Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wrist-spin bowling 'The Leg-Break'

Under Construction Last edited Sept 12th Sept 2015 - Repeatable and consistent bowling action

Section 1. "Basics". A description of the Leg Break, the grip, what it does, how you use it and how difficult it is to bowl.
Section 2. "Practice".

The Leg-Break, known to most as Leg-Spin. This is the Wrist Spinners main ball, this is the ball most of us bowl 95% of the time and therefore is known as our "Stock Ball". Having said that there are sub variations, but we'll come to that later in the post. If you're totally new to Wrist Spinning and you want to get some sense of what it's all about you should check out some of the videos linked at the end of this post.

1. Basics; As mentioned in the paragraph above your 'Leg Break' is known as your 'Stock Ball'. This basically means this is the delivery you use most of the time and therefore have to be totally in control of, as Terry Jenner would say... "This is your go to ball, the one that will get you overs and the one that will get you wickets or dry up the runs".

This is the ball that you practice the most, this is the ball that you have to be able to spin hard and land in a relatively small area of your choice, again quoting Jenner... "Your bread and butter ball".

On the point of being the ball you practice the most, you have to realise that this is the most difficult of all cricket disciplines, this is recognised by everyone that plays cricket even though they have never tried it, they simply know though having seen and read about Wrist-Spinners at all levels... this is not easy. Most reckon that it'll take you four years of constant practice and if you're looking to do it at a high level you might be looking at 10 years! Needless to say there are those that have natural ability and the basics may come quickly.

Described as Slow Bowling, the approach to the crease is generally off of a short run up and the speed at which you would bowl if playing professionally is around the 45-55mph speed. Primarily you would bowl over the stumps landing the ball 4-5 metres in front of the stumps attacking the stumps (The impression from the batsman's perspective is that the ball will go on to hit the stumps line B) if left forcing the batsman to play the ball. The ball on pitching 'Breaks' (C) towards the off-side of the pitch looking strike the edge of the batsman's bat producing a catching chance for the keeper or slips fielder. (D - red dotted line is the line that the ball would be perceived to travel along if left and not deviated off of the pitch). The ball in this illustration is angled at 45 degrees - this has elements of both side and top-spin.

Grip  Most people use pretty much the same orthodox grip, often described as the two up two down grip the ball sits in the palm of the hand as below (Wrist-spinners grip #1). The thumb for the most part plays very little part, only perhaps supporting the ball in some vague way. The two 'Up' fingers are secondary to the two 'Down' fingers, especially the 3rd finger (Your ring finger). The 3rd finger which is the one which is resting on the seam of the ball in this image is where all the action is happening, this is the finger that puts the revs on the ball, accompanied by the flick of the wrist. Watch the first few seconds of the video here and see the role the 3rd finger plays.
This next image here (below)  illustrates the grip further by viewing it from above. Again see the 3rd finger position - snug against the seam of the ball.
The image above (Basic Wrist-spin grip) shows the grip from another angle. Dependent on how big or small your hand is it should look similar to this. With regards to the grip Peter Philpott writes...

You may like to experiment with the way you hold the ball - the grip. I have seen so many leg-spinners grip the ball differently, yet still bowl the it effectively, the most important factor is that the grip is comfortable and suits you.
       Even so, it is always sensible to understand the orthodox method. For 'the orthodox' simply means the way that suits most people. Whether you eventually choose to use the orthodox method or not, you should understand it, and experiment with it.

Peter Philpott, page 21, The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling.

Grip it hard or soft? Again different people say different things, Warne for one says to grip it softly and Richie Benuad differs in that he suggests that you grip the ball quite firmly. Have a look at the clip here at 2:40 where he describes his grip and the firmness of the grip.
Benaud's grip is slightly different to that of Warne's, but having tried it, I'd say that it's worth experimenting with as your fingers might wrap around the ball in a different way and it may just feel like a far better method for you? Inevitably it'll probably be the case that you'll try and number of different ways before you settle on the one that works for you, but it's impossible to say to someone... "Hold it loose" simply because your idea of loose is probably very different to mine. It then means you're going to have to try this basic aspect of your bowling in numerous ways before you establish a way that suits you. I still have to say to myself when I'm bowing "Ridiculously loose, ridiculously loose", over and over again to force myself to bowl with an exceptionally loose grip, as through recent experimentation I've noted that the exceptionally loose grip works so much better for me. Having said that and also having looked at the Warne description of his grip here, I've noted that they both have their fingers either side of the middle finger spread very wide, so I myself may have a go at this in the nets in the coming months and see if it creates any significant difference in my bowling. It's this trial and re-trial process that a lot of us will have to go through over a period of a few years before we feel as though we're at a level that we're happy with.

Boogie Spinner has just said...

"Just reading your blog Dave, I'm reminded of some early commentary on Warne from Benaud. I couldn't possibly say exactly when but I distinctly remember Benaud exclaiming that Warne would 'spin it on glass' and more importantly that he wished he'd known about Warne's loose grip on the ball when he was bowling, because he gripped the ball tightly simply through a belief that it was preferable at the time".
Again further reinforcement of the need to work through the various methods to establish what will work for you. Warne himself says...

"The actual pressure of the grip is something you have to feel comfortable with. What I do... and what I do is not necessarily right for you, but it is right for me, remember it's got to be right for you, as long as you're getting the basics right. A lot of people are taught to grip the ball really tight, really squeeze it and spread these fingers out. (The 2 up fingers). The reason I don't like that is that, already everything is tight and tense when you come to the wicket, you're already tense and everything is getting hard. I don't like that, I want to come to the wicket feeling relaxed, if I feel relaxed, I feel like I'm going to be able to do what I want with the ball.

 So I have a loose grip, fingers are probably a little bit close together... but that works for me, the fingers are loose - two fingers up, two fingers down and the thumb just resting on the ball, that works for me".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM4ASXrv5ic Shane Warne talking to Mark Nicholas.

Flickers or Rollers? The Wrist-Spinners bowling action is a whole body affair, from the tip of the toes to the tip of the fingers. Getting up on the toes, bracing the leg, pivoting on the toes, rotating the shoulders over one another, rotating the body 180 degrees, high release, 45 degree release, low release, the point at which the ball is released, the flick of the wrist and fingers all combine to send the ball down the wicket in a particular way. At each stage something can go awry that will effect the outcome and one of the key stages is the final stage - what happens with the hand...

One of the conundrums you'll be faced with, especially if you've learned the basics of bowling previously is the one of accuracy over spin. Intuitively you may feel or have learned from your previous bowling experiences that accuracy is an important aspect of your approach and that both accuracy and spinning the ball should be learned side by side with equal importance attached to them. Everyone without exception advocates that first and foremost the thing you need to do above all else is spin the ball really hard. Not hard, but really hard, so hard, that at the start it will mean that you've got to practice so much on your own you're going to wonder why the hell you started. Reason why - you're not going to be able to land the ball on the cut strip all of the time because of the effort you're going to be putting into spinning the ball!

In his book "The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling" Peter Philpott at the start of the chapters where he explains in detail the "Eight Stages of Spin" one of the first ground rules he sets is the Spin it hard rule. He discusses orthodoxy and variations in grip and actions and says that there should be some flexibility in approaching how people bowl. Coaches shouldn't interfere too much unless of course there's some cause for real concern and even then after much observation. But when it comes to the spinning mantra he says...

But if there is one factor in spin bowling which all spinners should accept if they wish to perform to their optimum, it is the concept that the ball should be spun hard.

    Not rolled, not gently turned, but flicked, ripped, fizzed. If young bowlers learn to spin hard from the start and then enough spinning it hard, they can achieve accuracy.
Peter Philpott, page 19, The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling.

One of the difficulties that you're going to face whether young or older, is the fact that if you go for this 'Spinning it hard' approach which you should, you are going to have to be really thick skinned if you're learning your craft in match situations. In the first few years, you're probably going to be carted all over the shop in matches and other days you'll get a bag full of wickets. There's a mantra that says S**t bowling gets wickets, so in between the days when you see ball after ball go down the legside and the umpire stretching his arms out and shouting "Wide Ball", there will be days when you come away with wickets and some success. A lot of it will be through luck and not design, but you have to grasp these moments and stick in there knowing that in a few years you'll be able to get the ball down the off-side a lot more often than not. But it does take a lot of determination and being very thick skinned, because you will be coming away feeling it was you that lost the team the match.

It helps therefore if you have a supportive captain and it may be an idea to play Sunday cricket or friendly matches as opposed to league cricket where the outcome of the game is subject to different dynamics within the club. I learned under the tuition of a bloke called Neil Samwell who was an exceptionally good Offie for Grays & Chadwell cricket club in Essex. At the time I played under him as captain he held the record for the most wickets taken at the club. But more than that, this bloke gave me a chance, he gave me overs, knowing that the chances were I'd get a ball or two down the legs-ide, so wide they'd be off the cut strip, or I'd bowl 4 wides down the leg-side before getting the ball on the stumps. I went through stages of having the yips almost and still he'd give me 4 or 5 overs and when I was successful, he celebrated my success in a way that enabled me to hang in there and not walk away from my desire to be a wrist spinner, he seemed genuinely interested in my long term goals and I'm extremely grateful for his input and support during my years at Grays and Chadwell.

I think if you have someone at your club that supports you in this manner and you don't feel totally isolated, the chances are in the longer term you'll get there, you'll be able to turn up at games and put the ball in areas that you design to do so and spin the ball and get it to turn off the wicket. How do you get to that place though?


Unless you're gifted with this skill somehow naturally and it just happens, most of us will need to work at it and practice and for the most part that means repetition again and again. There is a theory that gets mentioned on the internet a lot about having to do something 10,000 times or for 10,000 hours. I think this again may apply to a professional who is looking to make a living out of wrist spinning and has the added aspect that when he or she bowls, there's a coach or a trainer there. Have a look at this link here which discusses this point and offers a bunch of opinions. I think having scanned through that quickly and considering all of the things I've learned over the last 8 years, there's a number of things you do need to do and consider.

You are going to have to practice. There's no other way around it, this is indeed one of the most difficult things in cricket that you can choose to do. Thankfully though a lot of it can be done on your own, you're trying to do a couple of key things - spin the ball hard, and then bowl it 18 yards into a relatively small area varying the way you spin the ball in relation to the seam.

Because it can be narrowed down to being that simple, resource-wise all you need is a bit of space with either a wall or a fence (If you're dead lucky a mate that'll be a wicket keeper or batsman when you decide). You'll obviously need something that you can use as a set of stumps and then 6 x five and half ounce balls. I've not said cricket balls, because a lot of the practice that I've done over the years is conducted on tarmac or concrete...
When I do this I use Hockey balls, they have the same weight and on concrete/tarmac they have a very similar bounce properties and because of the plastic they're made of they grip and spin in a similar way to cricket balls. This has allowed me therefore to be able to practice through much of the winter here in the UK. At the peak of my obsessiveness I was probably bowling 3 times a week on average for a couple of hours each time, not quite the same levels as Peter Philpott when he was a kid, but quite a bit considering my job and the fact that I've got a family! (My wife thinks I'm nuts).

If you don't live in the UK where space is a premium and you've got a large yard or a paddock consider designating a space in your yard as a wicket? I know if I had a back garden big enough I'd do the full on Clarrie Grimmett and have a couple of wickets cut! I'd probably invest in a batting net as well as I've got two sons and we'd be out there all summer practicing!

But, as I do live in the UK and my back yard is tiny, I've had to be creative. Very near to my house there's a small area of grass we call 'The Paddock'. It's not used that much and it's slowly falling into a state of neglect. I realised a few years ago that I could practice in this area (It's a recreation space used rarely for people to kick a ball around in). I gave it a go and then concluded that because the grass was so uneven and rough it was only any good for practicing bowling length, the roughness of the surface exaggerated the turn off the surface making me look like I could bowl the 'Gatting Ball' with every delivery. I then decided that I'd do some work to get the surface  smoothed off and improved over the Autumn and Spring the following year...

For 5 or 6 years now we've maintained a little practice wicket on this space, we've managed to score some building site netting as per the video above and we have net sessions on it. But for the most part we just bowl on it. Short of this, the only other option is a local cricket pitch about 1'2 a mile away, where we can practice on the outfield.

The point I'm making is that you do have to practice and you do need somewhere to practice and here in the UK it's fairly difficult to find the spaces to enable you to do so. Over the years I've seen some good stuff on Youtube, a bunch of lads in their 20's from Bradford way used a school playground to practice their skills and these lads here - play tapeball cricket in Nottingham using the local football facilities. It's this kind of approach and thinking you're going to have to deploy in order to enable you to get the practice you need.

In the street if you have to with a windball, whenever you get the chance bowl! Give it a rip!

Accuracy Drills.

This is one of the accuracy drills that we use that you might want to try. Firstly though I just want to share an observation that I've made in the last couple of years. Over the years I've bought and found balls and have 8o balls that I could use when I practice, bowling one after another. But recently I've stopped doing this and now I use far fewer balls when I practice. I now usually go out with just 6 balls (An overs worth) and I bowl six at a time trying to bowl with the same intensity and focus that I would bowl in a match, trying to ensure that every ball is accurate. I found that when I had 80 balls to use, I was bowling all sorts and didn't do it with any level of seriousness and commitment. I also thought about it and realised that in between the 6 balls in each over, there was a period in most instances of inactivity and that it may be easy to replicate that... bowl six, rest and then bowl six again repetitively as in a spell. The rest period, I replicate by now walking down the wicket and collecting the same six balls, so that kind of emulates that potential to disrupt your rhythm in between overs.

The Drill - We have a piece of mat/carpet that is roughly 3' x 5' see below...

 I've painted two lines on it and the drill involves setting a series of targets and allocated a point score to the outcomes.

Today I was bowling Leg breaks, so the key thing was getting the right length and the right area, so this not ridiculously difficult and therefore difficult to draw some positives from, so as long as the ball is on the mat you score yourself points. There's several differing opinions that relate to where the ball lands, people like Benaud and Grimmett advocate accuracy, talking about landing the ball on an area the size of a handkerchief. Yeah perhaps if you're a pro with your stock ball once you've been bowling for 5 years or so, but in the short term for you as a club player, think in terms of Terry Jenner's advice (Remember Jenner was Warne's mentor) see this video here and listen to the points he makes here at 3 minutes relating to the areas in which you should be bowling. Jenner talks about it being a 'Big Target - inviting the batsman to drive'...

So don't be put off in your early days if your bowling is a little wayward, work towards getting the ball onto the big target with loads of revs. In the video Jenner talks about getting revs on the ball and spinning the ball up. If the ball has been spun hard in addition to landing in this area (On the mat) the balls going to be...
(1). Above the eye-line and therefore difficult to predict as to its length.
(2). If you're spinning it hard, there is a chance that it's going to 'Drift' e.g. mover sideways whilst in the air away from its original trajectory.
(3). If it's got any over-spin it'll also dip and fall shorter than expected.

So any concerns about your accuracy, can be readily offset and negated by ensuring your leg-break is bowled with loads of revs.

The key goal was to bowl and land it on the 'C' part of the mat, so if I managed that I gave myself 3 points, the middle part 2 and the 'A' section only 1. If the ball went on to hit the stumps from A or B I gave myself a bonus point. So the main intention is to attain 18 point from the 6 balls e.g. land the ball on 'C' with every ball. So for each over I was trying to beat the previous score.

If you have access to SKY tv or any coverage of cricket games where the bowling is analysed in any depth, look out for the pitch maps that they show. Reinforcing the point Jenner makes above look at the image below here showing Shane Warnes placement of his balls when bowling...

Here's another that shows an even bigger area. Note of caution though and this does apply to both example above and below. Bowling anywhere that is legside is a high risk strategy especially when you're starting out. If you're going to be bowling leg-side, you've got to be turning the ball a lot and getting the ball to bounce and drift. You'll need your best catching fielders that are ready to run and take catches on the boundary otherwise you're bowling figures are going to be getting you taken off. 


Sub Variation - Leg Break

Repeatable & Consistent Bowling action 

I came to wrist spinning out of nowhere in my late 40's and prior to that never played cricket and then worked on everything I do and know through a process of self reflection and watching videos and reading about it. One of the things that I've struggled with during this 8 year journey is my run-up and the approach to the crease and then as a consequence of those components the action through the crease. From posting videos of my bowling on Youtube I've had numerous people look at it and comment about it as well as team mates... You're to slow through the crease, you haven't got a bound amongst the observations.

With no or little coaching, and with the criticism there and the video evidence, it's difficult to come up with a coherent plan going forwards. It does seem that the obvious conclusion in a lot of people's minds as well as my own is to look for a template in someone else's bowling and this is discussed in the section below with regards its merits as a process to resolve the issue.

The issue I've had is that the bowling action that I use at different stages in the season changes in response to different issues. Sometimes I've been concerned that I bowl too slow, sometimes it's been a case that I bowl too fast and the spin is reduced. Other times it's been inconsistencies with line and length and in a reaction to each of these problems I've concluded that the main culprit has been my run-up and the approach to the crease. But a couple of months ago I watched a SKY TV master class with Glenn McGrath and during it at 16 minutes and 40 seconds he talks about something that I've never heard discussed before in such a simple way and it immediately resonated with me. He talks about and explains how he developed and worked out his run-up and it is so simple.

I've now in a week worked on this and gone from being generally confused and wondering whether I should bowl like a, b or c to now bowling my way.

If you have a look at my Youtube channel here you'll see some video's where I'm working with this new action. Furthermore I've come to some additional conclusions that relate to the run-in aspect of bowling. The McGrath video here should be looked at and considered in conjunction with Stuart MacGills advice in this video below...

The MacGill video differs massively from most of the video's you'll find on the web as they focus on the micro details that should only be addressed once some of the basics have been fully learned. MacGill instead focuses on the fundamentals such as your run-in and approach to the crease. Don't dismiss this aspect and think of it as being a superficial part of the whole process, because it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, especially if you are struggling with your bowling. Think of it this way. Your run-in and movement through the crease (Bowling action) is the rock bed or foundation of everything else that follows. If you've not got this part consistent and correct, everything else is going to suffer, it will be like building onto a sketchy foundation and having to do remedial work all the time as a result.


Should I copy anyone else's style? (working on this currently)

Prior to Warne's appearance on the cricket scene, Wrist-Spinning was all but dead. Over the 70's and 80's pace bowling had totally dominated across the world and many thought they'd never see the return of Wrist Spin in particular. As we all know Warne announced the end of that idea with his 'Ball of the century' to Mike Gatting and almost single-handedly resurrected spin-bowling in both forms.

One of the consequences of that was that Warne then kind of offered a template for anyone else that liked the idea of becoming a Wrist-Spinner. Warne was my introduction to cricket, cricket had kind of by-passed me despite the efforts of a bloke I worked with during the Botham era to get me watching it. But, one evening in the 1990's I turned on the tele with a beer in my hand watching the Ashes highlights and watched in amazement as this fat Aussie bloke with a mullet haircut, ripped through the England batting line up bowling the ball ridiculously slow! I'd only ever watched cricket for short periods as a kid with my Dad, he didn't know what was happening, so was never able to explain to me what was going on, so I never saw or understood the nuances of the game, so to suddenly be introduced to slow bowling by an exponent that was effective and devastating was mesmerising and I was hooked!

I then made sure that I saw every game I could on the tele that featured the Aussies, just so that I could watch weave his magic. Then when my kids were old enough and one of them had an accident that meant that we couldn't play football I turned to cricket. I was the bowler and at the age of 47 I was Shane Warne and at last cricket suddenly made total sense to me! I walked in off of 8 steps and bowled leg-breaks and got my kids out. (Okay so they were only 7 and 9 years old, but it was a start)! Another Dad got involved and this blog was started soon after.

I used Warne's approach and I tried to copy what he did. Over the intervening years I've changed and adapted my approach, speeded things up, realised that I did this strange skip like Titch Freeman despite the fact that I thought I was bowling like Warne! I then tried a faster approach like Stuart MacGill, all of which made slight differences. Each of these stages was recorded on video and then via forums such as www.bigcricket.com a range of people via youtube would then comment and discuss the bowling action including Stuart MacGill! Other people that populate this particular forum are specialists in bio-mechanics and they amongst some of the more experienced players fed back to me and advised me along with many others about the idea of trying to emulate the bowling actions of other people especially Warne's.

When it comes down to it, Warne's physique is unique and he's able to bowl the way that he does because of his physique and therefore, for most of us to try and replicate what he does is in fact counter-intuitive. Add to the fact that Warne is  built like a shot-put thrower and trains for hours upon hours under supervision of trainers and the likes, to try and do what he does exactly isn't a good method. Moreover, the bio-mechanists say that it can lead to injuries that will curtail your cricket life.

There is a question here that I've often pondered in that where do spin bowlers come from - at what point does a cricket player make the decision to bowl wrist spin?

"The right pace to bowl at is the pace where you gain your maximum spin. Then you vary your pace from there. But you must understand what pace you need to bowl at. That is very important." Terry Jenner

Strategies and field setting

Body and Fitness

I can't remember who said this, but it was on the big cricket forum and it rings true. "You can't fire a cannon ball from a canoe". As soon as I started bowling I started to hear the term 'Core Strength' primarily from people who work with biomechanics and are in the game of training people to be better at their sports. It was a new thing to me, but I listened and read and it made complete sense to me and in essence their point is the one made by the cannon/canoe analogy.

Training, exercise and practice ideas (Mat)

I've now been doing this stuff for more than 8 years now and I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be with my bowling, but at 54 years old, I've come to this far too late in life to make the kind advances I'd like to see happening, but until health and fitness evades me I'm going to continue practicing and trying to work out what it's all about!

But if you're younger than me like that youngster currently in the IPL who got his break when he was 40 odd years old, you've got the opportunity to make an impact in the games you play. The key thing is to practice all of the time and to maintain and keep your fitness up to enable you to perform at your best.

When I started out I bowled everywhere and anywhere that I could and I bowled almost every day (have a look back through this blog). My wife and most people I knew thought I was nuts and a lot of the time I must have looked like a nutter! I would bowl in playgrounds at night under floodlights using hockey balls, anywhere where there was a bit of flat grass as soon as the ground was hard enough I'd be bowling proper cricket balls. Every opportunity that I could I would bowl and that to some extent still is my mantra, it's just that I've now created a situation that's easier to access and use and I only look like a nutter to the people who live near me! If I could and it's only that my garden is small, I would almost certainly have a couple of wickets in my back yard along with some form of net to practice in daily a la' Clarrie Grimmett.

Fitness - I'm relative fit and lucky in that I'm a mesomorph in terms of body type, so that means that as long as I don't drink or eat excessively it's pretty easy for me to gain muscle prior to the season and get fit again after a few months of resting over the winter here in the UK. I'm not someone that has ever visited a gym and the idea of going to a gym seems bizarre to me when you can work on your fitness easily for free. I've always been interested in fitness and I've always been quite competitive and aware that I've got very good levels of stamina, I think these things have been useful with regards to bowling and playing cricket and put me in good position with regards a starting point. In addition the fact that I've got two sons that are at this point 13 and 16 years old, I have plenty of reason and excuses to do the things I do!

So a year of cricket with regards fitness kind of goes like this...

December; Here in the UK the end of November sees the weather consistently cold, days are short, it rains a lot and the chances of getting outside and even having a knock about in the street are very limited, although at the weekend if the temperature is above 8 degrees or so, me and one of my sons would have half an hour of batting and bowling in the street. But December sees very limited exercise and I have a break from playing.  Over the Christmas holiday we might book a sports hall and have a an hour a week bowling, batting and fielding as well. The only other thing I might do is the occasional 10 press-ups.

January; Nothing happens rarely go out and have a knock about as it's too cold.

February; Winter nets at the club start, so running up to that I might start regular press-ups and I'll do batches of ten throughout the day, meaning I may be doing 30 press-ups a day and I'll do plank exercises in the evening. I also do an exercise that targets the deltoid muscles in the upper arm as these I find are used a lot in my bowling and without this exercise I come away from bowling spells suffering a bit. Since discovering this video this hasn't been an issue and I combine this exercise with my press-ups.
March; Throughout March I just slowly increase the frequency and how many reps I do in each batch. By mid March we're outside in the street bowling again with windballs and therefore running in and pivoting and starting to get some agility and cardio work going and as the weather improves this becomes more frequent. I also do some Yoga and cycling when I can - very limited a 20 minute circuit which involves a very steep hill and I use a single speed fixie type bike with a mid range gear ratio so that the hill is hard work.

I also use a wobble/balance board for my knees/balance and core strength. I do an exercise on my pivot foot similar to this vid here performed by the ballet dancer, I hold my other foot pulled up behind my buttocks while balancing on the ball of my foot and this stretches my quadriceps (See video below...
Quadriceps basic exercise...
I also do this one above without the wobble board and another series of stretches and exercises that help with strengthening the knee. These all increase in frequency as the season approaches, but I do it all pretty sporadically depending on how I feel. I just kind of do it to stay supple and fit and enable me to be able to play a 6 hour game without suffering injuries. The other thing I've learned as well is that, if you're doing any of this - including longer spells of practicing with your bowling - if you get to a point where it's starting to cause pain you're probably best off stopping and resting for a day or so. Watch out especially when you're bowling/throwing for your shoulder muscles especially your Rotator Cuff, it's worth having a little knowledge about this one, as if you over do it when bowling/throwing, the outcome can be that you could finish off your bowling career. This one can be looked after using stretch bands and specific exercises that target that particular muscle set.

All of this requires 'Core Strength' and this is one of the key areas I work on all year round in varying degrees and I frequently use this set of reps in the way that these blokes demonstrate here, but I also vary the planks in a number of ways.
These blokes also have some quick work-outs for cardio/stamina which are hard work at the start of the year, but going through March and April I do some of these occasionally.

April; The weather's dry and we're out in the paddock bowling all the time, gradually building our fitness. We at this stage start doing cricket specific drills based around some of the idea you'll see in the book SAQ cricket by Alan Pearson.

These combine stamina and agility drills with catching and fielding skills. Typically one of my sons and I do this after a session of bowling

How long is this all going to take?

Moving forwards and considering variations - which one first?

Psyching out the batsman

Being a slow bowler and a leg-spinner at that, there's an expectancy that you're going to be expensive and at the start of your bowling journey the chances are that you will be when you're learning. But if you keep at it and you develop and learn, there'll be a point when it starts to come together and things fall into place. It's at this point you might start to consider the psychological aspects of the game.

The battle between the spin bowler and the batsman involves a fight for supremacy, as a slow bowler even when you're going well, you have to expect better batsmen, especially middle order batsmen, to think that they're Luke Ronchi who have the ability to smack the spin bowler out of the match. I use this example because I've waited years for Adil Rashid to be given a chance and I've always thought that he was thrown into international cricket too early and that could have knocked him psychologically for six and meant the end of his career. It was a massive set back for him, but he picked himself up and with the support of his team and all the people around him he kept spinning for Yorkshire and grew older and wiser and more able to suffer the knocks. In the Edgbaston game against the Kiwis I think he had a pivotal moment when Luke Ronchi like many a middle order batsman strode onto the pitch to make his mark and put Rashid back in his place. In the previous test match series Ronchi had played well against the finger spinners and everyone else and he was riding on that high his success. I sat watching the game and thought this might herald the end of Rashids 2nd coming, but, Rashid had everything in hand. Ronchi thought he had everything in hand too. I sat watching it and had seen a number of overs that preceded it that were primarily stock ball leg breaks. It followed therefore that Ronchi would play for the leg-break, sure enough he did, he went down on his knee to play a massive legside slog sweep Rashid though was one step ahead of him and had bowled a wrong un, Ronchi was bowled out first ball and Rashid went on to take 4 wickets in the match. 

If Ronchi had made contact with the ball and it gone sailing across the boundary for six, being such an aggressive player it may have been the case that Ronchi would have got the upper hand straight away from ball 1. I don't see enough of Rashid to know how he deals with such situations for Yorkshire, but this being integral to his position in the new look young England side, the pressure was on for Rashid and he kept his cool and got his man. It'll be interesting to see Ronchi and Rashid in the remainder of the games in the series.


One of the greatest exponents of the psychological warfare against the batsman was Warney. If you study him and read about him, you'll start to see that he was a master of this aspect of the game and he deployed all kinds of tactics to get under the batsman skin and make them focus on something other than scoring and playing well. Admittedly he had a army of people around him, including the whole of Australia on match days that believed he was was a game changer and the aura that he created around himself permeated through minds of any batsman that had to face him - Michael Atherton being one of the most famous cases. 
One of the most over the top examples of Warne and the Australian team hyping up Warnes ability to single-handedly bowl out England in the Ashes was seen in 2006-07 series where they commissioned an effigy of warne, stuck on the back of a truck and paraded it around London leading up to and promoting the Ashes series.

This was accompanied by an advert that was on the TV in Australia and as it says in this article most of the newspaper at the time covered the story as well ensuring no doubt every English batsman would have  had Warne on their minds before they even got their whites on.
Needless to say, there's no way that you're going to be able to put on a media event like that, but I reckon if you're a kid and you use all the media systems that you can get your hands on - Twitter, youtube, snapchat, blogging and all those kinds of things and just generally big yourself up in someway, there's a chance that if you start out young and persist at it, you might be able to form some kind of awareness locally where other kids your age know about you. I'm very aware that when I take my kids to their matches, if there's a kid that's in the District or Essex juniors team, everyone knows and there's that psychological thing that already plays into the hands of the team with the Essex/District player. What would it take to independently promote yourself so that all the kids in your age group and their managers and coaches knew that you were capable of almost taking out whole teams single-handedly? I know that through my own endeavors on the internet through this blog and my youtube channel, people all around the world know about me from random kids in north east Essex to Australian internationals such as Stuart Macgill who contacted me and spoke about me at a Youtube/marketing conference as an example of someone who had a massive internet presence and yet in the greater scheme of things is actually pretty much just, some bloke called Dave from Essex! 

I now turn up at matches and kids see me and say "Oh my God it's some bloke called Dave off the internet"! Their team mates say 'Who'? Then they say things like 'Mate, it's this bloke who bowls Leg Breaks, Googlies, Top Spinners and Flippers and he's all over the internet. Straight away that's a home goal for his team, because I've now been elevated to some super star status. Whenever that has happened I've done really well because, even if I don't do anything particularly clever and I just bowl basic leg breaks, there's a perception that if I'm on the internet to the point that a kid in their team knows about me and I've got 4-5 variations, I must have something about me and that's the power of psychology.

Bringing things up to-date, in the last couple of years (2013) Warne did this 'Master Class' for SKY here in the UK on having plans, but a key part of this is psychology. He explains in this master class about the tactic of moving your bowling position on the crease. He does it primarily to change the line of attack and to see how the batsman plays him and ascertains strengths and weaknesses in the batsman's technique, but he also say that this moving around the crease also serves to make the batsman think 'Why's he moved there when for this delivery' and Warne says as soon as you've got the batsman thinking about you and what you're doing, his focus has changed and he's now potentially worrying about things that you might be doing as opposed what you are actually doing. When you watch the videos of English players playing Warne, you get the impression that it's a lost cause right from the outset, they just look as though they've walked out to the crease knowing that they're going to be walking back very soon.
At club level, the easiest thing to do is get the support of your team when you are bowling. Again this is wholly reliant on you getting the basics right, if you can bowl your leg break and get it spinning and landing it in the zones discussed previously, you're going to cause problems and you'll be in the game. If you can do this, it's almost a given that your wicket keeper and close in fielders are going to get vocal with oohs and ahs and if you're lucky some 'Go on Warnie's'!

Another really simple thing you can do, happens at the other end. If you are turning the ball, the off-strike batsman can see this and one of the things I do is stand near the off-strike bloke talking to myself spinning the ball from hand to hand really ripping it hard so that it audibly clicks as I flick the ball. I try and get it so that he sees this and I have a running commentary going as I bowl - talking to myself saying things like 'What do I want him to do - right I'll bowl a Flipper' try and get him caught LBW with one that doesn't spin'. Recently I've also taken to shouting down the wicket to the wicket keeper things like 'Mike signal when you want the wrong un'. Basically anything that might re-direct their focus and get them thinking you can  do something other than a leg-break is going to put them in two minds about the way they go about their business.

Another relatively easy thing to do that Warne discusses, is to make tweaks to your field, again he admits that sometimes these are superfluous and the change in position is minimal, but again all he's doing is trying to get the batsman to focus on him, to get in his mind and thinking 'Why's he moved that bloke there'?

The only other point to make about your grip is that once you've established the way you are going to hold the ball, if you're aiming to bowl at a higher level whereby batsmen are going to be looking at your hands/grip to try and read the ball out of the hand

Reading the ball out of the hand; This is where better batsmen watch how you hold the ball and release the ball. Watching how you release the ball in many instances allows the batsmen to figure out which delivery you're bowling, looking to negate your variations. I bowl against a kid at my club who also bowls wrist-spin, but unlike me he's also a very good batsman and he watches the ball out of my hand - pre-empting which way the ball is going to turn or whether it's going to stall or speed up. He's that good at it, he can call the delivery before it reaches him!

But, I would argue that for the most part, the majority of batsmen at all levels within club cricket would struggle to pick anything other than a leg-break or perhaps a wrong-un. So with regards worrying about this aspect of your game and the need to disguise your variations, my experience would suggest that this is a rare skill for most batsmen and if you were to learn a couple of variations, anyone watching your hand in this fashion would struggle to make sense of what you're doing, so don't be overly concerned about this aspect of your game especially in the short term.

Remedial Work - When things start going wrong.

It's going to be the case that you'll have your ups and downs, one week you'll bowl okay and the following week you'll bowl really badly. It's happened to me many times before and this week I've had a shocker going for 7 an over and not taking any wickets, although having said that I dropped a dolly off of my own bowling which was short of tragic as the bloke was on 40 odd and went on to score over a 100!. So what can you do when this happens?

In a lot of professions and possibly within sport at much higher levels, their may be the option of reflecting on the reason you've done so badly using a professional tool - "Reflection practice models" such as the Gibbs method which you may have seen on the blog elsewhere. Basically it's a list of prompts that you can use to be brutally honest about what the problem is.
Gibbs reflective cycle
So in the instance of my recent performance, I would start at the top and work round the cycle in a clockwise direction...

Description (what happened). I bowled really badly, primarily not able to bowl the ball on a good enough line and length. It was getting turn off the wicket, so was spinning the ball well enough and my run-up was a disaster - stuttering and varying the length during the overs.

Feelings (What were you thinking and feeling)? I need to stop bowling as the team is suffering here, but then the next over, there'd be an improvement and occasionally I'd beat the bat or find the edge only for it to go into a gap. Also afterwards I was thinking I've got to look at making some fundamental changes to what I do - primarily my run up.

Evaluation (what was good and bad)?  As mentioned there were a few good overs where the ball did land where it was supposed to and spun and caused problems. Bad - wides, too short, too full - generally inaccurate.

Analysis (What else can you make of the situation)? Earlier in the season I'd bowled really well off a fairly fast approach to the crease off of a short run up combined with a fairly side-on delivery out of a conventional bound. This all ended with an Achilles injury, that I've still not 100% recovered from. Given my age 55 (Just a few weeks ago) I then reconsidered my approach to the crease looking at the way that Terry Jenner bowls in his demo's that are on-line. This is a lot slower, but I've seen plenty of old blokes my age bowl very slow finger spin and yet take wickets and be very economic too.

Since then I have tried this and this was the approach I used in the game, but I did notice and have noticed previously that I seem to be too "Chest-on".

Conclusion (What else could I have done). Given the situation, there wasn't a lot I could have done other than gave up earlier, any remedial work or changes needed to be done in a practice environment. I did try bowling flippers and Top-Spinners, but they were equally poor.

Action Plan (What am I going to do now to rectify the situation)? I've looked at other bowlers who have a fairly short and measured approach to the crease including Beau Casson and then noticed again his action through the crease and the necessity to get side-on, in particular... so side-on that you look over the outside of your arm. I then realised that this isn't something I've been aware that I've been doing recently - certainly not since the Achilles injury.

So this evening I bowled as I have been and sprayed it around all over the place. I then focused on landing with my foot at a right angle to the direction I'm bowling and looking to get my body shape so that I look over my shoulder when my leading arm is up just prior to pulling down. The affect was immediate - much better accuracy 70% improvement and far better length again 70% improvement if not more and it seemed to be spinning more and turning off the wicket more.

Continue with the same practice - looking to groove this action through the crease over the coming 6 days leading up to next Saturday.

In conclusion, if things do go awry and you're not sure about what it is that is going wrong you could adopt the use of the Gibbs reflective practice model to work through the problem and identify the issue? If you've got video capabilities - try and get a mate or use a tripod (Make sure it's steady) to record a few examples of your bowling action and look at the footage to try and identify the problem. If you can't see the problem, upload it to Youtube and join the big cricket spin bowling forum here and get the blokes on there to have a look.

Some of the simple things that you can do or look at include...

Over - rotation.
Failing to get side-on out of your bound.
Failing to get up on your toes during your pivot.
Not following through

Remedial action and methods to 'Re-align' yourself include the use of video as mentioned above or a really simple process is to re-calibrate your bowling by using the stand-start technique advocated in the Beau Casson/David Freedman video here


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRalbzmKIEM  (Stuart MacGill).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsE_emWTP4Q (Stuart MacGill & Shane Warne).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFfcCsQyqpw (Shane Warne tactics and strategies).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA7YC7SF71Q (Terry Jenner).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM9UpUV3fHM (Terry Jenner 5 x grips)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFwhAsoax7w (Shane Warne slo-mo release)
The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling, (Peter Philpott, Crowood Press, Marlborough, 1988).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW1fRPqsa-A - (Richie Benuad grip & hardness).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyHX7GsrMlo - (Shane Warne Grip)
http://www.pitchvision.com/how-to-coach-more-spin-into-spinners#comment-2778800 - (Mark Garraway - Hip rotation).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5aElnH4Zk (Shane Warne explaining stuff + slo mo footage of release).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMOzzBgwlNk (Simon Hughes analysing Warne's bowling 2005 ashes test + slow mo footage of top-spinner and leg break).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhnPiWob0QI (Beau Casson guidance).
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/camera-interviews-tich-freeman (Titch Freeman's bowling action.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqxbF4dvQpE - Starters tutorial
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8BwlY9Umdg - Ball by ball Shane Warne Gabba 1994. Worth watching again and again to see how he goes about his work.
http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/22/daniel-goleman-focus-10000-hours-myth/ - training - how long is this going to take aspects.
http://www.bigcricket.com/community/threads/wrist-spin-bowling-part-two.41774/page-10 - (Big Cricket forum). 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFfcCsQyqpw  - SKY TV master class with Shane Warne talking tactics. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGTCtd0ZSLU Big Warnie - psychology
http://adsoftheworld.com/sites/default/files/styles/media_retina/public/images/bigwarnie.jpg?itok=MkUMt972 - Big Warnie adverts/media
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhnPiWob0QI Beau Casson bowling and guidance/tutorial.
http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2015/content/story/917767.html - English spinners don't practice enough - Jeetan Patel.

Check out my other blog here - this is all about Leg-spin bowling and nothing else. Double click on the image below.