Rashid Khan, a leg-spinner, sits on top of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) ranking of Twenty20 bowlers. The list was updated on 22nd December 2018 and that rightly sums up Rashid’s performance in this calendar year. It is interesting to see that not only Rashid but the top six bowlers in the ICC rankings are leg spinners.

The top 6 includes Rashid Khan, Shadab Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Adil Rashid, Adam Zampa and Ish Sodhi. Leg-spinners, Shakib Al Hasan and Imran Tahir are at number 8 and number 10 on the list. All the bowlers in the top 10 are leg-spinners or bowl with the variation of leg-spin except Faheem Ashraf, who is a pace bowler. It is an amazing coincidence to see the top bowlers of this format of cricket are mostly leg-spinners. Is it only a coincidence or is there a reason behind it?

The leg spinners are on demand all over the world. Each international team has at least one leg spinning option. T20 franchise leagues are going above and beyond to purchase a leg spinner as witnessed during IPL auctions every year. Rashid Khan is a perfect example who is providing explosive performances in every tournament he plays, be it IPL, APL or BBL. He is the most economical bowler and also took wickets at a staggering strike rate of 12.3 in his T20 career.

Yadav, Shadab, Adil, Zampa and Sodhi are indispensable for their respective teams. They are also the sought after T20 franchise players along with the likes of Samuel Badree, Sunil Narine, Yuzvendra Chahal and many others.

When T20 got its prominence in early 2000, it was argued that this game will destroy the bowlers. Flat pitch, high adrenaline, more runs to score, shorter boundary and priority to batsmen were some of the reasons to portray T20 format to be a batting friendly event. And, to be honest, spectators also like to see big hits and it is still safely assumed to be the shortcut to attract spectators to the stadium and investors to invest on tournaments. Media normally highlights the big hits. Yuvraj hitting six sixes against Stuart Broad is still shown to showcase T20 format.

Amidst all this, a silent evolution was also happening with leg spin bowling. Fast bowlers were dispatched for sixes and fours all across the park. But, leg-spin was that specific arsenal in the T20 format which was used by captains to its fullest potential. Amit Mishra is the leg spin legend in IPL with most number of wickets. Now after a decade we can see leg spinners fetching the superstar price in T20 franchise leagues all over the world. These bowlers are the must have members of the team and are mostly preferred to open the bowling. We can now see leg spinners bowling the death overs, which in my view is the biggest credibility for the leg spinners.

So, what’s the secret behind leg spinners’ success in this format of the game?

The reason behind the prominence of leg spinners in this format of the game cannot be singled out. In my personal opinion, these are the the reasons among many others.

Variation of Leg-spin Bowling

Leg spinners’ ability to spin the ball both ways from the batsmen is the skill that helped leg spinners. Pace bowling and off spin are also effective but the number of variations are higher in leg spin bowling. Bowlers can bowl leg spin, leg break, googly, slider, flipper and others which can be hard to pick and score against. The actual art of leg spin bowling is so effective against the batsmen intending to score runs, the bowlers were extremely effective in the shorter format of cricket.

Playing Format of T20 cricket

This format of cricket was very batting skewed when it started. Batsmen were expected to score fast without giving them time to adapt and adjust. The very first over onwards, batsman are required to score runs irrespective of the innings they are playing. Bowlers exploited the vulnerability and showed stellar performances. Out of all bowlers, leg spinners were the one who ripped most benefits of the vulnerability of batters in T20 cricket.


The T20 format focuses so much on quick runs, batsmen typically are stressed with the expectation to perform in every condition. Leg spin is the bowling art which can feed into that stress.

Success of the leg spin is so mainstream now a days, leg spinners are opening the innings and also bowling in the death overs. This could not be imagined in ODIs where leg spinners were normally operated after the power plays during the middle overs to check the flow of runs.

Shane Warne and Anil Kumble

Leg spin is a very difficult art and there are many articles praising the spinners who can actually master this skill. Shane Warne is someone who can be called a superstar who single handedly represented leg spin since the 1980s. Who can forget his rivalry with worlds’ best batsmen including Sachin Tendulkar. I used to glue to my TV screen and listen to radio commentary to witness Tendulkar and Warne battle it out for supremacy. That rivalry later was carried on by McGrath. Good old days.

Leg spin bowling cannot be complete without mentioning Anil Kumble. He was the master of leg-spin art and I remember him taking all 10 wickets in the test match against Pakistan in 1999. He was bowling in that rough dusty Delhi pitch and all players were circling the pitch to take those catches. And, Anil bowled like a boss to rip through Pakistan batting line up with his low bounced sliders and flippers that would change the course midway in the air. He was a nightmare for any batsman in his prime.

Pakistani leg spinner Abdul Qadir was the flag bearer of leg spin bowling when it was dominated by West Indian and Australian fast bowlers.

Warne and Kumble made leg-spin trendy and led the attack. They were effective in taking wickets and used the variation perfectly.

Superstar from the Associate Cricket- Sandeep Lamichhane

The rise of leg spinning prodigy Sandeep Lamichhane also shows how popular the spin bowling technique is in the T20 format. He is from Nepal, an associate cricket nation without ODI(until 2018) and test cricket experience. It is his leg spinning skill that catapulted him to play every franchise T20 leagues in the world including Indian Premier League.

It was beyond imagination that an associate cricket player would feature in cricket matches with full member cricket players until the rise of T20 cricket. But, the leg - spin skill worked for him and he is now shouldering with the best in business. It was his bowling skill that helped him rise and gain the fame that he posses. Sandeep’s rise shows if you have this rare talent of spin bowling (and any other bowling as a matter of fact), you can achieve much more even without playing international cricket.

2019 and Leg-spin Future

Future is bright for leg spinners. This rare form of spin bowling revive the importance of bowling in T20 format of cricket. More leagues are being formed and and are creating demands. Following these highly successful leg spinning superstars, young players will learn this skill and come through the ranks. Future looks promising for this rare form spin bowling. 2019 and beyond it will be a must skill to have.