Kuldeep Yadav begame the 228th Test player for India © PTI (File photo)
Kuldeep Yadav became the 288th Test player for India © PTI (File photo)

Kuldeep Yadav got his cap in the fourth Test of the ongoing series between India and Australia, at Dharamsala. With Virat Kohli ruled out (after leaving everyone in suspense till toss), the cricket fraternity probably expected a batsman or an extra fast bowler as replacement, but India thought otherwise. With the Border-Gavaskar series still alive, it was probably a move by the Indian think-tank to surprise the Australians. In the process Kuldeep became the 30th Chinaman bowler to play international cricket. If you are wondering what we are talking about, a Chinaman bowler is a left-arm wrist-spinner. Kuldeep was also the first Indian and second Asian (after Lakshan Sandakan) to do the same. Of course, Gulam Bodi was born in Hathuran, Gujarat, in India, but he represented South Africa. And of Indians, Preeti ‘Dolly’ Dimri played 2 Tests, 23 ODIs, and a T20I for India Women. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia, 4th Test at Dharamsala

Not all of these 30 men have been specialists. Only 18 of these men were actually anything more than change bowlers, and the list includes Garry Sobers. Of these, Ellis Achong was, as we know, a finger-spinner, as were George Tribe, Johnny Wardle, and Johnny Martin. Sobers and Bernard Julien bowled pace as well as finger-spin. If one leaves out these six men, the count of specialist Chinaman bowlers comes down to 12; and that includes three recent debutants in Tabraiz Shamsi, Sandakan, and Kuldeep. If you are wondering who the other nine are, the names read ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith, Lindsay Kline, David Sincock, Inshan Ali, Paul Adams, Brad Hogg, Beau Casson, Dave Mohammed, and Michael Rippon) We are talking about 140 years of international cricket here.

Chinaman bowler Other styles Team Tests ODIs T20Is
M W Ave M W Ave M W Ave
Ellis Achong SLA West Indies 6 8 47.25
Maurice Leyland SLA England 41 6 97.50
Chuck Fleetwood-Smith Australia 10 42 37.38
Denis Compton England 78 25 56.40
Arthur Morris Australia 46 2 25.00
George Tribe SLA Australia 3 2 165.00
Johnny Wardle SLA England 28 102 20.39
Garry Sobers SLA, LFM West Indies 93 235 34.03
Lindsay Kline Australia 13 34 22.82
Johnny Martin SLA Australia 8 17 48.94
David Sincock Australia 3 8 51.25
Roy Fredericks West Indies 59 7 78.28 12 2 5.00
Ken Eastwood Australia 1 1 21.00
Inshan Ali West Indies 12 34 47.67
Bernard Julien SLA, LFM West Indies 24 50 37.36 12 18 25.72
Michael Bevan Australia 18 29 24.24 232 36 45.97
Paul Adams South Africa 45 134 32.87 24 29 28.10
Brad Hogg Australia 7 17 54.88 123 156 26.84 15 7 53.28
Simon Katich Australia 56 21 30.23 45 3
Gulam Bodi South Africa 2 1
Phil Jaques LM Australia 11 6
Adam Voges SLA Australia 20 31 6 46.00 7 2 2.50
Beau Casson Australia 1 3 43.00
Dave Mohammed West Indies 5 13 51.38 7 10 23.50
Sami Faridi Canada 3
Daniel Flynn SLA New Zealand 24 20 5
Michael Rippon Netherlands 4 5 19.60 17 15 20.67
Tabraiz Shamsi South Africa 1 2 75.00 5 7 30.28
Lakshan Sandakan Sri Lanka 5 15 31.93 5 4 53.50 3 6 12.67
Kuldeep Yadav India 1
SLA = slow-left arm (finger-spin); LFM = left-arm medium-fast; LM = left-arm medium
Updated till Kuldeep Yadav’s debut moment

One wonders why there is such a dearth of Chinaman bowlers. One can theorise that left-arm bowlers are minority, while there are fewer wrist-spinners than finger-spinners at the highest level (perhaps because they tend to be more inaccurate, which leaves little margin for error against world-class batsmen). A combination of the two is even rarer.