Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review of 2008

Again I reckon another year of overall improvement across my game thanks to the boys at Grays & Chadwell cc, especially Neil my captain as he's the bloke that allows me to bowl, but he's probably thinking we haven't got anyone else that could bowl! More than anything I've got an increasing knowledge of the game overall and have picked up on some of the fundamentals that are not obvious to the layman who's never played the game before. I think that the constant practice that I do and the constant search for the right strategies are all putting me in an ever improving situation with regards what I do. Confidence too is essential and I've become a lot more confident and also a lot more laid back about making mistakes. Last year to have made a mistake - wides especially used to then have a snow-balling affect whereby if I bowled a wide I'd then become gripped with a sense that I was losing the match and letting the side down imagining that the rest of the team where feeling as equally mortified as I was when I got it wrong. Patently they don't - they've been playing the game for decades in some cases and these things are water off a ducks back. So now if I bowl wides I'm no longer gripped with a sense that I've just let down England to the point where we're going to lose the Ashes anymore!

Last winters practice proved to be instrumental in gaining major confidence just by improving my ability to bowl a fair line and length. The potential to improve if I was younger seems very exciting, it'd be nice to be where I am now - having played for 2 and half years and to be a kid! Unfortunately I'm not - I'm not far short of being 50 and yet I still feel excited about the prospects of another year of improving further still. Saying that I've got to be guarded about over-doing it otherwise I may end up bowling myself out of the game before I'm ready to call it a day.

My progress batting

There hasn't been any at all really and coming in at number 9 or 10 means that it's rare that I get a chance to do so. Last summer there was a crowd of us that used to have an almost nightly knock about over at the Great Berry Open Space until the local ICF representative done his bit and put an end to that through intimidation. Up till that happened I used to get some practice with the bat, but this year I've had hardly any. I'm hoping that with the new interest from the likes of the original MPA boys and confirmation that we can use the nets at Woodlands and the possibility of net sessions with G&CCC & at Ben and Joes sessions with B&PCC I'll get some practice?

I've had one practice with the MPA boys and that did seem to go very well and that was after a practice session up against a wall applying some of the very basic principles employed in basic batting. I always listen to what Ben and Joe's coaches teach them and aim to incorporate what they say into my own game. So I'm hoping to beat my current high run score of 11!

My progress bowling

This as mentioned has improved massively with a return at the end of the summer with my confidence to bowl flippers. By the end of the season I was mixing Flippers with my wrong uns and top spinners.

Wrong un's This was my main form of attack as even my Top-spinner tended to turn towards the leg slip. I'm still baffled as to why some wickets I can't get the ball to turn on at all and others I can. The ground I prefer to play on where I can get the ball to turn was the one over at Billericay - Lake Meadows, but our own wicket it always seemed as though no matter what I was doing I may as well have been bowling into sawdust. But my Wrong Un is pretty accurate and 90% of the time I'll get it down the offside threatening to do something or close enough to the off-stump to cause concern. With each game I played this season I saw that there was potential bowling it - but much of what I do relies on the fielders on the off-side to make the catches and I've had some dollies missed or dropped, but then I've dropped and missed one or two myself.

The Flipper; I love the Flipper, but at the beginning of the year I couldn't use it, I'd focussed so much on the Top Spinner and the wrong un that I lost the confidence to use it and it wasn't until I went and holiday and played cricket every night for 2 weeks with a bunch of kids and their Dads that regained the confidence to consider using it again. In the last few matches of the season I used it a couple of times - still slightly wary initially but by the end of the season it was back on track. At the moment I'm bowling it quite a lot and it's very much back on form and what I like about it is the speed variations I get with it and one of the blokes at G&CCC said when I was having a knockabout with him towards the end of the summer that it also drifted considerably. I always feel that because it's got that underspin its trajectory is too predictable when bowled fast. Bowled slower I reckon it can be a deceiving ball because if bowled alongside top spinners directly at the middle stump it will virtually die as it hits the deck and possibly deceive the bat?

Top Spinner; I've kind of lost the Top Spinner at the minute, as no matter what I do the ball turns in like a wrong un. I'd imagine it wont take a lot of work to sort it out, but the thing I'm concentrating on is my Nemesis The Leg Break and until that's sorted out all the other variations that I'm playing around with will have to be on stand by, but here they are.......

The Gipper; This is the weird one where my arms all twisted and my wrist is cocked at a stupid angle. It works though and I'm getting better at it, this is a slower delivery that can produce enormous spin off towards Slips like a Shane Warne Leg Break.

Murali Offie; This is new, I'm fairly certain that I tried this early last year with a degree of success e.g. loads of spin but but not a lot of accuracy and it stressed my arm. But I've got renewed interest in it as I now understand it slightly better and I think there's potential for adding the Flipper Click to the delivery to make the ball spin the other way like Murali's Doosra. Then of course there's the conventional Doosra. If I get time to work on this delivery according to Murali himself the difference in getting the ball to go the other way is only a matter of changing the arm action so that it follows through slightly differently. But this is the least likely to be followed up. The one that keeps me awake at night, that I will be working on soon is the bog standard

Leg Break; Back in September I all but stopped bowling Wrong Un's and top spinners convinced that my brain and body are now so pre-programed to do nothing but bowl out of the back of the hand, that the only way I could re-discover the Leg Break was to re-wire my brain again. I spent all of October and November trying to bowl leg breaks and if you'd been following my other blog (And this one) you'll know that I did have some success. The whole thing though still felt wholly unatural and only came about through real deep concentration and full 100% focus on what I was trying to achieve. The good news is that apart from bowling the wrong un for a series of video uploads on youtube - I've still kept from bowling it.

Very recently in on-line discussions with other bowlers, I've been give one or two very interesting suggestions as to what I maybe doing wrong and both the suggestions make total sense and they're something I've over-looked previously. Again in that Oct - Nov period I also incorporated a proper follow through in my action and I'm fairly convinced that brought better accuracy and power, so I'm still working on the leg break and leading right up to the new season in 2009 I will continue to work on it so that it becomes my stock ball. Loads of people in the past have all said you've got to be able to bowl the Leg break and then all your variations become more affective.

So, overall with the bowling - a vast improvement on my 2007 abilities.

Ben & Joe

This is the year that despite my wifes best attempts the penny dropped with my sons. Early in the year I'd bought Ben some pads and both he and Joe would reluctantly join me on the local field and have the ocassional knock about but quickly become bored. Then I cut the wicket in the middle of our local field and rolled it as we used to (With the blessing of the council) at Great Berry Open Space and some of the kids off the local estate started to join in. But because Ben & Joe have been playing off and on for a couple of years now they were so obviously far better than all the other kids (bowling in particular). This caused a slight increase in their enthusiasm, but it was the annual trip to Deepest Cornwall that sealed the deal. At the campsite where we stay I always take the stumps and practice bowling and again encourage Ben and Joe to have a go and in summer 2007 there'd been a few kids that had joined in and we had some good games. But in 2008 the same crew were there again but along with a kid and his Dad from Nottinghamshire who were cricket obsessives and man this kid could bowl and play exceptionally well even though he was a year or so younger than Ben. In the crowd of 10 -12 of us that were getting out on to the field and playing every night there were 2 that claimed that they were county level colt players including the kid from Notts. Both Ben and Joe bowled exceptionally well against these very competent kids and this is the holiday where Joe took his 9 wickets one night conceding less than 40 runs - might have been 30 runs with his Leg Breaks and Googlies!

Coming back from 2 weeks of what was cricket boot camp they then ripped through the local boys at the local field and took to cricket in a wholly different way. We even made the now ill fated trip to Grays and Chadwell that ended up putting them off of joining my team. Then this November they started to train with Basildon and Pitsea CC and so far they're enjoying it and seemingly doing really well there. So it looks like they maybe cricketers for life? I'm still treading cautiously otherwise I could easily burn them out with over-kill.

Practice wicket

Where we live and integral to our practice is a field almost a stones throw away from our house. The rumour is the lease of the field and it's sheds expires in 2 years time and the club that currently lease it and use the sheds primarily for boxing will move on and the field will then be up for development which will be a shame. The field is used very infrequently for football during the season and so far this season it's been used for 4 or 5 games/practice sessions. For the last 2 summers I've cut a strip of grass in the corner using a manual lawn mower and maintained it so that I can practice bowling there. The boxers come and go, sometimes they run round the field as part of their training and no-one had ever said anything to me about my grass cutting escapades. This year with the increased enthusiasm expected from Joe and Ben I cut a wicket in the centre of the field as we used to at Great Berry Open Space and again no-one has said anything. We stopped cutting it in Sept and it's returned to it's normal football use and apart from the fact that I top dressed it in October the only difference appears to be that the grass is marginally healthier where the wicket is/was. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the club continues to maintain the field e.g. cutting it once every 3 or 4 weeks this coming summer and not let it go to hay as they did in 2007 over the middle of summer. But it was a good thing to have right on your door and some of the kids that joined in had some fun along with us during the evenings rather than wandering round the streets causing aggro or climbing on the roofs of the boxing club sheds.

To be continued............

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joe - Throwing and Catching

Today was a fairly good cricket day. I've been outside bowling a la Murali - rotating my arm and wrist in the way that he does with some degree of success which has been fun. Ben videoed it for me but his camera technique is a bit ropey. But I have sussed that if I use the camera on a medium setting the results are probably of a size that'd be okay for youtube. I kind of fancy the idea of getting outside somewhere tomorrow with a tripod and shoot some footage of me bowling. The only thing is this is a 400 quid camera and I've smacked it with the stumps 2 times already today filming my bowling. If I'm going to go and bowl some really wayward 'Murali balls' I need to be able to protect the camera and as yet I've not figured out how to do this yet. Anyway that aside other things happened today -

Joe and me went out in the street and Joe off his own back spent 20 minutes bowling at the stumps and did okay. He still needs to work on the step through part of his action. Sometimes this comes naturally but more often than not he bowls and stops. Later in the day he was up for some catching practice and that went quite well, but the highlight of the day was in the evening.

Ben had his Karate session at the community centre and again I hired a bay for Joe and me and we had a bit of a knock about and did some of the drills he does at his training sessions and then at his suggestion he said 'Shall we do some catching practice'? So we spent a good 20 minutes or more catching and man did he come on leaps and bounds with it! Just over today the difference in his ability to catch has been massive. Whether now he'll stay at that level or not I don't know, but I reckon with more practice he'll know doubt get a lot more confident and with catching it is a case of having the confidence and believing that you are going to catch. Also his throwing improved as well, he was getting the ball back to me over a fair distance and generally very accurately and efficiently. I reckon he's got a real willing to learn in some situations and it's rare that he does this with me, but today he kind of did it on his own terms with me - dictating what it was that he wanted to do and it has been a good day.

One thing I do need to watch is how Joe interacts with other kids - in the past he's experienced other kids that give the impression that they are experts at what they do and they're very forward in coming forward to take key roles - primarily for their own purposes so that they have the first opportunity to take the glory and big themselves up. Team playing is not necessarily their forte it's more about themselves. I've seen this in the past in an instance where one kid that Joe played alongside fancied himself as a wicket keeper. Now - our understanding of wicket keeping in a situation where a ball is fielded is that - when the fielder returns the ball he aims at the stumps and the keeper positions himself up behind the stumps in the event of a miss, he gloves it and takes the bails off? This kid wanting the glory saw the ball coming in and got between the ball and the stumps, so that he could glove it - turn and take the bails thus claiming the wicket. Joe's ball wasn't intended for the wicket keeper so it came in low - needless to say the wicket keeper missed it and fumbled the ball and it never reached the stumps and the bat got home. Joe would have been a bit miffed at that but would have just been frustrated and left it at that, but not this wicket keeper - he then turned on Joe abusing him because he hadn't thrown the ball to his gloves.

Being my son I know that he has a similar temperament to me and this is exactly the kind of reaction I used to get off of kids when I was Joe's age when I used to play football in the playground with all the 'Super Human Crew' type kids that all thought they were George Best and were only interested in hogging the ball and scoring all the goals. On the odd occasion that I managed to wrangle the ball and would get up the oppositions end I could hear all the super human crew including one particular kid shouting 'Shoot you w******r Thompson - shoot'! Needless to say I'd shoot and unlike them it'd go wide or the straight at the goalie and I'd be subjected to verbal abuse fitting for missing an open goal from 10' in the world cup. Needless to say I kind of gave up on football not realising at that age with my stamina and understanding of the concept of the midfield game I could have been a half decent midfield player perhaps?

So what I don't want is for Joe (Ben as well) to be put off by kids that are quick to promote themselves as being far superior players who at this stage react to mistakes with a vehemence and disdain that really should be discouraged. Neither of them can bat and like me wouldn't be fussed at batting at No. 10 so it doesn't matter that they bat right down the order and all the other kids fancy themselves as budding Kevin Pieterson's - they're right in fighting for their places. But as I've alluded before Both Joe and Ben can bowl. They generally bowl good line and length and their technique considering they're new is fairly sound. There are other kids in their team that can bowl as you may have read in the earlier blog entry and I was really impressed with the two that bowled well this week at woodlands, but the rest of them have got some ground to make up before they can bowl like Joe and Ben. But when they play games they all rotate and everyone gets a go, but they all clamour to bowl yet very few of them can actually do it and Ben and Joe sit back and let all the others go first as though they're the worst of the bunch! Basically they're exactly the same as their Mum and me - we were exactly the same as kids. We try and encourage them to step forwards and put their hands up and to be honest they do in so many more situations than both my wife and me did as kids which is good. But bowling is one of the situations where I think they should be able to recognise that they are good at it and that in fact they should bowl 3rd and 4th!

On a more encouraging note though when they do step up to the stumps, some of the better kids that can play e.g. bat and field, I've heard them say things like 'get ready cos this kid can bowl'. I've just got to watch out that in case their are some nasty self obsessed types in the team that could easily put either or both of them off playing the game.

More Murali...

I've found some more video footage of Murali with the bloke himself explaining what he does and the more I look into it the more it become unfathomable and totally unique to him, but......

It seems with regards the offspin and the legspin that he doesn't do anything with his fingers at all and that it's more to do with his shoulder and the rotation of his arm. But the main difference to virtually everyone else is the fact that he rotates his arm and wrist in the opposite direction. If you try this - it is possible but feels very unnatural. I've been doing it today and video-ing it and there's a fair likeness between what I'm doing and what he does. I'm now thinking if I could master this rotation of the arm could I possibly discover the nuances of the delivery to make it turn both ways? Or even better click the ball out of my fingers using the flipper technique?

I think I maybe going to a sports hall tonight with Joe and if we do we'll take the camera and might have a go at this and see if I can bowl with the rotated wrist and arm in the Murali manner and see what happens?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Flipper derivitives and Murali

If you're looking for my Legspin Blogs....

I've been posting elsewhere trying to get to grips with what it is that Murali does when he bowls and some of the responses have been a bit lame and laced with undertones of xenophobia. But a new bloke today in his first ever post gave an explanation that was pretty neat and put me straight with regards the Murali bowling action. But the reason I was asking about it and making loads of claims about what it might and might not be was just to get to the bottom of it and understand it more.

If you look at this clip you can see what happens and yeah they were right it's not a wrong un and I was completely wrong. If you watch this the main difference is the fact that his wrist rotates clockwise in order that the ball comes out of his up-turned hand. Whereas the wrong un you turn your hand anti-clockwise to get the ball to come out of the back of the hand.

Having sat watching the video clip, I then had doubts as to whether I'd ever tried Murali's off-break style so at 11 oclock at night I went outside and tried it and yeah this is something I tried back in the early spring over on the artificial wicket at Gloucester Park with some success.

But here comes the really interesting bit - no-one anywhere goes on to explain what he does to get the ball to spin like a Leg break, all they say is that the delivery looks the same but the ball goes the other way. So this is where I've been looking at the potential of using the flipper action in conjunction with balls that come out of the up-turned hand. One being my ball 'The Gipper' which is the wrist rotating anti-clockwise a la the wrong un and then clicking it out of the fingers which can produce massive leg spin.

Since I started to look at what it is that Murali does and the fact that a bloke in the offspin thread on - 'Mr Offspin' said that my Gipper sounded like Murali's Doosra I've been looking closer at the potential of the Flipper.....

If you can do the flipper action and spin the ball with your fingers by clicking them (See the Warne and Jenner videos on youtube) try this.........

Hold a ball in you hand flipper style with your palm facing the ceiling. Flick it flipper style and just let it drop to the floor. The ball rotates spinning clockwise as it drops to the floor and then spins away to the right.

Now do this; Do exactly the same thing but instead of just letting the ball drop to the ground just gently flick you hand forward from the wrist. To my mind the ball spins in exactly the same way and comes out of the hand spinning clockwise - but then observe what happens when it hits the ground this time. All my experiments show that it then spins away towards the left like a leg break.

The spin seems to be the same but this is obviously impossible and I had to look at it again more closely and what it comes down to is the very exact timing of when you click the fingers. If you click the fingers when the wrist is still in the cocked position Leg Spin is put on the ball, but if the click happens as the hand is unfurled and in a almost straightened position off-spin is put on the ball.

Neither actions are easy and my initial experiments seem to show loads of promise, but the thing is I'm an old bloke and I'm probably limited in my physical ability to do these things to some useful point and I haven't got time on my side to develop these weird varitations. But I think the most interesting thing is the Flipper. To me it seems that in the same way that Peter Philpott (The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling) writes about going round the clock with wrist spin you can do virtually the same thing with the Flipper giving you a whole load of new variations?

One last observation - the clip shows the off-spinner and there's nothing going on with the fingers. What I want to see is a slow motion clip from the same angle for the Doosra.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dec 21st - Winter Equinox

Last Training sessions at Woodlands

Today was a fun day with the kids at Woodlands with the Basildon & Pitsea CC kids. Big turn out again with 17 turning up and playing. The initial warm up was bouncing the ball off the walls (the trainer) and the kids had to catch it. Ben and Joe are not big on catching the ball and it's something they need to work on. I think probably like most people new to cricket they only see the batting and bowling as being key components of the game and all the other aspects as being peripheral elements. You watch them and they easily lose concentration and begin to drift away - the hands disppear into their pockets and their thoughts turn to Lego or chocolate, or anything other than the game!

As much as I can I try and get them catching the ball and there's always balls in the house in virtually every room much to my wifes dismay and frustration, as fast as she can tidy them up and put them in the garage I'm bringing them back into the house! So anyway that's something we can work on. The question primarily remains how do you get across to kids that fielding in itself should be treated as a specialism and that if you're seen to be good at it alongside one of the key specialisms you're going to retain your place in the team and therefore you need to be a committed fielder? Again it strikes me that you can't bang on about it too much otherwise you'll turn them against it and it needs to be learned in a slow empirical manner and definitely helped if it's reinforced by someone other than me!

Anyway from there they went on to work on fielding positions. Again being new to the game I'm not that brilliant at this myself and it was comforting to see that the trainers were referring to a guide sheet that they'd downloaded off the internet themselves. They also between them were disputing the position of Mid wicket - the reference sheet they were using had Mid Wicket almost at a position diagonally opposite to point which I personally thought was a bit extreme and too far out and too parallel to the stumps at the bowlers end? One of the blokes was pointing out that if it was mid wicket shouldn't the position be between the stumps approximately half way and I was agreeing with this assumption. I've just had a look at Simon Hughes book Jargon Busting - Mastering the art of cricket ISBN 978-0-7522-6508-7 and the position I've just described is short mid wicket and mid wicket is in fact in the position they'd placed it and then stretching further back behind the stumps diagonally (bowlers end) heading out towards deep mid wicket going beyond the power play circle!

Joe was given an easy one 'Bowler' which was good as he got it right. In the car going to the session I'd asked them if they knew any of the positions and they knew slip, wicket keeper and Ben knew Fine Leg primarily because of the Willow and Stumpy video on youtube and it turned out that Ben was asked Fine Leg. He had to think about it figuring whether it was Legside or Offside and through deduction he came up with the answer, so I was quite proud of him for that.

The rest of the session they played a couple of games and they put me in charge of one of the teams! Needless to say we lost! I noticed that one or two of the regulars can actually bowl quite well today, one kid called Killer who's a fast bowler bowls reasonably accurately and a good length and one of the two brothers that I think maybe Neil the coaches sons? Later in the second match he had an amazing over in which he took 5 wickets in one over - it should have been 6 for 6 but his first hat trick ball came off the bat and fell short when I was fielding at Silly Point and the bat took a run and I fielded the ball quickly and threw the ball down the wicket straight at the stumps as the bowler stopped in his follow through in front of the stumps to catch the ball, which would have gone on to hit the stumps,. But by the time he'd caught it and turned, the bat was home, so he missed out on his 6 off 6 balls but he realised what he'd done and took it on the chin. I brilliant over though.

Ben's over was fine. One wide but generally quite good - down the offside and most of the balls were not hit so he very little runs off his over. With no spell to speak of and going straight into it cold he did okay. Joe on the other hand did better - he took 2 wickets off of 6 balls against 2 of the better bats. One of them was fielded quickly and the kid was stumped at the bowlers end and the other was the kid that took 5 for 6 later on - with this one I didn't see exactly what happened but Neil was high fiving Joe saying that he'd bowled him round his legs. Joe said that it had turned nicely and was well chuffed but wasn't sure whether it was a Leg Break or a Wrong Un! I got a feeling it was a wrong un because I think the kid was a LH bat?

Both of them with the bat were bowled really quickly or run out making no contribution to the runs, but hopefully that'll come in time?

They were all given medals and certificates which was a really nice touch as both my lads came away saying that felt really proud to have got a medal, although they could hardly get hat out as they had faces full of chocolate that was also part of the prize giving!

Our next session will be at Fitzwymarc School which is a fair old jaunt from Basildon so I can only assume that the facilities there are exceptional and a reasonable price or something? Actually, last year the bloke that did the training session with Ben and Joe and a couple of other kids at Markhams chase who had some affiliation with ECCC said that we should go along to his clubs training sessions at the same place - so that in itself indicates it must have good facilities. It also looks like I'm going to be able to get involved too which'll be good, so I'm looking forward to that.

Pitch Inspection

Went over to our field to have a look at our wicket and see how it's getting on. As usual very little football is being played there and it's the same situation with the training - it's not happening. The grass is still being cut and it looks reasonably healthy. The markers are all still in place so we know exactly where the wicket was and I'm able to affect any repairs as and when required. The biggest issue seems to be worms and worm casts. Worms work away under the surface aerating the soil which is very healthy for the grass as it oxygenates the soil and allows the roots to flourish and therefore helps the grass grow really well. The downside though is that the surface becomes uneven and at both ends where Joe and me bowl into it seems very rough. The middle section though seems to be far less affected and I reckon this could be down to my intervention this Autumn. If you remember at the start of the Autumn I top dressed the grass at both ends but not in the centre with organic compost. The way that this makes it's way into the soil is via the worms, it's the worms that collect organic matter like this and take it back beneath the surface and this obviously means increased worm activity! Hence the reason the two areas in front of the stumps are lumpy!

It just means I've got to get my rolling timing right. There's another opportunity in the spring to top dress the wicket again and this time seed it as well, but this is a case of seeding it when the frosts are over. If I do the seeding at the point when I top dress as well I'll also do some rolling. But I think I need to do the rolling in early March when we've still got very wet weather and the ground is still saturated otherwise my roller wont have any real impact. Then soon after that - late March or early April if the weather allows it I'll start to do some light cutting of the wicket with the blades set as high as I can get on my mower.

Winter Equinox

At last it's December 21st again and we're in the shortest day of the year. As of tonight the days once again start to getting longer as we had back to the summer! I can't wait as usual and look forward to the days when I get in from work and it's light outside and we can go and have a knock about on our wicket just across the road.

On the subject of winter I've noted several things this year that have been a bit Old Skool like the 1980's when we did used to get proper winters that were reasonably cold but nothing like 1962/63! I go to work in Southend and my train travels along the Thames Estuary and I noted this year there seems to be a lot more Geese. In November we had that cold snap where temperatures over a few nights dipped below freezing and we had some Frosts in November. Then on the news last night they were saying that at Snettisham on the Norfolk coast 3/4 of the worlds White Fronted Geese were there feeding and roosting. I've already seen flocks of Fieldfares which are Siberian Thrushes that move south in front of cold weather patterns. Nature often indicates changes in weather with things such as bird migration some time in front of the event, and what with that 80's style cold snap in November and the seemingly large increase in Arctic type birds in the UK it might be we're in for some proper cold weather?

There were some really cold winters in 1949, 1962, 1982, 83 & 87 so having not had one for some time we're due one.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that preceding the bad winter of 62/63 in the week or so that led up to the first fall of snow there was a week of unseasonably warm weather. At the moment we're in a phase just like that! But it's got to be said I say this every year!


I threw a few balls around today and was quite pleased with my accuracy line and length and the amount of turn I was getting. I was also trying Murali's Doosra style ball and getting that to turn spinning away to Slip like a leg break and then the same delivery out of the back of the hand turning to Leg Slip if bowled normally like a Wrong un.

I haven't been bowling much at all recently in order to give my body a bit of a rest. I've got muscle problems in my forearm and these seem to exacerbated by continuously clicking the ball out of my hand at home Flipper style and I've noticed that when I bowl my Gipper ball which is the one like the Doosra it hurts then too. So as much as I can I'm avoiding bowling and looking to practice with the bat.

I'm not doing any exercises either, so I'm falling to bits physically and I run the risk of putting on weight over Christmas if I'm not careful. Usually I don't do too bad and tend to eat a lot less than the rest of the family as I'm keeping an eye on the fact that soon after Christmas I'l be looking to start getting fit again.


I still haven't heard from the bloke at the school yet who said he'd send a letter. We're hoping to get in there for the 1st time on Jan 10th. The feeling amongst all the blokes who are up for it is that they'd be happy to do it once a fortnight, which I'm okay with too. One of the Grays & Chadwell blokes - Wayne is up for it as well, so I'll keep him posted as to what happens and I've now got his email address to help on that front. I just hope Wayne's not looking to stretch his batting/bowling abilities too much as I don't think we'll be too testing for him!


I'm still fiddling with this and having trouble with file sizes, from my own perspective of looking at what I'm doing myself it's brilliant, but uploading it to youtube is still proving to be a problem because of the file sizes - but I will get there eventually.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Muttiah Muralitharan

I've been having a discussion with some Aussie blokes on the internet elsewhere about Murali. The bloke was saying that Murali doesn't bowl the Wrong Un yet clearly here on the cricinfo site it states that he bowls offspin suggesting that his stock ball is the off-spinner. Now whether this bloke is arguing about the technicalities of whether it's finger spin or wrist spin and suggesting Murali's stock ball is a finger spin technique thus suggesting it's not a true Wrong Un I'm not sure? But reading below and the emphasis on the Murali's flexible wrist being a key aspect of his bowling I'm of the opinion that his stock ball which is an off-spinner is more like a Wrist Spin action than a finger spin action and therefore a Wrong Un?

So let's agree that -

1. Murali bowls Right Arm spin.
2. His Stock ball is the off-spinner
3. This action is very wristy and therefore more of a wrist spin action than a finger spin action?

So that then means that his 'Other' ball in urdu 'Doosra' is a ball that spins the other way (leg spin) and this is his variation. The question and point that was being asked on the forum was What is it he does in the delivery that makes the ball go the other way when the ball obviously comes out of the hand looking like an off-spinner delivery and ends up turning massively to slips like a leg break?

This is the bit that I know - as I can do it and thought that I'd discovered a new ball when I first did it (My Gipper) it's a combination of the wrong un (e.g. the hand upside down almost and the ball coming out of the back of it) and the Flipper. You have the ball covered in the hand with the wrist cocked and it's delivered out of the back of the hand but at the point of releasing it you then use your fingers in exactly the same way as the Flipper and this puts massive leg spin on the ball. So from the bats point of view it looks like you're bowling a wrong un but it then goes the other way.

Murali's action is so wristy and bent in it's approach to the release that it catapaults the ball in a much faster manner and without the finger flick it produced good offspin.


He bowls marathon spells, yet is forever on the attack. From a loose-limbed, open-chested action, his chief weapons are the big-spinning offbreak and two versions of the top-spinner, one of which goes straight on and the other, which has now been labelled his doosra, which spins in the opposite direction to his stock ball. His newest variation is a version of Shane Warne's slider, which is flicked out the side of his hand and rushes onto batsmen like a flipper. His super-flexible wrist makes him especially potent and guarantees him turn on any surface.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter practice and big video files

Monday night is karate night for Ben and Joe and me go along and watch him normally and we're stuck there sitting on a bench for an hour. I've normally got a ball on me somewhere so last week in the bay next to the Karate blokes we threw a ball around a bit bowling it back and forth to each other but I realised we were taking the P a bit and we stopped. But I then said to Joe 'Let's go and ask the lady how much a bay is for an hour and maybe next week we'll bring some bats and some stumps and have a practice while Ben's doing his Kung Fu'? Joe was up for it and we asked. £10.50 it was for the same £8.50 bays at the weekend! So not cheap for an hour. So tonight we went for it and had a bit of a bowl and bat each and better still I took the Canon G9 and did a load of video clips of both of us having a bat and bowl.

So, since coming in I've been working on looking through nearly an hours worth of video footage to see what I can upload to youtube for analysis. I found a bit with me bowling and used the slow motion program I've got and slowed it right down and got it ready to upload. This time when I did the recording I used the high quality mode and when I'd done the editing which I'm still a bit iffy with the file despite the fact that it's only a few seconds long and is me bowling once was nearly 170MB. As I write it's been uploading to youtube for almost an hour now.
A little later - it's now been an hour and half and it's still going..... Three hours later and I gave up, obviously 170mb files are a bit too big. I went back to the editing software and cut it down further and left it at 90mb and I'll try that at some point. The annoying thing is when it's being uploaded you don't have any indication of it's progress so when I stopped the uploading I don't whether it was 95% complete or 5%?

Anyway other than that - the £10.50 session. It's not ideal this venue as It's only the length of a badmnton court - it's the same place I practiced a couple of weeks ago with Simon, Badger and Alex. But for JOe who would be expected to play on a 17 yard wicket it's fine. Joe's bowling was fine - loads of difference in the flight and speed and generally on-line. No apparent spin though which I'm not fussed about, when he tries to bowl spin he opts for an out the back of the hand approach which produces off-spin and I want him to bowl Leg breaks otherwise he'll end up like me! If he sticks to his Leg Breaks he'll continue to get wickets as he did in the summer. Generally since the summer his bowling has come on loads - he's a lot faster and I think if he concentrates he'd be a lot more accurate. The only real area for development is the follow through with the leg coming round and over in the delivery. I'll have to show him the Beau Casson video as he responds to these a lot better than he does to me telling him.

With his batting it's a similar story - when he's told by other people to do things he makes a lot more effort to do so, whereas if I suggest things he starts to get stroppy it's a bit like Fozzy and Ross at Grays! He's another Dad who's son bowls Leg Spin who has a similar reaction to his advice.

Looking at the video of my bowling I'm quite happy with my bowling action, I'll try and get more shots of it from all angles when I get the next opportunity. Realistically I still need to test the camera and get the right combination of file size and composition and also come up with a way of protecting the camera from the ball. I don't think I'll get the perfect combination till we get in a bigger hall where I'll have a run up and be able to use a real ball?

Last night I tried some of the Flippers out the back of the hand and couldn't get them to work and then ended up bowling Doosras and man did they turn. The normal flippers are coming along nicely with them turning well when I don't opt for speed and go for a more flighted approach, but like Joe generally a good line and length. Also looking at my batting there looks as though there's an improvement too and it'll be good to see how I do against the likes of Simon and Alex if we get in the big hall as against Joe (Who's only 7) I look like I'm doing okay!! I ithink there's got to have been some improvement after the session with Simon and Alex 2 weeks ago and the practice up against the wall in the underpass - so I'm looking forward to facing their bowling in a much bigger space where they'll be able get a run up and throw the ball faster.

The initial response from some of the blokes is that they're up for a weekly slot at the hall which is good - but we'll have to see if that's realistic when we get the contract details from the school regarding the hire. They might want the money up front and we may need to make some kind of commitment that then ties us into using it and paying for it every week irrespective of whether we all go down with the flu or something. But if we can get in the hall every weekend for two hours I'm hoping to see an improvement in my bowling.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Saturday, so that means loads of cricket activity. I was hoping that Simon, Alex and Badger would be around and that we'd get a bit of practice in today, Simon was up for it and I couldn't get in touch with Alex and Badger had already said that he was working so it was called off.


There had also been an issue with the venue that we practiced at last week (Laindon Community Centre). I went back to book a bay in the hall for today and the woman said that she wasn't sure that she could accomodate us. She asked about the balls we use (Kookaburra practice balls) and about how much they weigh etc. I told her they were soft plastic and that they're what small boys use when they train etc and she went on to say that previously someone had come in asking to play tennis and they were forced to use foam balls because tennis balls were deemed to be too hard! Which is totally bizarre because before we were able to get in the hall last week there was a bunch of blokes in there kicking a football around at 100mph that weighs 10 x more that a Kookaburra cricket ball and they were using the whole hall with impunity. Yet both us and the tennis players are sectioned off in 1/3rd of the hall but are somehow being penalised as playing a sport that is going to damage the hall? The woman went on to suggest that I ring Markhams Chase and ask the manager there if it would be okay to use our Kookaburra balls. I did this and the woman at Markhams Chase was totally bemused saying that what they do at Laindon Community centre had nothing to do with them and then offered their facilities instead!

Off the back of the first practice we had at the Community Centre I'd already decided to look elswhere and had contacted Woodlands school with a view to using it after the Basildon and Pitsea Colts for our practice. On Friday I'd got a reply from the bloke who does the bookings and he was saying that yes it was a possibilty and the indication was that we'd be able to use it from 12.00 to 1.30 after the Basildon and Pitsea colts had finished which would leave us a bit tight for time? But today at Ben and Joe's practice it became apparent that Basildon and Pitsea are only using the venue one more time prior to Christmas and thereafter the venue changes to Fitzwymarc school in Rayleigh leaving Woodlands available to us to use at an earlier time - maybe 11am to 1pm, so I'll be contacting the bloke tonight.

Because the venue is bigger we'll also invite some of the other MPA blokes along and get the use out of both nets - so hopefully we'll get Mark Soye and Nick Naughty along and perhaps Terry the Bloke, so there could be 7 of us when we all turn up?

Pitch Inspection

The weather has been dismal recently with a series of cold days and fairly heavy frosts so I thought I'd go and have a look at our field/wicket and look at ways of getting the roller over there and back off again in the Spring.

The field along the side that's permanently in the shade and retains the frost all day when it is cold was saturated with water. The middle of the field in the wicket area was very wet and the worms are active so the ground is very uneven. The damage from the irregular football games is nowhere as severe as I'd imagined and as far as I've noticed there's been no matches over there for 2 weekends and I'd be surprised if there was a match tomorrow although the lines have been recently re-painted. The markers for the wicket are still there and easily found and the grass does look different because of the fact that I look after it. So it looks okay.

With regards the roller it looks as though it maybe easier to unload it from the main road side and then leave in on the field padlocked up through the week that I do the rolling? All of this relies on whether they cut the field through the spring and summer though and not let it go to fallow as they did 3 summers ago.

Ben and Joe's practice

Nets again at Basildon & Pitseas colts session and another fairly well attended session with 13 kids this time - these were made up of the regualr main team members from last summer. It was Ben's turn this week to bat in the nets and Joe let him use his pads and gloves. The coach Dave put him through his paces and showed him what to do but Ben was bricking it a bit and was nervous about facing the bowling machine and ended up playing primarily defensive shots which has always been his way and he errs towards swinging at the ball with a sideways bat rather than a straight bat. Dave came in to correct Ben a few times and encourage him to follow through with the straight bat drive. I video'd it and was able to play it back later with Ben and evaluate his technique and Ben sat there shouting at himself on the playback "Follow through! Follow through"! Clearly unimpressed with his own performance, so hopefully he'll remember this for next week and I may even go over it with him again with the video clips before the next session so it's fresh in his mind that he has to keep a straight bat, step out to the pitch of the ball and follow through. Watching the video's he does do it a few times which is encouraging and it looks so much better and appreciates that himself, so I hope in time it will come?

Before Joe had a chance one of the other coaches spoke to me saying that he'd seen my blog and that he was reading that I was interested in Wrist Spin Bowling and I went on to say about how obsessed I am with it and he then said - 'Have a go here - set up the stumps and have a bowl'. So I was able to throw a few balls - albeit the Kookaburra balls with their lightness. Bowled mostly flippers which were okay, was tempted to bowl my Googlies but I'm still trying to keep away from them so that I get the Leg Break back in order. I didn't even attempt the Leg Break and stuck to bowling some of my weird balls - Flippers and the variations of that.

As I was involved in bowling I didn't see how well Joe batted but he said later that he felt that he didn't do as well as last week. That's to be expected as he was ill up till last night and in the last 48 hrs has hardly ate anything. It was at the end of the session that coach Neil announced that next week would be the last session at Woodlands paving the way for an opportunity for Alex, Simon, Badger et al and me to get in there at a reasonable time and use the nets on a Saturday. Seizing the opportunity I asked Neil what the arrangements would be after Christmas and he said that they'd be at Fitzwymarc and I think the nature of the way the training takes place differs in that the adults (I think) train as well leading into the new season at the same session and he said that I could come along and join in as well. Additionally this will be a Sunday instead of a Saturday which also means that if the MPA boys are still practicing at woodlands which I think is the intention I may be getting 4 hours of practice in over the weekend! So that's something to look forward to. I've just got to wait for a letter from Coach Neil confirming the details.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Quite cold

We had an Old Skool type winter day today - one where over night it was frosty and during the day where there was shadow the frost didn't disappear and tonight again it's going to drop into the minus figures again. Although dispite it being cold in the shadows out in the sun it got up to 9 degrees. I remember back in the 80's it used to stay frosty for days upon days and in 1987 there was snow on the ground for over 2 weeks with temperatures of minus 17 for that period at night. In 93 there was a snowy week or so, but none of this is anything like the winter of 1962 - 63 when it snowed on New Years even and then the sun didn't come out till Mid March and the average temp both day and night combined was something like 0.5 c and at night it regularly dropped to -17c. The snow in some places was 40' deep and over the 3 months it stayed there and got filthy dirty and became solid ice. It makes you wonder what would happen in this day and age where if we get 1" of snow it throws the country into turmoil? I'm just wondering if this weather now is indicative of a potentially cold winter ahead with 1980's style snow and coldness? It's got to happen soon and really we're due a 1949 - 1962/63 style winter where the Thames will freeze up, Gas and coal will run out within days, no food will be distributed because lorries wont be able to move, panic food buying will happen and the economy will go into further free-fall.

Went and had a quick look at our wicket over at Valence way and it looks as though the grass has been cut and no football has been played on it for a while. The markers are still in the grass indicating where the wicket is but increasingly difficult to find and I'm still pondering what I'm going to do with the roller if I manage to get it onto the field and when to do so. At the moment I'm still inclined to leave it till eary March. I was looking back through the blog a few days ago and we didn't cut the grass till June sometime in the middle of the field, but the practice wicket was cut in early May and there was some really warm weather late April, early May that would have reduced the affect of our little roller having any impact.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Joe's training session

Another good session, this time attended by 19 kids! The last session there was only 8 or 9 of them fortunately there were about 6 instructors on hand so it worked out well. I also had my camera and video and was able to shoot some footage, but as you can see from the earlier entry I've not been able to upload it as I don't want to cause any trouble. There's some footage of Joe in the nets and he's the only kid in the video - so I could use that but it's very early in his batting development and he's very much a beginner. It was the bowling that I'd liked to have uploaded but needless to say you can see all the other kids and it's just so much easier if I keep everyone sweet and comply with their requests not to upload the images despite what the actual law states. But yep Joe bowled well - he only had one over and from that over he produced 2 balls that were Dollies that the kids dropped and a possible edge that a good wicket keeper may have also got a dive in and caught and it's all on video and I can't show you it. He had one bad ball that was a wide and one that got spanked and his first ball he got passed the bat and just missed the off-stump. Oh well! If you know me in person come round and see the files one day!

But the main event was the nets and the bowling machine. He did okay and I think the blokes were pretty impressed with the fact that he comes out of his crease and goes after the ball looking to bat it straight off or before the bounce! It'll be interesting to see how they coach him with regards this - they didn't seem to fussed with it and weren't telling him to get back in his crease it looked to me like they were quite impressed. None of us are Bats so all three of us - Joe, Ben and me all need as much time and coaching as we can get our hands on - so it was nice to see Joe pushing himself forward to get in the queue.

As they had the nets out I heard them discussing the scuffing of the floor with the balls, so I don't know if this'll be a contentious situation with us if we manage to hire it. I overheard some of the blokes saying that there were mats or something that they'd donated some years back but it seems the caretaker was unaware of where they were. What I may do as a contingency plan is write more letters to other schools and see if they can accomodate us?

Had a bit of a bowl while Joe was swimming later on - it looks like I've lost the leg break but the flippers were going well as well as the flipper variations - especially the up-side down one that looks like a Doosra.

UK law photography - children in public places

Gutted! This morning we went to the net sessions at the school where Ben and Joe practice and I took along my Canon G9 and shot some video footage of Joe bowling. He only bowled 1 over but from that one over he should have got 3 catches - 2 of them absolute dollies, but I can't show you the video because of the paranoia over child protection and the fear of someone suing you. Personally because I am aware of the law I've got no issue over the situation and if it wasn't for the request from the bloke at the cricket club who's in charge of these issues I'd have posted the video clip on the website here.

Now, my understanding of the law is as described in the PDF below and the law is that there is no law about taking images of children in 'Normal' situations such as cricket or on the beach etc. But other laws can be enforced in situations such as cricket practices e.g. tresspass, but tresspass in itself is a very insubstantial law. The situation that is prevalent at the minute in this country fuelled by the likes of the Daily Mail, The Sun and the media in general - attached to paedaphiles, child abuse and the internet, is that clubs, schools, councils and organisations who work with children have all adopted their own codes of practice which are not actually backed up by any real law relating to photography. Their codes of practice mean that they adopt policies of not allowing photography or video unless of course every single parent/guardian of the club/school signs a disclaimer. The fact of the matter is, all this does in essence is gives the club/school/organisation some form of redress if a case is brought against them in court relating to a case of misuse of the images. In instances where the disclaimer has not been signed as in our cricket club the approach is that they would simply ask you not to take pictures/videos and if your were to continue to do so they have the option of following up the tresspass laws and that is their only option. In fact they run very high risks of getting into real trouble if they then start to attempt to do things like man-handle you off the premises or remove the film/card from your camera if they get over zealous on the assumption that they are within the law.

Fortunately the bloke at the club simply pointed out that he wouldn't like the images to be uploaded to the internet because of child protection issues. Having looked through the files that I have created I'm gutted to say that there are other kids in the shots - especially the bowling video. Now I might argue that the quality of the video is so poor that the kids unless you were aware of the clothing that they're wearing are unrecognisable and if case was brought against me I'd be fairly certain the law would be on my side. But the fact is in this day and age with the majority of the population reading newspapers of a certain political persuasion that trade in paranoia and fear that helps to fuel the USA lead sueing culture we now have I just don't want to take the chance and I quite like the club my kids are attending and therefore will comply with the request. So sorry there is no video I can share with you because it has images of other peoples children playing cricket and enjoying themsleves. I don't know about you but in a culture where increasingly kids have no communication with the real tactile world and increasingly relate to the rest of their peers and society through electronic forms mobile phones, computers etc I'd have thought that anything that promotes physical well being and sport would be a good thing?

Have a look at this PDF. Note - The laws currently change so rapidly I may be wrong on this and if I am please let me know.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's almost the weekend!

After a 2 week break my lads should be resuming their cricket training at Woodlands school. Unfortunately for Ben the older one he's off to Cubs for their Christmas so he wont be able to go. Joe on the other hand is all kitted out with new gear - cricket whites, gloves, new bat and pads, so hopefully he's going to be up for it as this week they're going in the nets for the first time. It sounds as though they're going to be using real cricket balls too as they've all been told to bring and wear their 'nut boxes'.

I'm hoping that they'll allow me to shoot some video footage, so I'll be able to post up some video clips if he does alright and if his bowling is good I may do some Slow Motion clips!

On the MPA front there's been a bit of news. I had an email from Steve Brooks and he says there's one other bloke that he works with - but he also knows the Sports boys well and he's talking about getting them involved in our team. So if that happens it's quite likely that we'd have a fair team what with Gavin, Riley, Ronnie and some of the others? So it looks like that may be heading in the right direction? On a more prosaic front I've just sent a letter to the school asking about the potential to use the nets for our practice sessions. I'd rang earlier and the response from the receptionist was quite upbeat so I've got my fingers crossed that they may be able to accomodate us in some way at a reasonable price? So watch this space!

Monday, December 01, 2008

December - a new dawn

I hate this time of year - the very depths of winter, no light, no leaves, constant rain and drizzle and cold. I'm considering laying off the bowling for quite a period maybe 5 or 6 weeks to let my arm and shoulder recover and have a rest? I still want to get the sessions going every other Saturday and I may throw a few slow balls then, but nothing at all trying and certainly not the kind of 1 ball every 10 seconds approach that I normally do over an hour. If we continue with our indoor pratice sessions I might just concentrate on the batting as the primary objective? I do need to start phoning places and see if we can access some proper nets at a reasonable price?

Update - several hours later Slow Motion Video footage

I can't believe it, I've now sussed out how to turn my AVI files which I can capture in really high quality with my new G9 camera into Slow motion videos! This is going to be potentially an amazing tool with which to analyse my bowling or my sons bowling and anyone else who wants to hire me to film their bowling so that they can look at their technique! All I've got to do now is find some proper nets in the next 2 weeks and film the session in high quality mode and slow it down and see what's going on. As I write I'm uploading the 1st file to youtube. I'll post the link at the bottom of this blog page once it's successfully uploaded!

This first initial video is low quality with the wrong light balance. Once I've got the camera sussed and learnt how to edit the video I should be able to present some good footage. So check this space in the coming weeks.

Have a look at this Mularitharan slow mo video - it's amazing! All he needs to do now is learn how to click it flipper style out of his hand!!!