Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Leg Spin Bowling - Psychology, bowling plans and strategies.

Leg Spin Bowling - Psychology, bowling plans and strategies.

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Psyching out the batsman

Being a slow bowler and a leg-spinner at that, there's an expectancy that you're going to be expensive and at the start of your bowling journey the chances are that you will be when you're learning. But if you keep at it and you develop and learn, there'll be a point when it starts to come together and things fall into place. It's at this point you might start to consider the psychological aspects of the game.

The battle between the spin bowler and the batsman involves a fight for supremacy, as a slow bowler even when you're going well, you have to expect better batsmen, especially middle order batsmen, to think that they're Luke Ronchi who have the ability to smack the spin bowler out of the match. I use this example because I've waited years for Adil Rashid to be given a chance and I've always thought that he was thrown into international cricket too early and that could have knocked him psychologically for six and meant the end of his career. It was a massive set back for him, but he picked himself up and with the support of his team and all the people around him he kept spinning for Yorkshire and grew older and wiser and more able to suffer the knocks. In the Edgbaston game against the Kiwis I think he had a pivotal moment when Luke Ronchi like many a middle order batsman strode onto the pitch to make his mark and put Rashid back in his place. In the previous test match series Ronchi had played well against the finger spinners and everyone else and he was riding on that high his success. I sat watching the game and thought this might herald the end of Rashids 2nd coming, but, Rashid had everything in hand. Ronchi thought he had everything in hand too. I sat watching it and had seen a number of overs that preceded it that were primarily stock ball leg breaks. It followed therefore that Ronchi would play for the leg-break, sure enough he did, he went down on his knee to play a massive legside slog sweep Rashid though was one step ahead of him and had bowled a wrong un, Ronchi was bowled out first ball and Rashid went on to take 4 wickets in the match. 

If Ronchi had made contact with the ball and it gone sailing across the boundary for six, being such an aggressive player it may have been the case that Ronchi would have got the upper hand straight away from ball 1. I don't see enough of Rashid to know how he deals with such situations for Yorkshire, but this being integral to his position in the new look young England side, the pressure was on for Rashid and he kept his cool and got his man. It'll be interesting to see Ronchi and Rashid in the remainder of the games in the series.


One of the greatest exponents of the psychological warfare against the batsman was Warney. If you study him and read about him, you'll start to see that he was a master of this aspect of the game and he deployed all kinds of tactics to get under the batsman skin and make them focus on something other than scoring and playing well. Admittedly he had a army of people around him, including the whole of Australia on match days that believed he was was a game changer and the aura that he created around himself permeated through minds of any batsman that had to face him - Michael Atherton being one of the most famous cases. 
One of the most over the top examples of Warne and the Australian team hyping up Warnes ability to single-handedly bowl out England in the Ashes was seen in 2006-07 series where they commissioned an effigy of warne, stuck on the back of a truck and paraded it around London leading up to and promoting the Ashes series.

This was accompanied by an advert that was on the TV in Australia and as it says in this article most of the newspaper at the time covered the story as well ensuring no doubt every English batsman would have  had Warne on their minds before they even got their whites on.

Needless to say, there's no way that you're going to be able to put on a media event like that, but I reckon if you're a kid and you use all the media systems that you can get your hands on - Twitter, youtube, snapchat, blogging and all those kinds of things and just generally big yourself up in someway, there's a chance that if you start out young and persist at it, you might be able to form some kind of awareness locally where other kids your age know about you. I'm very aware that when I take my kids to their matches, if there's a kid that's in the District or Essex juniors team, everyone knows and there's that psychological thing that already plays into the hands of the team with the Essex/District player. What would it take to independently promote yourself so that all the kids in your age group and their managers and coaches knew that you were capable of almost taking out whole teams single-handedly? I know that through my own endeavors on the internet through this blog and my youtube channel, people all around the world know about me from random kids in north east Essex to Australian internationals such as Stuart Macgill who contacted me and spoke about me at a Youtube/marketing conference as an example of someone who had a massive internet presence and yet in the greater scheme of things is actually pretty much just, some bloke called Dave from Essex! 
I now turn up at matches and kids see me and say "Oh my God it's some bloke called Dave off the internet"! Their team mates say 'Who'? Then they say things like 'Mate, it's this bloke who bowls Leg Breaks, Googlies, Top Spinners and Flippers and he's all over the internet. Straight away that's a home goal for his team, because I've now been elevated to some super star status. Whenever that has happened I've done really well because, even if I don't do anything particularly clever and I just bowl basic leg breaks, there's a perception that if I'm on the internet to the point that a kid in their team knows about me and I've got 4-5 variations, I must have something about me and that's the power of psychology.
Bringing things up to-date, in the last couple of years (2013) Warne did this 'Master Class' for SKY here in the UK on having plans, but a key part of this is psychology. He explains in this master class about the tactic of moving your bowling position on the crease. He does it primarily to change the line of attack and to see how the batsman plays him and ascertains strengths and weaknesses in the batsman's technique, but he also say that this moving around the crease also serves to make the batsman think 'Why's he moved there when for this delivery' and Warne says as soon as you've got the batsman thinking about you and what you're doing, his focus has changed and he's now potentially worrying about things that you might be doing as opposed what you are actually doing. When you watch the videos of English players playing Warne, you get the impression that it's a lost cause right from the outset, they just look as though they've walked out to the crease knowing that they're going to be walking back very soon.
At club level, the easiest thing to do is get the support of your team when you are bowling. Again this is wholly reliant on you getting the basics right, if you can bowl your leg break and get it spinning and landing it in the zones discussed previously, you're going to cause problems and you'll be in the game. If you can do this, it's almost a given that your wicket keeper and close in fielders are going to get vocal with oohs and ahs and if you're lucky some 'Go on Warnie's'!

Another really simple thing you can do, happens at the other end. If you are turning the ball, the off-strike batsman can see this and one of the things I do is stand near the off-strike bloke talking to myself spinning the ball from hand to hand really ripping it hard so that it audibly clicks as I flick the ball. I try and get it so that he sees this and I have a running commentary going as I bowl - talking to myself saying things like 'What do I want him to do - right I'll bowl a Flipper' try and get him caught LBW with one that doesn't spin'. Recently I've also taken to shouting down the wicket to the wicket keeper things like 'Mike signal when you want the wrong un'. Basically anything that might re-direct their focus and get them thinking you can  do something other than a leg-break is going to put them in two minds about the way they go about their business.

Another relatively easy thing to do that Warne discusses, is to make tweaks to your field, again he admits that sometimes these are superfluous and the change in position is minimal, but again all he's doing is trying to get the batsman to focus on him, to get in his mind and thinking 'Why's he moved that bloke there'?

More content at my main blog  (Stuart MacGill). (Stuart MacGill & Shane Warne). (Shane Warne tactics and strategies). (Terry Jenner). (Terry Jenner 5 x grips) (Shane Warne slo-mo release)
The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling, (Peter Philpott, Crowood Press, Marlborough, 1988). - (Richie Benuad grip & hardness). - (Shane Warne Grip) - (Mark Garraway - Hip rotation). (Shane Warne explaining stuff + slo mo footage of release). (Simon Hughes analysing Warne's bowling 2005 ashes test + slow mo footage of top-spinner and leg break). (Beau Casson guidance). (Titch Freeman's bowling action. - Starters tutorial - Ball by ball Shane Warne Gabba 1994. Worth watching again and again to see how he goes about his work. - training - how long is this going to take aspects. - (Big Cricket forum).  - SKY TV master class with Shane Warne talking tactics. Big Warnie - psychology - Big Warnie adverts/media Beau Casson bowling and guidance/tutorial. - English spinners don't practice enough - Jeetan Patel.