't play quicks on fast, bouncy tracks, it really doesn't look too promising. Surely this bunch of players aren't that bad, it's their confidence that is shot - much like the Aussies pre- Boof, and look how that's turned out 9 months later.

Posted by md111 on (March 12, 2014, 19:47 GMT)

King of Spain has some pretty valid points there and in England it really needs to be accepted now as its fallen way behind. The ICC arm degree limit has been in place a long while now. Narine at the start of his career had his action tested out due to worries about it and corrections undertaken but you just feel if he was English no effort to do this would be taken. Next big breakthrough for English cricket will be the 1st mystery spinner playing consistently at county level.

Posted by mnkhands on (March 12, 2014, 19:02 GMT)

As to why we do not develop mystery spin - well fact is in England if you want to play cricket as a kid you go to a cricket club to learn he game. We don't have a tradition of street cricket or beach cricket as they do in Asia and which have given us the likes of Ajmal and Malinga and where working out unorthodox and untutored methods comes from. Comes down to basic structures I suppose and this is pretty unchangeable.

Posted by simon_w on (March 12, 2014, 18:46 GMT)

it's an awkward one -- by the old standards, it's clearly not possible to deliver the doosra without throwing, but the standards have changed so that many now view it as acceptable (in the case of the doosra, but not in other cases -- which is a little odd). it's a bit like the ball-tampering thing; its strictly illegal, but a lot of it goes on, and many (most?) think we should find a way to codify it and allow it. more than anything else, in my opinion, it's another example of weak leadership from the ICC, who are incapable of showing positive leadership which can take the game forward, so we end up with an inconsistent mess.

Posted by willsrustynuts on (March 12, 2014, 18:39 GMT)

Forget all of this.... the problems are at the Board level....

Posted by   on (March 12, 2014, 18:17 GMT)

get murli coaching to become a specialist spin coach, he can help England bowl the doosra

Posted by DingDong420 on (March 12, 2014, 17:56 GMT)

change of manager would be more beneficial, this guy couldn't even bowl spin very well let alone the doosra

Posted by applethief on (March 12, 2014, 17:47 GMT)

"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." Largely inaccurate. Ajmal was lethal as usual, but England crumbled to Gul at the crucial stages, and Abdur Rehman wreaked far more havoc than his spin twin did, with conventional left-arm spin. Author is trying to put a simplistic explanation for a much deeper failure by England in 2012.

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
George DobellClose
Tour Results
West Indies v England at Bridgetown - Mar 13, 2014
England won by 5 runs
West Indies v England at Bridgetown - Mar 11, 2014
West Indies won by 5 wickets (with 7 balls remaining)
West Indies v England at Bridgetown - Mar 9, 2014
West Indies won by 27 runs
West Indies v England at North Sound - Mar 5, 2014
England won by 25 runs
West Indies v England at North Sound - Mar 2, 2014
England won by 3 wickets (with 31 balls remaining)
More results »
News | Features Last 3 days
News | Features Last 3 days