Saturday, September 05, 2015

Leg-spin bowling a consistent and repeatable bowling action.

As soon as I got home from the Jamie Britton maiden hundred match I went over the paddock...

I went out on the paddock having remembered seeing a Glen McGrath 'Masterclass' on SKY where he'd discussed how he established his run-up and this had resonated with me and I thought I need to go over the paddock and explore that approach and see if it works for me? So, the basic premise is that you find an open space - not necessarily a wicket and you start to run in and as soon as you feel you've got the necessary rhythm, you then go into your bowling stride. Do this 10 times and get someone to watch you or record it somehow, where you start and where you finish and look for the length of run-in that you produce most consistently. Then mark it or take it to a wicket and do it again this time looking to establish that this is a repeatable action. Earlier this month on the Big Cricket forums I posted this...

8 Years into my wrist spin journey and only now have I realised the importance of this. My run up over the years has changed so many times. Initially focusing on the 8 step Shane Warne approach, I did that, but the bowled off the wrong foot with a skip like Titch Freeman. The skip took all of the zip out of any prospect of having any "Explosive energy" through the crease and in the end I realised I needed to confront this as an issue if I was going to bowl more than 4 overs before being told "Have a blow Dave".

I turned to my younger son Joe to help me and within hours I had the basics in place and then over several sessions I converted. Having converted, I was still utterly lost as to whether to bowl off of 8 steps, run-in fast like MacGill and a 100 other options. On here loads of people were facing the same problems in different ways, loads have tried bowling like Warne - me included, then someone pointed out that Warne being the freak that he is, combined with his physique was probably not the best template for your bowling.

In the meantime I had different levels of success, with the implementation of different approaches. It seemed these worked for a while and then for some reason or other something changed or I wanted more of something - speed, turn, dip, flight etc and so the experimentation went on.

At the end of last year, I decided that I was just going to ignore all the advice and just run in the way that felt right and bowl. It worked to some extent, but my two sons said "Dad your bowling action is crap, you look a mess when you bowl". I videoed it and they were right it was rubbish and inconsistent. At the start of this season I came in with two methods... (1). A slower Jenner-esque approach and (2). A slightly more energetic approach with a bit of a bound. A very experienced player for the first time in almost 7 years gave me some advice - basically "Mate, don't step in and bowl, use your short run up as you get more zip off the wicket" He was right, over the next 4 or 5 matches I played in I bowled some of the best spells ever against good batsmen in some instances and took a load of wickets. Then I damaged my Achilles (Strain).

This injury forced me to re-think my action through the crease and the approach to the crease. In the short term the solution was to bowl "Jenner-esque" off of a step or two, but trying to put a lot more revs on the ball. It worked to some extent, but I wasn't taking wickets and my line and length was inconsistent, something was wrong. I videoed myself again and the footage was bad - all sorts of problems, but the main thing was I was bowling too 'Front on' not getting side-on through the crease.

So step one was to get back to getting side on. I got round this by ensuring that I was looking down the wicket -over my shoulder - looking around my leading arm. Straight away, immediate results, 2 wickets in a game, going for only 3 an over and being used for 13 overs. But during the game I was still wholly unsure about whether to come off of 4 steps, 6 steps or to include a bound and it just felt crap.

On SKY here in the UK, there's been a documentary about McGrath & in the documentary he explains how he worked out his run-up and discusses how it was conceived. The basics are – you run until you feel rhythmic and are able to enter your bowling stride and action feeling comfortable. He says do this on an open field (outfield) marking your start and get someone to mark your landing point out of the bound. Do it 10 or more times to check the length and consistency and take the average length and that’s your run-up. Check it out here from 14 minutes onwards and then genius bit is discussed at 16min and 40 seconds.

If you asked me what my run up consists of – or how long it is, until today I couldn’t have given you an answer. In matches, I stutter, stop, try different lengths and look like a complete pillock and then bowl off 2 steps of late, but without a bound and with collapsed pivot leg. It had to stop!

This morning, I videoed how I bowled yesterday – 40 balls, I then videoed an attempt at bowling ‘naturally’. I then compared the two and came up with a plan. I knew I wanted 3 outcomes…

(1). More speed, so I had to do more than walk-in.

(2). More energy and dynamism – I needed to bound.

(3). Get side-on.

Stage 1. On a flat paved area I marked a starting point and very quickly discovered it was important to start off with either my left or right leg leading. I went for the left leg leading, so came off the right foot from my mark.

Stage 2. In the short term, three steps seemed sufficient before I performed the bound into the side-on ‘Landing’ position, set up for stride into the rotation stage.

At this point all those things that happen at that stage were un-important, what mattered was…

Steady your self at your mark, lead with the correct foot consistently – initially this was hard, it’s not something I’ve ever done and initially I found myself doing the stuttering thing, or going with the wrong foot. I just had to just keep repeating the same lead with the left foot.

Having got that right – the three steps felt fairly natural leading into the bound. The whole action being utterly new then felt different through the crease and initially the results didn’t look that promising, but by the 3rd or 4th ball there was a significant improvement. I then, over an afternoon in three sessions bowled 400 + plus balls. By which time I’d measured the distance from my mark to the stumps as being 8’6” and this worked pretty well.

For the moment, there are other issues – I don’t seem to be able to spin the ball as hard at will, but I noticed when I was more relaxed, everything came together including drift so bounce and massive turn. The more obvious short term effect was massively improved accuracy with regards line and length and more speed in comparison with yesterdays ‘Jenner-esque’ step in and bowl.

But in the short term I seem to have developed a consistent method which now gives me the basis on which to address other issues one by one methodically. So over the coming 2 weeks (No game next week for me) I’m going to work with this and hone it, so that it is my approach to the crease not Jenner’s, 
Since then, I've had a weekend at Nutbrook Cricket Club, Derbyshire where with the permission of the clubs coach I was able to access a good quality net and have been able to work on this new action. That combined with a couple of sessions in the paddock  I reckon I've at last developed an approach/run-up to the crease now that I'll stick with for ever-more. I've struggled with this aspect of my bowing since starting, so it's a bit of a pivotal moment these last two weeks.

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