Thursday, 6 August 2009

How to Bowl The Flipper

This blog is part of a series of individual blogs dedicated to techniques used by wrist spin bowlers (Also known as Leg Spinners).

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The Flipper; the dark horse of Wrist Spin, the ball that almost doesn’t exist.

On the Cricinfo website there’s an article that purports to undo the ‘The Physics’ of Leg Spin bowling and reads like the comments of an expert until it comes to The Flipper. The bloke points out some contradictions between Benuads and Jenners description of the Flipper and ends the article with ‘I'm reasonably convinced the ball is not just an exercise in mind-games, but I've yet to be convinced I've seen one’. Peter Philpott too in his book ‘The art of wrist spin’ spends very little time describing the flipper and similarly comes across as being unsure about this variation and writing as though it’s not a variation that he has developed himself? Philpott then shrouds the ball in further mystery by commenting on the fact that expert cricket commentators continually embarrass themselves again and again on TV claiming that they have just seen someone bowl a Flipper. All this and they’re probably struggling to recognise only one of 5 different variations of the same technique!

The Flipper is such an obscure variation shrouded in mystery and speculation. There are very few modern references to it and it’s coverage in current books and on the internet is limited to describing the back spinning variation in isolation, as if there are not other variants. The Flipper was developed back in the 1930’s by the New Zealander Clarrie Grimmett (He moved to Australia and played for Australia) one of the greatest Wrist Spinners ever, touted by some as being the greatest wrist spinner. Unlike the Common or Garden back-spinning Flipper Grimmetts original version of the ball was an off-spinning ball clicked out of the hand with the wrist in the standard Leg Break position. The batsman then expected the ball to break towards the off-side and because of the spin imparted by the Flippers unique ‘Click’ method the ball went the other way like an off-break.

Going around the loop

Grimmett further developed the technique understanding that with the Leg Break very slight variations in the wrist position brought about dramatic differences in the spinning ball. Later in the 1980’s Peter Philpott in his book ‘The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling’ describes explicitly the variations of the wrist position in conjunction with the different deliveries. The application of the differing wrist positions he describes as ‘Going around the loop’. Grimmett too understood and applied the same theory and it may have been through reading Grimmetts descriptions of his deliveries in the 1930’s book ‘Taking Wickets’ that Philpott came up with the term ‘Going around the loop’.

Having realised the potential of the Flipper ‘Click’ technique Grimmett started to experiment with the technique by going around the loop. He soon gave up on the ‘Off-break’ Flipper and realised that by turning his wrist inwards he could use the technique to bowl a Top-Spinner variant of the Flipper and it’s this version that Grimmett was most enamoured with. Grimmett experimented with all of the wrist positions coming up with the ‘Wrong wrong un’ a Flipper whereby the ball looked as though it was a Wrong Un being delivered but then broke to the Off-side like a Leg Break. At the same time and possibly the last version that he looked at was the Back-spinning Flipper which it seems he wasn’t fussed on at all because he already had the Slider and seemingly preferred that as a back-spinning delivery over the Flipper.

All of these deliveries despite on one hand being guarded with secrecy he describes explicitly in his books. Looking back it’s difficult to understand why on one hand Grimmett was unique in being the only person bowling these balls and yet they were there to be read about and developed by anyone reading the books? But if you read Grimmetts books and Ashley Malletts biography on Grimmett you begin to get some understanding of how radical and revolutionary Grimmett was. It took Grimmett 12 years of experimentation and development before he used any of the variations in a test match and the one that was used was the Top-Spinning version which by all accounts has been lost to History. I am completely unaware of any contemporary 1st class (Indeed any) bowlers that bowl the Top-Spinning Flipper, despite the fact that as far as Grimmett was concerned this was the variation that was the most effective.

Through his research a friend of mine based in Australia has also been investigating the origins of the Flipper and as part of his research has contacted Ashley Mallett and Terry Jenner and has been able to ask them about Grimmetts ‘Mystery Ball’ which over the years Don Bradman described as being a Top-Spinning Flipper. Both of these men have worked at developing the Top-Spinning Flipper and both concluded that it was physically impossible to bowl the ball over the 22 yards and that the whole idea of a Top-Spinning Flipper was just a part of Grimmetts psychological game and that it was unlikely that it really existed?

Jack Pollard in ‘Cricket – The Australian Way’ wrote -

Years later came the flipper, a bosey or wrong-un which hastens off the pitch with top spin. Very few, probably not more than half a dozen, have been able to bowl it and all who acquired it did so only after years of practice. Bruce Dooland says in this book that the flipper was invented by wrist spinner Clarrie Grimmett in Grimmett’s fortieth year. Richie Benaud bowled it when he was in his prime, and was the only bowler in the world then using it.

Benaud learnt the flipper from Dooland, during his term at Nottingham frequently mesmerised English batsman with it. Nothing bowled in English cricket at that time could so completely surprise a batsman such as the flipper – except perhaps the “Chinaman” bowled by the Australian Jack Walsh for Nothants. A “Chinaman”, for the uninitiated, is the left hander’s wrong-un.

taken from – ‘Cricket – The Australian Way” 1972 Jack Pollard (Editor) Landsdown Press Melbourne

Seemingly, despite the above passage which was possibly written by John Gleeson (Off-Spinner) there is very little evidence apart from this that Benuad bowled anything but the conventional back-spinning Flipper. The terminology used in describing these different deliveries adds to the confusion and the fact that it is so incredibly esoteric the descriptions don’t readily communicate that well with people that are not Wrist Spinners (Gleeson)?

Grimmetts development of the Flipper happened over a period of 12 years as he experimented with the delivery. We as club cricketers have to acknowledge that Grimmett was a professional cricket player and this was the manner in which he earned a large proportion of his income (Alongside sign writing and being a salesman). Being at the very cutting edge of wrist spin development and being a pioneer, Grimmett had no way of evaluating how effective and successful these completely new and unorthodox deliveries might be. Grimmett practiced on his own in his back yard and would never allow batsmen to face him and possibly work out ways to play his spin.

We on the other hand with prior knowledge know that these deliveries do work and are affective and have the evidence in being able to see footage of Warne and Jenner for instance bowling them and find it easy to learn the basic Flipper. Benaud for instance with the knowledge of Pepper, Dooland and Grimmett before him was able to learn the Flipper and use it in first class cricket in 4 years. Warne on the other hand who probably was taught by Jenner is reputed to have learned the Flipper in a matter of weeks or months. We with all of these points of reference and the knowledge know that it is possible and can sometimes learn the delivery in the same time scale as Warne. Grimmett on the other hand had no way of knowing how affective it might be and whether it would ever be any good and needless to say having figured how to click the ball from the fingers then had to incorporate this into a bowling action. At every step and stage the process was new and at every stage Grimmett wouldn’t have known whether he should carry on with it or whether he should stick to practicing his stock ball. Grimmett was only too aware of the fact that if you neglected your stock ball you could easily lose your ability to bowl it and he cautions against bowling too many Wrong Uns when you’re learning this delivery. So whilst practicing all of his other deliveries he would have had one eye on the fact that his new Flipper might cause him problems in bowling his stock delivery and his other standard variations. We can only speculate how much time Grimmett spent training, but like Philpott, Benuad and Warne Grimmett advocates that you bowl at every opportunity if you want to be a good Wrist Spinner.

Maybe he only tried every now and then hence the reason it was 12 years before he used it in a 1st class game, maybe he looked at all of the variations first before finally deciding that of them it was the Top-Spinner that was the best? We can see the Flipper is an enigma shrouded in esoteric language and mystery - a ball mastered by very few.

At club level I’ve only ever come across it used by one other person, my mate ‘The Wizard’ and he bowls it as I have till recently as the Bog Standard Flipper as seen on Youtube demonstrated by Warne & Jenner. (BBC, Channel 9, Cloverdale videos).

The flipper.

The Flipper can be easily understood by thinking about and observing the way that you and most people click their fingers to the beat of music. This ‘Click’ action can be applied to a ball. Take a small ball such as a table tennis ball or a golf ball and place it between your thumb and index finger and perform the same ‘Click’ action you use when clicking your fingers to the beat. With a few practices you’ll find that

In order to understand the variations that follow here you need to grasp the concept of rotating the wrist and how this affects the direction of the spinning ball. The same technique is used with all of the following variations

Grimmetts Flipper is slightly different to Warnes and Jenners who’s version owe more to Richie Benuads adaption of Grimmetts original. Benuads bowling action was near vertical with the seam being upright like a seam bowlers delivery. Whereas Grimmetts action was far more round armed almost to the point where it resembles Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga but then corrected by the fact that he then dipped his head and body through the action so that the arm came through in a more vertical manner. Grimmetts grip as described by himself and Philpott meant that his hand through the delivery was over the top of the ball whereas Benauds version is virtually the same as the one demonstrated by Warne and Jenner. The intricacies of Grimmetts grip I’ve not fully grasped, but Benauds version is easily understood.

(1). The Benuad/Warne/Jenner version
This is the standard version as seen on you tube demonstrated by both Warne and Jenner in several different video clips. This is the variation that seems to have survived through the decades and has been passed down the line fron Grimmett, Dooland, Benaud, Jenner and Warne. It's clicked in the same manner as you would click your fingers to the beat of music. In squeezing the ball between the finger and thumb it imparts backspin.

Of the five most basic Wrist Spin deliveries (Leg Break, Wrong Un, Top-Spinner, Slider and Flippe) this one is the most unusual in that it uses a completely different way to impart the spin. The basic flipper is a back spinning ball that skids in low with a tendency to spin away slightly to the offside. This delivery is reputed to be the most difficult to master with Richie Benuad advising people to not even bother with it unless you've mastered the 4 basic variations; Leg Break, Wrong Un, Top Spinner and the Slider. Personally it was the second of the variations that I learned probably due to the fact that as soon as I started to experiment with the technique to see if I could put the spin on the ball it came easily and I could see that the affect on the ball as it hit the ground was dramatic and therefore seemed to me to have loads of potential. Getting the ball straight and up the wicket for me wasn't that difficult either and I found that I could deliver the ball much faster than the Leg Break.With this ball the on-line resources that are available (See resources link) both the Terry Jenner and the Shane Warne with Mark Richards video's are extremely helpful in that you can see exactly what Jenner/Warne do in order to get the ball to spin backwards. In essence all you do is use the finger clicking action that you use when clicking your fingers to a beat but with the ball in between the middle finger and the thumb. It's this action that rotates and spins the ball. Once you have managed to get the ball to come out of the fingers back spinning you might find (as I do) that the spin is very pronounced and a ball projected forwards gently on a hard surface actually hits the surface and springs backwards because the spin is so acute. I’ve found that on damp grass that the back spin is so pronounced that it kicks up divots on impact with the grass.Recently on the Big Cricket forum someone mentioned that their son was learning the technique using a marble initially. There may be some use in using smaller balls as I know my son who’s 7 tries to do this with a cricket ball but struggles to impart the spin. Some people have also suggested that it is quite demanding on the shoulder and I've been told that coaches do not recommend young kids to try it because of the damage that it can do. From a personal viewpoint I have noticed that it affects my deltoids when I practice over long periods but not adversely. Further evidence to suggest that it's a demanding ball to bowl is here in this article which explains that Warne went through a phase of not bowling the Flipper after a shoulder operation which suggests that there's recognition that the Flippers action would have hindered the healing process?


There is no dip. In use I find that it’s one of my faster deliveries and it utilizes the Magnus affect in the opposite way to the Leg Break. Instead of falling out of the sky because of the top spin with the Leg Break the Flipper with it’s under-spin holds it’s line through the air seemingly resisting the forces of gravity and keeping a very straight line from hand to impact with the pitch. Again logically with no understanding of the Magnus affect and how a ball reacts when spun, the expectation of the layman or an unsuspecting batsman would be that the exit trajectory after the bounce would be similar to the entry trajectory? Needless to say with the pronounced back-spin it’s not. The ball bounces far less than expected and has a tendency to skid in low under the bat. Additionally through empirical observation over short distances I suspect there is also a minor stalling of the ball as it bites the pitch on impact?


As mentioned above bounce is minimal which makes the Flipper combined with it's very straight trajectory an easy ball to get onto as a batsman if it's bowled consistently. The Flipper because of it's flight and lack of bounce therefore needs to be treated as one of your variations that you bowl on an irregular basis. I use it loads for helping my kids practice batting because of it's predictability. But out of nowhere amongst a sequence of Leg Breaks with their bounce and slower speed (In my case) it's a very useful addition to your variations.


I've had recent discussions on a forum about the deviation off the line of flight with the flipper and my understanding is that because the ball isn't rotating at 90 degrees or thereabouts to the direction of flight if it does deviate it's not drift - it's swing because the seam is upright.


The grip varies but the bog standard grip is as seen in the image above. The first finger plays some part in balancing/holding the ball but 65% of the rotation is created with the use of the thumb and the rest of the job 35% is done with the middle finger. If you do your research (The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling - page 43) you'll come across an image of Clarrie Grimmetts grip who Philpott accredits with the development of the Flipper and this grip is a very different animal to the Warne version. Grimmetts version appears to have the fingers very much closer together and possibly used in unison, no doubt the middle finger as with my version played a vital role in getting the rotation going? There is another version the Bruce Doolan version that uses the thumbs nail but that's as much as I know at this point.


In my experience at club level and watching Warne and partly because Wrist Spin Bowling is such an underrated and dark art not many batsmen have been subjected to the Flipper, so if used with scarcity this can be a devastating delivery that can take the batsman by surprise. The Flipper can also be used as a slow ball as well and this works particularly well with not very experienced batsmen. I find the slower and loopier the ball is thrown up, the more it tends to turn (Towards the off-side) but better still the back-spin causes the ball to almost stop which can catch people out.

Here's a good link that has info about the dynamics of the spinning ball -

(2). The Grimmett version

This is the simplest variant of the Bog Standard Flipper. It’s the same delivery but you simply use more fingers along the seam – 3 fingers or four fingers. See youtube and type ‘Grimmett Flipper’ and you’ll see a clip of me demonstrating the grip and release action. Because of the far more solid grip my own experience of this ball as demonstrated in the video clip is that you get a lot more back-spin on the ball and you’re able to bowl it considerably faster because of the secure grip. Along with the increase in speed and the vertical seam, this ball has the ability to be bowled with in-swing to a right handed batsman and then on pitching it breaks like a little Leg Break.

(3). Variant 3 - The Off-spinning Flipper

This one as far as we can make out has no name and has never been described anywhere apart from Grimmetts book 'Taking Wickets' and only briefly as a part of the description of 'Going round the Loop'.

Using the Flipper grip turn the wrist 'Round the loop' so that the palm of the hand faces the batsman and your thumb is pointing towards Cover. Theoretically when you now click the ball from the hand it’ll produce Off-spin. This variation is exceedingly difficult to keep control of your line with. I have experimented with it and I'm able to bowl it quite easily over the 22 yards. Over shorter distances it can produce good off-spin, but over the full length of a pitch I'm only able to get a small amount of turn, but that's not to say that if you were to try it you wouldn't be more successful than I've been? I'm fortunate to have a good solid Wrong Un and would prefer to use the Wrong Un at this point in favour of this ball, but it may be something you might want to experiment with?

(4). The Wrong Wrong Un aka ‘The Gipper’. (Googly-Flipper). This one I really like as I discovered this through experimentation almost 2 years before I was introduced to Clarrie Grimmett. This is the ‘Gipper’ or as Grimmett called it the Wrong Wrong Un. It’s as the name suggests, it looks like the Wrong Un but then spins away like a Leg Break. All that’s required with this is that the ball is bowled in exactly the same way as you would a Wrong Un, but you just need to twist your arm and your wrist a bit further in order that when released at the point that you click the fingers the spin imparted creates a ball that spins massively to Off.

(5). Grimmetts 'Mystery Ball' The Top-Spinning Flipper

This variation is possibly the way that Murali bowls his Doosra but requires ridiculous flexibility in the wrist and arm, but Philpott describes it in the Flipper section of his book. Start at the ‘Mystery ball’ position and rotate your wrist another 90 degrees clockwise so that at the point of release the palm of your hand is facing up-wards with the flipper grip. The more the hand is bent inwards towards the body at the point that you flick the ball the more it’s going to produce a Leg-Break action when pitching on the wicket. To be honest without you being able to bowl with the same inward arm/wrist action that Murali uses this variation looks physically impossible.
Supple wrist and strong thumb.

The key to learning these deliveries is the practice that you’re able to do off the field. In his book Peter Philpott advocates spinning the ball back in towards yourself initially and the description reads as though he is going to take you on to explain ‘The Mystery Ball’ but he doesn’t. So why you would go through the process of spinning the ball in towards yourself as you do when learning The Big Legbreak I’m kind of baffled when he doesn’t then go on to describe the ‘Mystery Ball’. I think most people would practice bowling the ball from one hand to the other across the body marvelling at the amazing backspin you eventually get through the clicking of the fingers.

Once you’ve got the back-spin, go back to Philpotts description of how you should learn the action. Hold the ball out at arms length in front of you holding it with the Flipper grip. Cock the wrist so that the back of the hand faces away from you almost and the thumb is under the ball and the fingers over the top with the seam up facing you. The clicking of the fingers in this position will now propel the ball back towards your face with over-spin (Top-spin). Keep doing this being careful not to strain any tendons (Medial Epicondylitis). In his book Philpott overlooks the potential of this as a way of bowling and then suggests that you go from this practice action to the hand to hand action which then produces back-spin. But it’s this spinning towards yourself producing Top Spin that is Clarrie Grimmetts ‘Mystery Ball’ action that Grimmett was so protective of and held in high regard. The same practice action also has the duel purpose of being good training to enable you to bowl the awkward Variant 4.

Peter Philpott in addressing the Flipper in his book ‘The art of Wrist Spin Bowling’ dedicates less than a few pages (500 – 600 words) to it and describes it in a confused manner. Interestingly when it comes to describing the use of the Flipper by Shane Warne Philpott uses a question mark (see below) suggesting to me that he’s unsure as to whether Warne uses the Flipper at all? But another interesting aspect to the Flipper section in his book is the initial description……. Hold the ball out in front of you and spin it back towards your body. This description sounds as though he’s going to follow up with using this initial technique in a basic bringing your arm over bowling technique combining the two to give you Grimmetts Mystery Ball. But instead he instructs you to Keep on spinning it. See how it is spinning towards you. Now stop. Reverse the direction of spin. At which point the description follows through to the bog standard Flipper.

But reading it, the description of how it’s bowled seems to be that of a bloke who’s describing a delivery that he’s read about but doesn’t actually bowl himself. Have a look yourself. Here it is transcribed from the book……..

Grimmett developed the ‘Flipper’. Squeezed out of the front of the hand thumb underneath, this delivery had the flatter trajectory, the decreased angle of contact with the pitch which created ‘skid’ and ‘Keeping low’, and because the Magnus Effect kept it in the air longer, ‘it went on’, that is it landed closer to the batsman than first expected. It also sometimes squeezed back in from off.

All of this of course, because of the back-spin. How was it achieved – still is achieved, if you watch Shane Warne carefully? Unlike all the other variations mentioned so far, the Flipper is not created by wrist spin action. As we have seen from Big Leg Break right round to Big Wrong’un all are the same action, the same spin, except the wrist position is adjusted. To understand that was the point of ‘going around the loop’.

No, the ‘Flipper’ is quite different. Hold the ball out in front of you and spin it back towards your body. Normal wrist spin as we have been practicing so long. Wrist and fingers over the top, all the levers working. Remember that is specific practice of the side spin, your biggest angle of leg spin.

Keep on spinning it. See how it is spinning towards you. Now stop. Reverse the direction of spin. The thumb and the index finger will begin the flick, away from you now, in the opposite your leg spin. So it’s an off-spin, but flicked. Again use all the levers to flick it away from you. Keep Flicking. Keep working. Keep watching. Note the spin now is going away from you.
When you have mastered this, put both hands out in front of you with elbows comfortably bent. That, of course is the position you began with to roll your fingers and hands over the top of the ball, propelling it from right-hand to left across your body, to create leg-spin.
Now perform that reversed spin described above where the thumb and index finger begin the flick of the spin opposite to leg-spin. Do that for a while in your right hand only, then propel it across your body from right to left hand. If you’re following the instructions, and doing it correctly you will note that the ball is spinning backwards – it has underneath spin, back-spin on it.If you’re having problems, go back to the beginning of this section on ‘The Flipper’ and start again. But of you have achieved the back-spin from right hand to left across your body, you have succeeded in bowling ‘The Flipper’. Certainly, at this stage, it is only from hand to hand, but having got that far, as always, the rest is up to you.
Work from hand to hand, strengthening your wrist for the strain is quite great. Gradually lengthen the distance to a partner.

Peter Philpott – Pages 42-43; The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling; Crowood Press LTD; 2006. ISBN 1-86126-063-6.

A final word on the Flipper. Many of the key commentators and people that coach Leg Spin bowling advise caution when learning to bowl this delivery. The finger clicking technique used in conjunction with twisting your wrist to go round the loop put a lot of stress on the muscles and tendons in your hand, wrist and shoulders. Warne himself suffered injuries alledgedly from bowling the Flipper and he went through a period of years where he had to exclude it from his repertoire. I can personally vouch for the potential for injuries. The consensus seems to be that if you're under 18 and still physically developing you're advised not to bowl this delivery. I'd suggest that if you attempt any of the Flipper variants and they do cause any pain or discomfort you might want to ease up, rest the muscles, tendons and go back to it at a later date. If the resumption of the pain occurs when you try again consider leaving this out of your repertoire.

Update Dec 1st 2009

Having spent last season working on the Top-Spinning Flipper (Grimmetts mystery ball) I'll be using this delivery as one of my standard balls. At the moment I'm looking to simplify my bowling to some extent and was hoping that I'd gone over and tried so many of these variations I'd now be looking to settle on 4 deliveries that I'd just be working to have total control of during this coming season and the intention was that it'd be.....

Leg Break; Wrong Un; Flipper Top-Spinner; and the 4 fingered version of the back-spinning flipper. Of the 4 the one I feel is possibly the weakest is the back-spinning Flipper because this ball is the one that more like a basic seam bowlers ball and I always get the impression that when you bowl it batsman see it acting like a seam up conventional delivery and quickly read it and dispatch it fairly readily. The inclusion of the swing might help with it this year if I can gain control of that aspect of the delivery, but recently I've found that flicking the ball around indoors I may have inadvertently developed the Slider. So as a result I may end up ditching the back-spinning Flipper for the Slider.