Thursday, 16 September 2010

2010 Season evaluation part 2: Bowling

It's rather amusing to look back at what I said about bowling at the start of the year, given that it's the one thing I've spent most time and effort on subsequently. Go back to what I wrote in January, and I had this to say:
I don't at this point think I've any hope as a bowler. I'm pretty sure I haven't got the build or the endurance in my body to be any kind of fast or even medium pace bowler, but I might have a go at spinning and see how I get on. I think I have the head on me to think my way to delivering a good ball, but as to whether I can actually master the biomechanics of bowling what I intend to and bowling it consistently I'll just have to wait and see.
Since then pretty much any opportunity I've had I've been thinking about it, reading up on it, asking other leggies at the Big Cricket forum about it, fixing problems with my action, imagining field settings, planning how to take wickets, and of course actually practising my bowling for up to (and sometimes beyond) six hours a week. Of all the things I've done to improve my game since January, the work I've put in on my bowling is by far what I'm most proud of.

This is probably why I'm so disappointed to have got so little chance to properly evaluate my bowling in match situations. I was pretty pissed off that I didn't get a bowl last Saturday - I still am, to be honest - but the one thought that comforted me since then is that if I look back and think of things I could have done to improve my bowling, there's not really anything I could have done that I wasn't doing. I've put in as much time, effort and application as I could, and perhaps that's why not getting a chance to evaluate my progress in a match is so utterly infuriating.

I haven't got a wicket to show for my efforts, but in the little match bowling I have done I have at least shown the promise of wickets. There was a dropped catch (a difficult one it has to be said) in my first over ever and in my second the batsmen seemed to be really struggling - off the fair deliveries they only scored a single. I did bowl eight wides in that over though...

Going right back to the beginning, it's not hard to see that my bowling has come on leaps and bounds. I started out with a mode of delivery that was absolute agony for my shoulders, but immediately it was pointed out to me I changed my action and the problem hasn't come back. the amount of spin I got on the ball was frankly puny compared to what I manage now, and my control of direction is a good deal better even if it's by no means perfect.

My action itself has evolved, although of late I've had to start again from the ground up. I can't seem to get the energy from a fast run-up into the actual delivery, and it's been hampering my balance in the delivery stride. It has to be said I've also had the major complication of some quite severe whiplash to contend with since March. That's still working its way out of the system, and my physio's been doing a great job of improving (or should that be rediscovering) my flexibility in the upper body, shoulders and neck area. It's definitely something I intend to keep working on over the winter, and come winter nets I should be able to develop a solid, more permanent action that the improvised cut-and-shut I've been using for the past fortnight.

As for my range of deliveries there have been times this year when I've been a bit overambitious to the detriment of my stock ball. In the past few weeks I've concentrated mostly on my stock leg break, while my top-spun leg-break, top-spinner and the odd zooter have got the occasional outing but I'm nothing like as kid-in-a-candy-store variation-happy as I was a few months ago. My best ball is probably the top-spun leg-break, my stock leg-break is not far behind but the rest are not really ready. I've been practising the finger-click of the flipper action but I'm not thinking about giving it much attention just yet, and developing a wrong'un is also an extremely low priority. So I really have two stock balls, and two variations I could throw in if pushed, but until I can get on top of these four there's not much point doing any serious work on anything else.

My actual control of the ball has improved greatly over the season but I'm still not really very satisfied with it. I don't seem to get much drift, have yet to get properly accurate in where I pitch the ball and I don't have much control over how much spin I get - I just try to rip it as much as possible and sometimes it's huge, sometimes not. I seem to get too much bounce and I'm also prone to looping the ball up far too much. I also tend to bowl too full. I suppose too full and with too much flight is the right side to err on, but they do need work.

My concentration when practising hasn't been as good as it could be, too often a few months back I found myself deciding what to bowl after my run-up had begun, but with so many factors to think about I don't want to be too hard on myself. I do need to focus more in the nets, but when I've been called upon to bowl in matches I have had a good mindset and not been distracted at all.

So looking forward to how I'm going to try and develop my bowling over the winter I'll be looking to improve my flexibility, strength and fitness, and when I can I'll try to get as much net practise in the nets as possible. I'll focus on my two main deliveries and two variations and see if I can get more overall control of my bowling. I might find it hard to motivate myself given how little I've been called upon in matches, but I've just got to remember that considering where I started from the progress I've made so far suggests I should be able to become a competent leg-spinner if I'm prepared to put the hours in.

Technique: 6/10
Results: 3/10
Application: 10/10
Mindset: 8/10
TOTAL: 27/40

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