Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bowling practice ideas

I've got to admit that I'm not that enamoured with my website it's awkward to use and so much slower than blogging and at the moment I can't figure out how it'll pay for itself. This blog here is free and with the adverts on it, people click on them if they're relevant and I get a fraction of a pence here and there and it builds over the year. So here I am for the moment on the blog. I'll put the content on the website as well, but it's so much easier to create the content here and then copy it over.

I've had a pretty poor season with the ball, but had an interesting match with the bat see here which ended up with me and the bloke who can bat... Adam 'Village' Green winning the 'Champagne moment of the year' award at our annual club awards night. Which was nice, as I've never won an award for any sporting event in my entire life.

The season started off poor with an injury and then the yips for a big section of the season and the two combined led to an indifferent season. I've kind of given up on the longer run-up idea because of the injury situation and the fact that it didn't seem to be adding anything except for expensive overs. It looks as though if I had the opportunity to practice more it might come together, but I'm also working against the fact that I'm not getting any younger.

I went through a phase of self reflection thinking about what I might do, I even pondered just bowling dibbly dobbly straight stuff, as I see so many people taking wickets with relative ease doing just that? Thinking it through, I brought into the equation a number of observations. One of which was the slowness of Majid Haq's bowling.

Inage from -

Haq bowls sub 40mph on occasions and has taken some seriously big wickets including Jaques Kallis. So the whole idea of having to bowl as fast as physically possible in order to take wickets is somewhat negated by Haq's example. This gave me food for thought and a little more optimism at a very dark period in my bowling career. Like everyone else, I'd seen plenty of blokes bowling dibbly dobbly straight stuff and taking shed loads of wickets, but to then know that Haq was doing it at this level got me thinking... Could I bowl slower and what is it these blokes are doing that is so effective and yet seemingly not a lot different to what I do?

More analysis of the situation led me to look at the contradiction of the fact that as I've got better over the years I've seemingly taken less wickets? I spin the ball more than I ever have done, my line is better and I reckon I bowl a bit faster even off of just  2 or 3 steps, so what's different? The adage "S**t bowling gets wickets" I realised might be the answer to the last question.

I was then left thinking... So a number of aspects to my bowling have definitely improved, yet I'm less effective - what's the story there? I've always attempted to bowl a line just outside of the off-stump. Some years back when I used to bowl a pretty good wrong-un, mixed with Flippers this used to work well, with my best bowling figures and season had with that combination. This was the period when I had 'The Googly syndrome'. Since deciding that I'd re-learn the leg-break and drop bowling The Wrong-Un I've pretty much stayed with bowling the same line and despite the fact that my Leg-Break has got gradually better, my figures have got worse.

No-one at our club bowl Leg-Breaks other than me, all conceding it's just too hard, even the legendary youngster Frank Farrington has gone the way of many a Leggie, neglecting his Wrist-Spin in favour of becoming a better batsman and to be fair it's worked and he's now seen as a very promising batsman playing in the club 2nd XI who bowls a bit of leg-spin when they need him to. So with all of these problems there's no-one really at the club who can offer any advice or guidance, so it's just a case of having work things out yourself and this can take years. I'm primarily a Kinaesthetic learner, so I have to do things in order to learn, reading about it and people telling me about it is less effective, but this year I picked up on some suggestions made in the games by my captain and one very important observation by a bloke on one of the forums I used to contribute to.

Recap. So at this juncture I'd pretty much scrapped the idea of trying to add speed to my deliveries by having a longer run-up, age and time to put the effort in, to totally re-model my action by adding speed through the longer run-up increasingly felt like a 3 year plan, which would have taken me up to nearly 60 years old. So the short term plan was... Focus on bowling at a comfortable speed off of a 2 or 3 step walk-in but figure out what enables Haq and others to be successful. I knew one of the key factors as to whey they're successful and this includes Frank Farrington at our club is the inclusion of getting the ball to drift. Over the summer on the forum discussing drift, one of the blokes said something along the lines of "You'll always struggle to get drift because you bowl with such vertical arm".

Lowering the arm angle. I'd hardly ever over a period of 10 years of bowling tried this, so when I gave it a go, it initially felt weird, but very quickly I noticed that the ball was coming out of my hand and spinning through the air with the seam pretty at 90 degrees to the direction of flight every time. That was massively encouraging. In one day over three practice sessions of about an hour each I introduced the consistent 90 degree seam, dip and the thing that has eluded me for ten years... Drift!!!! Not only that, but this was all with what appeared to be an increase in accuracy despite the fact that the action was new.

Factor #2. Over the last couple of years I've bowled with action where I twist my wrist anti-clockwise in the approach to the crease/gather where it feels as though I'm going to release the ball at the point of release with thumb pointing towards the batsman. This produces a ball that comes out with an angle almost at 90 degrees to the flight. But, sometime it comes out with the seam tilted backwards, other times with the seam upright, therefore sometimes it turns well off the wicket and other times when the seam angle is tilted it skids on, what Shane Warne refers to as a Leg-Breaks natural variation and what a lot of people refer to wrongly as a Slider. Alongside bowling with the lower arm, I kept this delivery for my straighter arm deliveries and this too came together nicely especially with regards to accuracy and it was this ball that I used in the last few games. I'd have had a bagful of wickets if it wasn't for the fact that so many of the catches that should have been taken were spilled.

Factor #3. Lee Dutton's captaincy. Lee comes up with a few directions in the game that are usually directed at the bowlers and I noticed it when he was telling the others rather than me... "Bowl at the stumps - make him play the ball". It was probably aimed my younger son Joe who's bowling is very accurate and is aimed at just outside off-stump but batsman sometimes will just leave the ball if he's bowling consistently on that line. On hearing it at a latter stage in the game when the opposition were looking to play for a draw, I realised how much sense it made, there was no way that the player was going risk playing the shot if he didn't need to, but by changing the line and making him play brings in the chance to take wickets. I then extrapolated the theory to my bowling and realised that it made so much more sense than bowling off-stump line. If the batsman reads the ball as being outside of off he has at least two options - play it or leave it, if the length is wrong it's likely to be played through the off-side for four.

Factor #4. In the last handful of games, without any real consistency in length, but with the increased accuracy brought about by the use of the twisted wrist delivery (Factor #2) I found the main problem  was anything short was played off of the back-foot far to easily. Better length balls which were played with a straight bat, often went through the gate, but turned off the wicket and missed the off-stump, or beat the outside of the bat and spun away missing everything. A couple of wickets were had caught by the keeper or slips, but Dutton intervened in the last game saying bowl on a leg-stump line. He didn't explain why, but it obviously brings in an increased chance of the ball hitting the stumps if it evades the bat.

Conclusion. With all these new attributes to my bowling and the advice from Dutton, I realised that if there was one thing I needed to do to get all these things working for me it was to be more accurate with my length. So at this point I got rid of the stumps during practice and instead started to bowl onto a bit of fake grass. The plan was to work on 3 deliveries, looking to spin them hard and land them in the Terry Jenner zone or even tighter threatening the stumps.

I practice in a paddock across the road from my house and I noticed that there was section of fence that was still intact which I could bowl towards. So I cut back all the bushes and grass and practiced here all through Sept into October including today. Here's the set up I worked with initially...

I worked on how many balls out of 30 I could land on the mat and the best so far is 17 and the other thing I look to do is consecutive balls landing on the mat and the best so far has been 9. In the last few sessions I've reduced the width of the target area and now use a piece of hardboard which is 10" by about 30" approx. as below...
 Today I got my younger son to watch where the ball landed and mark on a piece of paper where the balls landed in relation to the piece of board and the surrounding area. I then told him where the balls ended up in relation to the spin, so I was able to put together the pitch map diagram below.
 This is the distance I set the target area up in relation to the stumps.
Balls at the ready...

Once back indoors I created the graphic below...
The yellow balls ended up hardly spinning and went on to land approx in the yellow zone marked behind the stumps, Red spun a little and would have ended up slightly wide of off and so on. I think the illustration is more realistic with regards to what would happen on helpful wicket. In the paddock because of the surface the ball spins miles and isn't a true representation of what would happen in a game. But, the focus in the accuracy aspect and I'm happy with what I ended up with here. The balls are in two clusters in the diagram, the first bucket were all relatively short and Joe suggested I bowl fuller so the second cluster I tried to target the end closer to the batsman.

This seems to have worked really well for me at this point, having chosen to bowl relatively slow, the ball spins better out of the hand turns off the pitch nicely. But the two basic deliveries I've been working with as explained above both have differing characteristic, the low arm variation is especially good when it comes together because it both dips and drifts and turns miles.

Whether I can carry this forward over the winter and hit the ground running in the spring bringing this to the game remains to be seen, but at the moment I'm very optimistic.