Left-arm unorthodox spin

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Trajectory of a left-arm unorthodox spin delivery

Left-arm unorthodox spin, also known as slow left-arm wrist-spin, is a type of spin bowling in the sport of cricket. Left-arm unorthodox spin bowlers use wrist spin to spin the ball, and make it deviate, or 'turn' from left to right after pitching.[1] The direction of turn is the same as that of a traditional right-handed off spin bowler, although the ball will usually turn more sharply due to the spin being imparted predominantly by the wrist.

Some left-arm unorthodox bowlers also bowl the equivalent of a googly, or 'wrong'un', which turns from right to left on the pitch. The ball turns away from the right-handed batsman, as if the bowler were an orthodox left-arm spinner. The delivery was sometimes historically called a chinaman.

Notable left-arm unorthodox spin bowlers[edit]

The first cricketer known to bowl the style of delivery was 19th-century South African bowler Charlie Llewellyn.[1][2][3] Llewellyn toured North America with Bernard Bosanquet, the originator of the googly delivery, and it is likely that Llewellyn learned the googly-style of delivery from him, bowling it with his left-arm.[3] Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, an ambidextrous Australian bowler, notably used the delivery in the 1930s, including in his 10 Test matches.[1][2][4]

Among noted players who have bowled the delivery are Denis Compton, who originally bowled orthodox slow-left arm deliveries but developed left-arm wrist spin, taking most of his 622 first-class wickets using the delivery.[5][6] Although better known for fast bowling and orthodox slow left-arm, Garfield Sobers could also use it to good effect.[1] In cricket's modern era, Australian Brad Hogg brought the delivery to wider notice[1] and had one of the most well-disguised wrong'uns.[7] Kuldeep Yadav, who debuted for India in March 2017, bowls left-arm wrist spin,[8][9] and Paul Adams played 45 Test matches for South Africa between 1995 and 2004 using the delivery.[1][9]

Historical use of the name Chinaman[edit]

Historically the term "chinaman" was sometimes used to describe the googly delivery or other unusual deliveries, whether bowled by right or left-arm bowlers.[10] The left-arm wrist spinner's delivery that is the equivalent of the googly eventually became known as the "chinaman".

The origin of the term is unclear, although it is known to have been in use in Yorkshire during the 1920s and may have been first used in reference to Roy Kilner.[a][9][13] It is possible that it is a guarded reference to Charlie Llewelyn, the first left-arm bowler to bowl the equivalent of the googly.[b][15] It is first known to have been used in print in The Guardian in 1926 in reference to the possibility of Yorkshire bowler George Macaulay bowling a googly,[c] but the term became more widely used after a Test match between England and West Indies at Old Trafford in 1933. Ellis Achong, a player of Chinese origin who bowled slow left-arm orthodox spin, had Walter Robins stumped off a surprise delivery that spun into the right-hander from outside the off stump. As he walked back to the pavilion, Robins reportedly said to the umpire, "fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman!",[9][16][17] leading to the more wide-spread use of the term.[2]

In 2017, Australian journalist Andrew Wu, who is of Chinese descent, raised concerns about the use of the term as "racially offensive",[16] arguing the term itself "has historically been used in a contemptuous manner to describe the Chinese".[16] Wisden formally changed their wording of the term to slow left-arm wrist-spin in the 2018 edition of the Almanack, describing chinaman as "no longer appropriate".[2][18][15] CricInfo followed suit in 2021, noting that although some argued that its use in cricket "was not meant to be derogatory", that its continued use was inappropriate.[19] Some writers continue to use the term.[d]


  1. ^ Kilner bowled slow left-arm orthodox deliveries rather than wrist spin. Although it is possible that the term was first used either by Kilner or in reference to his bowling, it was not used by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack in 1924 when he was one of their five Cricketers of the Year or in his 1929 obituary.[11][12]
  2. ^ Llewelyn had a white father and a mother who had been born on St Helena.[14] She was described as "black" by historian Rowland Bowen, although it is possible that she was from a Madagascan or Indian background. Andy Carter has suggested that there could be a link between Llewellyn's mixed-race heritage and the use of the term "chinaman".[15]
  3. ^ Macaulay was a right-arm bowler who did not bowl wrist spin deliveries.
  4. ^ For example, the term remained in use to describe Kuldeep Yadav in the Hindustan Times[20] and The Indian Express in 2021.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Leggie in the mirror, CricInfo, 22 November 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Rubaid Iftekhar (25 June 2020) The 'Chinaman mystery': Racism and left-arm leg-spin, The Business Standard. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b Carter A (2019) Beyond the Pale: early black and asian cricketers in Britain 1868–1945, p.74. Leicester: Troubador. ISBN 9781838592028 (Available online. Retrieved 14 August 2021.)
  4. ^ Fleetwood-Smith, Leslie O'Brien, Obituaries in 1971, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1972. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  5. ^ Denis Compton, Obituary, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1998. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  6. ^ Arlott J (1988) The great entertainer, Wisden Cricket Monthly, May 1988. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  7. ^ Dorries B (20 March 2014) Aussie spinner Brad Hogg admits he didn’t know what wrong-un was early in his career, The Courier Mail. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  8. ^ Kuldeep Yadav, CricInfo. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Bull A (18 March 2017) Isn't it about time cricket consigned 'chinaman' to the past?, The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  10. ^ Carter, op. cit., pp.75–76.
  11. ^ Bowler of the Year: Roy Kilner, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1924. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  12. ^ Roy Kilner, Obituary, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1929. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  13. ^ Maurice Leyland, Obituary, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1968. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  14. ^ Carter, op. cit., pp.69–70.
  15. ^ a b c Carter, op. cit, p.76.
  16. ^ a b c Andrew Wu (26 March 2017) Australia v India Test series 2017: Does cricket really need to continue using the term 'chinaman'?, The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  17. ^ The Original Chinaman, CricInfo, 31 August 1995. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  18. ^ Wisden replaces Chinaman with slow left-arm wrist-spin bowlers, CricketCountry, 12 April 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  19. ^ Bal S (16 April 2021) Why we're replacing 'batsman' with 'batter', CricInfo. Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  20. ^ Samyal SK (19 July 2021) Kuldeep Yadav finds his rhythm in opening Sri Lanka ODI win, Hindustan Times. Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  21. ^ Sandip G (12 February 2021) India vs England: No room for Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, The Indian Express. Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  • Cricket and Race by Jack Williams ISBN 1-85973-309-3
  • Wisden, 1968, 1987 and 2018 editions