Jaffa is a city in Israel which is known for importing thick-skinned seedless oranges. In cricket, jaffa is a word used by the commentators to describe an excellent delivery or an unplayable delivery by the bowler. No one knows the exact origin, but it is presumed that an excellent delivery by the bowler is representative of the thick-skinned oranges of Jaffa.
A jaffa can be bowled by any type of bowler – pacer or spinner. Not every delivery that is tagged as a jaffa can be a wicket-taking one. There are many other words that are synonymous to jaffa and are routinely used by commentators. These include corker, cracker, beauty, snorter, stormer, brute, peach, pearl and zinger.
A jaffa does not require any special training. Rather it is the gradual build-up of the hard hours that a bowler puts in, in order to gain a command over his or her line and length, eventually delivering a jaffa.
Shane Warne’s infamous “Ball of the century” to Mike Gatting is a classic example of a Jaffa. In 2020, ESPN Cricinfo’s Cricket Monthly picked 20 nominations and titled the list “Balls of the Century.” Each delivery mentioned is a jaffa as it was unplayable, resulting in the batter’s dismissal.
Jaffa is an immensely popular term in cricketing circles. Shoe brands, tournaments, podcasts, cricket academies have all used this term as their brand name. A jaffa can thus be a vital part of the bowler’s artillery.