Today's guest article is by Dave Thompson, a club leg spin bowler who took up the game recently. He has approached this most difficult of skills with a fresh pair of eyes. Dave is the first to admit he is an enthusiast rather than an expert and still has much to learn, but his enthusiasm and passion is addictive.
You can catch up with Dave on his blog and at BigCricket, where he talks leg spin with other players.
Of the several deliveries that the wrist spin bowler uses this is the primary weapon. Attributed to right arm bowlers the ball is bowled relatively slowly in comparison to the medium pacers and fast bowlers. The ball is pitched up towards the batsman at different and varying lengths and then spins away towards the slip fielders. So from your point of view as the bowler the ball lands and spins away to the left. From the batsman's perspective it lands and spins away to the right.
From your point of view as the bowler it's necessary to be able to make the ball spin away from the point it lands. The levels of accuracy required for both the length and the line are exceptionally important and as a leg spinner the ability to bowl different, speeds, lengths and line all combine to make this a tricky ball to play. The Leg break has a number of other attributes - Dip, Bounce and drift.
- Dip; Is a description relating to the flight of the ball. The ball is usually delivered in such a way that it is bowled above the eye-line of the batsman; this has the effect of making it more difficult to judge with regards to its speed and its likely point as to where it's going to land. The leg break spins anti clockwise with the seam of the ball pointing in the direct of cover/point so it combines some of the attributes of a Top Spinner ball. It's this top spinning characteristic that causes the ball to be affected by the Magnus effect. The ball flies through the air and from the side it would initially give the impression that it would land beyond or on the stumps, but because of it spinning and the Magnus effect coming into play it suddenly falls out of the sky rapidly far sooner than a ball thrown without spin. Which as you can imagine as a batsman is problematic.
- Bounce; This is an obvious consequence of the ball suddenly dipping. If the ball was to have been thrown a similar distance without spin, the entry angle into the impact with the surface would be marginally lesser than the mirrored exit angle. So seeing the ball pitched up above the eye level the brain would then calculate expected entry angle and exit angle out of the bounce and quickly put into action a strategy with the bat to deal with the ball. But then the Magnus affect causes the rapid dip and surprising high bounce that is designed by the wrist spinner to be either struck on the glove or the top edge of the bat forcing an error whereby the batsman will be caught.
- Drift; This is another attribute caused by the fact that the ball is spinning and is a consequence of the Magnus affect. As well as potentially dipping at the last moment because the ball is spun with the seam at 45 degrees it cuts through the air and reacts in a way that causes it to swerve off its initial line, swerving in the opposite way to the spin direction, so it swerves towards the leg side.
The grip for the leg break
The grip is described as a 2 fingers up, 2 fingers down with the 2 up fingers across the seam as opposed to along the seam in the case of medium pace and fast bowlers. The most important finger is the 3rd finger as it's this that imparts the spin on the ball. It's easy to get really hung up on the grip as there are loads of opinions as to how you do it. Some people have a loose grip, others have a tight grip I had success when I was learning with a solid grip but making sure that the gap between the two up fingers and the 3rd finger was quite wide. I find in my bowling that now the up fingers and the thumb have very little to do with the bowling action and that the position on the seam is absolutely essential. I have to make sure that I place the 3rd finger very purposefully on the seam and concentrate as I bowl on ensuring that the 3rd finger stays on the ball till last micro second. It's this 3rd finger dragging across the seam as the ball comes out of the hand that puts the spin on the ball.
Other people I've observed have very different grips, kids I've noticed including my 7 year old have evenly spread fingers which make their grip look like a conventional 'Holding the ball' grip, but their fingers are all across the seam and they get it to spin. I remember when I first picked up a ball I did something similar and just used a flick of the wrist and got it to turn.
Round the Loop
There aren't that many resources available to the wrist spinner but the most important is possibly the book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowlingby Peter Philpott. Philpott writes about the subject in great depth and anyone learning Wrist Spin bowling needs to get a copy and read it not once but several times.
In the book as Philpott describes how to bowl wrist spin he uses the analogy of going 'Round the loop' to describes the position of the wrist in conjunction with each of the variations. It was through reading this book and realising the relevance of the wrists position that I was eventually able to bowl the leg break. So look at the diagram and consider the wrist in relation to the batsman.
The Loop aspect describes the rotation (Twisting) of the wrist with regards to each of the deliveries. The Leg break has the under-side of the wrist as it comes over the top of the head in the delivery facing the batsman with the back of the hand facing you as it passes beyond the position of 12 o'clock.
Another piece of advice that I was given through BigCricket was that when the arm came over instead of the action being that of a fling it needs to be something that is more akin to a push, this for me gives me the sense that the wrist remains in that forward facing position in the delivery and as the hand comes over and down and the ball leaves the hand the fingers unfurl with the 3rd finger staying on the ball for as long as physically possible so that it then spins the ball.
On the subject of arm action here's some wisdom from the great Clarrie Grimmett.
I'm currently reading Grimmett's "On Cricket". He mentions a point regarding round arm verses a more vertical arm. The comparison he makes is that of skimming stones across a pond. Suggesting quite rightly that if you throw a flat stone using a vertical arm action it's simply going to disappear into the water, whereas the sideways arm action means that the flat stone doesn't break the surface and instead skims bouncing several times before disappearing. The inference is that the round arm action facilitates a faster movement off the pitch. The vertical action would mean some of the kinetic energy would be absorbed into the pitch and thus slow the ball down.
I think with regards tactics it's easy to get carried away with watching video clips of Shane Warne, as you kind of get drawn into the idea that as a Wrist Spinner you're supposed to be bowling Leg Breaks down the leg side with the intention that they turn round the back of the bats legs.
As a novice wrist spinner you're more than likely going to be better off sticking to a more basic approach. I found as I learned most balls down the leg side get put away quite easily by the batsman. A potentially better approach would be to bowl with an emphasis towards the off-stump. My own approach is to bowl at middle and off so that each ball is threatening to hit the stumps and therefore needs to be dealt with and not left. I've seen this approach used by a bloke who was playing on a wicket that offered very little assistance in the way of turn, but he bowled a very accurate line but varied his length using his ability to use dip and keeping the ball up above the eye-line. This bloke was in his 60's and bowled about 10 maiden overs out of 13!
I vary my line slightly but always keep the ball down the offside looking for opportunities of a catch at point, gully, cover etc. But the line I bowl worries batsmen who are not that confident and with the ball spinning away to slips there's always the potential to force an error.
The key to all aspects of Wrist Spin bowling is practice. Almost without exception anyone that knows anything of cricket all says that Wrist Spin Bowling is the most difficult of all of cricket's skills. Therefore it follows that to bowl wrist spin and do it well you need to practice constantly and practice seriously. Philpott writes chapters in his book on this subject emphasising that if you're not obsessed with the idea of being a wrist spin bowler and don't view the prospects of spending virtually every waking hour of your life practicing it you'll never become an accomplished wrist spin bowler.
You can read more of Dave's ideas, including about the flipper, slider, top spinner, googly and big leg break on his dedicated wrist spin blog.