I have the pleasure of working with a talented leg-spinner every few months. He is a top little fella, only 10 years in age and growing at the same rate of knots as a sweet corn field in the middle of a perfect summer. He first tried leg spin at the age of seven on a cricketing holiday we run out in St Lucia and has persevered with the toughest skill in cricket ever since.
His progress has been really good although the boy seems to be the only person in the world who doesn’t see that.
When he receives praise he discounts it. When asked if he can recall his most memorable experience from the day, he will talk about being hit for 4 or a ball that was dragged down into a long hop. It’s been a shame to hear his view of his bowling as this must represent his experience. In contrast, my onlooker experience is one of joy and excitement every time I see him bowl.
The brutal game
Cricket is a brutal game, full of failure and often, we cricketers reflect this in the way we speak and the way we think and act. I recall the Somerset 1st XI using a match analysis system back in 2002. It was groundbreaking stuff in the English County game at the time with every ball being filmed, tagged and analysis which then created archives of data and film which we could use as a coaching and development tool.
In one early game, Somerset were bowled out for 310 in less than 3 sessions on a pitch that would keep the seam bowlers interested across all 4 days play. 310 ended up being the highest innings score of the game yet each dismissed batter only watched their last ball on the system; the ball which dismissed them.
I noted that each batsman replayed the same ball over and over again, compounding their suffering and mental turmoil. It was fascinating viewing. Subsequently, I drew up some guidelines to help us use the system more effectively as a group of batters.
To analyse our dismissal trends, yes, but to also create highlight reels for each player, to establish statistics for different bowler type, built a synopsis on how each player performed in their first 20 balls at the crease and identifying the ‘weak spots’ and ‘sweet spots’ when it came to length of delivery faced and scoring areas exploited.
This data, with careful feedback, started to take the players out of their last ball dwelling mode towards a more proactive & positive review process.
Golfing crossover time
I thought about that applying a similar approach with the Leg spinner but then listened to a conversation between two keen golfing friends.
Neither of them are world beaters and both play off a handicap of 16 but the way that they appraised their round (of 87 and 89 shots respectively) was in stark contrast to my young leg spinner and the Somerset batters at the turn of the millennium.
My two mates spoke only about their good shots, their longest drives, their occasional lovely chips and their three 10 foot+ putts. These words were influenced by their memories in their heads which reflected their experience on the course.
So I came up with the “amateur golfers review” concept for cricketers!
And then took the approach into a conversation with the young leggy in question. For context, he had just taken 2-14 in 3 overs at the end of a T20 game which had effectively bowled his team to an unlikely victory.
“How well did you bowl today under that immense pressure Buddy! Awesome!” I asked.
“But I got hit for two 4’s Garas” was his predictable response.
“Shane Warne has been hit for more 6’s in Test Match Cricket than any other bowler in history! He also got 708 Test Wickets among the way fella” was the start of my pitch with my new golfing review product.
I followed up by speaking about the different way that cricketers and amateur golfers review the game and retain motivation. It only takes one “sweet as a nut” ball off the face of a driver to inspire the golfer to come back out the next day and do it all over again.
I asked the leggy to go away for the evening and think about this golfing approach in relation to his bowling experience from the T20 game and see if he viewed his experience (a winning one!) any differently.
I didn’t work directly with the leggy in his next session but caught up with him for lunch a couple of hours later. I asked him how he bowled in the net session that morning. His response was music to my ears!
“I bowled really well today Garas. A few short balls but I had 3 clear wickets when the ball came off of my spinning finger perfectly”
Initially, this idea was geared around batting. My fellow coaches, Pete Crocombe (golf handicap of 3) and Johnny Griffiths (golf handicap of 6) believe that golf and golfers are more interlinked with the task of bowling and the mindset of bowlers.
In our discussion they protested that in golf, you always get another chance to hit a brilliant shot or putt, whereas in batting, this is not the case. As bowlers, we can be hit for 6 and then be a hero next ball when we take a wicket.
Both experienced golfers also recognised that you are being proactive as a golfer. You put (not putt) the ball into play just as you do as a bowler. No other person has ultimate control over what you do in both golfing and bowling examples whereas a bowler, fielder and umpire can significantly influence the ultimate outcome of your momentary experience when you are batting.
Sage points I sensed.
And this bowling bias approach bore out in the initial success of the “Golfers Review” process with the Shane Warne prodigy.
So would the golfers review work for a batter at all?
There is only one way to find out! Give it a go and let me know.