Thursday, 6 August 2020

How to Bowl The Flipper

Updated July 2022

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’. 

The bloke's got a point.I write about wrist-spinning a lot, I'm all over the internet - Blogs, websites, forums including my own, Youtube, Instagram, Reddit - anywhere and everywhere asking questions, giving advice and I've been at it since 2007. But, in all that time I've only ever met one other person who has bowled a Flipper and it may be the case that he pretty much learned it from me? 

I'm going to try and clarify the situation and explain where the confusion comes from and dispel some of the myths.

The main myth - It takes years to perfect_________________________________________

They all say it... It's a difficult ball to bowl, it took me x years to learn how to bowl it...

Warne...By his own admission, Warne didn't land his flipper – a notoriously difficult delivery to bowl – every time. But when he did, it was a sight to behold.

"I had a mixture (of people showing me how to bowl it) – Jack Potter was the first to show me it, Jim Higgs, Richie Benaud, even a gentleman by the name of Bob Paulsen. Terry Jenner. So there were these guys showing me sliders, flippers, and I remember trying to bowl (the flipper) and I kept bowling it over the net, double bounces, I couldn't get it right," he reflected. "It took me a good couple of years to perfect it."

Benaud... "Benaud's intensive two year (Or more)? course in learning and developing what was for him an entirely new type of delivery, had been kept discreetly "Within the family". Benaud's delivery was not a Googly but a Flipper" From a description of Peter May being bowled LBW in 1958. 

(1). The Bowlers Art understanding spin, swing and swerve, Brian Wilkins, A&C Black, London, 1991 (Page 110).
Simon Hughes in his book Jargon busting, mastering the art of cricket claims that Benuad took 4 years to learn the Flipper.

Grimmett... Grimmett first noted the alternative manner in which the spin was imparted on a cricket ball in 1902 at the age of 11 when he saw Simpson-Hayward the Lob-Bowler during a tour of New Zealand. Grimmett had the opportunity to ask Simpson-Hayward about the method but was too shy having noted that he imparted a lot of spin on the ball. Grimmett was aware that the method was unorthodox and differed from the conventional wrist-spin flick. Without the knowledge of the finger and thumb click deployed by Simpson-Hayward Grimmett set about trying to work out alternative methods of spinning the ball using a tennis ball...

 "Through years of experimenting with different grips and seam positions in relation to his fingers, Clarrie found he could apply more pressure to the ball by holding it between thumb and second finger. I put in hours of practice and experimented with this method, he told me only after much hard work was I satisfied that I could control the mystery delivery. It was a matter of fitting the ball into my match plans. Clarrie worked for 12 years in perfecting his Flipper".

Clarrie Grimmett the Bradman of Spin, Ashley Mallett, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland, 1993 (page 23).

In videos on Youtube I've seen Benaud speak about trying the Flipper and missing the cut strip 12 times in a row. But it's different these days. If you look at the chronology of these explanations, it's obvious that with each phase of the history of the Flippers emergence and the increased dissemination of information and the ability to travel and communicate the learning process is sped up. 

1991, Sees the publication of Brian Wilkins "The Bowlers Art" with 20 + pages dedicated to the Flipper including a series of Photographs of the grip which to me look wholly wrong. Wilkins, on page 116 pretty much dismisses much of Grimmetts work... "No-one as far as I'm aware, bowls this ball. If they do then it must resemble the weapon of science fiction". (1)

Well, if he was trying to bowl Flippers using the grips as illustrated on page 118 and 119, I can see why he was struggling. He does also go on to concede the following..."I have tried the mystery ball for a few hours, an insultingly short period of time I suppose, in view of the years that he (Grimmett) worked on it". You don't say Mr Wilkins! Within the book there's a number of mistakes with regards the Chronology of Grimmetts development as a bowler, compared to Ashley Mallets account and Grimmetts date of birth which raises questions about the accuracy of the book. This aside it's still a very good read.

In the images above it appears that Wilkins has completely misconstrued how to impart the spin. The impression I have from these images is that the way he's imparting the spin is by using the thumb in the completely wrong way. Seeing this kind of makes me doubt my own interpretation of Grimmetts explanations, but if that was the case, so too did Warne, Jenner and Benaud because they all use the thumb in the same way that I do below *Note the ball is sitting on the inside of the thumb with the nail on the outside, whereas Wilkins has the ball sitting on the nail.

1993, Sees the publication of Peter Philpotts "The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling", which doesn't throw any more light on the nature of the delivery other than repeating some of the historical accounts of its confused history and origins. There's a single image showing Grimmetts grip and the fact that one variation is delivered from under the hand. The 'Click' is described clearly along with the balls basic attributes. This is probably the most coherent explanation of the Flipper thus far in its history?

Despite television and the publication of these two books the Flipper still remains obscure. It would seem the delivery has yet to be adopted by club players and to some extent even professionals - in part down to the fact that leading up to the point where Warne appears on the scene Spin bowling had almost disappeared from professional cricket.

In the opening chapter of his book "The Art of Wrist Spin bowling", Philpott writes about the virtual demise of Wrist Spin bowling during the 1970's and 80's. The only test player bowling Wrist-spin was Abdul Qadir for Pakistan and it seems and he had a Flipper. When researching Qadir, I found this passage that illustrates perfectly how obscure the Flipper was...

"Like Warne, Qadir used to alert umpires to a flipper that was coming - with Warne it was a psych, some of that famous Warne sell. Qadir did it because he knew umpires didn't know how flippers worked, and that they were too biased to give it". (3)

And this from Nasser Hussein talking about the lack of video analysis when he started playing. "Then it was a case of Micky standing up and saying 'Abdul Qadir bowls a Googgly and a Flipper'. I didn't even know what a Flipper was then. (4).

This here below from a copy of the knowledgeable Wisden dictionary of cricket, which completely gets it wrong...

The 1980's VHS video tape comes into being.

Potentially, there was the increased opportunity to see the Flipper action on film, for all I know Benuad was on Aussie tele every test match much in the same way as Warne was in the late 1990's early 2000's showing Aussie kids how to bowl it, but I've yet to find any evidence that this was the case. 

In 1994 The MCC released a series of VHS videos and this series included Benuad talking about the Flipper and possibly demonstrating it for the first time around the start of Warne's career as it shows a clip of Warne bowling. But, the demonstration of the Flipper is somewhat vague even though it's shown along with a verbal explanation "The Flipper comes out from underneath the hand and it's squeezed out". But he doesn't show you how it's squeezed out, so in essence it's about as useful as a chocolate tea pot. So the enigma continues.

Furthermore, Benaud's Flipper is very different to Warne's that we see in the Video below (Perth/Mark Nicholas). Benaud seemed to prefer a variation whereby the ball comes out with flying saucer spin. 

The late 1990's sees access to the internet...

With the internet, we see the Flipper revealed in more detail, initially in a muddled and awkward manner by Warne here below (Click on the image for the video) 

Because of his capacity for bluff and the art of deception, I'm not sure if this was an early incarnation of the psychological games he played against England. I'm of the belief that the main reasons these videos were made by Warne was not to educate wannabe wrist-spinners, but to utterly bamboozle England's batsman, because the video above is nothing like the Flipper that Warne actually develops in the longer term and uses against the English batsmen. In fact it looks like total nonsense and has more in common to the nothing ball which is another story.

Eventually we see a Flipper along with an explanation that makes sense. One that is described as per Grimmetts description seen in "Getting Wickets" on page 59...

The ball is held between the second finger and the thumb and I spin or twist it a short distance - say, eight to ten yards. The method is similar to that used in clicking the finger and thumb to attract attention. It is possible to make the ball do four different things with exactly the same spin, simply by holding the wrist in a different position". (5)

Suddenly, there seems to be consensus; The Flipper is (as described by Philpott) a back-spinner bowled with the click of the fingers in the way you'd click your fingers to the beat of music. Click here for demo. Then over a period of time after the Warne video above Warne and Terry Jenner are seen explaining the Flipper in a clear, consistent and coherent manner via numerous videos... The Cloverdale videos, The BBC and Australia's Channel 9. It seems that every-time Warne plays in a test match he does what becomes his customary demonstration of his multitude of deliveries, some of which are total nonsense for the viewing England batsmen, but the majority of them very real including the Flipper.

My own introduction to the Flipper came via Youtube and the demo with Mark Nicholas at Perth...

As far as I recall, this was my introduction to the Flipper. I hadn't read Philpotts work at this point and certainly didn't have the Grimmettt books, so, for me initially the Flipper was the back-spinning bog-standard version, because it was the only one that made any sense. Further searches at the time of learning revealed the vague Benaud explanation from the MMC, which made sense now that I'd seen Warne and Jenner's explanations of of how the spin was generated with the use of the finger click. Danish Kaneria adds the confusion at the time with this odd video here 

So after decades of vagueness and confusion we have the template. 

But here comes some good news. I hadn't read any of the books yet that explain how it took Grimmett 12 years and Benuad God know many years and even Warne Whingeing about how hard it was to bowl and learn. Instead, seeing the demos by Jenner and Warne I just got on with it. Like them the first few balls it didn't even land on the cut strip and I quickly realised first and foremost you need to develop the strength in your hand to execute the click. So for weeks I walked around with a ball in my hand flicking it - clicking it out of my finger and thumb. Sitting indoors, in the garden clicking the ball again and again building the strength required to impart the spin. I practiced with tennis balls and plastic training balls initially... 

Then one season over an Easter holiday I practiced a lot and within one session I was getting it straight down the center of the strip at the stumps over 16 - 18 yards. By the end of the 2 week Easter holiday I was hitting the stumps digging divots out of the damp grass with the back spin. It was easy! Why was it so easy? Because unlike all the other famous bowlers, I had the internet, it wasn't some vague esoteric ball as described by Sclyd Berry, it was simply a variation that needed a slightly different approach to your Leg-Break and a bit of practice. Two weeks and I'd nailed it.

Videos plus the books________________________________________________________

After the Leg-Break the Flipper was my first variation. I then went on to learn all of the others with the exception of the Orthodox back-spinner which I found horrifically difficult to bowl. In pursuit of the variations I started to buy books to support what I could glean from the internet. The first book was Philpotts The Art of Wrist-spin bowling with its excellent description of Going around the loop which was a revelation. Within the book another wrist-spinner was mentioned with a great deal of respect - Clarrie Grimmett. I didn't know anything about him and started to research and ask questions on the Big Cricket forum about him and found a bunch of blokes all sharing their experiences of wrist-spin bowling. One of the Aussie's a bloke who went by the name of Macca who played as far as I remember at the same club as Philpott, gave me the names of the Philpott books and I searched them out and bought them quite quickly, from book stores that probably had the books on their shelves for years with no interest in them. I got them for about £10 each - they're now sold for in excess of £100 for poor copies!

I read the first book from 1930 "Getting wickets" and was mesmerised by Grimmetts explanations of how the Flipper could be bowled in a number of different ways by rotating the wrist going around the loop. In this book Grimmett only discusses it in terms of being used as a method of demonstrating how much variety in spin direction is possible simply by changing the position of the wrist.

In "Tricking the batsman" (Grimmett 1934) In the chapter "Interesting experiments" he's now discussing it as a worthy experiment - if you're a kid, for some reason he doesn't see it as something adults would bother with; yet as we know from Ashley Mallet's book about Grimmett, he was secretly working on his 'Mystery ball' using the Flipper method. Interestingly, Grimmett doesn't refer to the ball as a Flipper at this point.

Off the back of reading the first book I realised the potential of the Flipper and ignored Grimmetts own warning that it was almost impossible to get this ball down the wicket at 22 yards. The one that I liked the sound of was the Wrong wrong un using the flipper technique as described in "Grimmett on Cricket"(Grimmett 1948) pages 42-43, bowled out of the back of the hand like a Googly using the Flipper click. This looks like a Googly but is a Leg-break. Again, initially only able to bowl this 10 yards, I kept at it for a number of days and eventually got it to go the full 22 yards. This was the beginning of my Flipper journey and over the following years I tried all of them and managed to bowl all of the variations - back-spinner, top-spinner, off-spinner and the wrong-wrongun (Leg spinner). The only one I didn't work on was Benauds Flying suacer spin variation.

I used most of these deliveries in nets and rarely used them in games. Needless to say it takes a lot of practice to be able to land a leg-break consistently without confusing the issue with several variations. Like many people I developed the Googly syndrome and ended up not able to bowl Leggies and during this phase I mixed Googlies with back-spinning Flippers and this was my most productive period bowling. I went through phases where I bowled the top-spinning flipper in games with the Googly, but then decided I'd have to re-learn the Leg-break and so scrapped everything and focused on bowling a good leg-break. I then left the Flippers for a number of years and only bowled Leggies.

3-4 seasons ago, I tried to re-introduce the Flipper without putting in the practice required. I used the back-spinner, as well as a variant of the wrong wrong un and the off-break Flipper and had some success in between some wayward balls. Along the way I troubled some really good batsmen with the Flipper bowled as a rare variation some giving good feedback about its potential. As I got older and playing in a 4th XI team with a bunch of old blokes who couldn't catch or get to any ball that went up in the air, I started to look increasingly ineffective. I could entice the batsmen into playing stupid shots, but no-one could catch the ball and I got dropped as a bowler and I can't bat. The solution to this problem was to start bowling Flippers more...

2019 I played as a Flipper bowler with the occasional leg-break as a variation. The leg-breaks got carted, the Flippers caused problems and my average improved beyond my wildest dreams and I was taking wickets.



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. He was already aware of the issues that arise from focusing on learning the Wrong Un e.g. the loss of your Stock 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 as to 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 and 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). Warne/Jenner version (Back-spinner)

Fig 1.
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 here. 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.

Stats for this Blog 2020 (Jan). (3)
Playing with fire; Nasser Hussein, 2004, Penguin books, London. (4)
Getting Wickets, Clarrie Grimmett, 1930, Hodder and Stoughton, London. (5).

Bowling the Flipper where I'm at and what I'm doing now

So why is the Flipper my stock ball now? (February 2019)

I've always been wrist-spinner and one that bowls relatively slow. In recent years because of the situation at our club we've had to play in games a level above our abilities and we've had 3 years of primarily being beaten. Last year, because this was getting to the point where people didn't want to play anymore we changed leagues and with the change came a new format... 40 overs rather than timed cricket. 

This new format brings its own dynamics, the main one is that batsmen go harder at the ball and play with a lot more positivity. This, should in itself present more opportunities as a wrist-spinner, but I didn't find that down to the fact that I play in a 4th XI team with a bunch of old blokes with knackered knees. My bowling was fine for much of the time, with the dip and turn, blokes going hard at the ball were hitting the ball straight up into the air for potential catches. But because all my team are old blokes, they're just not agile enough to get to the ball and take the catches. So I ended up looking ineffective and expensive and I ended up being left out of the bowling attack. I can't bat, so I was paying and playing for 6-7 hours just so that I could face a handful of balls and then march back to the pavilion. Something had to change.

At the very start of that season I played in a 3rd XI game and took a couple of wickets and bowled really well with my stock leg-break. Another spinner who bowls finger spin took 5 wickets in the same game primarily by mixing arm balls with his off-break and someone commented that I could have taken more wickets with a straight ball. This got me thinking...Should I have a look at getting one of my neglected Flipper going again - would that at least allow me to bowl and not go for runs?

So a month or so into the season I started to practice, initially combining the leg-breaks with the Flippers and over a few sessions realising that in order to nail the Flippers I was going to have to put in the hard yards with the Flippers in isolation. Early in that process I played in a game with no confidence in my bowling if I was going to bowl my leg-breaks and so committed to trying the Flippers even though the development of them was in the early stages. It went well see here (Double click the image  below).
The conclusion seemed to be (1) Bowl exclusively Flippers and (2) Scrap the Leg-breaks.

Pretty much from this game on, I bowled 95% Flippers and the pattern continued as seen in the game above. I bowled well when using the Flippers and was hit for 4's when bowling the leg-breaks. It pretty much took the rest of the games in the season to conclude in the end, as far as I'm concerned I may as well just bowl Flippers.

Practice - Practice and more practice

I'm lucky as just across the road from where I live there's an area where I can practice and able to cut a wicket (It's something I've done for my two cricket playing sons for years). It's not much cop for batting on, but for practicing line, length, action and variations as a bowler it's perfect. Being as obsessive as I am it allows me to do things like this below...
 The mat is my target, set on the line and length I'm looking to bowl. The string down the middle is the centre set stump to stump. The posts either side are set out a yard apart. The single stump is set on the popping crease on middle stump. What this allows me to do is see & record where that ball lands and how consistent my bowling is. I have a bit of paper and pen and mark on the paper where the ball lands each time and I'm able to make a relatively accurate pitch map of my bowling...
I then scan this and using Photoshop, then I'm able to convert the drawn diagram into a digital version allowing me to analyse my bowling...

The version here below is Adil Rahid's from a game and I reckon my accuracy isn't that bad in comparison...

There was another massive change in my bowling with the focus on the Flipper. My Leg-Breaks were bowled off of a walk-in off of 3 steps and despite my efforts to extend the run-up I found I couldn't spin it as hard coming off of a run-up. As soon as I started to bowl the Flipper more regularly I found that it was pretty useless bowled off the 3 step walk in and so I explored extending the run-in and soon found that a 9 step run-in worked well. 

June 2019

I then had a stupid accident indoors and jarred my knee. I bowled in a few more games before stopping because of the knee bowling primarily Flippers, but was still hanging on the idea that my Leg-Break could be a variation. The case was the Flippers were effective, the Leg Breaks went the distance. During July and much of August I didn't play and I hardly practiced hoping for my knee to recover. At the very end of August the season at my own club had finished and I played a Sunday Friendly game for Orsett cc and bowled exceptionally well. I took two wickets and was on track to go for about 2 an over. Finishing one of the 10 overs I bowled, I bowled one Leg-Break and it turned and the batsman looked up in surprise. It was like the serpent showing Eve the apple. I thought - whoa, I should throw a few of those in as that almost caught the bloke out and the bowled two crap balls that went for 4's and ruined what was going to be really good figures.

In the previous games through May and June I'd also suffered from establishing a smooth run-up, my 9 step run-up used in practice didn't seem to work once the Adrenalin was running and I found myself constantly stuttering as I set off, sometimes so badly that I'd have to abort the run-in. In this Orsett game I was coming in off of a much longer run-up -14 + steps and it worked perfectly. But, I found that as soon as the game was finished, my knee seized up and by the time I got home 35 mins or so later I was crippled. I'm hoping that, as the game was played on a surface that was like concrete, that was a contributory factor? Over the winter I've been doing physio and over Sept I had the knee X-rayed and looked at by Doctors, I'm still waiting for the MRI scan. I'm hoping that with the physio and a slow build up to May, I might be good to go.

2022 July

So I'm still bowling Flippers. I get moved around different squads, so some weeks I play in the 3rd XI other weeks the 5th and one week we even managed to get a 6th squad out that I captained. The current league (40 Over games) we play in, there is a maximum 8 over rule and generally I get to bowl 8 overs and this year I've probably taken 2 wickets a game on average and my average is way below the figures I used to get when bowling leg-breaks. So I'm quite happy to be bowling Flippers and they're serving me well. Generally I get the wickets LBW, or bowled. The bowled wickets are from batters who generally look to take me out of the attack by going at me really aggressively. I think they see from the boundary that I bowl slow, so they assume I'm either bowling Leggies or finger spin. They cross the out-going batsman and ask 'What's this bloke bowling'? and I can only assume they say 'Looks like a leggie - but he's not turning it much'. *Note; I bowl these flippers with the seam scrambled, cross - seamed or out of the front of the hand attempting to produce the off-spinning version. As a result the ball does things off the surface... In my last game (Saturday just gone) one turned like a Leg-Break with the batter leaving the ball and the ball hitting the leg-stump. So, these blokes come out with pre-conceived ideas and plans and one of the more common dismissals is one where they see the ball coming (slowly) step back to clear their front leg ready to hit me into the next county only for the ball to skid through low and hit the stumps- kind of like Warnes Flipper to Alex Stewart in 1994.

The last two seasons my biggest issue has been my run-up and I've not been able to nail it with stuttering being the main issue. So far this season I've just come off of 2 steps and it's worked okay. In the nets and on my practice area "The Paddock" across the road from my house I've been working on a run up of 4 or 5 steps and that looks promising and I may give that a go in the next game I play... 23rd July 2022 in the 5th XI.

I've been looking at bringing back the leg break to add to the Flippers and tonight I practiced mixing both of them and it worked out okay. In the nets at the club the leggies work well too, but on wickets I generally get them wrong  first ball up and that then knocks my confidence and I revert back to the safety of the Flippers. Again if the practicing goes well this week I may try and mix it up a bit and see how it works. 

In my next instalment I'll write about variations.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Flipper variations

If you're going to bowl the Flipper, I recommend learning how to bowl the basic 'Bog Standard' variation which is a pure back spinner. Click on the picture below for Jenner's explanation... Scroll through the video to 3.00 mins and you'll see it.

My own explanation is below - again click on the image.

If you've read the previous blog posts about the history of this delivery you'll seen that I dismiss the idea that it's a difficult ball to bowl. What I will say echo's the advice of both Jenner and Benaud... don't try and learn it if you're a kid, as I recall Benaud says don't try until you're over 18 and your bones are fully grown and developed because the stress this puts on your hand and wrist is potentially damaging. 

The spinning action is nothing like anything else in bowling and you'll need to do strength and conditioning exercises on your fingers/hand and wrist for some weeks before trying to bowl the delivery on a wicket. All this involves is doing as described in both these videos with regards to clicking a ball out of your fingers but initially with a smaller lighter ball e.g. a tennis ball. Once you've done that for a while and can spin the ball from one hand to the other accurately, move up to a heavier larger ball such as a smaller readers wind ball or similar training ball. Do that for a while (We're talking about a month of doing this regularly) and then move up to a kids cricket ball (4 1/2 oz) and repeat. You'll probably find that at some point you're going to suffer from soreness in the thumb joints (De Quervain's tenosynovitis) and possibly the fingers and the back of the hand. In which case stop for 4 or 5 days and resume once the soreness has gone. You may also find that you suffer from Medial Epicondylitis and again if you do rest for a week or so and follow guidance for the condition. The final stage is a week of flicking an adult size ball and if you're not suffering any soreness you're ready to start bowling. 

If you find you easily fall foul to the soreness - just look on Youtube for thumb joint exercises and try some of these before resuming.

So you should be able flick the full size cricket ball from hand to hand and up in front of you to catch again with full control. Now find yourself somewhere to practice where you can potentially bowl a full 22 yards. You might want to try and bowl on a good length and by all means do so, but don't get down-hearted if it's a disaster. You're probably better off bowling really slowly and getting a feel for the release point it may even be useful to do it from a stand-start... (Click image below). 


As I recall, I worked on getting the ball straight and at the stumps initially over a distance of about 15 yards and it got progressively better. The practice sessions each time were around 3 hours long - sometimes with another hour or two later in the day. I put so much work into this, I then suffered an over-worked Rotator cuff and then had to rest that for 4-5 days, but then resumed and over a period of intense practice lasting 2 weeks I'd nailed it. I did this in my late 40's so I'd assume that if you're younger and fitter you might be able to develop this basic back-spinning Flipper in less time. 

Saturday, 18 January 2020

How to bowl The Flipper - cricket

Update Jan 2020

G'day! I'll quickly mention the fact that this blog is endorsed by Stuart MacGill. Stuart's been a supporter of my endeavors for a few years now. Anyway that aside, it seems the majority of my followers are Australian and Indian, my fellow Brits seem to be missing a trick, so I'll keep in mind my audience. I've got a load of blogs including a massive one that I no longer update and one or two that I still update. The one that I work on at the moment is this one...

Click on the image to go to the blog.

I've been bowling wrist spin for a long while now - bowling Leg Breaks primarily and experimenting with most of the variations over the same period, but because of my age I've had to change the way I bowl and last season having basically dropped from my team I had to make changes and the change I made was that I decided to bowl almost exclusively Flippers off of a much longer run up. Which is odd because as I'm reaching 60 I'm bowling in a way that exerts more stresses on the body rather than less, but I kind of go along with the mantra if you don't use it you'll lose it when it comes to physical activities.

Anyway, because of my age and the fact that I do have slight knee problems with my knee from BFC (Back foot contact) when coming out of my bound and landing as I go into my follow through, I'm expecting this may be my last season of playing, so I may start writing about my bowling in this blog.