Cric History

What really is a Chinaman?


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

India’s Kuldeep Yadav is a valuable addition to this elite group. It is an art in which left-arm bowlers spin the ball with their wrists and not their fingers. Simply put, it is left-arm leg-spin. Some of the most famous players to use this technique were Paul Adams, Brad Hogg and now Kuldeep Yadav.

The correct way to address them is left-arm wrist-spinners but most of us are familiar with the more colloquial term CHINAMAN.

So did the term Chinaman get associated with the skillful left-arm spinners?

Well, there are some racist connotations to it. The story goes that 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 spin delivery back in 1933.

He sent down an innocuous-looking delivery outside off. Robins stepped out for the big hit, but the ball spun back through Robins, and was stumped by a mile. A bemused, disgruntled Robins cried out “Fancy getting out to a bloody Chinaman!” in disgust; he made no effort of hiding his outburst 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?

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

But why are Chinaman bowlers so rare?

It is believed that controlling left-arm wrist spin is no easy task. Also, the ball coming into the right hander i.e., moving from left to right side of the TV screen, is considered more comfortable than the one going away from him.

What really is a Chinaman?
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