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Test Cricket – Top 10 Spinners of All Time

Zia Rana December 24, 2011

There was a time when the fast bowlers were supposed to be the match winners in the long as well as in the short versions of the game. Test cricket has witnessed quite a few intimidating  pace bowlers who used to win the matches by their aggressive bowling. The spinners have also been contributing well but they were mainly assisting the quick bowlers who used to dominate the results of the matches. The art of slow bowling has however overpowered the cricket fields since  last decade and made a clear difference by enhancing their importance in all formats of the game. The top three highest wicket takers in Test cricket represent the spin department and they are unparalleled forces at the moment.

We will highlight the top 10 spin merchants who have their names registered in the history books of Test cricket as they have won innumerable matches with their individual performance.

1) Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) – 800 wickets

Muttiah Muralitharan - The highest wicket taker

Muttiah Muralitharan – The highest wicket taker

He was born on April 17, 1972, in Kandy, a right arm off break bowler and a right hand batsman. He was the only Tamil who reached the peaks of international cricket and was able to make cracks even in the strongest batting line ups of the world.

The magician made his debut against Australia on August 28, 1992, at Khettarama Stadium, Colombo and claimed three wickets in the drawn match.

The 39-year-old played 133 Tests, grabbed 800 wickets at an excellent average of 22.72 runs per wicket with the best of 9 for 51 runs in an innings and 16 for 220 in a match. He took five wickets 67 times in an innings followed by 10 in a match on 22 occasions.

The Sri Lankan team has suffered a lot after his retirement and has been unable to win a single Test since he hung up his boots in July 2010.

2) Shane Warne (Australia) – 708 wickets

Australian Shane Warne is 2nd highest wicket taker

Australian Shane Warne is 2nd highest wicket taker

Shane Keith Warne was born on September 13, 1969, in Ferntree Gully, Victoria, a right arm leg break googly bowler and a right hand batsman. He brought the importance of leg spin bowling back in to the game and was one of the main weapons of the Kangaroos for nearly 15 years.
The master crafter made his debut against India on January 2, 1992, at Sydney Cricket Ground, and managed one wicket in an innings of a drawn match.

The 42-year-old participated in 145 matches, clinched 708 wickets at a reasonable average of 25.71, the best of 8 for 71 runs in an innings and 12 for 128 in a match. He held five wickets in an innings 37 times and reached the marks of 10 wickets in a match 10 times.

3) Anil Kumble (India) – 619 wickets

Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble

Kumble was born on October 17, 1970, in Bangalore, Karnataka, a right arm leg break bowler and a right hand batsman. He was an aggressive bowler who always believed that he could lift the game with his individual performance and proved his worth by winning hefty games for India.
The unpredictable spinner played his first Test against England on August 9, 1990, at Old Trafford, Manchester, and held three wickets in a drawn match.

The 41-year-old took part in 132 matches, secured 619 wickets at an average of 29.65, the best of 10 for 74 runs in an innings and 14 for 149 in a match.

The leg spinner is only second bowler in Test history to grab 10 wickets in just one innings. He has secured his record of claiming five wickets in an innings 35 times and 10 in a match eight times.

The aforementioned spinners have occupied the top three spots as far as the highest wicket takers in Test history are concerned and they are ruling the world which is an encouragement for the slow bowlers involved in the game currently. These statistics lay testimony to the fact that spin bowling nowadays is on equal par with seam and holds a vital key to any team’s success, be it any form of the modern game.

4) Harbhajan Singh (India) – 413 wickets

He was born on July 3, 1980, in Jullundur, a right-arm off spin bowler and a right hand batsman. He has been a match winner for India and especially filled the gap created by the retirement of Anil Kumble. He has been in controversy some times while his bowling action was questioned as well but the doubts were cleared, however.

The right arm spinner made his debut against Australia on March 25, 1998, at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, and held two wickets in the match.

The 32-year-old has played 101 Tests, secured 413 wickets at an average of 32.37 runs per wicket, the best of 8 for 84 runs and 15 for 217 runs in an innings.

He is going through a lean period but is bound to bounce back in the days to come and will enhance the number of wickets.

5) Lance Gibbs (West Indies) – 309 wickets

Lance Gibbs

Lance Gibbs

Lance Richard Gibbs was born on September 29, 1934, in Queenstown, Georgetown, a right-arm off spin bowler and a right-hand batsman. He was one of the greatest spinners of his time who kept the art of slow bowling alive when the fast bowlers were supposed to be the pillars of any team. He became the first slow orthodox bowler to grab 300 wickets in the longer version of the game.

The off spinner made his debut against Pakistan on February 5, 1958, at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain and held four wickets in the match which his team won by 120 runs.

The 77-year-old played 79 matches and held 309 wickets at an average of 29.09 runs per wicket with the best of 8 for 38 runs in an innings and 11 for 157 for a match.

6) Derek Underwood (England) – 297 wickets

Derek Underwood

Derek Underwood

Derek Leslie Underwood was born on June 8, 1945, in Bromley, Kent, a left-arm spin bowler and a right hand batsman.

He was the magician of his time, he produced unbelievable results for England and was capable of producing long spells with positive results.

He made his debut against West Indies on June 30, 1966, at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.

The 66-year-old has played 86 Tests, has taken 297 wickets averaging 25.83 with the best of 8 for 51 runs in an innings and 13 for 71 in a match.

7) Bishan Singh Bedi  (India) – 266 wickets

Bishan Singh Bedi

Bishan Singh Bedi

Bishan Singh Bedi was born on September 25, 1946, in Amritsar, a left-arm spin bowler and a right-hand batsman.

He was the master crafter of his time, he was supposed to be a deadly bowler and was opening the attack quite often.

He played his first Test against West Indies on December 31, 1966, at the famous Eden Gardens, Calcutta and claimed two wickets.

The 65-year-old has taken part in 67 Tests, claimed 266 wickets at an average of 28.71 runs per wickets with the best of seven for 98 runs in an innings and 10 for 194 in a match.

8) Danish Kaneria (Pakistan) – 261 wickets

Danish Kaneria

Danish Kaneria

Danish Parabha Shanker Kaneria was born on December 16, 1980, in Karachi, a right-arm leg spin bowler and a right-hand batsman. He is the highest spin wicket taker of Pakistan and still in the game though having some controversies surrounding him at the moment.

He is an exciting leg break bowler who could have delivered more subject to the faith shown in him by the selectors or his captains.

The 31-year-old made his debut against England on November 29, 2000, at Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad, and held two wickets in the drawn Test.

He has played 61 matches, taken 261 wickets at an average of 34.79, with the best of 7 for 77 runs in an innings and 12 for 94 in a match.

9) Richie Benaud (Australia) – 248 wickets

Richie Benaud

Richie Benaud

He was born on October 6, 1930, in Penrith, New South Wales, a right-arm leg break bowler and a right-hand batsman. He was one of the greatest all rounders of his time and was a secret weapon to get the wickets regularly. He has captained the Australian side and took them to the heights with his individual performance. He is better known as a cricket expert and commentator at present.

The googly bowler made his debut against West Indies on January 25, 1952, at Sydney Cricket Ground, got a chance to bowl in the second innings and claimed one wicket as the Kangaroos won that match by 202 runs.

The 81-year-old has played 63 Tests, got 248 wickets averaging 27.03, the best of 7 for 72 runs in an innings and 11 for 105 in a match.

10) Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrasekhar  (India) – 242 wickets

Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrasekhar

Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrasekhar

Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrasekhar was born on May 17, 1945, in Mysore, Karnataka, he was a right-hand batsman and a leg break bowler. The handicapped player because of polio did not give up and utilized his ailment fully to mesmerize the rival batsmen with his unpredictable deliveries. He became a match winning bowler with Bishan Bedi at the other end and the duo won India quite a few matches with their performance.

He made his debut against England on January 21, 1964, at Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, and held five wickets.
The 66-year-old took part in 58 Tests, accumulated 242 wickets at an average of 29.74 runs per wicket with the best of 8 for 79 runs and 12 for 104 runs.

India has been the most fertile land as far as the spin bowling is concerned and four evergreen top spinners belong to them.

Eight out of ten great spinners are retired from the game while registering their names in cricket history. Harbhajan Singh and Danish Kaneria have been side lined one way or the other but they have an outright chance to enhance their present tally of wickets

Comments (6)

  1. Easiest article to write on cricket. This is just a list of spinners with the most number of wickets in their careers. No Prasanna or Saqlain or Gupte?
    Harbhajan and Kaneria….seriously??

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  2. The compiler seems to be either a Football fan or Hockey because he does’nt know any thing about spin bowling , placing Harbajan and hahahaha Kaneria .. Neglecting Saqlain, AbdulQadir and Mushtaq Ahmed. uffff cannt stop laughing

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  3. Dear Umer,
    The above article has been compiled keeping in view the number of wickets taken by the spinners whereas the quality bowling of Saqlain, Qadir and Mushtaq can never be denied. it’s pity that they did not play enough cricket to be in the list of top ten. thanks

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  4. Sydney Barnes deserves a place in the top 10 and also Graeme Swann .

    Zia Rana – u dont seem to be following cricket.

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