Anyway in the short term that's not about to happen and in the meantime I've been playing and bowling. It's not been that good...
Despite all the practice over the off-season with my bowling and the work done on the longer run-up, it hasn't converted to the game or even practice sessions. Someone pointed out in a recent video that it looked as though when I was bowling I was doing so as though I had a deficiency in my pivot leg at FFC. I then twisted my knee in the 1st game of the season (friendly) in the field before bowling and went off. I then came back on near the end of the game and took 2 wickets coming in off of two steps a la' Terry Jenner in the BBC videos. I then took this forward to the two following games as my twisted knee recovered and did OK.
At this point practice was thin on the ground because I was in two minds whether resurrect 'The Paddock' as somewhere we could practice as the fence had been removed and it was saturated with water. Easter was crap with regards the whether and my general fitness wasn't that good. Eventually the weather improved a little and we made the decision to cut and maintain a wicket in the paddock again to practice in.
Once it was ready, in practice I bowled 95% of the time off of the 2 step approach rather than the more energetic run-in off of 5 or 6 steps. Every now and then I'd try the faster longer run-up and it seemed as though I'd lost it, I couldn't get it right at all.
This meant in the recent games I've bowled all my spells coming off of two steps and it's not gone well. Bizarrely in practice it works perfectly?
How do I feel?
Gutted and confused. What had promised to be an important development (The 5-6 pace run in), hadn't come together and the two step approach I've not been able to get it right in games, it's like I've got the yips.
What was good/bad?
In practice, I've bowled superbly and accurately with a range of variations albeit off two steps. I use a car mat as a target which is about 30cm x 45cm and frequently hit it, irrespective of where it's placed. Not only am I hitting it, but the balls spinning almost certainly more than I've ever done.
But, when it comes to game situations It's been a totally different story, couple of weeks ago I bowled two head height full tosses to a set batsman taking the game away from us and then the third ball landing on a perfect length, the bloke offers a straight bat in defence of the ball which was on middle and off and it finds the edge and Tony Harms catches it in the slips.
Last week a similar thing, two leg breaks head- height to a good batsman - one of them is fielded at fine leg on the boundary, he runs two, 2nd one goes for 4 in the same region. The 3rd ball is good and is fielded when hit cleanly. The captain then puts younger son Joe on the deep mid off, having seen how the batsman played the previous delivery. The next ball, not actually thinking why, but just doing it - put more over-spin on the ball and it as a result dipped more and the bloke went through the shot too early and it was up in the air heading for Joe. He had to run a bit, but caught the ball whilst running at speed short of the boundary.
After that, more bad stuff - legside, short, full tosses, you name it, it was in there and it's expensive and I'm not getting much more than 4 overs and rightly so.
At the moment I'm of the belief that it's partly down to fitness and that I'm slowly getting fitter and that this may facilitate an improvement. I've played today and again bowled off of 2 steps, I bowled 4 overs for 14 with no wickets, but it was rubbish mixed with perfection as usual. I had 1 catch not taken and a ball against a leftie go through the gate having pitched well outside of off and miss his leg-stump by a gnats cock pube!
The game was rained off and we were back early and despite the fact the game was only 10 miles away, back here in Langdon Hills it hadn't rained, so I was able to go over to the paddock and have a bowl and see if I'd bowl a pile of crap again as I had in the game. I went over with positive intention and thought rather than go for the 2 step approach, just go straight in with the longer run up version. Lo and behold guess what happens? I bowl about 15-20 overs worth of balls and it goes perfect virtually.
Drills I've done recently have included this one here where I put this trolley thing in front of the stumps to represent the batsman and place my target mat outside of leg as below and then look to land the ball onto the mat and turn it into the stumps. In practice I can do this fairly frequently, some spin too far and miss the off-stumps some bounce over, some hit the mat and go on straight e.g. natural variation - some people call them 'Sliders', but that's nonsense, Warne refers to them as Leg-Breaks that don't grip or just calls them what they are... Natural variation now that he no longer plays and is no longer in need to play the psychology game with any batsman that is listening and trying to work him out.
Last night I had the mat in front of the bag and was just looking to bowl in a way that would get the batsman blocking or driving. Almost every ball was on the mat or thereabouts or hitting the wheel of the trolley. The ones that hit the mat were turning and were going past the stumps a foot or two wide of the off-stump. But the thing was it was consistent throughout the 120 or so balls I bowled with only 4 that were 'wide' and maybe 2 or 3 full tosses. So the question is why? What is happening here that is so different to what's happening in the game?
I'm not making any comparison with how much turn I get of one from the other as there's no comparison, the paddock is massively exaggerated because of how rough it is, it's the things like line and length and consistency. Thinking about it there's a few possibilities...
(1). I've got the yips, but I don't think I have, when I started out I was massively affected by getting it wrong and things used to go from Bad to really bad to worse. But at the moment I go from bad to brilliance and then back to bad again, but don't start sweating and panicking like I used to back in the days of Grays and Chadwell CC under Neil Samwells captaincy.
(2). Umpire up under my gills? I noticed this yesterday, the umpire was right up to the stumps and I noticed his presence and wondered whether that was it, as it did bother me, but that might be just grasping at straws and I've not noticed it in the other games.
(3). Footwear? At the moment this is the thing I'm inclined to focus on. Years ago I noticed that there was something in this. When I practice I generally wear Adidas Sambas. I noticed years ago that if the grass was at all damp that when I pivoted on damp grass, I lost the amount of accuracy & spin I got. Once it was dry and the grip returned it was fine.These are the Sambas I'm currently wearing and using on dry grass and I get a certain level of resistance in the Paddock scenario, which facilitates the spin and accuracy that I can achieve there.
These are the spikes I'm wearing this year and they're different to my old spikes which I still have and could wear. My old spikes are massively worn out and the spikes are almost non-existent as opposed to these which protrude a mile. Could it be that I'm getting so much purchase and grip that it has some impact on my bowling?
This might be the solution - this is another pair that I have and as you can see, I've removed the metal spikes and opted for the flatter grip discs which may allow more pivot and maybe a similar feel to the Adidas trainers? So, what I'll do is wear these when I practice in the paddock over the coming days and see how much these impact on my bowling... accuracy and length. It maybe that I'm barking up the wrong tree, but at the minute the only difference I can think of between bowling in games and when I practice is footwear, so it'll be worth giving it a go?
I came away from the practice last night feeling okay despite the fact that bowling off of the longer run-up is obviously more physically demanding and I came though it okay and have felt okay today, so that may also be a contributory factor, maybe my fitness levels have not been as they should be and as the season goes on I've slowly got fitter?
I'm going to try and commit to bowling off of the 5-6 step run-in. Actually I need to establish whether it is 5 or 6 paces, but it is the run-in that I have been working on since last September here