We sometimes think that Spin bowlers have a more comfortable job than fast bowlers, but let me tell you, that’s not the case.
Spin bowling, in contrast to fast-bowling, is an art where drift and rotation play the leading role while speed takes a back seat.
Spinning the ball is about giving rotation to the ball, where it deviates from the line after pitching on the surface.
So, the batsman needs to have a good look at the wrist and play as late as possible or use their feet to counter quality spin bowling.
Over the years, we have seen many great spin bowlers, but here we are mentioning only the best of the best.
That’s why without any further due, let us get on to the list of Top Ten Best Spinners of All Time.’
Top Ten Best Spinners of All Time
1. Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan, with 1334 international wickets, is undoubtedly the most successful spinner in the world.
This legendary off-spinner was not only lethal in dry pitches of Asia but was very successful overseas as well.
You’ll notice that many of his five-wicket hauls came overseas, especially England, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe.
He used all parts of his arm and shoulder, which helped him extract a lot of turn from the surface.
He, along with Saqlain Mushtaq popularised ‘doosra’ but bowling them, also raised questions over his bowling action.
Muralitharan took 800 wickets in 113 test matches and also took 534 wickets in 350 ODI matches.
He held the 1st spot in the ICC test match bowler rankings for a record of 1,711 days.
That’s why very deservedly he grabs the top spot on this list.
2. Shane Warne
With 1001 international wickets, Shane Warne is the most successful leg spinner in the world to play the game.
He dared to flight the ball, the ability to extract turn, and, most importantly, had the hunger to win matches.
Warne not only had a good leg spinner but also had a very lethal flipper in his armory to deceive the batsmen.
He had the ability to raise his level in crucial matches, and the 1999 WC semi-finals remain one of the best examples.
Warne’s ODI career though short-lived due to disciplinary reasons but was epic in many ways.
He was the first bowler to reach 700 Test wickets and took 708 wickets in the 145 test matches he played.
He picked 293 wickets in 194 ODI matches and for all these reasons gets the No.2 spot on the list.
3. Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble, with 956 international wickets, was one of the best spinners to play the game.
Kumble didn’t have the turn or the drift like Warne but used his height to purchase bounce from the surface.
As I’ve said that he had those limitations to start with, but it was his fighting attitude that kept him going
It was evident when Kumble bowled with a broken jaw against West Indies in the Antigua Test in 2002
Kumble, with his impeccable amount of accuracy and a well-disguised flipper, was hard to manage for batsmen.
Kumble took 619 Test wickets and 337 ODI wickets in his international career that spanned almost two decades.
He also became the second bowler after Jim Laker to take all the ten wickets in a single inning of a test match.
He became the 4th Indian cricketer after Bishan Bedi, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar to get inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame in 2015.
4. Saqlain Mushtaq
In terms of wickets, Saqlain comes nowhere near the first three, but in terms of revolutionizing the game, he comes right at the top.
When Saqlain came into the picture, off-spin was a dying art, and it was the legspinners who were dominating cricket.
But, he created havoc with his ‘doosra’ that turned the other way and revived the art of off-spin bowling.
In ODIs batsmen failed to read his ‘doosra’ and he soon turned out to be a nightmare for batsmen to face
He was the first spinner to start bowling at the death and also became the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets.
He took 208 wickets in 49 Tests and 288 wickets in 165 ODIs he played between 1995 and 2004
For all these reasons Saqlain Mushtaq very deservedly gets the No.4 spot on the list.
5. Ravi Ashwin
Ravi Ashwin, one of the best spinners of all time, is undoubtedly the best spinner of the modern era.
With an excellent follow-through with a fearless approach to flight the cricket ball every time, Ravi Ashwin has troubled batsmen at home and overseas conditions.
Initially, he was more interested in bowling multiple deliveries, and it was helping him pick wickets at home but was not necessarily helping him succeed outside Asia.
But as he matured, he started focusing on tossing the ball up, and that approach helped him succeed overseas as well.
Even though Ashwin still uses both the carrom ball and the slider to unsettle the batsmen, it’s his ability to make batsmen drive the ball against the turn, which has helped him become more consistent in recent years.
Especially in the recently concluded Australia vs. India series Down Under, Ashwin has shown that he is a spinner at the top of his game.
He has picked 394 wickets in 76 test matches, and 150 wickets from 111 ODI, 52 wickets from 46 ODIs, and very deservedly gets the No.5 spot on the list.
6. Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh, ‘the turbanator’ is one of the most prominent spin bowlers India has ever produced.
Even though a young Harbhajan debuted in 1998, the famous 2001 home test series made him a household name.
He had a relatively easy bowling action and used to extract a lot of bounce out of the surface and always kept the short-leg in the game.
Bhajji was the first Indian cricketer to grab a hat-trick in test matches and the third-highest wicket-taker for India in Tests after Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev.
He has picked 417 wickets in 103 test matches, and 269 wickets from 236 ODI matches and very deservedly gets the No.6 spot on the list.
7. Rangana Herath
Rangana Herath, the best left-arm spinner, was overlooked by selectors for a larger part of his career.
Still, after Muralitharan’s retirement, he became the spearhead of Sri Lanka’s bowling attack.
Even though Herath made his debut in 1999 against Australia, it was his nine wickets in Durban in 2011 that truly solidified his position in the Sri Lankan team.
In 2012, he finished with 60 Test scalps, and in 2014, and was quite impressive 2014 T20 World Cup, where he just toyed with the Kiwi batsmen to help his team reach the semi-finals.
He picked 433 wickets in 93 Tests, 74 ODI scalps in 71 ODIs, and was quite economical (6.13) in the 17 T20 internationals he played for Sri Lanka.
Indeed, Herath was not a massive turner of the ball like Murali, and so he had his limitations as a bowler but made the most out of it through sheer control over his line and length.
Therefore, Rangana Herath, one of the most underrated cricketers of all time, and very deservedly gets the No.7 spot on the list.
8. Bishan Singh Bedi
Probably the best left-arm spinner of all time as far as skill is concerned, Bishan Singh Bedi, was one of those spinners who used to fox the batsmen, not with multiple variations, but with the sheer courage to fight the ball.
Bedi made his international debut for India at the age of 21 against the West Indies and was an integral part of India’s famous spin quartet.
He had a rhythmic approach towards the crease. His follow-through, unmatched control over line and length, and his ability to change the dip of a cricket ball made him a serious threat in overseas conditions.
Also, his immaculate control over line and length troubled batsmen of all caliber, and it must not come as a surprise that Bedi holds the world record of most economical bowling figures in an ODI match.
In the 1975 World Cup match against East Africa at Headingley, in his complete quota of 12 overs, he picked up one wicket, bowled six maiden overs, and just gave 8 runs in the due process.
Bedi played 67 Tests in which he managed to pick 266 wickets at an average of 28.71 and very deservedly gets the No.8 spot on the list.
9. Daniel Vettori
Probably the most underrated cricketers of the modern era, Daniel Vettori was one of the best spinners of all time.
Even though he was neither a prolific wicket-taker nor a massive turner of the cricket ball, but always bowled tight lines to ensure his partner from the end can attack and pick wickets from the other end.
This left-arm spinner, for most of his career, played on surfaces that offered little help for the spinners but still managed to pick 362 wickets from 113 test matches at an average of 34.36 with an economy rate of 2.59
He is also one of the very few cricketers in Test history who have managed to score 3,000 runs besides taking 300 wickets.
He also picked 305 wickets in 295 ODI matches with a bowling average of 31.90 and at an impressive economy rate of 4.11 and very deservedly gets the No.10 spot on the list.
10. Nathan Lyon
Unfortunately, when we talk about the Australian bowling attack, all the talks start and end with the lethal pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood.
Yes, they all are great bowlers, but it’s Nathan Lyon, and his ability to both attack and defend is something that provides Australian bowling with that much-needed balance.
Nathan Lyon, one of the best spinners of the modern era, started his journey from a temporary groundskeeper, and now he is one of the Australian test team’s senior cricketers.
Even though he plays most of his cricket on hard Australian pitches, he has still managed to claim five-wicket hauls in Australia on five separate occasions.
He has a better record than Ashwin in South Africa, England, New Zealand due to his ability to impart overspin.
He has managed to pick 399 wickets in 100 Tests, with 18 five-wicket hauls to his name, and very deservedly gets the No.10 spot on the list.