Carrom Ball – What is it and How to Bowl a Carrom Ball?

It’s one of the most unusual deliveries in cricket. Very few bowlers have perfected it so let’s take a closer look at the Carrom Ball.

What is a Carrom Ball in Cricket?

The Carrom Ball is a type of delivery in cricket that is produced by slow bowlers. It features an unusual grip where the ball is held between the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of the bowling hand.

As the bowler releases the ball, they will flick the thumb and bent middle finger in order to impart spin.

History of the Carrom Ball

The man credited with the invention of the carrom ball is the Australian spinner Jack Iverson. He started his career as a regulation off spinner but started to develop a unique, bent fingered grip, while serving in the Second World War.

Iverson’s action saw him flick the ball out of the hand with his fingers. The delivery became known as the carrom ball because it was similar to the action of flicking a carrom plate. Carrom was a popular tabletop game at the time.

Use of the carrom ball died out after Iverson’s final test match until it was revived by another Australian. John Gleeson used the carrom ball extensively during the late 1960s and early 1970s across his 29-test career.

Gleeson could be effective at times but very few other bowlers adopted the carrom ball as part of their armoury. It’s only been in recent years that spinners have realised the need to put more variation into their attack.

Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis is credited with bringing the carrom ball back into favour, while Sunil Narine and Ravichandran Ashwin have also used it to good effect.

How to Bowl a Carrom Ball?

Depending on the degree of grip, the carrom ball can turn to either the off or the leg side or it can spin straight on. It is a difficult delivery to master but it can cause serious confusion for the batter when the bowler gets it right.

The grip is the place to start. The ball is held between the thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger. The seam rests on the thumb and runs horizontally along the rest of the hand.

The middle finger is bent so this is a fairly loose grip and the ball is ‘cradled’ rather than held tightly.

The run up and delivery stride are the same for the carrom ball as they are for the spinner’s stock delivery. The difference comes on release where the ball is squeezed and flicked out of the hand by the fingers that are holding it.

It’s tricky for the bowler to control the direction of spin. The carrom ball can either turn from leg to off or it can spin from off to leg. In some cases, it can also go straight on like an arm ball. Because the bowler isn’t completely sure where it will spin, the carrom ball is extremely difficult for the batter to pick.

Notable Carrom Ball Spinners

Ravichandran Ashwin

India’s off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has a lot of variations to his game. He’s even been known to deliver leg spin so it’s no surprise that the carrom ball forms part of his repertoire.

It’s interesting to note that some batters felt that they were able to pick Ashwin’s carrom ball. He had a tendency to place the ball deeper into his palm and that was something of a giveaway.

As a result, one of the most successful off spinners in recent years developed the ‘reverse carrom’. He does this by moving the seam around and using different angles as the ball is released.

Ashwin suggests he gets more control this way with the ball tending to drift more in the air before turning sharply off the pitch.

Ravichandran-Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin

Sunil Narine

West Indies’ Sunil Narine quickly earned a reputation as one of the best mystery spinners cricket had ever seen. He had so many variations in his repertoire including the Doosra and the Carrom Ball.

The problem with Narine was the fact that he barely changed his grip for any type of delivery and that’s why batters found him so hard to contend with. Unfortunately, he’s had to modify his action a number of times and those variations aren’t so evident, but he’s still a very effective bowler and was one of the greatest exponents of the carrom ball.

Sunil Narine
Sunil Narine

Conclusion

The two examples on this list tell us that the best bowlers of the carrom ball are the ones that use a lot of variations. Sunil Narine of the West Indies and India’s R. Ashwin fit that profile perfectly.

It’s also a fascinating delivery and unlike any other that you will come across in cricket. The flicking motion is unique and it can’t really be compared to any other type of delivery in the game.