Know all about “Chinaman”?

Know all about “Chinaman”?

Know all about “Chinaman”?

“Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman”
- Walter Robbins


Spinners are rare; rarer being left arm spinners and rarest being the ‘Chinaman’. The term, coined by Walter Robbins of England, in frustration in 1930s when he got bowled in a test match by first test cricketer of Chinese origin, Ellis Achong, is given to left arm spinners who bowl unorthodox spin. This is very rare species of spinners and recently India’s Kuldeep Yadav has brought this style back to the table.

What is Chinaman exactly?

Chinaman is basically a bowling style which in formal terms is also known as ‘left arm unorthodox spin’. Orthodox spin means normal spin. When a left arm bowler bowls orthodox spin, he spins the ball from right side of the pitch to left side (seen from bowler’s perspective). In ‘unorthodox’ spin i.e. the ‘Chinaman’, the ball is turned from left side of the pitch to the right side.

When a left-handed batsman will play a Chinaman bowler, the ball will leave the batsman. When a right-handed batsman will play a Chinaman bowler, the ball will come into the batsman.
An easier way to imagine the spin is to think how Harbhajan Singh or Muralidharan spun the ball. It is the same trajectory and movement of the ball but by a left-arm spinner. It is considered an exact mirror image of leg break.

Why is it rare and such a big thing?

Generally left arm spinners bowl the ball which comes into the left handed batsman that means the ball moving away from the right handed batsman. This is orthodox spin. It is very rarely seen that left arm spinners bowl the opposite i.e. the ball that leaves a left- handed batsman.

Also, such a spin is like what Anil Kumble of India bowled i.e. wrist spin which is very difficult to control and master as well as difficult to play.

It is known that the ball moving away from the batsman is more dangerous to play than the ball coming into the batsman. Majority of the batsmen are right handed so this type of spin is considered to pose less risk to the batsmen.

Who are its famous personalities?

Apart from the initiator Achong, some of the most famous ‘Chinaman’ bowlers are Sir Garfield Sobers (Gary Sobers-one of the finest all-rounders in world cricket), Dave Muhammad, Australian prodigee spinner Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, Johnny Wardle of England, South Africa’s Paul Adams (frog in a blender style), Australia’s natural spinner Michael Bevan and one of the most successful Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg.

Lakshan Sandakan of Srilanka and Kuldeep Yadav too follow this style.

Why was it in news recently?

Recently, India got its first Test ‘Chinaman’ bowler, Kuldeep Yadav, who made a dream debut by picking 4 wickets against Australia. Another Chinaman from India, Shivil Kaushik has showcased his talent in the IPL.

Is it racist?

The term started not as compliment or name for a style but as a racial comment. This can set a wrong precedent. The origin is from words of Robbins who called Achong a ‘Chinaman’ based on his race and ancestry. With the left-arm unorthodox spin getting more and more attention, such nomenclature can set the wrong precedents and may not go down well with all the people.

International Cricket Council (ICC) must immediately abolish this term from cricketing dictionaries as it is not praise, but a derogatory remark as per some cricketing historians and players.
Almost all bowling styles and types of deliveries have a formal name which is used popularly, so even this style should have proper name that can echo its unique nature and which is universal and not limited to some race or nationality.
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