Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time

September 22, 2020 By Sourav


Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time

The technique of spin bowling is used in cricket very often. The main purpose of Spin bowling is to bowl with rapid rotation, to make it deviate from the normal straight path when it bounces on the pitch. This will make it difficult for the batsman to make a clean hit. In the case of spin bowling, the speed at which the ball reaches the batsman is much slower than in the case of fast bowling. To honor the contribution of spin bowling in cricket, we have compiled the list of Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Depending on the physical technique being used, this style of bowling can be divided into four categories, i.e. off-spin, left-arm orthodox spin, leg break, and left-arm unorthodox spin. Depending on the technique, the bowler may use either finger motion or predominant wrist motion. Let us take a look.

Top 10 Spin Bowlers of All Time | 2020 Updates

1. Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah-Muralitharan
Muttiah-Muralitharan

Legendary retired Sri Lankan Right-arm off-break Bowler Muttiah Muralitharan held the number one spot for Test bowlers for a record period of 1,711 days in the International Cricket Council’s player rankings. Moreover, he was named “the greatest Test match bowler ever” by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack in 2002. Muralitharan took 800 wickets in 230 innings out of 113 test matches he participated from 1992 to 2010, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 9/51 and in a single test match of 16/220.

His test bowling average is 22.72 with an economy rate of 2.47. Besides, Muralitharan took 5 wickets 67 times and 10 wickets 22 times in test cricket. He also took 534 wickets in 350 ODI matches he played between 1993 and 2011 and achieved his best ODI performance of 7/30. Muralitharan has a bowling average of 23.08 with an economy rate of 3.93 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets 10 times in international limited over matches. He definitely deserves the top spot in the list of Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 133 800 9/51 22.72 2.47 67 22
ODI 350 534 7/30 23.08 3.93 10 0
T20I 12 13 3/29 22.84 6.31 0 0

2. Shane Warne

Legendary retired Australian Right-arm leg break Bowler Shane Keith Warne was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in the 1994 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Interestingly, his retirement from professional cricket was described by the Australian captain Ricky Ponting as the "end of an era". He took 708 wickets in 273 innings out of 145 test matches he participated from 1992 to 2007, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 8/71 and in a single test match of 12/128.

His test blowing average is 25.41 with an economy rate of 2.65. Moreover, Warne took 5 wickets 37 times and 10 wickets 10 times in test cricket. He also took 293 wickets in 194 ODI matches he played between 1993 and 2005 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/33. Warne has a bowling average of 25.73 with an economy rate of 4.25 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets once in international limited over matches. Warne is Kundoubtedly among the Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 145 708 8/71 25.41 2.65 37 10
ODI 194 293 5/33 25.73 4.25 1 0
T20 73 70 4/21 26.61 7.22 0 0

3. Anil Kumble

Next in the list of Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time, Retired Right-arm leg-break bowler and former captain of the Indian cricket team Anil Radhakrishna Kumble was one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1996. Besides, he became the fourth Indian cricketer to be inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame in February 2015. Anil took 619 wickets in 236 innings out of 132 test matches he participated from 1990 to 2008, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 10/74 and in a single test match of 14/149.

His test bowling average is 29.65 with an economy rate of 2.69. Kumble took 5 wickets 35 times and 10 wickets 8 times in test cricket. He also took 337 wickets in 271 ODI matches he played between 1990 and 2007 and achieved his best ODI performance of 6/12. Kumble has a bowling average of 30.89 with an economy rate of 4.30 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets twice in international limited over matches.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 132 619 10/74 29.65 2.69 35 8
ODI 271 337 6/12 30.89 4.30 2 0
T20 54 57 5/5 24.36 6.69 1 0

4. Saqlain Mushtaq

Saqlain-Mushtaq
Saqlain-Mushtaq

Retired Pakistani Right-arm off-break Bowler Saqlain Mushtaq is best known for inventing the "doosra". He was the quickest bowler to reach 100 wickets in the history of One Day Internationals. He took 208 wickets in 86 innings out of 49 test matches he participated from 1995 to 2004, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 8/164 and in a single test match of 10/155. moreover, his test blowing average is 29.83 with an economy rate of 2.64.

Mushtaq took 5 wickets 13 times and 10 wickets thrice in test cricket. He also took 288 wickets in 169 ODI matches he played between 1995 and 2003 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/20. Saqlain has a bowling average of 21.78 with an economy rate of 4.29 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets 6 times in international limited over matches. Known for marking one of the best bowling figures in tests, Saqlain definitely deserves his place among the Top 10 Greatest Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 49 208 8/164 29.83 2.64 13 3
ODI 169 288 5/20 21.78 4.29 6 0
T20 9 14 3/24 18.92 7.57 0 0

5. Daniel Vettori

Daniel-Vettori
Daniel-Vettori

Pioneer slow left-arm orthodox bowler of New Zealand cricket team Daniel Luca Vettori is the eighth player in Test history to score 3,000 runs beside taking 300 wickets. Vettori served as the captain of the New Zealand team between 2007 and 2011. He took 362 wickets in 187 innings out of 113 test matches he participated from 1997 to 2014, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 7/87 and in a single test match of 12/149.

His test bowling average is 34.36 with an economy rate of 2.59. Besides, Vettori took 5 wickets 20 times and 10 wickets 3 times in test cricket. He also took 296 wickets in 289 ODI matches he played between 1997 and 2015 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/7. Vettori has a bowling average of 31.90 with an economy rate of 4.11 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets twice in international limited over matches. With one of the best bowling spells in ODI, Vettori has earned his place among the top 10 spin bowlers.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 113 362 7/87 34.36 2.59 20 3
ODI 295 305 5/7 31.71 4.12 2 0
T20I 34 38 4/20 19.68 5.70 0 0

6. Shahid Afridi

Shahid-Afridi
Shahid-Afridi

Pakistani Right-arm leg spin Bowler Shahid Afridi, nicknamed by his fans as “Boom Boom Afridi”, has played more ODI matches than any other cricket player from Pakistan. Afridi is noted for his ability to throw a bouncer to batsmen which is very rare for a spin bowler. He took 48 wickets in 47 innings out of 27 test matches he participated from 1998 to 2010, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 5/52 and in a single test match of 5/43. While being one of the best all-rounders in the world, Afridi deserves his place among the Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

His test bowling average is 35.60 with an economy rate of 3.21. Afridi took 5 wickets once in test cricket. He also took 393 wickets in 393 ODI matches he played between 1996 and 2015 and achieved his best ODI performance of 7/12. Besides, Shahid Afridi has a bowling average of 34.21 with an economy rate of 4.62 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets 9 times in international limited over matches.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 27 48 5/52 35.60 3.21 1 0
ODI 398 395 7/12 34.51 4.62 9 0
T20I 99 98 4/11 24.44 6.63 0 0

7. Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan-Singh
Harbhajan-Singh

Indian Right-arm off-break bowler and former captain of IPL team Mumbai Indians Harbhajan Singh Plaha has the second-highest number of Test wickets by an off-spinner. Besides, he is also the first Indian bowler to achieve a hat-trick in Test cricket. He took 413 wickets in 186 innings out of 101 test matches he participated from 1998 to 2013, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 8/84 and in a single test match of 15/217.

His test bowling average is 32.37 with an economy rate of 2.83. Harbhajan took 5 wickets 25 times and 10 wickets 5 times in test cricket. He also took 259 wickets in 229 ODI matches he played between 1998 and 2011 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/31. Harbhajan has a bowling average of 33.40 with an economy rate of 4.30 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets thrice in international limited over matches. Without any doubt, he deserves his place in the list of Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 103 417 8/84 32.46 2.84 25 5
ODI 236 269 5/31 33.35 4.31 3 0
T20I 28 25 4/12 25.31 6.20 0 0

8. Abdul Qadir

Retired Pakistani Right-arm leg spin Bowler Abdul Qadir is widely regarded as the "mastered the googlies, the flippers, the leg-breaks and the topspins" according to Yahoo! Cricket. Former English captain Graham Gooch once stated that "Qadir was even finer than Shane Warne." He took 236 wickets in 111 innings out of 67 test matches he participated from 1977 to 1990, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 9/56 and in a single test match of 13/101.

His test bowling average is 32.80 with an economy rate of 2.71. Moreover, Abdul Qadir took 5 wickets 15 times and 10 wickets 5 times in test cricket. He also took 132 wickets in 104 ODI matches he played between 1983 and 1993 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/44. Qadir has a bowling average of 26.16 with an economy rate of 4.06 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets twice in international limited over matches. And for that, he deserves his spot among the Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 67 236 9/56 32.80 2.71 15 5
ODI 104 132 5/44 26.16 4.06 2 0
First Class 209 960 9/49 23.24 2.73 75 21

9. Graeme Swann

Retired English Right-arm off-break Bowler Graeme Peter Swann was the first modern-era English off-spinner to take 10 wickets in a match since Jim Laker. He is also noted for pioneering the unique "flying saucer ball". He took 255 wickets in 109 innings out of 60 test matches he participated from 2008 to 2013, with the best bowling performance in an innings of 6/65 and in a single test match of 10/132. His test bowling average is 29.96 with an economy rate of 2.98.

Graeme took 5 wickets 17 times and 10 wickets thrice in test cricket. He also took 104 wickets in 79 ODI matches he played between 2000 and 2013 and achieved his best ODI performance of 5/28. Graeme Swann has a bowling average of 27.76 with an economy rate of 4.54 in ODI, and also took 5 wickets once in international limited over matches. Known as one of the highest wicket-takers in ODI cricket, Swann deserves his spot among the Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 60 255 6/65 29.96 2.98 17 3
ODI 79 104 5/28 27.76 4.54 1 0
T20I 39 51 3/13 16.84 6.36 0 0

10. Rangana Herath

Former Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath represented his country in all formats of cricket. Besides, he also captained the team on several occasions. Besides being one of the greatest spinners of all time, Herath often dubbed by many as one of the greatest left-arm bowlers ever to grace the cricket field. He is the only left-arm spinner to get 433 wickets in test cricket. During his career from 1999 to 2018, he led his Sri Lankan team to victory in several international tournaments.

Herath played 93 test matches for his country while taking 433 wickets. He also took 10 wickets 9 times and 5 wickets 34 times in his Test career. Besides, he also played 71 ODI matches for his country while taking 74 wickets. Moreover, he also played 17 T20 International matches for Sri Lankan. He took 18 wickets in his T20 career.

Format Matches Wickets Best Bowling Average Economy 5-Wicket 10-Wicket
Test 93 433 9/127 28.08 2.80 34 9
ODI 71 74 4/20 31.91 4.37 0 0
T20I 17 18 5/3 20.72 6.13 1 0

Honorable Mentions

Some of the honorable mentions, without whom the list will be a complete misery, are as follows. Pakistani former cricketer and the current spin bowling coach of the Pakistan cricket team Mushtaq Ahmed Malik took 185 wickets in 52 test matches and 161 wickets in 144 ODI matches. Former West Indies cricketer Lancelot Richard Gibbs achieved 309 wickets in 79 international test matches and 2 wickets in 3 ODIs he played. Indian slow left-arm orthodox bowler Bishan Singh Bedi bagged 266 test wickets in 67 matches and 7 more in 10 ODI matches he contested. Former Australian right-arm leg-spin bowler Stuart Charles MacGill took 208 wickets in 44 test matches and 6 wickets in 3 ODI matches.

It takes special skill on the part of the bowler to master the craft of spin bowling. His job is exceedingly important for the team, as his style can completely change the direction of the ball at the bounce, and bewilder the batsman, especially an inexperienced one. Spin bowlers take to the pitch later on in the game when the pitch starts to crack and crumble, and use old balls that grip the pitch better, to intimidate batsmen. So which one is your favorite out of the Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time.

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