Just to recap; I'd never played cricket till August 2006, my only prior experience was probably bowling a tennis ball up against a wall with stumps drawn on it and even that's a lost memory. With regards watching cricket and having some idea of the rules - again a similar experience. When I came to the game two years ago my understanding of the rules was very limited.
So having mucked about with the game and forming my own team at work with a bunch of similarly clueless blokes on the whole for 11 months and having played 2 games where we'd been thrashed I joined Grays and Chadwell Cricket Club with a view to playing the game properly. I joined in July 2007 and played in a handful of games which was great but traumatic. Winter 2007-2008 saw me practicing continuously in order to try and make some kind of valuable contribution to the team and here we are at the end of the 2008 season and it's time to reflect.
At the end of last season I'd watched in awe at the likes of Ross Fulbrook and Neil our captain bowling seemingly flawless overs getting maidens and taking wickets. I was amazed at the bowling of an old bloke older than me in one of our last games against us, he'd bowled 12 overs and had got 5 maidens or something in that region totally dominating our batsmen and all he appeared to have done was bowled straight balls 95% of the time on a line and length. So I'd started the closed season with the intention of learning how to do that - bowl line and length and also look at the possibility of re-learning the Leg Break as I'd lost it over the summer of 2007. By around the end of October I'd given up on the Leg Break it was lost. Even my Top Spinner was more like a Googly than most peoples googly's. My Leg Break more often than not ended up looking more like a Big Googly than a small googly and despite the cries of You must be able to bowl the stock ball Leg Break to be a wrist spinner on many a forum page on the internet I threw the towl in and gave up concentrating on Bowling Top Spinners and Googly's.
By the end of the winter I was happy. In the games I'd had with G&CCC through July, Aug and Sept 2007 it was pretty usual to have bowled 3 maybe for 4 wide balls per over. Once I'd bowled one I'd then go to pieces, the panic would set in with the sense that I'd let everyone down and my bowling would fall apart and if I then got through the over not bowling another wide after the initial one that would be abnormal and accidental. Once my confidence was shot I just went to pieces. This season having spent the whole winter spot bowling I went into the new season with a new sense of confidence and in my first game against Loughborough in the pouring rain not only did I catch a ball that was a foregone conlclusion drop but I took a wicket whilst Neil our captian dropped 3 easy balls and failed to take a wicket?
The season then carried on pretty much the same - a massive improvement on the first season and all this with only 2 sessions in the nets as our net sessions fell on the same night I have to work late which i was devastated about. Looking back I think one of the key points is the wides issue. Simply not bowling shed loads of wides has made so much of a difference. Last year when I used to get the nod to bowl a spell I'd have been s******g myself leading up to it primarily because of the wides. This year I've been able to enjoy my bowling a lot more and have been nowhere near as apprehensive as I was last year.
So last year I was aware that the wides was the main issue and over the winter I was able to address this. There were other things that were mentioned but I simply didn't understand why they were and what people like Fozzy and Neil were driving at. Through the 2008 season I've now grasped concepts like the neccessity to bowl at the off-stump. Last season thinking I was Shane Warne I was bowling down the leg side trying to get the ball to turn into the stumps. Needless to say that approach tied in with the wides didn't work too well! I've also realised that bowling Googly's all the time is fairly flawed, I know this from playing with my sons, they know exactly what to do with them - they just step back and play the ball off the back foot knowing it's going to turn into their bodies.
The other realisation that I've come to terms with is that where I practice
- On concrete with Hockey Balls
- On football pitches with long grass
I get a lot more turn than I do on a cricket pitch. This means that it's even more important to bowl a good line and length at the off stump. Not one of the wickets that I've taken this year has resembled the kind of turn I get during practice, so it's pointless bowling wide of off with the intention that the ball will turn massively - it's been far more affective to bowl at the off-stump as this then causes the batsman to play a lot more defensively and the net result is that the run rate is massively reduced. Then on the odd ocassion when the ball has snuck through the turn off the pitch has meant that it has turned in and hit middle and leg ocassionally and that in itself is satisfying.
I've also become aware of the fielding in relation to my bowling - my Captain sets my field and because I now bowl down the offside he has players on the off-side ready to take any balls, but the reality of this is that unless he or some of the more experienced players are there, the likelyhood of anyone catching a ball on the off-side is pretty slim. So I've realised that bowling a ball slightly wider trying to entice the bat to play a square cut or a front foot drive into that area off a safe looking ball that's not threatening the stumps is usually pretty fruitless. So the last few games the intention has been straight balls down the wicket at the off-stump and it's been working. Again these revelations have come about not through people explaining the theory but me just analysing and reflecting on the games.
One of the last realisations is that it's useful to look at your bowling figures. Again this is obvious but it's not been that much of a concern to me because I just want to bowl straight and on a length and to start looking at my stats so early would have been demoralising. But I reckon next season I may feel confident enough to look at them and to be honest I wouldn't have known where to look and what I was looking at! But my second from last game I bowled 10 overs, took two wickets, 1 maiden and went for 45 runs which is my best performance ever and I knew it was as I was going through the spell. So next season I'll be tracking that closely looking at things such as economy and strike rates (Is that right)? I'll also be looking at my figures in comparison with my contemporaries - The Wizard and Ross Fullbrook. I'm not even going to imagine I'll get anywhere near Neil.
Well - towards the end of the season I started to get my head round the idea of supporting the other bloke at the other end e.g. make sure he gets on strike. But I still need to be able to hit the ball and not feel so intimidated by the whole thing. I'm just hoping that I get some net practice this year? The upside though is that although I didn't beat my all time highest score of 9 with the MPA team I have hit 2 or 3 fours this season.
The Leg Break
Bowling Googly's all season it's obvious that I need to bowl the Leg Break, but there has been a break-through in that I bought and read Peter Philpotts book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling in amongst the chapters he writes about something I call The Googly Syndrome which I'd come across before. It's the process of losing the ability to bowl the Leg Break simply because you bowl too many Googly's and it's what has happened to me. But since reading the book and understanding what has happened I've comitted myself to re-learning the leg break as of Sept 30th. But this weekend not getting a game I've already started and have made a massive turn round in bowling the Leg Break see http://thegooglysyndrome.blogspot.com/ so it looks like I may be onto something that will lead to a better season next year?
Goals for 2009
- Be able to bowl the Leg Break - good line and length
- Be able to bowl my Gipper on a good line and length
- Increase my speed with my bowling
- Get better bowling figures than The Wizard and Ross Fullbrook
- Maybe look at bowling the Doosra if the others come together
- Attend the nets sessions and get better at batting
- Score more than 9 in match next season
- Keep fit
- Try and get my kids playing for G&CCC colts
- Try and play more games next season
- Get all the local kids playing cricket right from the start of the season
- Learn as much as possible about the game
- Try and see at least one of the Ashes matches live
I don't know how well Ross Fullbrook did this season, but I know his attitude is erratic so I'm not sure whether that goal is realistic or not? I may have to back track on that if his economy is ridiculously good.
So all in all I reckon that I've done okay. I think I may have been less positive about this if it wasn't for 'Super Dave Gaylor' as I'd said to him in a match something about how good Ross Fulbrook was bowling and he said something along the lines of 'Yeah but you've only been playing for 18 months whereas he's been playing and getting coached for the last 4 years'. So maybe I'm doing alright for an Old Dog?
The Leg Break