Monday, October 29, 2007

Exercise & Fitness

If you've been following the blog over the months you'll have read about the occassional injuries that I've suffered - shoulder injuries, thigh muscles, thumb swelling, back injuries and calf muscles being the most recent when I played the last game of the season. I'm not that young anymore (47) but for my age I'm probably not that bad, I've always been quite sporty and interested in staying fit and eating well. Seeing my 'Fit' uncle die at 40 was quite a shock leaving a wife and two small kids behind kind of made me realise that along with his Dad dying in his early 60's and my Dad dying a couple of weeks after retiring that there was a propensity amongst the blokes in our family to croak quite early. So at the age of about 23 - 24 I decided I wasn't having any of that and that I'd see if I could take the record and hang in there till I'm at least 70. That'll do me fine my youngest will be in his early 30's and he'll be able to deal with it by then and not impact on his life too much.

Thing is I never accounted for cricket and now I've discovered it I want to be playing it till I'm 70 as well. Which means I don't want to be going down with injuries every weekend every time I run for a ball in the outfield, or put in a spell of 20 overs back to back when I'm practicing and suffer shoulder injuries. So tonight I got an email from my mate David Hinchcliffe at and it was covering his favourite subject "Core stability". He loves it core stability, he can't get enough of it and it's his mission it seems to turn the rest of the UK and probably the world into cricket athletes. I'd love to go and see his team play - I've got this image of 12 blokes doing warm ups and warm downs and they all look like Olympians in cricket gear. The opposition on the other hand will be a bunch of Lager bellied blokes tucking into their pre-match cans of Lucozade washing down bags of crisps and Macdonalds. I'm digressing a bit here so let's get back to where I was. So tonight after a recent good practiceI was thinking as I was reading David's email, maybe part of the reason I am bowling well is that I've taken on some of David's advice regarding shoulder exercises? So with that I tried to read it and decipher some of the language used (It's all very technical when it comes to the muscles and exercises) and as usual kind of lost my way with it and began to think I need something visual here I thne looked at the forum and some of the fitness plans and that sort of made more sense and was tempted to ask on the forum for a personalised plan. I erred away from that because it doesn't seem right that he'd spend half hour writing a plan for an old bloke like me simply playing Sunday friendly matches and that his time would be better spent replying to some young bloke who's got years in front of him as a cricket player. So I drifted away and googled "Core stability". Anyway to cut a long story short I found this - and within it exercises that relate to shoulder strength using resistance bands. But more than that a load of core stability stuff (I think) and it all comes with little video clips showing how the exercises are done. Looking at it - it looks like a really useful website if you're looking to improve areas of your fitness, or at least as a starting point. I reckon this website along with Davids mantra of 'Cricket specific exercise' and training I can see myself going on at least till I'm 50! This could become a new aspect of my blog - who knows?

Another practice idea

I've just been looking at the forum on David Hinchcliffes website and some bloke from Korea has just posted a brilliant idea in response to a thread me and a bloke (Ali Malik) from Suadi Arabia were posting on relating to practicing on your own. The Korean bloke 'Alan' suggests marking out a grid on the ground in a kind of noughts and crosses arrangement. Any ball that lands in the zone you're aiming for is a wicket if it goes on to hit the stumps. All the other areas - short, long, wides etc they're all scored as runs against you, you can then keep a tally of how many runs are scored against you in the process of bowling the whole team out. Sounds like a good idea for my new practice venue. Now where's that tin of exterior masonry paint.........?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New practice area

On a bike ride with my boys yesterday I noticed a play area near where we live that looked as though it might be good for some winter practice. It's an enclosed fenced of play area tarmac and 10' wire mesh fencing designed to be used for Basket Ball (The hoops are still there). But the width of the area is easily big enough to have a bit of a run up and bowl for a spinner, diagonally it might even suit a faster bowler? So today it was raining slightly so bowling on a field wasn't viable so I thought I'd go and check this place out in the drizzle and see if it's any good.

I tied some stumps to the wire fence got myself two balls and placed down my 'Spot bowling' marker and threw a few balls. In a similar way that I practice on fields I threw the balls one side and then back the other side. With two balls it meant I was back and forth a bit but it was okay. All I need to do now is buy a load of those 5.5oz solid plastic hockey balls and I'm away (incidentally there's 12 on ebay at the moment for a good price).

With regards my bowling it - it was pretty good. My thumb has got better and I've been able to bowl flippers, so I threw a few of those and they were very affective - suprisingly accurate and so different to the top spinners in fact the opposite to a top spinner, so if I can get those both sorted over the winter that'll be a right result. I'll post some pictures of my new practice area once I've got some shots of it.

One Man cricket club

As mentioned a couple of blogs back I've acquired more gear and I'm now in a far better position to sort a game between us and anyone else with regards equipment. Have a look at the picture. I've got enough gear to easily accomodate another team. Of the bats I now own, there's three there I've got no problem lending complete strangers, but to be honest you can pick bats up for a lot less than £30.
The only thing any opposition is going to need will be their own boxes and helmets if they feel the need to wear helmets and to be honest I'd encourage it. So the gears here - so if anyone in the Essex, Basildon area fancies taking us on but doesn't have the gear - I've got it and you can borrow it.
98% of this gear was bought on ebay at knock down prices, the majority of it for £56 that was for one set of set of stumps, all the gloves, all the pads, 5 of the bats (including the Stac, Slazenger and Fernley bats that were all around £100 each when new). The slazenger stumps were bought seperately on ebay for £25 and the balls were mostly new but again bought on ebay from India for about £2.50 per ball. If you're starting out Ebay is the way to go especially around this time of year because there's so many people looking at all the gear they bought over the season who probably played once or twice and then got a ball in the nuts or a broken rib or were just completely crap at playing and now they're looking at it and thinking it's taking up too much room and that they're not going to use it ever again. So they'll bung it on Ebay and you'll get yourself a bargain.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Practice update

Had a bit of a bowl on Sunday night just before dusk. I've got to say it was cold and damp, but I managed to throw a few overs and it went okay. I didn't record what happened but it was pretty tight especially with regards wides. In the week every now and then I've been getting outside and throwing just outside my house and landing the ball in at the right length and width, so it looks like it's coming together nicely.

Ebay cricket gear

September just gone I bid for and won a load of cricket stuff - bats, shoes, pads, gloves and all sorts. The lot cost me just £28 but was a collect yourself job from Loughborough near Derby. I had no intentions of going to Derby but there was a chance that either my brother, sister, mother or father - in law would be going to or from our place here in Essex or Derby. So emailed the bloke and asked 'You okay to hang on to it till someone comes by your place and collects it'? and he was okay about it.

This weekend my Bro - in law had been down for the weekend and I asked him to pick it up on his way through to Derby and he said yes. He set off and an hour or so later I rang the bloke and got no answer on his mobile phone line. I'm then thinking of worse case scenario - the bloked done a runner with my gear and when Ian gets there - the house is going to be empty. Anyway Ian gets there - I'd rang him in the meantime saying the house might be empty, but it turns out for the good. The bloke was there and handed the gear over. I've just rang Ian and said thanks for collecting and Ian's just said the blokes thrown in a load of other gear. It sounds like there's another 2 bats (making 4 one of which he'd bought last season for £180) and another pair of cricket shoes. I can't wait to see what's there and how much of a bargain I've got!

The good thing is - this makes it more possible to get a game together with the blokes over at Glouscester Park if they play next summer, I've just got to somehow get that organised. When I get the gear I'll photograph it and stick it on here - ebay and cricket gear it's the way to go. So many people start the game with no concept of how much commitment it takes to be in a team and that means that their gear ends up on ebay!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Looks like I'm on to something here?

Trawling around the websites looking for bowling patterns for Shane Warne I came across a few on the Aussie website if you click on the link below there's a couple that are useful in that it shows how tight and consistent he bowls sometimes. I think if I percevere and get my bowling somewhere near half as good as this I'll be onto a winner.

Looking around I also came across a website that was selling equipment to schools and found these images of training mats ( and as you can see they employ the principle I've just discovered for myself - the image of the kid facing the ball having the orangey/red band down the centre doing almost exactly as my piece of wood does - but I'd argue in a less demanding way? My piece of wood is only 4' long but a similar width thus demanding even more accuracy?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More practice ideas - Leg Spin Bowling

Another unusually warm day - must have been around 19 degrees centigrade again - blue sky and sunny - very commendable. So another practice session was on the cards. As with yesterday I thought I'd warm up first (off the pitch as such) just outside my house. I went into the garage and got the stumps and as I stood there in the garage I noticed a piece of hardboard about 4' long and 3' wide. Looking at it I thought if I was to cut the board into a strip 4' long and 1' wide I could use it as the target onto which I must pitch the ball. So if I placed this in line with my stumps Diagram A this would serve as good practice for my line and length. So I set it up and gave it a go.

The idea is the piece of board is positioned 17 yards from where I bowl from and if I can pitch the ball onto the board it's the equivalent of pitching the ball 4-5 yards short of the stumps e.g. a length that is drawing the batsman out of his crease.

If I can practice this and land the ball consistently on the board it's also an accurate line that if left would go on to hit the stumps or the pads (LBW). Normally the stumps are another 4 yards beyond where the board is, but it's just nice to have the stumps there and see the ball hitting the stumps when you get it right! I gave this a go and did quite well - pitching the ball on the plank quite frequently and knocking down the stumps which is very satifying.

There's a couple of other pictures here that show you where I practice. Diagram B Is directly outside my house and the stumps when they're here are suspended from a screw in the wall so that they don't fall down but make a satisfying clatter when you hit them. If you look closely the board is just in front of the stumps and it's the same thing - I bowl the ball 17 yards pitching onto the plank (I actually have to bowl over the wall to left next to the B because the path curves round a corner just behind where the picture's been taken). This practice area is good because if I bowl wide to leg the ball flies off down the pathway which is most annoying, so it kind of forces you to get it right.

Looking in the other direction is the other area I practice diagram C. So as you can see I'm resourceful and completely obsessed with being good at this and just practicing just about anywhere where there's a bit of open space that's 25 yards or so long!
I don't know what the neighbours think, but it helps that I've got two boys who are 6 and 9 and they get out there with me every now and then and practice, but the majority of the time it's just me - they probably think I need psychiatric help!
Anyway back to today. After throwing a few balls in the places you can see here I then had some lunch and then went over to the local football pitch (The one that I rolled and mowed all winter and spring) and set up my stumps, but this time took the plank and placed in the 4-5 yrd zone in front of the stumps. I then bowled 120 balls, all top spinners and wrong Uns trying to pitch the ball onto the plank e.g. in line with the stumps and at that awkward length. I did so with relative success again. Of the 120 balls 30% landed on the plank and went onto hit the stumps. 23% were wides and 40% were balls that only just missed the plank.
Because of the plank the success of my bowling is now being measured in a different way. In future I'll be using the plank and the catergories to be recorded will be
1. Good Balls; This will be any ball that hits the plank irrespective of whether it goes on to hit the stumps or not.
2. Wides; This will be any ball that lands more than a foot wide of the plank
3. Indifferent; These will be balls that don't hit the plank and are slightly wide, long or short.
Ideally all the balls will fall into the Good Balls catergory as these will be the ones that are pitched that line and length that will cause the batsman concern. I'm looking primarily to increase the good balls and decrease the wides. Todays practice saw another improvement on yesterday.
Wides Sat - 23%; Today 21%
Wickets Sat - 14 Today 17
Indifferent Sat - 47% Today 40%
So that all looks very promising. What I will do if I get better is make the plank narrower. Currently it's 12" wides so there's a 1.5" extra either side of the stumps (9") but if this all works out well I'll rreduce the plank to 9" wide. Hopefully by the summer I'll be able to consistently pitch the ball onto the plank 66% of the time?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's still summer!

19 degrees centigrade on Oct 13th! I almost had my shirt off it was that warm! So it was hazy sunshine and dry so that means bowling practice. Venue - just across the road to where I live and a football pitch. My youngest son Joe came with me and he set up a wicket as well and he bowled at his stumps and I bowled at mine.

Today I'd practiced outside my house beforehand for a few overs and then left some time in between the warm up and the actual practice on the field in order to replicate cricket game conditions where you get the chance to warm up before the game and then don't actually bowl for some time.

It seems to have worked. In the first over I hit the stumps twice and one of the balls went over the top of the stumps only just. The other balls included two possible wides.

I bowled 17 overs (102 balls) with 50% good balls e.g. perfect line and length of which 17 balls hit the stumps. There were 21% wides and 29% balls that were indifferent e.g. just wide of the stumps. It's the wides and the indifferent balls I'm working on reducing the number of. I wont really know how the indifferent balls get played till next spring when we play again or before that if the club gets in the nets leading up to the new season. I'm thinking if I can increase the number of good balls - those that pitch right in front of the stumps at an awkward length and then sometimes turn, it may work out that those that are only just slightly wide may still cause problems because the batsman will not know whether they are going to turn or not?

Overall looking back at the previous blog today was a result as it marks another slight improvement. I thought that it may have been an indifferent session or one that took as step backwards but....

Last week - 47% good balls. Today 50%
Last week - 14 Wickets Today 17
Last week - 25% Wides Today 21%

So I'm quite pleased with that. I'll probably practice again tomorrow and see what the results are then? General observations were that when I try and bowl e.g. put some kind of extra effort into it e.g. faster or determination to hit the stumps it seems to go wrong. The more relaxed I am about it the greater the chance of it coming together and being the correct line and length. Today I was talking to a bloke that used to play cricket and he was saying the same thing - the harder you try and do it right the more inclined you are to do something wrong, then once it does start to go wrong the more tense you become and a spiral into disaster becomes unavoidable it seems?

All the data for today was for Top spinners. My top spinners have a tendency or are easily turned into Wrong Uns.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Merger News

I spoke to Gavin today - (Captain of the Sports Science Team) and he said that his blokes would be up for a merge between us (MPA) and his crew and we'd affectively become the basis of what's looking more like a South East Essex College team.

I did post a list of potential team members a couple weeks back - but to go over it again -

Gavin (SS)
Riley (SS)
Paul (SS)
Ronnie (SS)
Dean (SS)
Conan The Kiwi
Simon Grainge
Dave Thompson
Richard Sainsbury
Nakul Handa
Alex II

Needless to say they'd be able to call upon other people to play - including their students. I mentioned their reluctance to play on Sundays and it pans out that the reason had something to do with playing football. So if we did manage to get some matches together for 50 overs on a Sunday with Grays & Chadwell CC they would probably happen out of the football season - so basically during June or the first week of July? Other than that Gavin said that other colleges are well up for playing against us including SEEVIC. So there looks like there may be some potential for some games in the summer?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Another practice session

Another practice session just bowling 12 balls back and forth at stumps. Bowled the equivalent of 14 overs. I've already discovered that I need to throw about four overs beforehand just to get a rythmn going and then go into the proper pratcice session. This is problematic as I tend to turn up at matches and and get straight into the game and then have to then wait well over an hour before I get a chance to bowl. That begs the question - even if I practiced before the match, would I still be in the groove as such an hour later or would I have to bowl four rubbish overs before I got my rythmn back?

Anyway - I still can't resolve the wides issue - I'm still bowling 25% wide balls. On the plus side 47% good balls e.g. down the center landing 4-5 yards in front of the stumps of which 14 hit the stumps and nine just missed the bails and went over the top of them, the other all spun off to leg (Wrong Uns). All the other balls were slightly wide of the stumps and wouldn't have been a threat and may have been easily hit?

The main issue is reducing the wides, I'm assuming this will only come with more practice. But I'm pleased with my line and length - I've just got to reduce the wides. Having said that there's a slight improvement between today and yesterday and today I may have even been more self critical?

Have a look for more leg spin stuff and comments from Leg spinners and other cricketers from all over the world. Subscribe and get on the forum.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nice and sunny Oct afternoon and one of the last chances I reckon of a warm day, so I had the stumps and 12 balls out and bowled the equivalent of 18 overs. Because of my thumb I kept to trying to bowl straight using Over-spinners erring towards Wrong-Uns. Again I was quite pleased with the outcome - hitting the stumps with 18.5% of the balls and 29% bowled on a good line and length with 6 of the balls only just skimming the top of the bales by millimetres. But despite the good bowling there was still 28% wides - although I may have been really self critical and some of the wides may have not been given in a match situation?

18.5% Hit the stumps
29% A good line and length with six balls just skimming over the top of the stumps
28% Wides

The rest were all acceptable balls that would have only just gone wide of the stumps. Again it does look like this new strategy of aiming at the stumps may be the solution for next year. What I have got to work on is the wides as 28% is very high still. I need to get it down to 15% at least. I may have another session tomorrow and see what happens.

Finally have a look at this Terry Jenner interview in conjunction with my recent realisations...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Plans for the winter

Thursday, 4 October 2007

There's no hope of getting in the nets this year - not as early as we did last year and besides the majority of what was the MPA first eleven have disappeared. As previously mentioned I'm going to try and merge with the Sports Dept and form what will be a South East Essex College team with some mates involved as well. I've just got to run it past Gavin at SEEC and see what he says. The only thing is they for some reason are really adverse to playing Sunday matches and only seem to want to play 20/20 matches mid week? So to be honest the merge may not be the best idea as I'm aiming to play some 40 over matches on Sundays.So at this point I'm faced with the dilemma of who to get in the team?In the short term the other thing I'm doing is learning how to umpire and score. This turns out to be quite complex and subject to opinions and different approaches taken to different levels by different clubs.This all may be a bit of a pipe dream e.g. getting another team together, but I'll give it a go.