Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Flipper - spin bowling

Wrist-spin bowling - 'The Flipper'

57 Views 6.4.18 - last updated.
There's a really interesting chapter in Brian Wilkins book "The bowlers Art" where he looks at Flippers in some detail, some of it I would say is over-exaggerated, especially with regards to how difficult it is to bowl. This is probably based on the fact that all of the past exponents of the Flipper had to go through a process of learning it with very little information. As far as I’m aware and Wilkins goes into this in a lot more depth than I am here, Grimmett was the first to write this stuff up in detail in 1930 in his book “Getting Wickets”. At the point the book was written he was only using the Flipper method in demonstrations to show the effect of how through the use of the wrist position the ball could be readily made to spin in any direction… Off-Break, Leg-Break, top and back-spin (Page 61 and 62) by simply clicking he ball between finger and thumb see here.

As I recall Wilkins explains that Grimmett would have been shown the method by the pre-over arm ‘Lob Bowlers’ (English bowler Simpson Hayward) who were the originators of the finger click method of imparting spin on the ball. It would appear that in 1930 when Grimmett was using this method to demonstrate how the wrist was the key component in getting the ball to spin in different directions, he was either in the early days of integrating the technique with over-arm bowling or hadn’t even considered it. Wilkins notes that Grimmett loved the confusion around all of these deliveries despite describing them explicitly in the 1930’s book, seemingly never quite giving up the facts and dates about the development of his own over-arm Flippers. This is very much in the same way that Warne messes with everyone’s heads with regards the non-existent ball everyone calls the ‘Slider’, but that’s another story to be found here. Grimmett says of his own development of the Flipper, that it took him the best part of 12 years before he felt able to use it. Of all of the variations that can be bowled Grimmett seems to have been obsessed with bowling the top-spinning variation because of it property in gaining speed off the wicket; As opposed to Warne’s much easier back-spinning version. This Top-Spinning Flipper which almost everyone dismisses as being impossible, may have well taken the 12 years to master? Partly in that there was no template, example, exponent and no existing literature on the delivery with which to work with.

Similarly Benaud waxes lyrically about the fact that it took him several years to develop his Flipper which again is a different variation to both Warne and Grimmett. Benauds variation appears to the be the one that spins around its own axis like a flying saucer See here.

The main point I’m trying to make here is you shouldn’t be put off by these stories of it taking years to develop these deliveries. Wilkins book which is excellent in its analysis of the Flipper, you have to remember precedes the internet with its video tutorials and demonstrations, and the bigger issue nowadays is the confusion created by there being so much information. 

Having watched Warne’s demonstration on Youtube below with Mark Nicholas I went out and learned the back-spinning variation that Warne uses within a matter or weeks. The key thing is you have a visual example and point of reference and this makes the whole learning process that much easier. Prior to the internet the only way you could make sense of any of these deliveries was through reading about them. I've yet to find anyone else other than my mate who plays for Orsett and Thurrock CC - Alex McLellan who bowls a Flipper despite all the info on the Internet. Nowadays with all the visual info - especially videos like the one below and my own ones here you know that these deliveries are possible and the learning process is sped up.
Double click the image to go to the video.

My thoughts on the Flipper.

Having tried every single variation and got all of them to a point where I could bowl them at batsmen in the nets over 22 yards I’ve come to a few conclusions and observations.

(1). Don’t get bogged down with the idea that you need to execute your Flipper with text book precision. The key thing to keep in mind is – does it serve you well as a variation – does it bring something otherly to your bowling. If so don’t worry about it not being text book perfect – just as long as it comes off the wicket in a different way to your stock leg-break. Grimmett was after something that would substitute his Googly as he felt that it was too easy to pick and he was aware of Walter Meads off-spinning Flipper if he could master realised that it would serve him well as it was less obvious from the hand.

So, as long as your Flipper gives you the variation aspect, don’t worry about whether it’s text book.

(2). Like the Leg Break wrist-flick, this delivery with its finger and thumb dexterity and strength requirements needs to be practiced all the time, so between looking at gormless crap on your phone pick up a ball, apple, orange or similar and flick it to maintain that dexterity and strength in the thumb and fingers.

(3). Try them all and find the one that suits you. Initially I started with Warne’s classic back-spinning version as seen demonstrated in the video above. I followed this with the ridiculous ‘Wrong – wrong-un’ which looks like a Googly but breaks like a Leg-Break, extremely difficult. That was followed by the off-spinner, top-spinner and a long time after Benuad’s ‘Flying saucer’ version. Personally – I would advise anyone starting out to do so with the back-spinner.

Grimmett says that during the 12 years of developing the Flipper he ‘Pruned’ the variations eventually arriving at the ‘Mystery Ball’ the one that “Made speed off the pitch” which sounds like the top-spinning Flipper, which, with a little tweak can produce an off-break. Both these deliveries are exceptionally difficult to bowl, I seem to recall reading in Ashley Malletts book about Grimmett him talking about Terry Jenner trying to bowl it and saying that it was physically impossible and casting doubt on whether Grimmett actually bowled the delivery.

My own experience of the top-spinning version which was some years ago now was that it was extremely difficult to execute. But, as far as I was aware, and this goes back to point (1) above. I could bowl a Flipper which has some over-spin, without the use of a high-speed camera I could never be sure how true a top-spinning Flipper it was.

Grimmett said of his Flippers and bowling in general with regards to the ‘Pruning’ “I realised that the new delivery had great possibilities. And it was sound in principle to concentrate on my Leg-Break and straight ball, since the fewer other balls I bowled the less risk I ran of losing control”. The point here is you’re highly unlikely to be able to execute all of the deliveries well. I’ve reduced mine down to two that I frequently practice and one that I use at high-risk of it going wrong on rare occasions. I think this year I’ll drop one of them – which is the Warne back-spinner to focus on the off-spinning variation as I no longer bowl the Wrong-un because I’ve gone through having Googly Syndrome.

I’ve also found that even though I use the back-spinning variation very infrequently, even lower level batsmen seem to recognise the ball almost immediately as being different and react to it accordingly almost dealing with it effectively 95% of the time, so for me over the years it’s been ineffective. I have more success with it against better batsman – who almost get caught out by it, but I only get to bowl at these batsmen in the nets.

Again, try them all and figure out which one works for you.

So - what you do have to do – what are the first steps?

(1). Be able to bowl a good Stock Leg-break. Like a lot of the guidance out there for Wrist-Spinners it’s the usual story. Don’t even try this if you consider yourself a Wrist-Spinner and you’ve not nailed your Leg-Break. You have to be able to bowl your Leg-Break well before moving onto variations.

(2) Be able to bowl a Top-Spinner. I say this because the Top-Spinner is the next easiest variation and should be an easy transition from your Leg-Break. Then I would say learn the Flipper next.

(3). Learn to click the ball out of the hand using the thumb and fingers. This for some may be the stage that they are put off, as some people don’t seem to be able to do it with any vigour. As with most of the wrist spinning deliveries you have to want to do it, it wont come easy unless you put some effort into it. The thing you should do is initially practice with smaller and lighter balls and gradually build up to larger balls. Note* For younger bowlers this may not be advisable as it may have some long-term consequences with regards ligaments in your hand if you over do it. In fact, I believe that Benuad advises not to bowl it until your around 18 years old and fully developed.

Once you’ve got it spinning from the fingers with some good revs, you can give it a go with the whole bowling action. As much as you can in between the constant practice of flicking the ball for your Leg-Break, you now have to Flick the ball for the Flipper. Initially your line and length is likely to be a disaster and it may be necessary to execute the delivery over a shortened length, but, if you persevere, you'll soon see it coming together and you'll be enthused. Over a short period of time if you practice it consistently you'll get it and all you then need to do is mix it in with your Leg-Break practice. It's then down to you to adopt a practice regime which includes the Flipper as you will lose it, if you don't practice it. I find that a lot of the time the first delivery is pretty much a disaster and that's probably down to the fact that (a). I tried too hard when bowling it for the first time, and (b). I probably don't practice it enough. Actually sitting here writing this, I've just realised that what I need to do in future is mid spell when I start a new over, before commencing the new over bowl a flipper to one of the fielders - Mid-off or Mid-On.

 On the subject of revs, one of the reasons Grimmett was so determined and spent 12 years working with his variation was Grimmett saw that he could get far more revs on the ball using this method in comparison to his usual 2 up 2 down finger configuration for his normal wrist-spin deliveries. 

To be continued (last updated 6/4/18).

In his book ‘The Art of Wrist Spin bowling’ the Aussie wrist-spinner Peter Philpott describes how the ball can be bowled with the seam rotating (Spinning) in pretty any direction through the use of the Wrist position – hence Wrist-Spin bowling.

If you hold your hand out in front of you with your palm facing up, place a ball in it using the Wrist-spinners grip as below...


  1. Hi Dave, Great post.
    I have been experimenting with both Warne's and Grimmetts' since reading about it 10+ years ago on your site. In recent times I also have merged the actions of the fingers in the flipper with that of Saqlain Mushtaq's 'teesra' variation . This results in a backspinner without the clicking of thumb and fingers, it rolls through the fingers and the ball is released with back revs. Saqlain has used this as an off spinner variation which hurries onto the batsmen, and since being able to bowl it fairly consistently i have found it easier on the wrist than the standard flipper as the wrist isn't in quite as strained position.

  2. Hello CHF, cheers for the comment. Yeah, you just have to look for whatever suits you and to some extent factor in the time you have to work with these variations. Merging different variations sounds like a good idea, the last couple of summers in practice I've been trying to bowl finger-spin and have found it nigh-on impossible. But recently I read some of Peter Philpotts book 'A spinners yarn' and in that he writes about the similarity between the finger-spin grip/release and that of the over-spun flipper. I've been flicking the ball out of the hand indoors just getting my wrist and fingers working on the contortion required and I might give it a go this summer over 22 yards and see if I can get it to over-spin with a bit of off-break to it. I think you have to do a lot of static work with the ball flicking it from the hand with the wrist position, getting it used to strain which is an inherent aspect of many of these variations, prior to taking it out onto a wicket. Even then I'd bowl over a shorter distance and work up to the 22 yards.