What is Doosra Ball? Meaning, History, Technique, & Top 10 bowlers

Doosra ball technique

The art of spin bowling in cricket is a skillful mixture of deception and mystery, often referred to as the most romantic form of bowling. There are various types of deliveries in a spin bowler’s armory, but today we will focus on a specific type of off-spin bowling. Off-spin bowling entails spinning the ball away from the left-handed batsman and into the right-handed batsman. However, there is something even more intriguing than traditional off-spin bowling: the mystery ball known as the Doosra ball.

This article will serve as a comprehensive guide to learning everything there is to know about the Doosra ball, from its origin to the top 10 Doosra bowlers of all time.

Doosra Ball in Cricket

The term “Doosra” comes from the word “Do,” which means “two” in Urdu and Hindi. In this context, Doosra means “the other one” (“second” or “the second one”).

Just like a leg-spinner has a Googly, the Doosra is the off-spinner’s version of the googly. It is a weapon or a specific type of delivery for an off-spinner that gives the ball a spin in the opposite direction of a normal off-break, causing it to spin the other way. A Doosra appears to be a normal off-break, but instead of spinning towards the bat, it spins in the opposite direction, similar to a leg-break.

So, for right-arm off-spinners, the Doosra will turn away from the body of a right-handed batter while it will turn in towards the body of a left-handed batter.

A Doosra ball would turn towards the body of a right-handed batter and away from the body of a left-handed batter for a left-arm orthodox spinner. As a result, every time a batter plays a Doosra, it adds an element of surprise and points to confuse them into playing an unavoidable shot. This makes Doosra one of the most lethal mystery balls in cricket.

Thus, it is evident that bowling a Doosra is a difficult skill to master, so we’ll need a lot of practice if we want to learn how to bowl it. The best part is that we’ve explained the technique for bowling a Doosra further down in this article. So, make sure to stick around until the end.

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Doosra Ball – History

Although it is uncertain who is the brainchild behind the Doosra ball. However, during the 1997/98 World Series Tri-Nation Tournament, when Pakistan was up against Australia, the young spin wizard from Pakistan, Saqlain Mushtaq, made the Australian batters clueless by spinning the ball the opposite way from the typical off-spin delivery. Moin Khan, the wicket-keeper, would frequently shout from behind the stumps, asking Saqlain to bowl a “Doosra” now.

Tony Grieg heard it from a stump microphone and, after confirming it with Saqlain in a post-match interview, addressed the word to the delivery. From then on, the term “Doosra” became synonymous with cricket, and Saqlain Mushtaq was acknowledged as the inventor of Doosra.

Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan is one of the best exponents of the Doosra, particularly in limited-overs matches, and some of the world’s top right-arm off-spinners, including Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka, Harbhajan Singh of India, and Moeen Ali of England, have used it with great success. In addition, some of the international left-arm off-spinners, including Monty Panesar of England and Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka, also mastered this art.

How to bowl a Doosra? 3 Steps

Several distinct mechanical characteristics distinguish the “Doosra” from the off-break. To understand the mechanics and how to bowl a Doosra ball in cricket, we must first understand some bowling fundamentals. These are:

  • Step 1: Gripping the ball
  • Step 2: Releasing the ball
  • Step 3: Spinning the ball

Let’s dig deeper and explore the concept behind these three fundamentals individually.

Doosra ball technique

Step 1: Gripping the ball

The grip used to bowl a Doosra is identical to the grip used to bowl a standard off-spin delivery. This implies locking our wrist and gripping the ball with our index (first) and ring (fourth) fingers. With the thumb bent and out of the way, the ball’s seam will run across the fingers. Some bowlers, however, make minor adjustments based on their preferences. Furthermore, we must not hold the ball too tightly because it can become stuck in our grip, preventing it from releasing it.

Step 2: Releasing the ball

The release is the most challenging part, where many bowlers fail.

When releasing a Doosra ball, we need to rotate the wrist so that the back of our hand faces the square leg. To get the arm and wrist into this position, we may need to drop our shoulder and bend the elbow slightly more than we would for a traditional off-spin delivery. Because of the slight bending, the ball will be delivered from a lower point than a typical stock delivery of an off-spinner. This helps with Doosra’s mechanics.

Throughout the delivery, the forearm is less pronated, allowing the back of the hand to face the batsman as the ball is released. Furthermore, we should be cautious not to bend our elbows too far, or it will be recognized as a bowl being thrown.

When releasing a Doosra ball, if a right-arm off-spinner properly grips the seam, the ball’s seam should point toward the first slip for a right-handed batter. Whereas for an orthodox left-arm bowler, the seam points toward the fine leg when preparing to bowl a Doosra to a right-handed batter. In addition, we can vary the pace for the Doosra just like we can with our normal off-spinner.

Spinning the ball

The changed elbow and wrist position, along with a greater range of transverse shoulder rotation during ball release, imparts the ball to turn in the opposite direction of a normal off-spin, behaving similarly to a leg break.

We can bowl the Doosra more efficiently and effectively by slightly bending the arm during this release. The greater range of elbow flexion from arm horizontal to ball release indicates a necessary mechanical characteristic for bowling the “doosra.” However, this is difficult to achieve because, according to the ICC Illegal Bowling Regulations, our arm cannot bend more than 15 degrees.

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Doosra vs. Googly

While both are popular variations of a spin bowler’s arsenal, they differ in execution and effectiveness. Let’s look into them.

Doosra vs. Googly Ball

First and foremost, a Googly is a type of cricket delivery bowled with a leg spin action, whereas a Doosra is a type of cricket delivery bowled with an off-spin action.

Secondly, a Googly is a trick ball used by a leg spinner, whereas a Doosra is a trick or mystery ball used by an off-spinner.

The direction of spin is the third and most crucial distinction between a Googly and a Doosra. A Googly, rather than spinning away like a normal stock delivery of leg-spinner, spins in for a right-handed batter (as seen by the bowler). On the other hand, a Doosra spins from left to right for a right-handed batter instead of turning from off to leg.

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Top 10 Doosra bowlers of all time

Let’s look at the top ten bowlers in history who have mastered the art of bowling the mystery ball “Doosra:”

  1. Saqlain Mushtaq
  2. Muttiah Muralitharan
  3. Saeed Ajmal
  4. Harbhajan Singh
  5. Shoaib Malik
  6. Johan Botha
  7. Moeen Ali
  8. Monty Panesar
  9. Rangana Herath
  10. Alex Loudon

Saqlain Mushtaq

As we all know, Saqlain Mushtaq was the first off-spinner to master the Doosra and deserves to be at the top of this list. He bowled with great control and was effective as a traditional off-spinner. Saqlain has always liked to experiment, and the batters had no idea that a Doosra was coming unless the batter noticed a subtle change in his hand when the ball was delivered. However, he is criticized for attempting too much variation, as he frequently throws in the Doosra the first time a batsman faces him. Throughout his career, he took approx. 496 wickets in 218 international matches (tests and ODIs).

Muttiah Muralitharan

Muralitharan is one of the greatest ball spinners of all time. He had highly gentle wrists and a shoulder that rotated as quickly as a fast bowler’s during delivery, allowing him to turn the ball far more than most traditional finger-spinners. However, when he mastered the Doosra, he became Shane Warne’s rival in terms of wicket-taking and greatness. Murali’s Doosra caused controversy during Australia’s 2004 tour of Sri Lanka due to illegal elbow straightening during the bowling action. Sri Lanka Cricket later told him not to bowl the Doosra in international cricket.

Muralitharan took approx. 1347 wickets in 495 International matches across all three formats during his career, more than any other bowler, and that record may never be broken.

Saeed Ajmal

Offspinner Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan has been among the bowler who relies on the Doosra as much as other variations of flight and speed. He demonstrated excellent control over all his variations. He tended to bowl the off-spinner and the Doosra from the same line, on or just outside off, making it much more difficult for batters to pick his variations.

Ajmal is regarded as one of the best economical spinners in cricket and has taken approx. 447 wickets in 212 international matches with an economy rate of 3.37 across all three game formats.

Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh is India’s greatest off-break bowler, having mastered the art of bowling a Doosra. He bowled with a swinging, whiplash action, mixing off-spinners with Doosras and arm balls, making it extremely difficult to pick. He was India’s most successful Test off-spinner until R Ashwin surpassed him in 2021.

Harbhajan took approx. 711 wickets in 367 international matches across all three game formats during his career.

Shoaib Malik

Pakistan’s all-rounder, Shoaib Malik, who began his career as an off-break bowler, has filled various roles competently. The most important aspect of his game is run scoring. He bowled a flattish, modern off-spin and has an impressive Doosra. However, he had to go through remedial work and work extremely hard to make his Doosra effective.

As for his stats, Shoaib has taken approx. 218 wickets in 446 international matches across all three formats of the game.

Johan Botha

Former South African Vice-Captain Johan Botha is well-known for his economical off-spin bowling. He bowled his off-spin with great accuracy, intelligently varied his pace and length, and mastered the art of bowling a Doosra with significant effect. However, despite testing almost twice the legal elbow flexion limit, the ICC declared Botha’s ‘Doosra’ delivery illegal in 2009.

Botha has approx. 126 wickets in 123 international matches with an economy of 4.60 in his international career across all three formats.

Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali, a batting all-rounder, was the first Englishman to bowl a Doosra during the Headingley Test against Sri Lanka, filling the gap left by Graeme Swann’s retirement. After working with his county teammate, Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, he mastered bowling the mystery ball. He was so subtle in changing his action while bowling a doosra that almost no one noticed when he revealed it. However, due to concerns about the legality of the Doosra from ICC, Moeen later decided to abandon the delivery.

Throughout his career, Moeen has taken approx. 329 wickets in 256 matches across all three formats.

Monty Panesar

Monty Panesar, the slow left-arm orthodox from England, added the ‘Doosra’ delivery to his arsenal in his quest to become the best spinner in the world. He learned and perfected the art of bowling the mystery ball from India’s Harbhajan Singh, and he occasionally bowled a Doosra in county cricket but never in a Test match.

Monty was the savior of English spin bowling for a time, and throughout his career, he has approx. 193 wickets in 77 matches across all three formats.

Rangana Herath

Rangana Herath, the former Sri Lankan left-arm orthodox spinner who used the Doosra to great success, has been Sri Lanka’s go-to bowler since Muttiah Muralidharan’s retirement. He bowled the Doosra with supreme accuracy, pace, and flight, allowing him to be effective even in conditions that don’t always favor spin bowling. He’s also incorporated a mystery ball, a faster delivery, and darts back into the right-hander. Herath has taken approx. 525 wickets in 181 matches throughout his career and is regarded as one of the best left-arm spinners.

Alex Loudon

Alex Loudon, a Warwickshire all-rounder who bowled right-hand off-break, famously learned the Doosra from an Indian friend at Eton. Loudon could spin the ball from leg to off by putting his middle finger behind it and ‘flicking’ it as on release. The success of this variant of the Doosra has yet to be determined, as Loudon only made his One Day International debut for England on June 24, 2006, against Sri Lanka, to plug the gap left by Ashley Giles and Ian Blackwell’s injuries. Loudon did not take any wickets in the match, but he did bowl the Doosra.

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Doosra in Cricket – FAQs

What is Doosra ball?

In simple terms, an off-spin ball that swings the other way is called a Doosra ball.

Who invented the Doosra ball?

Saqlain Mushtaq invented the Doosra ball.

Why is the Doosra so difficult to bowl?

The Doosra is a difficult ball to bowl because it necessitates a unique grip and wrist position. Off-spin bowlers may struggle to master this because it is the opposite of what they are used to. A Doosra is also difficult to control and results in many balls being wide or short of the mark. Furthermore, the Doosra does not always come out of the hand as intended, and bowlers must understand how the ball behaves while bowling effectively.

Why is the Doosra so effective?

One of the main reasons the Doosra is so effective is that it is difficult to pick up. Batters frequently struggle to read the Doosra because it is bowled with the same action as a conventional off-spinner. As a result, they may be caught off guard by the change in pace and direction, making it a difficult delivery to score on. Furthermore, the Doosra can bowl maiden overs or apply pressure to batters, increasing its effectiveness.

Why is Doosra called the mystery ball?

The Doosra is a type of bowling in cricket used to deceive the batsman since it turns in the opposite direction to an off-spinner’s normal stock delivery, going away from a right-handed batsman rather than into him. It is considered a mystery ball because the bowler can deliver it with varying spin and pace, making it difficult to predict from the bowler’s hand.

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