Saturday, April 18, 2009

Frustration with the Leg Break

A quick re-cap. I've played cricket for the same amount of time that this Blog has existed, so this coming summer will be my 2nd full season. Prior to that I had almost another year mucking about with a team formed at work. When I started out the main inspiration was Shane Warne and Leg Spin Bowling and right from the outset I was able to bowl a leg break that I was more than happy with. But then as I learned more about cricket I came across the notion of 'Variations' and very quickly learned the Flipper, Top Spinner and then not so quickly the Wrong Un. But after months and hours at a time practicing it, I got it only to discover 'The Googly Syndrome'. I then spent the best part of a half a year trying to recover my Leg Break and last January I made the declaration that I'd got a Leg Break back.

My Leg Break; I have got a Leg Break, the ball pitches on Middle and Off and then deviates away towards slips. Note the use of the word deviates rather than spins. The fact of the matter is it's a piddly leg break that I reckon is more akin to leg cutter than a break. I find it exceptionally difficult to bowl in comparison with all my other variations yet this is supposed to be my stock ball. I work on it all the time trying to get it to spin more, but probably the same as most people it's difficult to practice in an intensive manner and have a life that isn't consumed wrist spin bowling (My wife would say it already is). Directly outside my house there's a walkway and a bit of a wall that I can bowl to but it's short and to the left of it is a big dense prickly bush, so if I'm ever bowling Leg Breaks and getting it to turn well the ball ends up in this big bush every single time and it's difficult to recover the ball and it breaks up the rhythm.

Recently I've been bowling out in the road up against a narrow bit of wall that divides my garage with a neighbours garage, which in itself is good practice as the bit of wall is about 18" wide so if I miss the wall it clatters against the neighbours metal garage door (leg side) or disappears into my open garage (Off-side).

Today I've been on the field with 20 balls and must have bowled in the region of 160 balls + bowling primarily leg breaks. I go through spells where the bowling is good and I'm happy - balls that turn well and have a good amount of bounce and obviously have an element of over-spin as well as side-spin. If I could reproduce this again and again I think I'd be happier, but it always seems that as soon as I recognise what is happening 'Ooh - that's 4 or 5 balls now that have been good - what is it that I'm doing'? I then start looking at my grip and start to try and analyse what it is that's going right and it always then seems to gradually go from being good leg breaks at that point to worsening leg breaks from then on in. So this is exactly what happened today. I then bowled my usual weak leg breaks and towards the end of the session saw further improvement that seemed to have been created by -

1. Strong and evident leading front arm reaching up very high in the gather.
2. Ball hand also starting high in the gather.
3. Good strong exaggerated step through in the explosion through the crease.
4. Loose grip with the ball lower in the hand.
5. Third finger placed on the seam methodically when positioning the ball in the hand.

I always go through a phase where I also incorporate the idea that I need to be pushing the ball forward out of my hand, but I've had a couple of people recently including Joe my younger son say 'You're chucking it Dad' or in the nets one of the blokes said that my action looked suspect from the back. Today it felt that rather than the bowling action being smooth I was trying to put so much effort into the pushing forward aspect that my arm may have been bending. So towards the end of the session when I incorporated the 5 elements described above I also went for a more of a slinging action rather than a push and it still produced a fair bit of turn plus good line and length.

But....... I'm still not happy because all of this seems to rely entirely on the 3rd finger being the part of the action which produces the spin and there is nothing of the flick that Peter Philpott talks about in his book that I'm able to incorporate into my wrong uns and Top Spinners. The thing that is driving me mental is the fact that outside the house over a shorter distance up against the wall I can produce a big flick and the finger emphasis and get the ball to turn exceptionally well - but I can't convert it to 22yards of grass! So once again today I tried it on the grass over 22 yards and it just turns into a wrong un. So straight from the session on the grass I went back to the bit of wall between the garages (I'll have to get a picture) and bowled there. Now, this bowling is completely different, it's far more fingers e.g. the ball is higher in the hand and it incorporates the use of the wrist flick and it is accurate and it turns massively, the only downside is that it's only across 11 yards at best. What I need is either someone to bowl back and forth to or somewhere bigger with a wall or a fence to bowl up against that's right outside my house so that when I get the urge to bowl I can just go there for a matter of seconds or minutes and try some of these ideas out. I'm pretty damn sure that if I had the means to gradually work the ball over an ever-increasing distance I'd get there, but I just haven't got that kind of space near my house in order that I can do this. Or have I? I've just thought of somewhere very near that might be okay and it's on our field. Watch this space.......
Look in the background of this image - this is 'Our Field' where we practice and it's literally a matter of 60 seconds from our house and I've just realised that the building has a car park area around it which is concrete and the wall is nice and flat with no windows and potentially ideal for bowling up against? So I'll have a look tomorrow and see how much potential there is for this to be a better place to bowl.