Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Practise, practise, practise...

I've bowled rather a lot this week, as my weary frame would attest. It's funny how over the winter you can forget all the little niggles that bowling creates, then have it all come flooding back in the space of a week when you start doing proper work on it. My two "go-to" issues are a soreness in my left knee and an inflamed tendon at the front of my right shoulder. They've been pretty constant companions over my last three seasons playing cricket, and I imagine I'll have them for as long as I continue bowling. Oh well, neither is likely to be fatal.

Anyway, I have got quite a few bagfuls under my belt this week, a couple of hours each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and while I don't exactly expect to rock up on Saturday and take all ten, every little helps. So much for my "new bowling style" though, I recorded myself on Friday and looking at it after the style's the same, just a bit more refined. The run-up's straighter, the whole action is smoother and I am now bowling a little quicker. The key elements I'm still struggling with are front arm, position I bowl from and concentration.

"Front arm" is a pretty standard mantra for me when I've just bowled a bad ball, I so often seem to forget about it. The key point is to fully extend the arm upwards and bring it down straight towards the target rather than just lazily let it waft around. Gradually I'm having to remind myself less and less, although it does create an extra issue as with my arm up high I temporarily lose any sight of where I'm aiming to bowl. This then causes a split second after my arm has disappeared where my eyes are searching around trying to reacquire the target, and clearly this is an ideal opportunity for any deficiency in concentration to show itself. Still, if I've run in right, landed right and I'm where I want to be I shouldn't be too surprised by what I see, so the benefits outweigh this particular negative.

Turning to the position I bowl from, I've started trying to bowl from closer to the wicket, as I am always surprised looking at the videos by how much on the edge of the bowling area I seem to be. It's even cost me a few no balls in the past, much to my frustration. I'm now bowling from closer to the wickets, still a comfortable distance away but psychologically it feels as if I'm almost running through the stumps. In general I'd say my biggest problem with consistency happens in the run-up and as my feet land,although it's extremely difficult to monitor this as I'm actually bowling. I've just got to keep bowling until I find a nice groove.

As for concentration, I suppose I'm being a little harsh on myself. It's not so much that my concentration is poor, simply that on the odd occasion when I do lose focus as I'm running in I invariably bowl a pretty terrible delivery. That said, getting the right level of focus is a challenge, as if I really put some effort into concentration, I end up not being relaxed enough. It's a tough little balancing act, trying to be relaxed but not too distant, concentrated but not too intense. It's a pretty impossible task when, as I did on Tuesday, you have kids of 16 mucking around in the same net. I simply do not understand the point of practising if you're messing about and putting each other off, but I suppose I am getting a little old... A little shouting from me soon calmed them down just enough, and it does help to learn how to cope with a little distraction.

Moving on to individual variations, I'm very pleased to say I am bowling the odd half-decent flipper these days, although it's not really any quicker than my other deliveries. My leg break's OK, my zooter is so-so, and my topspinner switches between devastating and useless pretty much from one bagful to another. I've given up trying to learn the googly, it's simply not worth the time it would take to learn it when I have higher priority aspects of my bowling to work on first. I may come back to it later, but for now it can only put me off.

I was wondering if a change to the orientation of my elbow might improve my accuracy, so I experimented with a slightly different gather. The 'problem' I identified was that I was sticking my elbow out towards the non-striker as I gathered the ball and rolled my arm over to bowl, so I tried bowling with the elbow tucked in pointing down the wicket. The only difference it made was to make it more likely that my arm got caught up in my torso on the way down, and after seeing that many leggies stick their elbow out in the same way I decided I was barking up the wrong tree. I did however make some progress with my follow-through. I often neglect it and I think this plays a part in causing my dodgy knee. Having exaggerated my follow-through for a few deliveries I started trying to get into a fielding position after I'd bowled. It put me off a bit to start with but I'm gradually getting more comfortable with it. Whether my catching will be up to taking the odd caught and bowled is another matter, however...

Overall then I'm pleased to have got a lot of solid bowling under my belt, now I need to really work on my variations individually, get into a nice consistent groove, get picked to bowl and hopefully start racking up those wickets!

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 In other news, my toenail is now starting to come off. I thought I could feel a crack along the root of the nail inside the toe, and this crack has now grown out, with the nail now flapping about only attached on one side. I'm told it's not the best idea to 'help' the nail come out, so in the meantime I'm just strapping it on with a bit of fabric tape, and keeping it nice and sterile.

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