Saturday, May 26, 2007

Leg spin bowling blind + eyes closed

I had the opportunity to bowl on my own today as no-one was around and Nakul was at work. So I had a couple of hours to practice. Last nights game against SEEVIC once again highlighted the fact that I can't deal with the fact that you go straight into the bowling with no warm up as such. So this practice session I was looking to see if I could get into The Zone by the second over. By about the 4th over I realised I had serious issues.

1. I was bowling far too long.
2. I was bowling wides
3. I was bowling crap with all my variations.

Decided to try and address the issues one at a time, so starting with The Flipper I tried bowling shorter, so using a marker placed dead centre and 5 yards in front of the stumps I tried hitting that..... Useless - absolutely useless. I was now beginning to get frustrated and annoyed trying to figure out what was going so wrong?

I then noticed that I was beginning to wear the grass out where I do my Walk in to the crease. Then I realised I was wearing my Adidas Sambas instead of my cricket spikes and these slide rather than grip and it's obvious some of the power that's generated in the throw is absorbed when you slide in the trainers.

Step 1. Change my Sambas for Spikes

Did this and straight away it felt a lot better.

Step 2. Sort out the Walk In.

I know that Shane Warne takes about 8 paces during his run-up/Walk-in and you can't go too wrong using Warne as a starting point. So despite the fact that I do usually have a 4 or 5 step walk-in I started with 8 a la Warne. Using a marker I gradually reduced the walk-in from 8 down to 5.

Step 3. To spring or not to spring?

As I release the ball I've noticed for some reason that I'm more affective if I do a spring on the last step, the sense is that it gives you more height and possibly more power - like a spring being released after compression? So I added the spring at the end.

It turns out that each of these little adjustments were making big differences and suddenly it came together - suddenly it felt right, the whole process....

I step into the my first step, I then shuffle on the second the third is like a trigger, the fourth the spring and the fifth the follow through and the ball goes down the centre at the right length. I keep at it and it feels good and I'm now bowling and it's all working as it should - good line and good length with the ball skidding around and doing unpredictable things. In between balls I'm going over what's happened here evaluating what I've learnt. My conclusion is that at the start I was looking at where I wanted the ball to go and I was trying really hard to put it there. The whole process was based on the idea of seeing what I wanted and then assuming the ball would get there through me throwing it there - based on the transfer of info from sight to physical exertion. Ignoring all the other aspects like the walk-in and the spikes and the feel of how I should bowl the ball. I kept bowling and it was now happening, it was feeling right.

I then reflected on the game last night and last week and how I felt as I approached the crease and how I responded in the face of the opposition. There's a massive psychological thing going on out there. The batsman knows that if you're a spin bowler he's either going to come unstuck or he's going to hit you all over the park and you as the bowler know that too. As the bowler it might be part of your own strategy to allow for the batsman to hit the ball for 4's and 6's thus luring him into a sense that he's got the better of you - then when you sense he thinks he's won you do something different. But then you got the expectations of your captain and team where they don't want you to concede runs. As newby the whole thing is very intimidating and pressurised and on both occasions so far I've let the pressure get to me and I've ended up throwing long balls fast and they've been dispatched to the outer Hebrides!

It therefore seems to me that you've got to go about your business with total disregard for the batsman - whether he's sledging you or standing tall looking like he's full of confidence you as the Spin Bowler have got to do your stuff - put your practice into action and not be intimidated. You've got to feel that you are already in the zone and you're going to bowl short balls exactly where you want them - 5 yards from the stumps slightly to leg or dead centre. You don't look at either the batsman or where you want the ball to go, you know it's going to go there - that is where you always put the ball you feel it - you're in The Zone.

So everythings come together, everything feels natural, the arm movement, the walk-in, the length and line it all feels right the only thing that can go wrong is to have some big ugly brute of a batsman standing there scowling at you presenting a visual distraction. Then it happened - an epiphanal moment....... I realised I don't need to see him - this is about how it feels not about how it looks - I'm in the zone I don't need to use my eyes - I can bowl this ball with my eyes closed!

For a second it seemed impossible, but I thought let's do this - lets throw 16 balls and see what happens? I look again at what I do as I approach the stumps and decide that just as I'm going into the 2nd from last step of my walk-in I'll then close my eyes so that the last two steps and the throw are done blind.

The first ball is a plastic practice ball and it goes wide to leg (Always happens - it's a different weight) so I'm not put off. I'm slightly worried that as I do my spring I'm going to come crashing down with my goolies onto the stumps! But it feels right and it feels good so the second ball........ I walk in spring and bowl and open my eyes to see it hit my target which is 5 yards in front of the stumps and then skid on to hit the middles stump! Unbelievable! I try again and again. With 16 balls I threw 2 wides, 4 Strikes and 10 really good balls that went down the channel perfectly - some of which hit the 4" target that I place on the grass as my length marker. It wasn't a fluke either as I threw another subsequent 4 lots of 16 and it was almost identical each 16 balls, hitting the stumps and going down the channel. Man was this a revelation!

Michelle rang and said she was coming to pick me up in the car. So I threw 16 more balls and this time with my eyes open but feeling my way - it was pobably the best 16 balls I've ever thrown!

But this now has implications for my bowling. As I mentioned yesterday when I step up to bowl I'm nervous and it all goes to pot. It always seems when faced with a competitive situation and some bloke standing there with a bat I opt for speed and it never works. I always deliver the ball far too long and the bloke knocks it for a four. It seems that the visual/psychological impact undoes any chance of bowling the right ball. So what if I was to get in the zone ignore the batsman close my eyes and deliver the ball as I was today - short, above the eyes with potential to spin on landing and I deliver it with my eyes closed and tell them that I'm going to do so because I am so confident that I don't need to have my eyes open! It's an interesting idea that I'll be exploring throughout this week.

I wonder if anyone else out there in Leg Spin land has ever tried this? Or if you haven't maybe it's something you might want to try? If you do or if you have in the past - post a comment I'd be really interested in what your experience is.

The only thing I can see that's still unresolved though is the fact that it took an hours worth of bowling before I got in The Zone. I've still got to explore whether it will make any difference if I bowl for half an hour before going onto the pitch and then whether if my chance to bowl comes an hour into the match will I still be In the Zone?

There's some useful stuff in this link about Shane Warne and the way he was coached. I found the advice to bowl at or just slightly off of leg stump useful. Have a look - http://www.tssonnet.com/tss3001/stories/20070106000201700.htm

And more ....