“Rotation”,”Managing Bowler WorkLoad”, “Rest”


These are some of the buzzwords being used in this day and age of cricket, with so much cricket being played there is a danger of players breaking down and getting fatigued quicker. Workloads are managed, players are rested at times or rotated out just so that the players do not breakdown. This is more so for bowlers than for batsmen.


Since Yasir Shah’s debut in 2014, Spinners have bowled 44.03% of the total deliveries bowled in test cricket. That’s the global average, a spinner has bowled 51.47% of the balls bowled by Pakistan, which is a number higher than the global average, but this can be understood as they play in hot weather conditions (like UAE), they play on pitches where it assists spin and with the weather it would be better to ensure you use your spinners to keep bowlers fresh for the short bursts.


As it can be seen in the graph below four out of five sides which use more spinners are Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. All four sides which are well known for using spin bowling to win them games, so it’s no surprise that the spinners from these countries bowl more balls than the average spinner.

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There are benefits to giving your strike bowler so many overs at a time, for one it lets him bowl to a plan to one batsman, it lets him understand the pitch better and so on. But this works the other way as well, the batsman can size up the bowler, the bowler could get tired mentally and physically and lose his accuracy thus giving up runs while bowling, also since he is bowling such long spells he gets fatigued and injury prone faster than normal given his huge workload.


Pakistan’s strategy to use just one spinner is partly due to the fact that they do not have a genuine all rounder who can bowl a bit, if Pakistan play a 2nd spinner they give up on their 3rd seamer option, if they include 2 spinners and 3 seamers, it elongates their tail. So it can be understood why Pakistan plays 4 bowlers, and if those 4 bowlers do the job, what’s the harm right?


Well it’s not exactly 4 bowlers sharing an equal workload, Yasir Shah since his debut has bowled 30.7% of the balls bowled by Pakistan which is the highest for any spinner who has bowled more than 4000 balls in test cricket, Ashwin is 2nd in this list at 30.2%. Yasir bowls 328 balls per test match which is 29 balls more than his closest competitor Ravindra Jadeja who bowls 299 balls per test. Bowling so many balls does take a toll on the bowler and will result in him being ineffective at some stages of the match, something which Yasir Shah has managed to avoid in some games.

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There have been an average of 987 balls bowled by a team in a test match since Yasir’s debut, Pakistan has bowled more than the average which is 987 balls per test; in fact they are joint 2nd along with New Zealand with 1075 balls per test in the format to have bowled more balls in a match than any other side, 2nd to Zimbabwe who bowl 1214 balls per test match.

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The fact that Pakistan bowls so many balls in a test should be a cause of worry, but it does not show the fact that how they could have bowled far fewer balls if they had taken all their catches. Since Amir’s return Pakistan have dropped 13 catches of his bowling, imagine the drops of the bowling of others. These chances do lengthen their stay on the field and also lengthen the number of balls Yasir has to bowl.


Since his debut, Yasir’s workload has been increasing year by year, in his first year as an international cricketer, he would share his spin bowling duties with Zulfiqar Babar, as his career progressed Yasir became an integral part of the side, and as his career has progressed there is no real spinner who can join Yasir Shah and become a threat to the opposition for now it’s only Yasir who is doing the heavy lifting for his side. Bowling more and more overs as the years pass by and picking wickets like it’s nobody’s business. In test matches involving Yasir, no Pakistani bowlers has even crossed 100 wickets, Yasir Shah has 157 wickets, then comes void, then comes some more void and then there is Wahab Riaz who has picked 50 wickets for Pakistan in tests involving Yasir.

Capture 4Balls Bowled by Pakistan and Percentage of Balls bowled by Yasir Shah

Yasir Shah is one of the best wrist spinners in world cricket right now, if not the best and he demands that he bowls so many overs, but there is a serious risk of overusing him, something which Pakistan should consider, by giving him another bowler who he can share his workload with Yasir could be an even greater threat with the ball as long as he has an able partner bowling at the other end who keeps up his good work.


Clive Azevedo
Cricket analyst, freelance writer.