A fascinating look at Axar Patel’s startling bowling successes, from Jarrod Kimber’s presentation based on data analysis by Himanish Ganjoo.
I do enjoy this type of analysis, partly for the insight into exactly what is going on in the professional game (“we’d hit him all over the park if he bowled like that at us”…), but mostly for the opportunity to consider how the relevant skills might be coached, and how they might be counter-acted.
Do watch the video.
But, a quick summary:
- Axar’s point of release is very high, and unusually wide on the crease;
- spin is largely “equatorial”, with little over-spin, hence little “dip” in flight (or, put another way, the ball pitches closer to the batter than expected).
The exceptionally wide point of release is surely worth experimenting with for left-arm around bowlers (or right-arm bowlers to left-handed batters).
The “equatorial” spin is also worth developing, although perhaps as a variation rather than in place of over-spin. If the ball is not gripping on the pitch, it can still swerve in flight.
It will be interesting to see how Axar bowls outside India.
Some of his success in Test matches does appear to depend on having a pitch that allows not inconsiderable turn. On flat tracks, a delivery bowled from wide on the return crease, with a little in-swerve, would need to pitch outside off stump to hit the wickets, thus losing the LBW challenge.
But there most certainly should be something in the “Axar variations”.
How about 2 deliveries with (mostly) over-spin, straight but dipping in flight and (potentially) bouncing high, followed by an equatorial delivery, swerving and not dipping in flight, and perhaps keeping a little lower than expected.
I have written about this before, but I do think pace bowlers could profitably experiment with spinning the ball. Not cutting the hand down one side or the other, but properly tweaking the ball out of the fingers.
What might happen?
- By not applying the seam bowler’s normal backspin on the ball (fingers ripping down the back of the ball at release), the bowler might see the ball drop a little shorter than normal.
- By not having the full force of the wrist, hand & fingers directly behind the ball at the moment of release, release velocity might be subtly slower than normal.
- The ball might deviate in the air (cf. baseball’s various curveballs & sliders).
All worthwhile variations to add to the batter’s discomfort!
I do wonder how much Axar’s success against England highlighted the reported misalignment of England batters — front foot on off stump, bat face to mid-on, to a delivery angled in from very wide on the return crease (possibly even from outside the return crease, on some occasions).
Perhaps batters could try a more closed stance? Not quite a full George Bailey, perhaps, but why not pivot slightly to face where the ball is being released from?
Could this even be part of the batter’s trigger, to address the actual point of release?
Fascinating to speculate on what might be possible. Later this week, I’ll be in the nets for the first time this year, and I’ll have to try variations of spin axis (if I can still remember how to bowl…).