Can personality get you wickets?
The former Middlesex bowler Simon Hughes certainly thinks so. He uniquely explains the rise of Graeme Swann from bad boy to first choice England spinner. Swann doesn't get his wickets through vicious turn and bounce. He doesn't get them through a mysterious doosra or carom ball.
Like Warne before him, all he does is put doubt in the batsman's mind.
The power of doubt
As a bowler, particularly of spin, the more you can put doubt in a batters mind the more likely you are to get them out.
Those poor batsmen only get one chance and they know it. A single misjudgement could be all it takes to end their participation in the game. No wonder the nerves are jangling as they reach the crease and take guard. How much worse are those nerves when they have no idea how to play what is coming out of your hand.
You may say that is obvious, but knowing the simple fact and acting on it are two very different things. It's easy to keep them terrified if you are turning it square and have impeccable control of flight. What about the times when this is not happening?
Confidence means wickets
It's said that Ian Botham used to take wickets by self confidence alone. Batsmen (especially Australians) were so fearful of his reputation with the ball they tensed up and played for swing that wasn't there or hit wide long hops straight to the fielder.
While club cricketers would find it hard to replicate such a fearful reputation, Swann shows that you don't need to be a superhuman player like Botham to use confidence and bluff to your advantage.
That starts with your own mindset. Confidence for some comes easier than for others. Chaps like Botham, Swann and Warne believe in themselves even when things are going wrong. The pitch might be flat and the batsman may be hitting it all over the park, but that spark of hope remains.
You may have less confidence in yourself and need to employ some simple mental tricks to keep you on track. Beefy might not have needed to consciously use visualisation and goal setting, but you may if your confidence is shaky.
Set the wrong field and bowl the wrong ball
If the batter has some doubt through your own confidence as they reach the crease you can add to it in your tactics.
A couple of tactics Shane Warne used to use was to bowl a ball down the leg side on purpose to a new batsman to give the impression it was spitting out of the rough. He would also bowl a 'set' of balls gradually moving wider until the last ball is well outside off stump and the batsman chases it.
Fields can add to this pressure. An off spinner may not need a short leg, but putting one in with a slip can lead to plenty of catches to the latter as the nervous batsman plays down the wrong line and nicks off.
The bottom line is that cricket is at least as much a mental game as much as it is a game of skill and technique. The bowler has the advantage in this area, so you might as well use it.
Image credit: castle79