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Conventional spin still has its place in the modern game of cricket and in this round up I’m going to be taking a closer look at off break bowling.
What is Off Break Bowling?
An off break is the conventional delivery of an orthodox spinner in cricket. When delivered correctly by a right handed bowler, it will turn from the off side to the leg side against a right handed batter.
The direction of spin is reversed when a left arm spinner is delivering the ball or if a left handed batter is involved.
How To Bowl the Off Break?
Off break bowling starts with the grip. The index and middle fingers spread to grip the ball and the seam should be running horizontally across them.
The spinners who seem to turn the ball more will spread those fingers slightly wider.
The Run Up
Run ups can differ between bowlers. Some will be short and slow while others will be longer and have more pace into the wicket. When you’re starting out, it’s usually recommended to use a shorter run up of around five to ten paces and a gentle jog into the crease.
Start the run up at walking pace and increase that speed as you get closer to the wicket.
How to Spin it?
The action needed to spin the off break has been likened to that of turning a door knob. As the bowler reaches the release point, the wrist should flick forwards at a 45 degree angle.
The index finger will then rotate over the top of the ball and this action will naturally apply spin to that ball as it leaves the hand.
Speed of the Off Break
This is another area that will vary between bowlers. Some will deliver the off break at slower speeds than others and there is quite a big range between professional cricketers.
That range for professional off break bowlers can fall between 75 and 90 kph which converts to 45 and 60 mph. When you’re just starting out as a bowler, you may fall below these levels but there’s nothing to worry about.
The advice for young players is to not bowl too fast. In time, your off breaks will find a natural speed range.
Difference between Off Break and Off Spin
There is no real difference between off break and off spin. They are two different terms which essentially mean the same thing.
There is maybe a perception that the word ‘break’ is more dramatic and it implies that the ball is likely to turn more. That may be the case in the modern day but, historically, these are two terms that apply to the same area of bowling.
Some Great Off Break Bowlers
Cricket has seen some stunning off break bowlers over the years and here are some of the best.
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin is one of the most successful off break bowlers of the modern era. He has a lot of variations in his repertoire but it all starts with the classic off break.
It’s certainly been a successful career that has earned the player over 650 international wickets. That tally includes 442 victims at test level, as of August 2022, and that puts Ashwin in second place on India’s all time list.
Had he been picked earlier in his career, Graeme Swann may have developed into England’s most prolific bowler of all time. As it was, the off spinner wasn’t selected for his first test until the age of 29.
Five years later, injury caught up with a player who had taken 292 wickets in 60 tests. Swann didn’t really have any variations, but he earned success through turning his off breaks to a higher degree than most of his contemporaries.
Unlike his former international teammate R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh is retired and doesn’t have a chance to climb the list of his country’s leading wicket takers. He is, however, right up there with 417 victims which puts him in fourth place for now.
Bhaji is another bowler with lots of variations but his classic off break was delivered with some serious levels of spin. It kept him on top of his game for many years and he remained a force in the IPL, even when his international days were behind him.
Statistically, Nathan Lyon is the best off break bowler that Australia has ever produced. After his first 110 test matches, he had claimed 438 wickets and that leaves him in third place in his country’s all time list.
Like Graeme Swann, Nathan Lyon is a bowler without a great deal of variation, but his ability to get turn and bounce on any type of surface has led to a productive international career.
There is a bit of confusion over the off break term and whether it is different from the off spinner. One suggestion is that off break bowling is specifically referring to right arm bowlers delivering the ball to right handed batters.
Essentially, the general consensus is that these are two terms that mean the same thing. However, it’s useful to study both in isolation.