Best Spin Bowlers in Cricket History

Spinners are the game-changers in cricket. When you are talking about the top 10 best spin bowlers in cricket history, you are actually talking about the best game-changers. Unlike fast bowlers, they rely on the spin of the ball instead of speed.

Spinners’ role in modern cricket has become more vital, especially with the addition of shorter formats. Nonetheless, there have been many legendary spinners since the late 80s. And when it comes to picking wickets, spinners are always on top.

Let’s look into the careers of the 10 greatest spinners who revolutionized cricket with their magical spin and made the role of spinners significant. As we are in 2023, there are some new faces on the list.

Here Are The Top 10 Best Spin Bowlers in Cricket History

Rank Bowler Name Country Total Wickets (International)
01 Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lanka 1347
02 Shane Warne Australia 1001
03 Anil Kumble India 956
04 Ravichandran Ashwin India 611*
05 Saqlain Mushtaq Pakistan 496
06 Saeed Ajmal Pakistan 447
07 Abdul Qadir Pakistan 368
08 Shakib Al Hasan Bangladesh 660*
09 Harbhajan Singh India 711
10 Graeme Swann England 410

1. Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan

Full Name Muttiah Muralitharan
Date of Birth April 17, 1972
Birth Place Kandy, Sri Lanka
Nationality Sri Lankan
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Career Highlights

  • Most wickets in test cricket: 800
  • Most wickets in ODI: 534
  • Most career international wickets in cricket: 1347

Whether it’s 2023 or 3023, it does not matter. Whenever you want to make the list of the best spinners of all time in cricket, there is only one man who deserves the top place. And that is the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan.

Muralitharan is a former Sri Lankan right-arm off-break spinner. He was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1972. He played his first international match in August 1992 against Australia in a test match. During that time, Australia was one of the most dominant sides in cricket.

Muralitharan impressed everyone with his first appearance in international cricket. He quickly picked the wickets of both openers, Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh. Then he also picked the wicket of the great Mark Waugh. However, he could not save the match for Sri Lanka.

Despite losing the game, Muratharan came to everyone’s attention. He had the ability to spin the ball greatly on any kind of pitch. He was the master of bowling the famous ball “doosra.” He was able to bowl the doosra with remarkable accuracy and consistency, making it an extremely difficult delivery for batsmen to play.

Muralitharan could control the ball like a magician. He fooled batsmen hundreds of times with extreme spin and turn. You will find many videos on youtube about how he fooled batsmen. He is the first and only bowler to have 800 wickets in test cricket.

Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in both ODI and tests. He, along with Shane Warne and Anil Kumble, uplifted the status of spinners in cricket. He recorded 9/51 bowling figures in a test against Zimbabwe.

Muralitharan retired from test cricket in 2010 and from ODI in 2011. For two decades, he dominated the game with his spin. Hence, without any argument, he is the best spin bowler ever to bowl on a cricket pitch.

Career Stats of Mutiah Muralitharan

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 133 350 12
Wickets 800 534 13

2. Shane Warne

Shane Warne

Full Name Shane Keith Warne
Date of Birth September 13, 1969
Birth Place Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Bowling Style Right-arm leg break
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Career Highlights

  • 37 times 5 wicket hauls in test career
  • Took 10 ten-wicket matches in Test cricket
  • Most test wickets (129) in the test as captain
  • 195 test wickets against England

With all the success Muralitharan had in his career, it seems quite impossible for anyone to challenge him. But for years, he had a great competitor, Shane Warne. Shane Warne is the greatest spinner from outside Asia.

Shane Warne was born in Victoria, Australia, in 1969. Getting to play in the Australian national team was never easy. And soon, when Warne debuted in international cricket, he was already 23. The year 1992 witnessed the debut of two of the top 10 best spin bowlers in cricket history.

Shane Warne was a right-arm leg-break bowler. By the end of his career, he not only established himself as one of the best, but he also brought a revolution in cricket. Spinners never have an advantage over countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and England.

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But Warne was a magician. He did not need any help from the pitch. He could generate tremendous spin off the pitch in any condition. It was not just spin that helped him outstand; Warne had great accuracy as well.

There are many great spinners who did very well in Asian countries but always suffered outside Asia as the pitch there is friendly for fast bowlers. Despite being in an adverse condition, Warne became the number one bowler for Australia, even when they had some of the best fast bowlers of all time.

From the late 90s to the early 2000s, it was a competition among Warne, Muralia, and Kumble about making and breaking new records. In 2007, Warne became the first bowler to take 700 wickets in test cricket.

Warne had got involved in some controversies in his career that often set obstructions in his career. Still, he managed to set his own legacy. From 145 tests, he picked up 708 wickets, and 293 ODI wickets helped him become the only second bowler to have more than a thousand wickets in international cricket.

Shane Warne retired from all kinds of international cricket in 2007. After his retirement, his statue was built in front of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The legend passed away in 2022 but has left an inspiring legacy behind.

Career Stats of Shane Warne

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 145 194 N/A
Wickets 708 293 N/A

3. Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble

Full Name Anil Kumble
Date of Birth October 17, 1970
Birth Place Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Nationality Indian
Bowling Style Right-arm leg break
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Records Set By Anil Kumble

  • Most Test wickets by a bowler in the fourth innings: 92
  • Most Test wickets by an Indian spinner: 619
  • Best bowling figure in the test: 10/74

Anil Kumble, one of the finest cricketers born in India, dominated the game in the late nineties and early 2000s. With 956 international wickets, he is the third most wicket-takers in the history of cricket.

Anil Kumble was born in 1970 in Karnataka, India. From an early age, he showed great talent. He played in the Indian U-19 team, and everyone was impressed by the young bowler’s ability to spin the ball.

Kumble was quickly called into the national team and made his ODI debut in 1990, only at the age of twenty. In his first match against Sri Lanka, he bowled ten overs and picked one wicket, conceding only 26 runs.

Kumble had a decent first year, picking 19 wickets from 15 games. And he was also very economical. Kumble continued to have decent years both in ODI and test. But his breakthrough moment came in the late nineties.

In 1999, he took all ten wickets in an inning against their arch-rival Pakistan. This performance quickly elevated his career, and he continued to thrive in it. Soon, he joined the famous trio competition of Murali-Warne-Kumble.

2004 was the peak moment of Kumble’s career. He played only tests in the year and picked 74 wickets! He was equally deadly in ODI. He had 26 wickets in 18 matches but, more importantly, maintained a below-four economy rate.

Career Stats of Anil Kumble

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 132 271 N/A
Wickets 619 337 N/A

4. Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin

Full Name Ravichandran Ashwin
Date of Birth September 17, 1986
Birth Place Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Nationality Indian
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Okay, now we are in some dilemma. For some fans, Ashwin is the best Indian spinner ever, while some fans deny to consider him among the top 3. But all things aside, you have to admit that he is a great spinner and has contributed greatly to Indian cricket.

Ravichandran Ashwin was born in 1986 in Chennai. He debuted for the Indian national team in ODI in 2010 and quickly became an important asset. He became the right-hand man for Dhoni and contributed greatly to many victories.

Ashwin was more dominant in test cricket. He had one of the best test debuts in history. His first match was against West Indies, and in the first innings, he bagged three wickets. But he showed magic in the second innings.

Ashwin ended the innings with a match-winning performance of 6/47. With a total of 9 wickets for 128 runs, he was named the man of the match. And that was only the beginning of his dominance.

Between 2014 and 2017, Ashwin was at the peak of his career. He would take more than 50 wickets each year. However, there was a constant assumption that he was only great at bowling in India and South Asia. But is that true? Here is his performance in test cricket outside Asia:

  • 42 wickets against Australia from 10 matches
  • 19 wickets against England from 6 games
  • 26 wickets against South Africa from 4 matches
  • 21 wickets in West Indies from 6 test matches
  • 21 wickets from 5 tests in New Zealand

Considering that those countries have a hostile pitch for spinners, you cannot say that he had a very bad record outside India. From 2019 to 2021, Ashwin witnessed many ups and downs, But he proved himself in domestic cricket and made a comeback to the national side again.

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Career Stats of Ravichandran Ashwin

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 92 113 65
Wickets 474 151 72

5. Saqlain Mushtaq

Saqlain Mushtaq

Full Name Saqlain Mushtaq
Date of Birth December 29, 1976
Birth Place Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Records Set By Saqlain Mushtaq

  • Fastest of his time to reach 100 ODI wickets: 53 matches
  • First bowler to take a 10-wicket haul in a Test match in Pakistan
  • Highest wicket-taker in a calendar year: 89 wickets in 1999

Sometimes it is not only about the stats and number of wickets a bowler has had. You need to count the impact a player has had on the sport. And Saqlain Mushtaq is one such player. He did not have much of a long career like most of the other players on the list. Nonetheless, he had a significant and impactful career.

Saqlain Mushtaq is credited with inventing the “Doosra,” a delivery that spins in the opposite direction to a traditional off-spinner. This delivery proved to be a game-changer in limited-overs cricket and helped Saqlain take wickets on a consistent basis.

Mushtaq was born in 1976 in Pakistan. He had his international test debut only at the age of nineteen. Throughout his career, he has been a great asset to Pakistan. He was a right-arm off-break bowler and certainly had a great understanding of the game.

In the first few years of his career, he showed all the signs of becoming one of the top three spinners in cricket. However, soon there was a decline in his performance, and he began to have some issues with the Pakistan cricket board.

By March 2004, Mushtaq announced his retirement from international cricket. It came as a shocker for fans, as he was only 27 years old then. Though he had a short career, he had a great impact, and that cements his position among the top 10 best spin bowlers in cricket history.

Career Stats of Saqlain Mushtaq

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 49 169 N/A
Wickets 208 288 N/A

6. Saeed Ajmal

Saeed Ajmal 

Full Name Saeed Ajmal
Date of Birth October 14, 1977
Birth Place Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Career Highlights

  • 100 ODI wickets in only 59 matches
  • Most wickets in a calendar year in T20I: 35
  • Best figures by a Pakistani bowler in ODIs: 7/20

You can argue over his inclusion on this list. But the impact he had in the early 2010s was remarkable. It was a surprise when Pakistan introduced 32-year-old Saeed Ajaml to play his first test match. But soon, he proved to be one of the toughest nightmares of the batsmen.

Saeed Ajmal is a former Pakistani right-arm off-break spinner. He was born in Faisalabad in 1977. It was obvious he did not have much time for him to dominate the game, but he made the best use of his short career.

Ajmal retired from international cricket in 2015. His career only lasted a little longer than a decade. But within this short time, he had barely 450 international wickets. Many speculate if ICC had not banned his bowling action, he would have climbed up the list more.

Nonetheless, Despite not playing too many matches, Saeed Ajmal had a great impact in cricket, especially in the shorter formats, and that has earned him a place on the list.

Career Stats of Saeed Ajmal

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 35 113 64
Wickets 178 184 85

7. Abdul Qadir

Abdul Qadir

Full Name Abdul Qadir
Date of Birth September 15, 1955
Birth Place Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Bowling Style Right-arm leg break
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Career Highlights

  • Took nine wickets for 56 runs against England in Lahore
  • First Pakistani bowler to take 200 wickets in Test cricket in 1988
  • Took ten wickets in 7 matches in the 1992 World Cup

Cricket would have lost its charm if there had been no Abdul Qadir. During the 70s, the art of spin bowling, especially leg-break bowling, was dying. Luckily there was Abdul Qadir who saved the art. Before there was Warne or Kumble, there was Qadir, who made leg spin a nightmare for batsmen.

Abdul Qadir was born in September 1955 in Lahore, Pakistan. He became a part of the Pakistan national team in 1977. And that was when spin bowling saw some hope of revival. What was so special about Qadir? He could bowl six different deliveries in an over.

Qadir debuted against mighty England, and he took advantage of it. In the second innings, Qadir picked six wickets for only 44 runs. Qadir single-handedly almost snatched the victory for Pakistan. However, the match ended up in a draw.

But more than winning a game, Pakistan had won a gem in that game in the form of Qadir. Qadir played 67 tests before retiring and picked up 236 wickets. He also appeared in 104 ODI and recorded 136 wickets.

Abdul Qadir played a major role in Pakistan’s winning the 1992 ICC World Cup. His ten overs in the final against England were crucial. He conceded only 27 runs and picked up the important wicket of Ian Botham.

Qadir had many weapons in his arsenal, including topspin, flipper, and googly. He retired from tests in 1990 and from ODI in 1993. Qadir’s name will always be remembered as one of the best spin bowlers in the history of cricket.

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Career Stats of Abdul Qadir

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 67 104 N/A
Wickets 236 132 N/A

8. Shakib Al Hasan

Shakib Al Hasan

Full Name Shakib Al Hasan
Date of Birth March 24, 1987
Birth Place Magura, Khulna, Bangladesh
Nationality Bangladeshi
Bowling Style Left-arm orthodox spin
Batting Style Left-handed

Bowling Records of Shakib Al Hasan

  • First spinner to 100 wickets in men’s T20Is
  • Second bowler to take 100 wickets in all three formats

If Ajmal’s inclusion on the list was surprising, the inclusion of Shakib Al Hasan might be even more shocking. Though the man has more than 600 international wickets and still playing, he is often underrated as a bowler.

Shakib Al Hasan is a left-arm orthodox spinner. He is currently the captain of Bangladesh T20I and tests. He was born in Magura, Khulna, Bangladesh, in 1987. He is undoubtedly the biggest name in Bangladesh cricket.

Shakib Al Hasan has been one of the greatest all-rounders in cricket. He is one of the major players in both batting and bowling for Bangladesh. He is no doubt the best all-rounder in cricket, but his bowling ability is often overlooked.

Shakib Al Hasan is not one of the finest spinners of the ball. Many of the experts in the game have already expressed that. However, his specialty is his wisdom and clever bowling. He is the first spinner to take 100 or more wickets in T20I.

Another specialty about Shakib is that he can pick wickets on any pitch and in the country. He has over 300 wickets in ODI and 231 wickets in tests from 65 matches. Since his debut in 2006, he has been a consistent performer with the ball, and that cements his position among the top 10 best spin bowlers in cricket history.

Career Stats of Shakib Al Hasan

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 65 229 112
Wickets 231 301 131

9. Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh

Full Name Harbhajan Singh
Date of Birth July 3, 1980
Birth Place Jalandhar, Punjab, India
Nationality Indian
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

Being the fourth-highest wicket-taker in international cricket, Harbhajan Singh, aka, Bhajji, is a confirmed entrant on the list. He was one of the pillars of Indian cricket for several years.

Born in 1980 in Punjab, India, Singh got to play for the national team only at the age of seventeen. The young teenager had to bowl against some of the very best batsmen of Australia. And he was no less than impressive.

In his debut match, Bhaji picked three wickets and played a major role in India’s victory. That was only the beginning. Since then, he has contributed to many major victories for team India for the next fifteen years.

Harbhajan had a unique bowling style, which would set him apart from others. He was an attacking bowler, always looking for wickets. On a spin-friendly wicket, Bhajji would become a nightmare for the opposition. Singh was also able to hit some boundaries in the lower order, which proved to be very helpful on multiple occasions.

Harbhajan also had the ability to perform in pressure situations. He was often the bowler for the Indian team when they needed wickets. And he always delivered in crucial moments. He had a decent track record in the World cup, picking 20 wickets in 2007 and 2011.

Harbhajan is the second most wicket-taker in international cricket for India. With 711, he is one of the leading wicket-takers in cricket history.

Career Stats of Harbhajan Singh

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 103 236 28
Wickets 417 269 25

10. Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann

Full Name Graeme Peter Swann
Date of Birth March 24, 1979
Birth Place Northampton, England
Nationality English
Bowling Style Right-arm offbreak
Batting Style Right-handed (lower order)

England has a reputation for producing some of the best fast bowlers in cricket. However, when it comes to spin bowling, there are not many names to boast about. However, Graeme Swann was an exception.

Graeme Swann is the learning wicket-taker among all the spinners from England. He was born in 1979 in Northampton. He debuted in 2000 in ODI. But his test debut took some eight years to happen. Finally, after his debut in 2008, he quickly became one of the top bowlers.

However, his test career did not last long. He retired in 2013 after playing only 60 test matches. But in those 60 matches, he took 255 wickets. He had his best year in 2011 when he took 59 wickets from 11 tests and 31 wickets in 18 ODIs.

Swann was also an effective bowler in T20Is. He was economical, conceding less than 6.5 per over. In test cricket, he recorded seventeen five wickets hauls and three ten wickets hauls. No doubt, he is the finest spinner of modern English cricket.

Career Stats of Graeme Swann

Format Test ODI T20I
Matches 60 79 39
Wickets 255 104 51


This was our list of the top 10 best spin bowlers in cricket history. They were, or are, the cornerstone of their teams. From Abdul Qadir to Shakib Al Hasan, spinners have been winning matches for their teams. They will be remembered for their bowling forever.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.


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