Leggies take time to mature

THE 'BOSIE' OR THE GOOGLY is considered the most dangerous weapon.-Figure 1

The likes of Warne and Kumble have inspired a lot of youngsters to take up leg spin, but the youngsters would do well to accept that this difficult art needs a lot more perseverance and dedication than some other aspects of cricket, writes W. V. RAMAN.

I had written in my earlier column about the leg spinners' ability to conjure up magic, which makes them enchanting to watch. This is due to the dexterity of their fingers on the ball, the subtle variations in the way they grip it and the way they release it from their hands. As a result, the leg-spinners can disguise their variations well enough to make the batsmen guess. While the leg spinners have several options to fox the batsmen, achieving control over the options involves twice as much hard work as the finger spinners. It is generally considered that spinners mature late, but leg spinners tend to take a little longer perhaps. One example that comes to mind is the way Kumble has matured in terms of varying his pace after quite a long time in international cricket. The top spinners and the flippers were always in his repertoire, but the googly has been a recent addition.

One of the main reasons it takes longer for leggies to mature is because their stock delivery by itself requires a lot of sustained patience to master. It is only after they master their stock delivery, they can look to develop their other potent weapons. It is always a temptation to try and develop all the variations simultaneously, but it can lead an inexperienced bowler astray in that he might either lose the ability to bowl good quality leg spin or end up bowling more of flippers and googlies without any great control. The end result is that he loses his way completely and is forced to take up some other option in life. I personally have seen this happen to a couple of extremely talented leg spinners who lost their way in trying to develop all at once.

Coming back to the variations of a leg spinner, he can resort to bowling a top spinner, a flipper or a googly. The top spinner is the one that goes straight through after pitching and a high quality top spinner is supposed to bounce more than the regular leg spin. The reason for this is that the top spinner is intended to land on the seam and hence the extra bounce. Figure 1 will give a fair indication of how a top spinner is delivered by a leg spinner. Only the fingers work on the ball and the wrist is straight without being engaged in action. When the wrist is straight and only the fingers work on the ball, the deviation of the ball after pitching is reduced. Furthermore, the gap between the middle finger and ring finger would be narrowed to curtail the deviation as much as possible. The batsman has to be extremely sharp to notice the subtle difference in the way the ball is delivered.

Figure 2

The flipper comes in handy for a leg spinner and is bowled with an intent to surprise the batsman with speed. A well delivered flipper skids on to the batsman than the other variations as it is bowled slightly quicker through the air. The remarkable feature about a flipper is that it is bowled a trifle short to try and make the batsman play back when it is not actually short enough. Figure 2 is an illustration of how a flipper is delivered and it is noticeable the ball is visible to the batsman clearly unlike when a leg spinner is bowled. The ball is gripped the same way as it is for a stock delivery but at the point of release the middle and the index fingers push the ball quicker through the air much like what a swing bowler does. The one big difference is that the leggie does it very subtly lest it loses the surprise element. The flipper hastens after pitching because not much of spin is imparted and also due to the fact that it is pushed through quickly.

The "Bosie" or the googly is considered the most dangerous weapon as it is generally well concealed by most of the successful leg spinners. Abdul Qadir, to me, should go down as one of the best exponents of the googly as he could make the ball deviate a long way. Figure 3 shows the wrist in an entirely new position when a googly is attempted. The back of the hand is shown to the batsman and this is probably the only indication for the batsman that something different is coming at him. The ball is gripped normally as a leggie does, but the release is totally opposite to that of a leg spinner. The ball is squeezed out of the fingers in order to make it deviate the other way. Unless the coordination and the release are timed perfectly, it can be a total disaster. This holds true for bowlers in general, but since the muscles move in a very unusual way while a googly is being delivered it adds to the difficulty.

Figure 3

The likes of Warne and Kumble have inspired a lot of youngsters to take up leg spin, but the youngsters would do well to accept that this difficult art needs a lot more perseverance and dedication than some other aspects of cricket.

Of course, one encouraging fact is that once the craft is gradually mastered, success is all there for the taking.