Cric History

What really is a Chinaman?


There have been numerous wrist-spinners in international cricket, but how many of them were left-handers or as we tackle them, “Chinaman” bowlers?

It’s an art where left-arm bowlers turn the ball with their wrists rather than their palms. In other words, it’s left-arm leg-spin. The most well-known players to utilize this technique were Paul Adams, Brad Hogg and most recently, India’s Kuldeep Yadav.

The right way to address them is left-arm wrist-spinners but many people are knowledgeable about the more colloquial term CHINAMAN.

So how did the term Chinaman get associated with them?

Well, there are some racist connections to it. Back in 1933, a West Indian spinner Ellis “Puss” Achong, who was the first Test cricketer of Chinese ancestry, got English batsman Walter Robins out with a wicked delivery.

He sent down an harmless-looking delivery outside off. Robins stepped out for a big hit, but the ball spun back and Robins was stumped by a huge distance. A bewildered, grumpy Robins cried out “Fancy getting out to a bloody Chinaman!” in disgust; he made no attempt to hide his emotions from umpire Joe Hardstaff Sr. Learie Constantine, fighting English cricketers on field for Nelson and racism off it, was taken aback by the comment. He asked Robins: Do you mean the bowler or the ball?

‘Chinaman’ was the general term used to refer to a man of Chinese origin, or Japanese origin or Indonesian origin in that era. It’s been 80 years since the incident. Now, we are in the 21st century, an age of intolerance where being politically correct is extremely vital. Perhaps, it’s high time for the ICC to revisit the use of such terminology.

But why are Chinaman bowlers so rare?

It is widely believed that controlling left-arm wrist spin is not so easy. Also, the ball coming into the right-handed batsman is considered more comfortable to handle than the one going away from him.

What really is a Chinaman?
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