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After India Under-19′s Kuldeep Yadav put up an impressive showing in the just conluded ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014, the Chinaman bowler in cricket may not be an extinct species and there is still hope for the unique brand of bowling in the international arena. From Ellis Achong to Yadav himself, international cricket has seen many such a bowler over the years and the recent success of Yadav will only contribute to the rise of the dying art of Chinaman bowling. Vineet Varma takes a look at some of the best Chinaman bowlers who have played in international cricket and have befuddled the batsmen with their guile and trickery.
When Kuldeep Yadav created history by becoming the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 game against Scotland, the feat has reminded this writer of the many Chinaman bowlers who have graced the game, the most famous in recent times being Brad Hogg of Australia and Paul Adams of South Africa. Technically a Chinaman bowler is a left-arm wrist spinner who can turn the ball from off to leg (from a right-handed batsman’s perspective) and has an unorthodox bowling action.
The term was coined in the year 1933 when the West Indies were playing England in a Test match at Old Trafford and the visitors had a player of Chinese origin playing in their ranks. When Ellis “Puss” Achong dismissed England’s Walter Robins with a delivery that spun from the off-side to dislodge his stumps, the exasperated Robins had famously yelled out “fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman!” to the umpire while walking back to the pavilion and thus the term stood.
If you look at the number of Chinaman bowlers who have played cricket in the modern era then the numbers are by far and few very minute. Take for the case of Adams. The man whose action was once described by Mike Gatting as a “frog in a blender”, the South African could have confused opposition batsmen with his weird action itself and though he never achieved phenomenal success during his playing days still his crab-like action was what really stood him apart from his contemporaries. Adams had an equally unusual grip, as he gripped the ball with his thumb and index finger while bowling and released the ball in his unique action thus bringing a comic sight for watching cricket enthusiasts.
The other Chinaman bowler whom this writer feels had a slightly better record than Adams was Australian Hogg who could beat the best of batsmen with his fast deliveries. Hogg can be considered as a Chinaman bowler in the classic mould who also was the winner of two World Cups (2003 and 2007) and now at the grand old age of 43 has earned a recall to Australia’s squad for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 to be played in Bangladesh. Hogg was a completely different bowler when compared to Adams and had an action which saw him swiveling both his bowling and non-bowling arm in a swift motion before the launch of a delivery.
Though Hogg was never as successful as the legendary Shane Warne in terms of cricketing statistics still the sight of him cleaning up a batsman with a ‘flipper’ or a wrong one was definitely one to behold for fans of spin bowling.
In his days “Chuck” Fleetwood-Smith used to be a champion of the Chinaman. Even Michael Bevan, usually thought of as an occasional bowler, used this brand of bowling to great effect when he spun out West Indies single-handedly with figures of ten for 113 at Adelaide in 1996-97. Inshan Ali and Simon Katich have also bowled left-arm wrist-spin, but the most famous of them all has probably been Garry Sobers, who, as we know, had bowled seam-up and finger-spin as well. Johnny Wardle could spin the ball either way as well.
So as this writer concludes this piece he hopes that the recent success of Yadav may well inspire a new generation of Chinaman bowlers in the near future and may well revive an art which was till now considered to be a dying one thanks to the domination of batsmen in the modern era of the game.
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