Mystery spinners are widely popular right now, with the impact value they bring to the table against both the right-handers and left-handers. Mystery spin, we know, is about variations that are yet to be fully resolved by the batter and is thus so much harder to hit than normal spinners who depend on the guile more than the deception.
But who do we exactly evaluate mystery spin and a mystery spinner in numbers? What metric shall we apply that we are able to assess the success of a mystery spinner in the right form of record that fits with their unique style of operation?
Focusing on the ‘false stroke percentage’ is the right way to go, since the idea of ‘mystery’ spin is to make the batter play for a completely different nature of delivery to the one that he first processed in his brain and committed to.
The percentage of false stroke is directly proportional to how well a batter picked the ball, its variation, at the crease. When not in control at the crease, the batter usually ends with the following outcomes: he mistimes the ball, edges it, plays and misses, or was out bowled or LBW.
The false stroke percentage is a measure of a bowler’s success. Higher the ‘not in control percentage’, higher the bowler’s mystery.
With the above in mind, let’s have a look at the top three ‘mystery’ spinners depending on their “not in control percentage” over the last three IPL seasons.
Top 3 mystery spinners in IPL
1. Rashid Khan
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) four-over bank is expectedly at the top of the pile here in terms of enjoying the highest success inducing false strokes. Batsmen are not in control 28% of the time against the Afghan wristspinner, which is higher than the IPL league average of “not in control” percentage of 19.
Rashid has bowled 455 legbreaks and 456 googlies, delivering almost an equal amount of balls meant to go away from the right-handers and left-handers as away. But what creates the mystery is the fact that Rashid can bowl both his legbreaks and the googlies from back of the hand, in complete contrast to the conventional wristspinners.
2. Rahul Chahar
Young India and Mumbai Indians wristspinner Rahul Chahar is next in the list of best ‘mystery’ spinners in IPL. The batters have not been in control for 24% of all deliveries that Chahar has bowled in the IPL in the last three seasons. He, like Rashid, can bowl the back of the hand legspinner and mix and hide his googlies to the same level of impact and trouble for the batters. Currently, though, Chahar doesn’t bowl his googlies as much. The youn gun bowls only one googly for every three legbreaks that he delivers.
3. Ravi Bishnoi
Unorthodox Punjab Kings (PBKS) wristspinner Ravi Bishnoi is next. Bishnoi, only two seasons into his IPL career, is obviously still carrying a great sense of deception about him. The ‘mystery’ with Bishnoi is not so much about the mix of legbreaks and googlies but the perpendicular angle of release and his skiddy nature.
With his uniquely built action, which doesn’t always allow him to bowl the convention leg-spin that goes away from the right-hander, Bishnoi depends largely on googlies and brings most balls into the righties. He bowls three googlies for each leg-break. However, the bowler has still enjoyed a 23% “not in control” rate over batters since his debut in IPL last year.
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How do you measure mystery?
Who are the top 3 mystery spinners in IPL [from 2019]?
— Flighted Leggie 🏏 (@flighted_leggie) September 28, 2021
Honourable mentions: Yuzvendra Chahal, Imran Tahir, Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine. All of them also turn the ball both ways.
The above list was arrived at after applying the filter of a minimum of 434 deliveries since the start of the IPL 2019. Why 434? Because without this filter, one gets the most unexpected name as the best ‘mystery’ spinner from last three IPLs.
That name – hold your breath – is David Warner. Yes, David Warner. Warner has enjoyed a ‘not in control percentage’ of 50 since the start of IPL 2019, albeit he has delivered just two balls in total.