Thursday, 26 October 2017

Starting a spell - wrist spinners and left-arm Orthodox bowling

26/1/19 work in progress (46 views).

We all play in leagues where its normal to play the opposition at home and then away at some point in the same season, for all I know your league may be really small and you play the same team more than twice a season? Therefore, over your cricketing life, you're likely to bowl against the same blokes year after year in the same way as the professionals do. Similarly, you'd play at the same grounds year in year out and you'd have favorite grounds - ones that you prefer to play at?

Surely then, if you're taking your cricket seriously you'd adopt some of the strategies you hear professional teams using, one of which is analysis of the players you face and the wickets you play on?

In the last year (2018) during the series here in England when England played India there were the usual series of interviews on Sky cricket and two stuck out with regards individuals approaches to their bowling plans and strategies. Ravi Ashwin and Darren Gough both spoke about the fact that immediately after games they make extensive notes about the batsmen and the way they play, so that they can modify their bowling in the next encounter. Both of them spoke about it being a key part of their practice and Darren Gough in particular alluded to the fact that he was almost obsessive with regards making these notes and enjoyed this part of his game strategy. We all know too that within professional teams they now have staff that focus on data and information collating, right down to the fact that some of the teams if not all of them play with body monitoring equipment on that records their organ functions - heart rates, body temperature and more with regards to fine tuning them as athletes to get the most out of them.

Look at the video here Double click on the video to open it
Listen to what Warne Says about plans relating to batsmen at the start of the video.

Whilst I'm not suggesting that we do anything near as complex as this, but analysis of some aspects of the game are within our reach and might be useful to us when we play? My suggestion is that as a wrist-spinner who plays over a number of years against the same opposition at the same venues, it might be worthwhile analysing and recording some aspects of the game that might be relatively consistent? Whilst I acknowledge this wont be everyone's cup of tea, some of you might enjoy it and it may add another dimension to the game that makes it more enjoyable and you might find it improves your success rates.

Before you start your spell___________________________________________________________

I sometimes visit the ground the day before and have a look at where I'm going to be playing. I look at which of the strips has been cut and where they are in relation to the boundary and the wind direction. Dependent on how you bowl, you might want the bigger boundary on the side where you're most likely to concede runs? If the wind blows in one direction predominantly you may want to consider how that's going to affect the ball in the air, think drift . On one of the wickets that I've played on over the last 10 years the wicket runs east to west, so in the latter stages of the game with the sun setting in the west I you bowl high loopy ball out of the setting sun from the western end of the wicket! Similarly, our home ground, doesn't have screens and if I bowl from my preferred end the ball if looped up comes out of a big Oak tree and batsman have said to me before "I couldn't see the bloody ball"!

Then there's the wicket itself. I'm no expert at this by any stretch of the imagination, but bit by bit when you play on wickets over a number of years you'll remember the properties and characteristics of them. If you're a Shane Warne type with an amazing cricket brain you might be able to remember all these details, but some of us like Ravi Ashwin and Darren Gough have to write it down and keep notes . Dependent on where you live and how affluent the area is, the wickets are going to differ massively. Many of us here in the UK play on municipally owned grounds where local councils maintain the wickets and increasingly the level of expertise available to execute the role of curating the wicket and outfield is being lost. As a result the wickets can be really poor.

The weather is a factor too, but overall it's a pretty complex art and you've only got to watch professional cricket to see that some captains make catastrophic mistakes based on their analysis of the wicket. I'd be looking to ascertain the following information in different weather conditions, does it bounce, does it offer turn, does it break up easily after hot weather, is the bounce variable, is it kept in good condition, is it covered in weeds and does it drain quickly?

It's just a case of making either mental notes of the characteristics or write it down so that when you step up to your mark you have some idea of what might happen.

The batsman______________________________________________________________________

The more you know about him/her the better, as it means you can potentially make it difficult for them from the outset. Again, over the season/years make notes about the batsman; his/her strengths and weaknesses and look to exploit them as much as possible right from the start of your spell. The more you're able to do this, the more confident you're going to be as you bowl your first over.

With a little knowledge of the batsman and how the wicket plays, you're going to be in a far better position to start your spell in a positive manner.


The first over

From all of my observations with regards to the wickets that I bowl on, the best approach I find currently, is to bowl an off-stump line with a predominantly off-side field when faced with a batsman that you don't know and you're unaware of how much the ball will turn off the wicket and or bounce. The key is to bowl to your field and allow yourself to settle and relax. If you click on the image below, which hopefully will take you to a Youtube video featuring Shane Warne, scroll through to 12 minutes and 30 seconds - listen to what he says about moving your position on the wicket.

Double click on the image
to open the video in Youtube.

Shane Warne's advice; These video's are frequently removed from Youtube, so if the link doesn't work, mention it in the comments below.

This is something that Warne has talked about before. If you're able to bowl a decent line, do as discussed above - bowl an over or a few balls from your normal position on the crease and then look at changing your position on the crease once you sense that the batsman feels he's got the measure of you. Remember, in exactly the way you're trying to work him out, he's doing the same thing with you - trying to figure whether it's turning off the wicket, whether you're varying the speed or flight looking for the opportunity to pounce and hit a four or get off-strike. Whilst we're on the subject of getting off-strike this is one of the things you want to avoid especially when a batsman has just come to the crease. If possible keep him there. In a way it's preferable sometimes for him to run two: (a). The bloke at the other end might be well set and scoring consistently and causing your problems, so you don't want him on strike (b). If the new bloke runs a single he then stands at the bowlers end and gets to watch the ball from a different perspective rather than the perspective of someone just about to lose their wicket.

When you sense that he's feeling more comfortable and may be about to play a run scoring shot - change it up slightly...

Bowl from a different position on the crease. In the video Warne talks about starting in close to the stumps bowling over the wicket from position 6 and then moving wider on the crease still over the wicket for the next 2 balls eventually bowling from 5. He then says, if you are going to look at bowling around the wicket - go straight to position 2 and bowl into the same area. Don't suddenly bowl wide outside of leg - remember you're field is predominantly an off-side field, so continue to bowl into the stumps. As Warne says, this change-up is a difference in your position of more than 8' and is something the batsman has to consider and react to.

In a situation like this, you could potentially have been bowling your stock ball and at this point coming from such a wide and different angle also change up your delivery to a straight ball - top-spinner or one that has some back-spin like a Flipper  or just a nothing ball, like a slow seam-up delivery that goes straight on. There's no right or wrong way with this, these are just suggestions to demonstrate what you could potentially do - you could just bowl leg-breaks and move your position on the crease and that might be more than enough to create problems and get a wicket. The most important thing is to be able to bowl a fairly consistent line and to spin the ball hard.

The other thing people often don't consider is the depth of the crease. if you're bowling a nice length and you struggle to adjust your lengths bowl off a different length if you're looking to drop it shorter e.g. from position (1)? See the article here by Ashley Mallett  where he writes about length and dip in relation to not letting a batsman settle.

Remember always watch what the batsman does with the other bowler in between your overs. Try and figure out what his preferred shots are and where he appears to be targeting to score runs. As I try and bowl at the off-stump in the early overs, I'm always interested in seeing how well the batsman plays leg-side shots and dependent on what happens in the other bowlers over, that helps me make decisions with regards to whether I might bring my line across and start to bowl more of leg-stump line which is a far more attacking approach.

Click on the images below for examples of my analysis of batsman from my previous games.

The truth about the nonsense you all call 'Sliders'

And this one Ian Bell -  "Natural variation"

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