Who produces what is a very interesting question and the answers are not simplistic. However, addressed with a little bit of effort to understand the history, they can produce very fascinating analysis and fuel exciting debate.
There are three things, mainly, that determine bowling resources.
- Physical characteristics of different ethnic communities
- Ambient conditions
- Playing surfaces
Another aspect affects what young bowlers are more likely to take up and that is changes in laws of the game but that affects all nations although the effects can be felt more in one country than the others.
Batting follows what is happening with the bowling. If a country has wickets and, thereby, bowlers who lean towards a particular type of bowling, the batsmen will tend to play that type of bowling better than players from countries where such bowlers do not prosper.
I intend to show it by taking one bowling type at a time. And I am picking them at random - well not really . . .
Finger spin :-
By the time test matches began to be played at the beginning of the last quarter of the 19th century, over arm bowling had come to be accepted in the game almost universally. There were a few who bowled with a considerable round arm action, a la Malinga, among whom WG is the best known and the odd bowler could still bowl lobs since these were not banned in the game till Trevor Chappell and his skipper-brother decided to go into history in that infamous incident involving the Kiwis.
With over arm bowling, finger spin was the main form of bowling if one was to obtain lateral movement. Swing and swerve were not yet mastered and all bowlers, from very slow to the fastest, spun or broke the ball in to the right handed batsmen (away if the bowler was left handed). Initially, specially in England, it was left handed finger spinners, taking the ball away from the right handed batsmen, who were the big stars.
However, as batsmen started using the pads more and more and the laws began to be revised, the lbw proportion in the dismissals rose dramatically. Here is a very revealing stat. It shows the number of lbw's in England for years chosen between 1870 and 1923
As the batsmen started resorting to more use of the pad as a second line of defense and as the laws were modified to allow for lbw to be given for balls that pitched outside the off stump as well, so the number of off spinners in the English game.
YEAR WKT's LBW's Prop.
1870 1772 44 1 in 40
1890 3792 219 1 in 17
1910 6704 491 1 in 14
1923 7919 921 1 in 8
The finger spinners from other countries during this period were . . .
TYPE Player Span Mat Wkts
LALS R Peel 1884-1896 20 101
LALS J Briggs 1884-1899 33 118
LALS W Rhodes 1899-1930 58 127
LALS C Blythe 1901-1910 19 100
LALS H Verity 1931-1939 40 144
LALS JH Wardle 1948-1957 28 102
OS JC Laker 1948-1959 46 193
LALS GAR Lock 1952-1968 49 174
OS FJ Titmus 1955-1975 53 153
OS DA Allen 1960-1966 39 122
During this period, the three countries that played test cricket almost throughout were Australia, England and South Africa. Here is the number of world class finger spinners they produced and those figures as a percentage of the number of tests each team played.
Country TYPE Player Span Mat Wkts
AUS OS GE Palmer 1880-1886 17 78
AUS OS H Trumble 1890-1904 32 141
AUS LALS JV Saunders 1902-1908 14 79
SAF LALS CL Vincent 1927-1935 25 84
IND LALS MH Mankad 1946-1959 44 162
SAF OS HJ Tayfield 1949-1960 37 170
WIN OS S Ramadhin 1950-1961 43 158
WIN LALS AL Valentine 1950-1962 36 139
WIN OS LR Gibbs 1958-1976 79 309
IND OS EAS Prasanna 1962-1978 49 189
England produced 1.5 times as many finger spinners as did Australia and 3.5 times as much as South Africa South Africa.
Era AUS ENG SAF
19th century 2 2
1900's-10's 1 2 0
1920's-30's 1 1 0
1940's-60's 0 5 1
Total spinners 4 10 1
Total Tests 314 458 168
Factor 1.3 2.2 0.6
If we take the entire period till date, adding the 70's-80's as era 5 and 90's-00's as era 6, we find that India have over taken England as the country that produces the largest number of quality spinners with Pakistan catching up fast. Sri Lanka and Australia form the next cluster with Windies, South Africa and the Kiwis at the bottom of the heap.
Clearly, the sub continent continues to provide surfaces for finger spinners to flourish and the wet and soft surfaces in England continue to attract finger spinners with the bite they are able to get. This is not likely to change any time soon as is the lack of finger spin in NZL, Windies and SAfrica.
Era IND ENG PAK AUS SRL WIN SAF NZL
19th century 2 2
1900's-10's 2 1 0
1920's-30's 1 1 0
1940's-60's 2 5 0 3 1 0
1970's-80's 2 1 2 2 0 0 0
1990's-00's 3 2 3 1 2 0 1 1
TOTAL FS 7 13 5 7 2 3 2 1
Tests 468 930 369 750 219 488 374 379
Factor 1.50 1.40 1.36 0.93 0.91 0.61 0.53 0.26
The criteria for eligibility of bowlers to be included in the list was
- Minimum 75 Test wickets (100 for the period after 1970's)
- Under 35 bowling average (under 30 for 19th century)
- Minimum 2.5 wickets per Test
. . . to be continued