photo credit: xgretsch
This is part one of a two part series on using your feet to spin bowling. To go to part two click here.
A batsman who can use their feet effectively is a spinners nightmare.
Spin is all about rhythm. You can easily upset that if you are able to move down the track to drive or rock right back to cut or pull. The risk of moving out of your crease is that you can be stumped. That means effective use of your feet is about minimising the risk to your wicket while putting the bowler off their stride. This is how the best players of spin in the world do it. Batsmen like Tendulkar, Ponting and Sangakkara are all confident with their feet. They are able to score large numbers of runs by dominating with both aggressive boundary hitting and working the ball into gaps with very little chance of getting stumped.
You can use these tricks to follow their lead.
Think like a spinner
Playing spin well can start before you even walk out to bat. Ask yourself what this bowler is trying to do because if you know that you can counter it. How do you find this out? By watching.
This can be done in the middle, playing watchfully to start with, or on the boundary and asking players who have faced already. Start by looking at the field. Where are the close catchers and where are the deep fielders? This will tell you much of a bowler's plan. As we know, spinner styles vary greatly. This is a risk factor for the batter because two very different spinners may have similar fields.
The more information you can get the better:
- The way the ball is turning (and how much).
- The bowlers stock pace, line, length and flight.
- How much bounce there is.
- What variations the spinner is using.
If you prefer (or need) to get on with things you may be able to pick this information up before you have even faced, giving you the option of moving your feet early. Otherwise it's a safe bet to take a few balls to work this information out while playing defensively. Whether the goal is having a look, working the strike or hitting out the best players are always able to establish their own choice of pace on a spinner. They do this by second guessing their aims.
Wait for the right ball
Once you have a feel for where the ball is coming from and going to you need to choose carefully. Spinners want you to attack them because it increases their chance of getting a wicket. How many players get stumped in your club every season because they picked the wrong ball to come down the wicket? In modern coaching terms, you need to pick the 'percentage ball': the one that gives you least chance of getting out.
- A good or slightly full length.
- Straight, especially if it is towards leg stump.
The reason for using your feet to this type of ball is that it gives you the best chance of making contact. Coming down the wicket makes a good length ball into a ball you can drive and a half volley into a full toss. If it is straight you can usually get a bat (or as a last resort, a pad) on the ball. Compare this type of delivery to a left arm spinner bowling to a right hander outside off stump. You have to reach for the ball away from your body and it is turning away from you further. If you misjudge you can't get anything else in the way and the keeper has a clear sight all the way to whipping off the bails. It's a low percentage shot.
Club spinners are sure to bowl balls you can hit, so pick your fights and up your chances.
Stay balanced and play the ball late
"What is the first thing you look for when you are watching a batsman? His eye and head position, his ability to stay balanced and therefore move off both feet, and the ability to play late - see the ball early and play it late. It's not easy to allow the ball to come all the way to you and hit it at the last second as opposed to going hard at the ball. You have to do that - go hard - sometimes when you want to hit the ball in the air. But I would say head position, footwork, balance and playing late are the key." (Martin Crowe)
Martin Crowe may have nailed the principle but timing is a very complex and not fully understood art.
In the ideal world you would pick up the flight early, select your shot with time to spare and then strike the ball as late as possible because you can hit the ball where you want with the force required. If you get through the stroke early, physics dictates the ball will go in the air with less power than intended. You are risking getting caught. To counter this, the feel you are going for is hitting the ball as it passes under your eyes. So how do you get this right from ball one? This mainly comes with experience of playing different types of spin. Pace can vary between spinners by 15mph or more which makes a big difference to how long you have to wait to play the ball.
- If you have time, take a few balls to judge the bowler as above.
- Get your eye in before you bat with some throwdowns, this drill or a net against some decent spinners.
- Put these tips into practice, especially the stuff about relaxed confidence.
This can be easier said than done, which is what makes batting against spin such an exciting challenge. To go to part two click here.
If you want to learn everything there is to know about playing spin, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching course - The Complete Guide to Effectively Playing Spin Bowling. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.