Dealing with pressure from “beyond the boundary” – so that’s why we need “connection and extension”

“Slow down, and you will bowl straighter”.  I never appreciated receiving this advice when I was a young (never very) quick bowler, and I certainly don’t like hearing it now, from an experienced player advising a youngster who I have been encouraging to (try to) bowl fast.

Bowling fast and straight is not impossible.  It is challenging, but anything worth doing generally is.  Being told to slow down does not make a fast bowler.  And the role of the coach has to be to encourage the exceptional.

But how to deal with this (well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful) advice from beyond the boundary?

By making sure that everyone connected with the team – players, parents, other coaches, committee members – knows about “the plan”, whatever it might be.  Fast bowlers try to bowl fast; slow bowlers flight the ball and give it a rip; fielders are encouraged to try for run outs (so you had better be ready to back-up the throws).

And that’s where “connection and extension” comes in. Continue reading Dealing with pressure from “beyond the boundary” – so that’s why we need “connection and extension”

To Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox – does anyone sing?

Hardly anyone sings the Star Spangled banner, to the dismay of my companion, CC, a baseball traditionalist (who does sing)…I am a visitor, so I am forgiven. The line “the land of the free” does get the crowd cheering, but why wait so long to participate?

“They are all too uptight”, is CC’s diagnosis – “there’s no physical contact in the crowd, and no one sings until they have had a few drinks.” And, indeed, come the seventh innings stretch, many more voices join in with “Take me down to the ball game”. And by comparison with the anthem, the rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline…oh, oh, oh”, a favourite for the Red Sox fans, before the ninth is almost ecstatic.

But I had expected something else in the home of the brave, and so did CC.

Throwing a curveball – why not bowl one?

I nearly got to watch a live baseball game at the weekend…until persistent rain caused the game to be called.

But I was thinking about what baseball pitchers do with a baseball – and it’s a lot more than just hurling it through at 100 mph. They use spin-swerve to get the pitch off straight, and curveballs add over-spin to add dip to the mix.

It’s the same effect as David Beckham uses to get the ball up and over the defensive wall, and curving into the top corner.

So it works in baseball, and football (and golf, and tennis); some descriptions of the finger spinners arm ball sound like spin-swerve, and Shane Warne’s “ball of the century” to Mike Gatting surely had a bucket load of spin-swerve on it. But I don’t think I have ever heard a cricket commentator talking about any one using spin-swerve at medium pace or above, and the only coaching book where I have seen it described is Alan Wilkins “The Bowler’s Art” (a fascinating technical read, by the way).

Now, it possibly is easier for a pitcher to generate spin-swerve when he pitches than for a bowler to do the same, but is anyone trying? Reverse swing was invented to compensate for the lack of conventional swing with a shiny ball. Apparently, SF Barnes used spin-swerve in the early years of the 20th century, to capture 189 wickets in 27 Tests, so it could certainly be done in the days when there was no second new ball.

So why does no one add spin-swerve to the fast and medium-pacer armoury?