IPL has seen a rise in the demand of wrist spinners in recent years. Wrist spinners have dominated limited-overs cricket over the past few years all around the globe and the situation is no different in IPL. The increase in the need for wrist spinners can be gauged from the fact that Ravichandran Ashwin, one of the best off-spinners at the moment, decided to add leg-spin to his armory ahead of the 2018 season. Here we have a detailed look, from a statistical point of view, at how the wrist spinners have fared as compared to the finger spinners in recent years:

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Overall Figures in IPL:

The overall numbers in the IPL in the last 3 years include 4 parameters: Bowling Strike Rate, Economy Rate, Dot Ball Percentage, and Balls per Boundary.

wrist spin v finger spin

Insights:

  • The overall numbers suggest that finger spinners have been almost at par with the wrist spinners, except for the fact that the later have a very good strike rate
  • The usual notion that wrist spinners are a bit on the expensive side does not hold as they are only marginally behind the finger spinners in terms of economy rate

Distribution of Overs throughout an Innings:

We often see finger spinners bowling a good amount of overs in the powerplays. Also, the majority of spinners bowling in powerplays are finger spinners.

Wrist spin v finger spin in IPL

Insights:

  • Wrist spinners are hardly bowled in the powerplays. Samuel Badree is the only wrist spinner who bowls the majority of his overs in powerplays, while the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Piyush Chawla open the bowling only against selective oppositions. Finger spinners who are used as defensive options are often used in powerplays
  • Wrist spinners, being the attacking options, bowl slightly more than finger spinners at the death. The exceptions among finger spinners include Sunil Narine and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, who have the X-factor with them which makes the captain hand them the death overs

Phase-wise Comparison:

Wrist spin in IPL
Wrist spin in IPL

Are Wrist spinners Under-utilized in Powerplays?

As seen from the graph above, wrist spinners have fared better than finger spinners in the powerplays.

  • Economy – Finger spinners have a better economy rate, but only by 0.33 runs an over
  • Strike Rate – Wrist spinners take 19.26 balls to pick a wicket while Finger spinners take 26.34 balls for the same; a difference of 7 balls, which is huge in T20s
  • Dot Percentage – Wrist spinners have a 4% higher dot ball percentage, a very crucial factor in creating pressure
  • Balls per Boundary – Finger spinners concede a boundary every 20.73 balls, which is about 4 balls more than wrist spinners, meaning the finger spinners are not easy to hit out of the park, but easy to grind out singles.

Insights:

  • Finger spinners are slightly more economical than wrist spinners in the middle overs but are expensive in the powerplays and at the death.
  • Wrist spinners are better wicket-takers, irrespective of the phase of the innings.
  • Wrist spinners, being the attacking options are easier to hit for boundaries, but the higher dot ball percentage also suggests the pressure they create by picking wickets.

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Distribution of Runs Conceded:

Wrist spin in IPL
  • Wrist spinners have a slightly higher (~2%) dot ball percentage, which might be due to the pressure they create by picking regular wickets
  • Finger spinners concede more singles (~2.5%), implying that batsmen find them easier to play out and are happy to just keep rotating strike
  • Wrist spinners concede six more often, which shows batsmen finding them easier to hit out of the park as compared to finger spinners, who are often used as defensive options by most teams

Overall Insights:

  • The wicket-taking ability of wrist spinners at all stages of the game holds them in better stead as compared to finger spinners in the IPL
  • Wrist spinners are massively under-utilised in powerplays, having better numbers than finger spinners on most parameters, creating more pressure and picking wickets more often
  • Despite being used as attacking options, wrist spinners have been more economical in powerplays and death overs, and only marginally behind in middle overs
  • Finger spinners have a better strike rate in middle overs as compared to powerplays. And hence should be bowled relatively more in middle overs and wrist spinners having better numbers in powerplays should be utilised better in the initial phase

Looking at the numbers, we can say that wrist spinners have certainly had an edge over finger spinners recently in the IPL. However, they also have the potential to be used in a more attacking way if utilised more in powerplays. Teams looking to attack more inside the powerplays should prefer using wrist spinners in the initial phase.