Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Googly Syndrome

The Googly syndrome

It's recognised in Wrist Spin bowling that when you decide to learn how to bowl the Googly/Wrong Un (The variation that spins in from Off towards leg) that there is a tendency for wrist spinners to lose the ability to bowl the Stock Ball the Leg Break. The Leg Break is the ball that Shane Warne and any self respecting wrist spinner bowls primarily and therefore is known as the Stock Ball. The leg break ball is extremely complex in it’s characteristics if you're trying to explain it to the uninitiated in that it has several potential attributes when bowled well.

The delivery of the Leg Break has many attributes that make it one of the most difficult and interesting bowling variations in cricket and each time it is bowled it potentially features an infinite variety of these attributes that make it difficult to bat against....


All these attributes are applied in varying degrees to fool the batsman into playing the wrong shot and therefore being dismissed.

Speed; The speed of the ball from the outset in comparison to the fast bowlers is a lot slower and like the fast bowlers can be varied to trick the batsman. Spin bowlers can be deployed to bowl alternate over’s with a fast bowler in order to disrupt the batsman’s rhythm. Simply by bowling a series of normal pace balls and then bowl one slightly faster or slower can undo a batsman.

Flight; Because the ball is delivered at a much slower speed its trajectory is intrinsicly different from that of a fast bowler and one of the tactics that is used is that the ball is delivered above the eye level of the batsman so that predicting where it will land becomes difficult, a ball against a sky is so much more difficult to predict as to it’s speed and trajectory when compared to a ball that is travelling in a relatively straight line against a white background (Screens) in the case of faster bowlers.

Swing; This is a rarer attribute normally associated with faster bowlers. Movement through the air is caused by the magnus affect and this makes the ball deviate off it’s line swinging inwards or outwards as it approaches the bat.

Spin; Needless to say this is the main attribute. The ball as it is released is flicked out of the hand using the arm, wrist and fingers so that the ball rotates through the air spinning anti-clockwise. As the ball lands the seam of the ball grips the surface and the ball will the deviate off its expected line because of the spin.

Deviation; Will it or won’t it? The amount of deviation is subject to – pitch type and spin imparted by the bowler and the type of spin. Again the bowler can bowl small leg breaks lulling the bat into a false sense of security and the bowl one that either spins more or doesn’t spin at all, again enticing or tricking the bat to play a stroke that fails to connect or do so in a way that forces a batting error and a possible dismissal.

Dip; This is another attribute that makes the Wrist Spinner an awesome adversary. The spin imparted on the ball is different to the backspin used in seam deliveries by fast bowlers. In comparison the spin is sideways hence it deviates in the way that it does once it makes contact with the ground. But as the ball cuts through the air the magnus affect has a different affect on the trajectory that the ball takes and this manifests itself a sudden dip in the flight of the ball as it nears the bat. The ball suddenly drops out of the sky far more rapidly than it should do when thrown at the speed that it has been - this is Dip and if you can produce it when you're bowling Leg Breaks it's a major asset.

Variation; Then out of nowhere comes a variation. A ball that looks like a leg break that spins in another way and catches the bat off guard. These are all possibilities with the Leg Break. The ball can be bowled straight at the middle stump, at the off stump or the leg stump or incredibly wide and turn massively to still end up hitting the stumps, the variety and potential when bowled well is massive.

Every wrist spinner should aim to be able to produce a few variations – The Leg Break is his main weapon against the batsman, this is what the batsman is going to expect and this is what the batsman fears. Once mastered you can then move on to the variations. The variation that most wrist spinners want to add to their armoury is the Wrong Un also known as the Googly and the Bosie. The wrong un does the opposite to the Leg Break - it's bowled primarily down the offside e.g. down towards the side the batsman is holding his bat. But instead of turning away from the batsmans body as the Leg Break does the Wrong Un turns into the batsmans body. As you can imagine if you're the batsman and you're facing a wrist spinner who has been bowling ball after ball that has turned from Leg towards off, you're going to be taken by surprise when suddenly out of nowhere the ball does the exact opposite and turns straight in towards your body and quite likely your stumps.

At club level to have a good Wrist Spinner who can bowl both small and big Leg Breaks is a massive asset, but for the same spinner to also have in his armoury the ability to bowl equally good Googly's you can see the potential for the wrist spinner to move from being a great spinner to something very special. So to the new wrist spinner like myself the Googly looked like the holy grail, to be able to do both equally well is so obviously an asset to your bowling. Furthermore these variations are shrouded in esoteric mystery, they're talked about in ways that would suggest that to be able to bowl them is to be elevated to the status of people like Warne. Look on the internet and you'll find Warne or Jenner demonstrating how to do it, but never mortals like you and me. The Wrong Un is the Leg Spinners dream ball, the one that they all want to be able to bowl alongside their Leg Break and I was the same.

My Leg Break was only ever the small variety, it was never brought on to the level where it began to ever look like a big leg break and was the standard Warnesque style with the arm nowhere near vertical. When I started out I could bowl a basic Leg Break so the next move was the Wrong Un. Probably like anyone that is committed to learning the Wrong Un I decided that I'd put the hours in until I got it. So the Leg Break was almost completely discarded and I focussed 90% on getting the wrong un sussed. I watched the video's on youtube and read as much as I could about it. Initially I couldn't do it, I just kept bowling Leg Breaks, but bit by bit my arm became more vertical and I accidentally started to bowl Top Spinners which I was pleased about and then I realised that all I needed to do was twist my hand round a bit further and give it a big flick. The flick with the arm so vertical and with the wrist turned that much round initially caused me concern. The flick needed to get the ball spinning in the right direction caused a lot of stress on my rotator cuff and upper arm muscles, but I kept going because it was beginning to happen and when I got it right it turned massively in comparison to my weak Legbreak. Incidentally the Legbreak at this point had disappeared, but I wasn't too concerned because I'd simply practice it again when I'd sussed the Wrong Un and I'd be that much better a bowler! So for 2 solid months through May and June 2007 I did nothing but bowl the Wrong Un and it came. Enthused by the success with the wrong un I started to bowl Flippers as well - I really was on my way to become Englands answer to Shane Warne and again after reading all the stuff about the Flipper - Richie Benaud practiced it for 4 years before he used it in a match, Terry Jenner and Warne both conceding that it was the most difficult of the variation to learn and here I was bowling it in a matter of hours and taking wickets with it and better still it had this tendency to turn from Leg to Off like Legbreak but with this sinister tendency to be faster and skid in really low. Why would you ever be that fussed about the Legbreak when you've got all these variations up your sleeve?

The Legbreak was gone. I'd try it and the ball would turn form off to leg no matter what happened. I turned to the internet for answers - websites and forums and then I found the cloverdale videos with Terry Jenner and his warning about bowling Wrong Uns. If you do it too much you will lose your Leg Break. My Legbreak was gone - dead, non-existant, irrecoverable - kaput! I have a son who is 7 years old and he bowls (The one that started all this off with his broken arm) and he's always aspired to be Shane Warne and he bowls Legbreaks - taking 9 wickets in one evening while we were on holiday this year! It looks as though like me when I started it just comes natural to him. If you see someone that does it and you understand the principle of flicking the ball out of the hand so that it rotates and spins it makes common sense and is relatively easy to do. The whole action of the Legbreak feels wholly natural and seemingly doesn't stress your body particularly. Whereas the wrong un is a whole new ball game and requires a wholly different approach to learning it because of the obviously un-natural way in which your arm and wrist is contorted to impart the spin in the opposite direction. There are many things that your body cannot do easily, but given time and practice and the development of muscles these tasks can be learned, but sometimes at the expense of other physical functions. Someone once explained to me that when you do something demanding and physical again and again many thousands of times your body gets into a state where what was initially very difficult becomes wholly natural because you've taught and trained the body and brain as a combination to produce the physical manifestation of the act to be wholly natural. I suppose it's like driving? When most people get into a car they find the act of looking, thinking and doing all the physical things in a sequence in order to change gear exceptionally difficult, but given time 99% learn it and what was an extremely complex and un-natural process become wholly fluid and natural. I think the wrong un is like this and it is so un-natural that in learning it in the way that I did to then ask you to go back to bowling the Legbreak would like asking you as a car driver to drive a left hand drive car with the pedals all the wrong way round as well as the steering wheel and handbrake, but instead of pressing the pedals down you have to lift them to brake and accelerate and when you want to turn right you have to steer left and vice versa - you couldn't. I think that once you've trained your brain to bowl the wrong un, bowling the Legbreak then becomes impossible. It's now coming to the end of my first season as a wrist spin bowler with a real cricket team. I bowl mainly Wrong uns and Top Spinners, with the occasional Flippers, I do okay, I take the occasional wicket and have the occasional good spell. But I am obviously lacking the one thing that I should have - the Leg Break. Everyone that I speak to says that if I'm a wrist spinner I need to have the stock ball. I watch in awe my team mates that can bowl the Leg Break, they make it look so easy and it's got other intricate aspects to it - dip and the ability to drop suddenly out of the sky when technically it should still carry on along an expected trajectory of a ball thrown at that particular speed. It is a magic ball, just as weird and wonderful as all the other variations maybe even more so? But I can't do it and it is so obvious that if I could do it my bowling potential would increase exponentially within my team. None of the other RH Wrist spinners are able to bowl the other variations as accurately as I can but they can all bowl devastatingly good leg breaks some days and if I could just master the Leg Break and still use the variations my bowling would improve beyond recognition.

See also


macky said...

I can understand your pain, my 11 year old has lost his leg break and only bowls toppies and googleys. He is taking a break from his leggies in the winter league and is bowling hi seam. We will endeavour to reteach his brain those darn leggies. His line and length for his spin is so good its crazy. But if you cant spin it away from the bat its only a matter of time before the batman realises the threat is not there and starts pounding you.

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