Saturday, September 29, 2007

Learning Curves

After last weeks disasterous spell I'd come away from the game having watched one of the oppositions spin bowlers come away with about 5 maiden overs. I'd then asked our blokes what it was that this bloke was doing that was so troublesome and they come back with the fact that he was bowling a line and length that was really problematic. No-one said that he was making the ball turn (None of us had managed that either) but he was on target and an length where you was going to have to come down the wicket and have a go. It seems none of our blokes fancied it so that kind of implies that maybe he was varying his speed and bounce - so perhaps he was bowling over-spinners?

Anyway I gave this some thought and concluded that this blokes bowling made a lot of sense and this is emphasised by the amount of maidens he got. So I evaluated my approach and came up with some conclusions.

  • In all sorts of practice situations I can make the ball turn ridiculously and as a consequence I bowl wide looking balls normally varying flippers and Wrong Uns. But I'm realising that on a proper cricket pitch I'm not getting the same amount of turn - why? I don't know, but the consequence is I'm not threatening the stumps and so everyone is having a go at me and knocking me for fours and having a great time of it.
  • Having watched this bloke and seen how affective he was just throwing straight slow balls that seemingly might have turned I've decided that in the short term I'm going to stop trying to pull off Shane Warne style Mike Gatting round the legs deliveries and aim to be more accurate and consistent with where I pitch the ball.

So today I went over to my local field set up the stumps and laid a piece of fabric down in the zone where I intended to pitch the ball. The fabric was 4' long by 12" wide and placed 4 yards in front of the stumps. So all I had to do is pitch the ball at any length along that piece of fabric and it would be threatening the stumps. It would also be a short delivery that would mean the batsman would be tempted to come out after the ball.

I decided that I'd only bowl Flippers and Over-spinners, so I used 6 white balls and 6 red balls and put them in a bag. As I got the balls from the bag randomly I'd bowl the white ones as Over-Spinners and the red ones as flippers. The reason I'd gone for the Over-spinners is that theoretically they're the straight balls that bounce up high and contrast nicely with the Flippers that back spin and skid in low. So just the action of the variation alone causes an inconsistency in my bowling for the batsman? But added to that I have a tendency for my Over-spinners to turn into leg like a Wrong Un which again contrasts with the Flipper because they turn into Off like Leg Breaks. Despite being bashed all over the park by the batsmen last week I did hear their best batsman say "This blokes a bit tricky cos he's bowling offspin and Legspin" so that was encouraging to hear. So today with my strategy set off I went for a practice.

Initially it was awful which brings up another problem... I took about 4 overs to get my eye in as such. I'm wondering that if I was to have a practice before the game or during teas - would that loosen me up enough so that I could go straight into my spell and be affective - or would an hour or so waiting for my spell be so long that I'd need to bowl a couple of bad overs before I got then hang of it? I suppose this is something I could test on the practice field?

So anyway 4 overs in and suddenly it all came together. I found that bowling the flippers a lot shorter than I normally do and bowling them down the middle faster than normal meant that they didn't turn so much but they definitely seemed more threatening and I was hitting the stumps a lot more consistently. Without a batsman there it's difficult to tell how they'd handle them, I know my mate Nakul who I practiced a lot with over the summer (if he knew they were Flippers) would just step back and play off the back foot and whack em. But mixed up with the bouncy Over-spinners he might come unstuck?

The Over-spinners were good too. As I said without even trying to do it my Over-spinners have a sneaky and inconsistent tendency to turn to leg slightly and when I get into a bit of a groove with them it's just really easy to twist the wrist just a bit more and hang on to the ball a milli-second more so that it comes out of the back of the hand and turns loads. Again I was threatening the stumps so much more than I would normally do and having the bails off a lot more too.

In conclusion it looks as though if I adopt this approach where I'm aiming directly at the stumps I'm going to be more difficult to bat against and this might improve my figures. The only uncertainty is the length, so ideally I need to get someone to face my bowling, but as long as my line is consistent I don't think changing the length is going to be too problematic? So over the next few weeks I'm going to be sticking at these two deliveries making sure the line is consistent and just observing how often I hit the stumps and how much turn I get on the faster balls.