Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Leg Spin Bowling - The Basics - What is a Leg Break?

Wrist-spin bowling 'The Leg-Break'

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". 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?