Last winters practice proved to be instrumental in gaining major confidence just by improving my ability to bowl a fair line and length. The potential to improve if I was younger seems very exciting, it'd be nice to be where I am now - having played for 2 and half years and to be a kid! Unfortunately I'm not - I'm not far short of being 50 and yet I still feel excited about the prospects of another year of improving further still. Saying that I've got to be guarded about over-doing it otherwise I may end up bowling myself out of the game before I'm ready to call it a day.
My progress batting
There hasn't been any at all really and coming in at number 9 or 10 means that it's rare that I get a chance to do so. Last summer there was a crowd of us that used to have an almost nightly knock about over at the Great Berry Open Space until the local ICF representative done his bit and put an end to that through intimidation. Up till that happened I used to get some practice with the bat, but this year I've had hardly any. I'm hoping that with the new interest from the likes of the original MPA boys and confirmation that we can use the nets at Woodlands and the possibility of net sessions with G&CCC & at Ben and Joes sessions with B&PCC I'll get some practice?
I've had one practice with the MPA boys and that did seem to go very well and that was after a practice session up against a wall applying some of the very basic principles employed in basic batting. I always listen to what Ben and Joe's coaches teach them and aim to incorporate what they say into my own game. So I'm hoping to beat my current high run score of 11!
My progress bowling
This as mentioned has improved massively with a return at the end of the summer with my confidence to bowl flippers. By the end of the season I was mixing Flippers with my wrong uns and top spinners.
Wrong un's This was my main form of attack as even my Top-spinner tended to turn towards the leg slip. I'm still baffled as to why some wickets I can't get the ball to turn on at all and others I can. The ground I prefer to play on where I can get the ball to turn was the one over at Billericay - Lake Meadows, but our own wicket it always seemed as though no matter what I was doing I may as well have been bowling into sawdust. But my Wrong Un is pretty accurate and 90% of the time I'll get it down the offside threatening to do something or close enough to the off-stump to cause concern. With each game I played this season I saw that there was potential bowling it - but much of what I do relies on the fielders on the off-side to make the catches and I've had some dollies missed or dropped, but then I've dropped and missed one or two myself.
The Flipper; I love the Flipper, but at the beginning of the year I couldn't use it, I'd focussed so much on the Top Spinner and the wrong un that I lost the confidence to use it and it wasn't until I went and holiday and played cricket every night for 2 weeks with a bunch of kids and their Dads that regained the confidence to consider using it again. In the last few matches of the season I used it a couple of times - still slightly wary initially but by the end of the season it was back on track. At the moment I'm bowling it quite a lot and it's very much back on form and what I like about it is the speed variations I get with it and one of the blokes at G&CCC said when I was having a knockabout with him towards the end of the summer that it also drifted considerably. I always feel that because it's got that underspin its trajectory is too predictable when bowled fast. Bowled slower I reckon it can be a deceiving ball because if bowled alongside top spinners directly at the middle stump it will virtually die as it hits the deck and possibly deceive the bat?
Top Spinner; I've kind of lost the Top Spinner at the minute, as no matter what I do the ball turns in like a wrong un. I'd imagine it wont take a lot of work to sort it out, but the thing I'm concentrating on is my Nemesis The Leg Break and until that's sorted out all the other variations that I'm playing around with will have to be on stand by, but here they are.......
The Gipper; This is the weird one where my arms all twisted and my wrist is cocked at a stupid angle. It works though and I'm getting better at it, this is a slower delivery that can produce enormous spin off towards Slips like a Shane Warne Leg Break.
Murali Offie; This is new, I'm fairly certain that I tried this early last year with a degree of success e.g. loads of spin but but not a lot of accuracy and it stressed my arm. But I've got renewed interest in it as I now understand it slightly better and I think there's potential for adding the Flipper Click to the delivery to make the ball spin the other way like Murali's Doosra. Then of course there's the conventional Doosra. If I get time to work on this delivery according to Murali himself the difference in getting the ball to go the other way is only a matter of changing the arm action so that it follows through slightly differently. But this is the least likely to be followed up. The one that keeps me awake at night, that I will be working on soon is the bog standard
Leg Break; Back in September I all but stopped bowling Wrong Un's and top spinners convinced that my brain and body are now so pre-programed to do nothing but bowl out of the back of the hand, that the only way I could re-discover the Leg Break was to re-wire my brain again. I spent all of October and November trying to bowl leg breaks and if you'd been following my other blog (And this one) you'll know that I did have some success. The whole thing though still felt wholly unatural and only came about through real deep concentration and full 100% focus on what I was trying to achieve. The good news is that apart from bowling the wrong un for a series of video uploads on youtube - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=hCCmNQWMbYE I've still kept from bowling it.
Very recently in on-line discussions with other bowlers, I've been give one or two very interesting suggestions as to what I maybe doing wrong and both the suggestions make total sense and they're something I've over-looked previously. Again in that Oct - Nov period I also incorporated a proper follow through in my action and I'm fairly convinced that brought better accuracy and power, so I'm still working on the leg break and leading right up to the new season in 2009 I will continue to work on it so that it becomes my stock ball. Loads of people in the past have all said you've got to be able to bowl the Leg break and then all your variations become more affective.
So, overall with the bowling - a vast improvement on my 2007 abilities.
Ben & Joe
This is the year that despite my wifes best attempts the penny dropped with my sons. Early in the year I'd bought Ben some pads and both he and Joe would reluctantly join me on the local field and have the ocassional knock about but quickly become bored. Then I cut the wicket in the middle of our local field and rolled it as we used to (With the blessing of the council) at Great Berry Open Space and some of the kids off the local estate started to join in. But because Ben & Joe have been playing off and on for a couple of years now they were so obviously far better than all the other kids (bowling in particular). This caused a slight increase in their enthusiasm, but it was the annual trip to Deepest Cornwall that sealed the deal. At the campsite where we stay I always take the stumps and practice bowling and again encourage Ben and Joe to have a go and in summer 2007 there'd been a few kids that had joined in and we had some good games. But in 2008 the same crew were there again but along with a kid and his Dad from Nottinghamshire who were cricket obsessives and man this kid could bowl and play exceptionally well even though he was a year or so younger than Ben. In the crowd of 10 -12 of us that were getting out on to the field and playing every night there were 2 that claimed that they were county level colt players including the kid from Notts. Both Ben and Joe bowled exceptionally well against these very competent kids and this is the holiday where Joe took his 9 wickets one night conceding less than 40 runs - might have been 30 runs with his Leg Breaks and Googlies!
Coming back from 2 weeks of what was cricket boot camp they then ripped through the local boys at the local field and took to cricket in a wholly different way. We even made the now ill fated trip to Grays and Chadwell that ended up putting them off of joining my team. Then this November they started to train with Basildon and Pitsea CC and so far they're enjoying it and seemingly doing really well there. So it looks like they maybe cricketers for life? I'm still treading cautiously otherwise I could easily burn them out with over-kill.
Where we live and integral to our practice is a field almost a stones throw away from our house. The rumour is the lease of the field and it's sheds expires in 2 years time and the club that currently lease it and use the sheds primarily for boxing will move on and the field will then be up for development which will be a shame. The field is used very infrequently for football during the season and so far this season it's been used for 4 or 5 games/practice sessions. For the last 2 summers I've cut a strip of grass in the corner using a manual lawn mower and maintained it so that I can practice bowling there. The boxers come and go, sometimes they run round the field as part of their training and no-one had ever said anything to me about my grass cutting escapades. This year with the increased enthusiasm expected from Joe and Ben I cut a wicket in the centre of the field as we used to at Great Berry Open Space and again no-one has said anything. We stopped cutting it in Sept and it's returned to it's normal football use and apart from the fact that I top dressed it in October the only difference appears to be that the grass is marginally healthier where the wicket is/was. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the club continues to maintain the field e.g. cutting it once every 3 or 4 weeks this coming summer and not let it go to hay as they did in 2007 over the middle of summer. But it was a good thing to have right on your door and some of the kids that joined in had some fun along with us during the evenings rather than wandering round the streets causing aggro or climbing on the roofs of the boxing club sheds.
To be continued............