Cricket has evolved rapidly over the years and variations such as the carrom ball are being used more and more by bowlers to very good effect these days, especially in the modern T20 era. 

The carrom ball though has troubled some of the world’s famous batting line-ups for years and was popularised by Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis

The mystery spinner made his debut in 2008 and helped Sri Lanka win the continental championship - Asia Cup - almost single-handedly due to the Indian batters’ failure to pick up his deliveries.

Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, and West Indian spinner Sunil Narine are current operators of the carrom ball. However, Ravichandran Ashwin terms the variation as ‘sodukku ball’. Sodukku means “snapping of fingers” in Tamil in keeping with the flicking motion of the carrom ball.

Ashwin, in fact, has gone one step further by adding more than one variation to his ‘sodukku ball’ where he moves the seam of the ball around and bowls from different angles to become more unpredictable for batters to pick. 

While the carrom ball might seem like a newly discovered variation, it is not. Australian spinner Jack Iverson, who played international cricket in the early 1950s, used it throughout his playing days. 

Though Iverson did not use the name ‘carrom ball’, he bowled it in the same style with the ball gripped between his thumb and middle finger. Australia’s John Gleeson also used a similar grip a decade later, but the variation was forgotten until it was revived by Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath in 1999.

Apart from One-Day Internationals (ODI) and Test cricket, the carrom ball has been equally effective in the shortest format of the game with West Indian spinner Sunil Narine exploiting the variation to good effect.

The spinner’s carrom balls played a major role in Kolkata winning the Indian T20 League titles in 2012 and 2014. His deliveries were nearly unplayable as he made a name for himself for bowling the carrom ball beautifully. But how exactly can you bowl a carrom and more precisely, what is a carrom ball?

What is a carrom ball?

To execute a carrom ball perfectly, the bowler grips the ball between his thumb, forefinger, and middle finger and flicks the ball out in the same way a carrom player flicks the striker disc on the carrom board. 

In essence, this delivery was coined as a carrom ball because the bowler releases the ball from his hand by flicking the ball similar to how one flicks the striker while playing the board game carrom.

Once a carrom ball is released and successfully executed by a bowler, the ball’s trajectory sees it move from the leg stump to the off stump to surprise batters with its movement. 

These days more variations of this special delivery have made life even more difficult for them as predicting the ball’s movement from leg to the off stump is no longer a given thanks to spinners further experimenting with the ball courtesy of versatile grips beyond the norm.

Photo credit: Alamy