Saturday, November 28, 2015

Leg spin bowling consistent and repeatable action - November development

Background to this post.

If you don't follow this blog, here's a run-down of what's happening. My bowling action is inconsistent, but for the most part being a 4thXI player I get away with it and still do okay. This season I bowled well coming off of a slightly longer run-up till I damaged my Achilles. The rest of the season I bowled off of a variety of run-ups and never repeated the success of May and June. Reflecting on the season and the last 8 years of bowling Wrist Spin, I decided that I'd look at my approach to the crease and try and make some fundamental changes. The main thing being a consistent and repeatable action.

In September just prior to the last game of the season I started to make the adjustments. I'd seen a video on Youtube that had been lifted from SKY TV here in the UK which was a bowling master-class featuring Glen McGrath. Unfortunately the video has been deleted so I can no longer link to it, but the video featured a section where McGrath explained very clearly how he established his run-up, you'll find this here on my other blog. Having watched the video I went out and applied the advice immediately and within an hour or so, the advice put into practice started to make significant differences. By the end of the first day I'd established a 3 step and then into the bound run-in which I'm still working with and haven't changed since.

Through Sept and Oct I kept working with this videoing it from the front and it looked okay - an improvement. There were a number of things that I started to improve and then at the end of October I shot the action from the side and that un-earthed another whole load of issues.
I noticed two key things - (1). The delivery stride was short and weak and the other thing (2). was that the leg that comes through after FFC instead of coming through, swings round like an Finger spinner. The point of reference for whether this is the correct assumption is Stuart MacGill, Warne for instance swings his leg out, but he's a freak, so for mortals the knee coming through towards the batsman a la' MacGill is the preferred method. On where we have a couple of coaches and bio-mechanists, the knee issue was picked up and I was personal messaged with some guidance and ideas.

 Between Phase 4 (FFC) and Phase 5 (BR) Ball release, the knee needs to lift and push forwards towards the batsman. See the sequence image below of Stuart MacGill from his video here.
His leg pushes through towards the stumps and doesn't swing out, so this was one of the things I needed to work on. The weather here in the UK soon changed and November made it impossible to work on a field even if there was an artificial wicket, so I had to resort to practicing outside my house and videoing it there. When I look back at what I've been doing I use a system called Gibbs Reflective Cycle to do so...
What Happened?
I implemented some of the changes into my bowling. As it’s now November and the weather has changed I had to resort to trying some of this stuff out at a different location where it would be easy to video the results. I also chose to make the adjustments without the use of a ball as I’m primarily looking to hone the action and at this point not worry about the outcomes.
In order to warm up and loosen up and just refresh my memory of what it is that I’m about to do and focus on – I’ve often gone through the bowling action without the ball. Over the last few weeks having done this on camera I noted that the action without the ball was very different to the action with the ball. So there’s some form of dysfunction happening once the ball is in the hand as the ‘Ball-less’ action looked far more dynamic. So the process of honing this action without the ball may have a pretty dire consequence in the middle to short term or perhaps even longer? The action might come together and be massively improved, but it may mean I can no longer bowl? So that’s of some concern. But I have to look at the longer term outcome and convince myself that the hard work done at this stage will eventually convert into an improved bowling action and therefore results.

Reflection (Good and Bad).
Bad as above – the longer term aspect. Will I lose the ability to bowl and will I be ready for April? Good – every single session now seems to be producing more dynamism and a better bowling action.

I’ve made the decision not to actually bowl, e.g. use a ball. The ball creates outcomes e.g. the ball is either on target or off-target and these mistakes then force you to be distracted by the outcome. Over the years when I’ve tried to change my action, I think I’ve always then been side-tracked by the fact that the changes have then resulted in poor outcomes and I’ve not followed through with and implemented the changes that I’d intended.

The first attempt to correct any of this happened on the 29th and the key aspect that I was working on here was the delivery stride. Click the image below for the video.
FFC - delivery stride. This represented a significant change in the stride, but then highlighted another issue - the timing with the arms. In this image I'm too far through the action at the point of FFC. Watching the video you can also see that the leg comes round and through from this point forwards.
Conclusion - There's a noticeable improvement in the stride, but the cocking of the leg is still happening and swinging round rather than pushing through like MacGill.
Action Plan - More work pushing the knee through and at the batsman and continue with the stride. Work with strengthening the glutes and overall core fitness, for this I use this website here Cricket Strength.
1st Nov 2015.
So this set of deliveries was shot with the intention of implementing some or all of the points in the last action plan…

1.       Getting the leg coming through, instead of out and round (Cocking the leg).

2.       Lengthening the delivery stride.

3.       Increasing the dynamism.

If you look at the video here Click on the image below there’s been some dramatic changes. Speaking to some bio-mechanists and coaches who work with wrist spin, there’s a general feeling that there’s some big improvements with the action overall. With regards to No.1 I’ve managed to omit the cocking of the leg and the leg now drives through forwards towards the batsman, but I do so in a way that isn’t that powerful yet and it still needs some work.
No.2 The delivery stride, was relatively easy. I’ve been doing some work with strengthening my gluteus medius, plus some cycling, so felt that lengthening the stride at this stage was do-able and it’s turned out to have been successful in this first attempt. The only thing I will say about it is, that when performing the bowling action, I have to focus on actually stretching the stride which then that takes away the focus on one of the other aspects that I’m working with.
Going back to the point made with regards to the stride and what I may be trying to focus on in one particular session… It’s obvious that the whole bowling action can be broken down into several components…

Phase 1: Pre Delivery Stride (PDS)
Phase 2: Mid bound (MB)
Phase 3: Back Foot Contact (BFC)
Phase 4: Front Foot Contact (FFC)
Phase 5: Ball Release (BR)
Phase 6: Follow Through (FT)

Add to that some other aspects that have to be considered at and between each phase.

What foot you set off on. ***

How many steps into the bound. ***

The Gather – getting the left hand up around my ear. ***

Getting set-up to land side-on with the landing foot. *

The leading arm reaching upwards and outwards. *

The delivery stride. **

The pivot foot where does it point?*

The braced leg. *

The pull down with the leading arm. *

The knee coming through towards the batsman. **

The release point of the ball.*

The pivot up on the toes. *

The follow through. **

 Going back to this list though, If, I mark the aspects which I feel are coming together with asterisks… 1 for made a start. 2 for going OK and three for Good, I’d say I’m here…

But, reading about bowling actions and watching the right types of videos it becomes apparent that there’s a trend based on some research from somewhere that the hip plays and enormous part in successful outcomes for bowling. But grasping what this is and understanding it despite the fact that there are a few videos is troubling me. This is primarily due to the examples that are there, look relatively insignificant in the greater scheme of things and for the most part you’d think surely I’m already doing that? The other aspect is that it’s another thing in this complex chain of events that you have to think about and focus on when you’re bowling. As far as I can make out the hip aspect is described as being the Hip – Drive and it looks as all it is – is the fact that in the bowling action it must rotate 180 degrees.

With the Hip-Drive in mind and ensuring that I do rotate the body 180 degrees I then found that I was landing side-on and ending up in a position whereby I was having to correct myself on landing as I was tripping over myself. I think initially this concerned me as it was not something I’d done before, but then realised that it was because for the first time I was rotating properly.

In the last sequence of videos I was focused on getting the knee coming through and following through in a straight line. The observation of one of the people that is following what I’m doing prior to Nov 1st was that the knee wasn’t powerful enough, so hopefully I may get some feedback to say that this has been improved to some extent? At the end of the session on Nov 1st my own conclusion simply from feel, was that the leading arm was weak and I realised that I wasn’t reaching up and out. This realisation came once I’d turned the cameras off, so I then went through the action again but this time putting more effort into the arm and the feeling was significant. It felt as though I’d loaded up my body with far more stress, through doing this particularly on the knees. Whether that’s down to having weak knees or perhaps having something wrong with the action remains to be seen.

Mid November, having posted a couple of other videos where I continued to work with the leading arm, it was suggested by one of the blokes on Big Cricket - Tony M that he could come and see my development as well as my younger son Joe who plays for South Essex. He suggested the nets at Writtle in Essex as he was travelling from Norfolk to Somerset on this specific date. So the nets were booked and we met up. Click the image to see the video.

Post Net session

What happened – went to the nets at Chelmsford and had a two hour session with Tony M in attendance. Bowled for the first time in three weeks with a ball.

Feelings – Was apprehensive about how much of a difference this action would make on my bowling and there was an expectation that it would be a disaster. As it turns out it wasn’t at all generally looks promising.

Evaluation – It was good in that generally the whole thing felt okay and it looked quicker than I would normally bowl. Tony M said that I was getting good flight and dip. Accuracy-wise it was okay, a few balls still ending up wide of the leg-side, Tony M said that was possibly down to my loose grip. Bad – looking back at the video footage here it appears that at FFC I somehow hold back and don’t follow-through with anywhere as much vigour.

Analysis – As mentioned it felt pretty good. I just bowled so that Tony M could have a look at what was going on and how I was doing. Initially there was no focus whatsoever on any specific aspect and Tony seemed quite happy with what was happening. I soon realised that I was bowling without getting up onto my toes in the action and that my stride was quite short and relaxed, so I mentioned this to Tony and he said that I was doing it, but intermittently. He went on to say that when I did do it the outcome was different – better flight and dip. So I then focused on improving both those aspects. I was subtly aware of the fact that something was slightly different about the bowling, but didn’t dwell on it.

Looking back at the video and the stills grabbed from the video it’s quite obvious that once the ball is in hand and I’ve then got to put something on the ball I do something quite different. Looking at all of the recent videos, there are still 3 key points of concern in the action without the ball.

1.       The leading arm is still weak generally and needs more work, I need to reach up and out more and do this continually over the coming months.

2.       The stride after BFC going into FFC is still fairly weak and short.

3.       The pivot at FFC is intermittent and needs to be more consistent and exaggerated which is one of the suggestions that Tony M suggested during the off-season.

I find that it’s quite tricky trying to do all of these things in one go, so I’m probably going to focus on each one individually. As far as I can make out much of the action apart from these is fine and is beginning to become natural, so I’ll try and add them one at a time in order of appearance in the bowling action, so the leading arm (1) will be the first component I’ll work with. I’m also optimistic about the prospect that the other two weak areas may fall into place as I just bowl more with this new approach?

Going back to the video where these things are evident. If you watch the leading arm in the two different sessions there is a marked difference especially when you watch where it starts and ends up. In the Non-Ball action the arm comes down and then past the hips and around my back during the later stages of the follow-through. Whereas in the Writtle video the leading arm barely gets to my hip and if you look at the action in real time I kind of stall and end up momentarily very front on at the release point as if I need to pause in order to present the hand in such a way that I get more side –spin on it perhaps? 

More recently though I also observed that in the Writtle video the bowling arm does something very different too, again instead of it coming down and passing the hips it ends up in front of the body tucked in weakly, lacking the vigour seen in the non-ball version of the action.

I need to check where the arm needs to end up – because I’m not 100% it needs to swing round to my back as it does at the moment in the Non-Ball bowling action?


As said above approach the corrections methodically stage by stage working on one at a time. With regards the ball version  of the action at Writtle, for the moment ignore those details and hone the action overall in the hope that come January/Feb they might so ingrained that they wont occur?

Action Plan

Check on-line and ask Tony M about the leading arm and where it ends up.

Starting with the arm as the focus of attention just make sure that the leading arm gets up nice and high reaching up and out and then pulls down.

Try and practice more frequently – try and get outside the house every now and then bowl for longer periods.

Also look for somewhere indoors to practice.

Try and find two other people that might be interested in going to Writtle every now and then to have a net session.