Spin bowling with your eyes closed
With the two weeks over Easter off (I'm a college lecturer) and the nights now getting longer I've been getting in the paddock as much as possible and bowling looking to hone my bowling action. I've fiddled around a bit with the Run in, bound, explosion and follow through - shortening it and trying the Shane Warne walk and explode approach, none of which seemed to force any improvements, although in the longer term I'd like to look at the Warne approach a bit more so I've got that on the back-burner for Sept and Oct after the season. So after a week of mucking about with different things and bowling at empty stumps I didn't really get anywhere and if the truth be known I felt like I was going backwards instead of forwards.
So I tried something I've not done for years - bowling with your eyes closed. In the paddock at the moment because of the lack of repair work done prior to the winter there's still ruts in the wicket where we bowl from, so I've had to fill these in and even them out and I now lay the big 4'x3' heavy duty rubber playground mat over the top and bowl off that. This means the ground is perfectly even and I can run in off of several steps and close my eyes with around three steps before the bound with complete confidence that I'm not going to twist my ankle.
Reflecting on my recent bowling using Gibbs reflective practice model
I'd noticed that bowling against a batsman, I'd done quite well in the nets, generally either causing problems or getting people out, the shots that were being played off my bowling would have been very good chances for being caught. My accuracy was pretty good, with either good length balls or slightly too full. I've also got more observant and willing to try things out looking to find the weak spots in the batsmans technique. But... In the Paddock scenario where I bowl at empty stumps, things were not going so well, all aspects of my bowling were poor.
What was I thinking or feeling?
Inceasingly I was becoming frustrated and feeling that the whole thing was going backwards, whereas I was looking to improve my bowling it was apparent that it was getting far worse and I was going backwards. Every six or seven balls, one ball would end up down the leg-side 2-3 metres wide.
What was good and bad about the experience?
Very little was good, discussing it with other spinners and coaches on-line helped to put things into perspective and some helpful suggestions were made, probably the one good one was to drop looking at another option as a run up (Shane Warne type) and stick with what I've been working with for the last 8 months or so. Bad parts... most of it, it was all pretty dire when it came to bowling at the empty stumps.
What sense could I make of it?
Having thought about what was happening and discussed it with different people it seemed as though there were a number of factors that were at play. (1). The more I bowled poorly, the more wound up I got and therefore potentially tense, which is a disaster when you're bowling, it then seemed that when I then relaxed, the ball was likely to be the one that went legside 2 metres wide. (2). It seemed too that I was thinking on two different planes; On one hand I was focussed on getting the ball onto my 12" x 12" target mat and while I was doing that I was also thinking about aspects of my run-in, bound, explosion and follow through and couldn't get anything right. I tried seperating the two different aspects - focusing on the action, but was too aware of the outcome of the ball - which was still crap. I tried the bowling action without the ball and then noticed that the bowling action then felt right because all of my attention was being applied to the bowling action and not where the ball was going or doing. It then seemed obvious that I needed to somehow seperate the two aspects. One of the fundamentals of spin bowling and probably all bowling, is that in order to do it well, your bowling action needs to be grooved - something that you do without thinking about, this would then allow to focus on what you're going to do with the ball and where it's going to land, so the obvious conclusion was that I needed to focus on the whole bowling action and not what the ball did after it was released.
What else could I have done?
Not a lot of options are open to me, so I just had to think it through and come to a conclusion that I can work with. In an ideal situation, someone would bat - and I tried this with my younger son Joe and that worked. As soon as there's a batsman there, I bowl in far smoother manner with far more purpose and success. But neither Joe, Ben or anyone else is going to be around when I practice, so I need to resolve this bowling at the stumps issue.
The conclusion, based around the need to to exclude the outcome, was to bowl with my eyes closed, so as I run in, my only thoughts are those relating to the bowling action, so the focus is only the bowling action and because I've denied myself the option of sight, I then focus the mind on the bowling action and feel it.
Action Plan - If the situation arose again what would you do?
The situation is bound to re-occur in the short term, but the theory that I'm working on is that I need to groove the action; This bowling action needs to become wholly natural and something that is done with little or no use of the brains CPU, meaning that as I bowl the only thoughts are those relating to what the ball does, rather than what the body does. In theory if I bowl with this eyes closed approach enough it will become natural.