Spin bowling is extremely fascinating to watch in cricket. Spinners play a crucial role in a cricket team. All cricket fans throughout the world find it fascinating to see the ball curve, confound the batters, and strike the stumps. The best spin bowlers are those who can deflect the ball from the batsmen. They come in a variety of forms, including the traditional leg-spin, googly, flipper, leg break, and others. With magnificent displays of the “art of spin,” some best spin bowlers of all time have firmly established their dominance in the game. They will always be remembered for their phenomenal performances with the ball.
Here’s a list of Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers of All Time –
1. Shane Warne
Shane Warne is by far the best spin bowler in the world and is also widely regarded as the “King of Spin.” Beyond the amazing number of wickets he took for Australia, Shane Warne’s impact as a cricketer is considerable. With a variety of balls that drifted in, sloped out, or fizzed low and hard towards the stumps, Warne alone revived the fading art of leg-spin. Warne was a master artisan with a variety of skills and a smart cricketing mind. He easily mastered all the traditional variations of wrist-spinner – leg-spinner, googly top-spinner, and flipper. Many spin bowlers who went on to play Test cricket in the future claimed that watching Shane Warne inspired them.
He was a great competitor who continuously won lots of matches for Australia single-handedly in test cricket. The best batsmen in the world were confused by his wide variety of deliveries. He had the ability to bowl huge leg-breaks that also managed to swerve through the air; this was what really did for Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 with the ‘Ball of the Century’. He set a world record when he picked up 71 wickets in the 1993 calendar year, which was the highest by any spinner. Warne was an essential member of the Australian team that won the 1999 World Cup. He took 20 wickets in the tournament and was named “Player of the Match” in both the semifinal and the world cup final match.
During the 2005 Ashes, he became the first bowler to achieve 600 test wickets, and along with that, Warne set the test record for most wickets taken in a calendar year with 96 wickets. On 26th December 2006, Warne made history when he became the first bowler to take 700 test wickets. His statistics are quite incredible: 708 wickets in 145 Tests at an average of 25.41. No bowler has ever taken more wickets against a single team than he did in his 36 Test matches against England alone (195) wickets. His level of expertise was phenomenal in terms of bowling. Shane Warne will always be remembered as one of the greatest legends of the game, a crowd pleaser who has done so much for Australian team and world cricket alike.
2. Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan is the record-holding spin bowler with the most international wickets in both formats of the game. He was the right arm off-break bowler who is well known as one of the best spin bowlers of all time. With no indication of the world records to come, his international career got off to a somewhat modest start. But his flexible wrists, bent elbow, and quick shoulder rotation quickly rendered him unplayable. Murali was a nightmare for all batsmen everywhere he has played. The combination of his extreme spin and accuracy makes so difficult for any batsmen in the world. At the Oval in 1998, where he took 16 wickets in the match and single-handedly led Sri Lanka to their first-ever Test victory in England.
He took twenty-seven Test matches to take first 100 Test wickets, but from then on, the landmarks came thick and fast. His next seven blocks of a hundred wickets came in just 15, 16, 14, 15, 14, 12 and, finally, 20 matches. On 22 July 2010 vs India with a wicket off his final ball in his last test match, he finished his Test career in style and became the first bowler to take 800 test wickets in the history of cricket. And also when Muttiah Muralitharan took his 503rd wicket against India on February 5, 2009 in Colombo, he broke Wasim Akram’s previous record for most ODI wickets taken.
In both Test and one day cricket, Muralitharan holds the record for the most wickets taken. In total, Murali has taken 1,347 wickets in international cricket, including 800 test wickets and 534 one-day wickets. In all formats of international cricket, no other bowler has taken more than 1000 wickets. In 133 Test matches, Muralitharan took 800 wickets at an average of 22.72 with 67 fifers and 22 ten-wicket hauls to his name. He also took 534 wickets at an average of 23.08 in 350 One-Day Internationals for Sri Lanka. Murali was truly an exceptional spin bowler and his stats are phenomenal, unmatched and most likely uncatchable.
3. Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble is undoubtedly the greatest spin bowler that India has ever produced and also regarded as one of the best spin bowlers of all time. He bowls it flatter and faster than anyone else, and he has an arsenal that includes googlies, a type of flipper that keeps low and skids on, and a top spinner that bounces. Kumble is India’s greatest ever wicket taker and he stands out among all Indian spinners of all time. He has incredible statistics to back up his claim that he is India’s greatest match winner bowler since Kapil Dev. He holds the record for the most number of test wickets taken (619) by any Indian bowler and is the third-most successful bowler with 619 test wickets with eight 10 wickets haul, and 35 fifers in the list of the highest test wicket takers only behind Shane Warne and Muralitharan.
He doesn’t require the typical spinner qualities of flight and cunning because he uses his own skills and, if it turns, he has the ability to attack and destroy any side in the world. Kumble bowled out Pakistan at Delhi in February 1999, with his best bowling figures of 10 for 74, making him the only spin bowler after Jim Laker to take all 10 wickets in a Test match. Kumble was the prime bowler especially in overseas conditions when India toured in Australia 2003–04, he took superb 24 wickets in just 3 Test matches, India was able to draw the series at 1-1. With 6-72 at Multan and 4-47 at Rawalpindi in 2004, he played another key role in India’s first-ever test series victory in Pakistan.
Anil Kumble has taken 155 lbw wickets in Test matches, which is a record for a single spin bowler. Kumble had a memorable year in 1996 where he took 61 ODI wickets, which is the most of any bowler in an entire calendar year. With 337 wickets in 271 ODI matches, Kumble also holds the record for the most ODI wickets taken for any Indian bowler ever. In 1993 Hero Cup, he had a ODI career-best six for twelve runs against the West Indies. He also displayed uncommon bravery by bowling against the West Indies in Antigua in May 2002 despite having a fractured jaw and bowled 14 consecutive overs, in which he dismissed great batsmen Brian Lara.
4. Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain Mushtaq was another special kind of cricketer who had changed spin bowling and also regarded as one of the best spin bowlers of all time. Saqlain’s ball is doosra, which he invented and patented in the 1990s. He was a master at it, an off-spinner-style delivery that was bowled with the same action but spun the other way, gave spinners a new weapon in their arsenal. Even though he was a consistent performer in Test cricket, it was his One Day International performances that garnered the most attention. Because of his enormous influence, he became the fastest bowler to take 100 ODI wickets in history. He still maintains the record for taking the most ODI wickets in a year with 69 in 1997.
Saqlain is the fastest bowler ever to reach the milestones of 100, 150, 200 and 250 wickets in ODIs. His best performance in Test cricket is the Chennai Test against India in 1999. He took 5 wickets in both the innings and took the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar during the run chase in the fourth innings to help Pakistan win by 12 runs. He finished that series with 20 wickets and was awarded man of the series. In 49 test matches he took 208 wickets at an average of 29.83 with 13 five-wicket hauls and 3 ten-wicket hauls.
He took two ODI hat-tricks, both times against Zimbabwe, the first in 1996 ODI game and the second came in 1999 World Cup match, became the first Pakistani bowler to do so at World cup. Undoubtedly, he is the first spin bowler ever to specialise in bowling in the final over of a one-day match thanks to his exceptional control throughout. He bowled one of his famous and terrific last overs in ODIs against England in the 2001 Natwest Series when they required 9 off 6 balls; Saqlain bowled fantastically and won the match by 2 runs. He was a great and true innovator when it came to spin bowling thanks to his contribution for cricket.
5. Daniel Vettori
Daniel Vettori made his debut in 1997 at the age of 18, the youngest New Zealand player ever. Since then, he has worked hard to establish himself as one of the best spin bowlers of all time, showed excellent control and subtle variations in flight. He became the youngest bowler to take 100 Test wickets at the age of 21. He became the first Kiwi bowler to take 12 wickets in a home Test in March 2000 against Australia in Auckland with five for 62 and seven for 87. Being the best left arm spinner in the world is an honour.
During the 2009 tour of Sri Lanka by New Zealand, Vettori captured his 300th Test wicket. He joined Richard Hadlee as the second New Zealander to accomplish this. He captured total 362 Test wickets in 113 matches with 20 five-wicket hauls and 3 ten wickets haul. Vettori is New Zealand’s top wicket-taker in One Day Internationals also with 305 wickets. As a left-arm spinner, he was the first to record more than 300 wickets in both Test and One Day Internationals. Without a shadow of a doubt, these stats and records make him by far the best spinner ever from New Zealand in the world cricket.
6. Lance Gibbs
Lance Gibbs was tall, with long fingers, a lively movement, and he finished his overs swiftly. He used the crease skillfully, clever variations in flight, and spun the bowl a lot. He was the first West Indian to hold the record for most Test wickets taken 309. Lance Gibbs is still by far the best West Indian spinner more than sixty years after his debut. He had taken 17 wickets at 23 average in Pakistan in 1957-58 when he was only 23 years old, 19 wickets at 20.78 in three Test matches in Australia in 1960-1961 and 26 wickets at 21.3 in England in 1963.
He ruled the decade, routinely bowling the West Indies to victory, most notably in 1962 at Barbados against India with an eight-wickets for six runs in 15.3 overs. In 1966 at Old Trafford, he helped his team beat England by an innings with five wickets in each innings. With two wickets in the final Test match against Australia in 1975–76, Lance Gibbs broke Fred Trueman’s previous record, finishing his last 79th test with 309 wickets at 29.09.
7. Abdul Qadir
Abdul Qadir is one the most ideal spin bowlers in cricket history and is also widely regarded as one of the best spin bowlers of all time. Qadir possessed a wide range of googlies, a lethal flipper, and a sneaky topspin. He is well recognised for inspiring the next generations of spinners around the world. Shane Warne, a legend recalled how Qadir inspired him while he was watching him on television in the 1980s. Before Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir had been the only spinner who regularly won matches for Pakistan and he was really effective at home and overseas. In the 1980s, Qadir played a crucial role in making Pakistan one of the best teams in the world.
He was incredibly effective on the dry fields at Pakistan, and no one has taken more Test wickets for Pakistan at home than he took—168 wickets at an average of 26.82 in 40 matches. He put on some of his greatest performances, including 9 for 56 in test against the West Indies in Faisalabad. In 1982–83 series against Australia, Abdul Qadir captured total 22 wickets. He destroyed England in 1987-88, helping Pakistan defeat England by an innings and 87 runs in the first Test at Lahore with nine for 56 in the first innings and four for 45. With terrific 236 Test wickets at the end of his career. Due to his outstanding cricket career, he is a great cricket legend and will always be remembered.
8. Nathan Lyon
Nathan Lyon has excellent variations and maximises the benefits of the pitch’s pace and bounce. He is undoubtedly one of the best spin bowlers of all time in test cricket. After Shane Warne, Nathan Lyon became the second non Asian spinner to reach the milestone of 400 Test wickets. In Test cricket, Lyon joined as the eighth best spinner to reach the 400 wickets Club. In 53 Test matches in Australia, Lyon has taken 204 wickets at an average of 32.87. In 24 Ashes Test matches, he had also taken 89 wickets with an average of 30.41.
In the Ashes, Lyon has a higher bowling strike rate than legends like Swann, Grimmett, Derek Underwood, Richie Benaud, and others. He returned to the 2017 home series against England where he took 21 wickets, Australia won 4-0. It is absolutely stunning that he has a better bowling strike rate (64.3) than Harbhajan Singh (68.5) and other best bowlers like Saeed Ajmal, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Grimmett and Erapalli Prasanna. Lyon has also an outstanding record against India, both at home and away. At an average of 34.75 and a strike rate of 66.3 against them, he has taken 94 wickets total in 22 games.
9. Rashid khan
Rashid Khan is a tremendous spin bowler in the modern cricket. Many batsmen across the world have been disturbed by his right-arm leg spin thus far. He is the youngest bowler to hold the top spot in the ICC Player Rankings in ODIs in February 2018. He even topped the ICC Player Rankings for bowlers in the T20 format in the same month. After his outstanding performance in the 2018 Asia Cup, he rose to the top of the ICC’s all-rounder rankings in September 2018. Rashid Khan broke Mitchell Starc’s previous record of 52 games by becoming the fastest and youngest bowler ever to take 100 wickets in ODIs. He accomplished this achievement in just 44 games.
He also broke the record for the fastest bowler to take 50 wickets in the T20 format in June 2018. In addition, he accomplished the feat in two years and 220 days. This was not the end, though, as in October 2021, after only 53 games, he set a record for the fastest bowler to record 100 wickets in T20 cricket. He has also taken a hattrick in the third Twenty20 International match against Ireland in February 2019. His 5 for 3 is his best bowling performance in a T20 match.
10. Derek Underwood
Derek Underwood is arguably one of the best spin bowlers of all time that England has ever produced. He was accurate and awkward on the most of pitches, but was practically unplayable on wet or drying surfaces. He was a left-arm spinner who could flight the ball if necessary, but he typically bowled at a tempo that was more pace to medium, making it difficult for batsmen to attack him with their feet.
In 1968 at the Oval against Australia, Derek Underwood had his most remarkable performance, finishing with seven for 50. In the 1972 match at Headingley against Australia, Underwood wreaked havoc with 10 for 82. The figures making him without a doubt England’s best spinner during a period of 20 years. He finished his Test career with 297 wickets at 25.83, the most of any England spinner and also took 13-71 against Pakistan in 1974 last test match.