Friday, 18 April 2014
Column 7, 2014 – Leggie theory
Printed in The Cricket Paper issue 79, Friday April 18, 2014. [Full text below]
I was never quick enough, even as a kid, to bowl seam effectively. I needed to do something with it, and my fingers just won’t do the offy thing. So I became a leggie.
It’s not the most sensible decision. Legspin is often described as cricket’s most difficult art. Sometimes I think maybe I do it so I’ll have an excuse when it all goes horribly wrong.
Attempting to flick the ball with your wrist, roughly perpendicular to the direction of travel, means accuracy in both line and length is, let’s be honest, rather less than guaranteed.
The googly – one of my favourite words as well as one of my favourite things – flips the ball out of the back of the hand. So really not that much more likely to be accurate.
Get it right of course, and it’s tremendous. There are few things more satisfying than a batsman propping forward to defend a ball on a good length and it spitting past his outside edge. Or backing away to cut an innocuous looking wide leg break, only for it to turn the other way and bowl him through the gate.
The bane of the leggie can be summed up in two words: Shane Warne. He was so ridiculously good, so unreasonably accurate, that whenever anyone now comes across a leggie, even in village cricket, they’re disappointed if you don’t drift it a foot, land it on a sixpence and then rip it two feet back. “Leggies can turn it on anything, can’t they?” That guy has a lot to answer for.
But recently, we’ve seen a mini leggie resurgence.
The West Indian Samuel Badree is a leggie of such chutzpah, that he opens the bowling and bowls through in T20s. This is a high risk strategy, but he excels at it. If the opening bowler’s job in T20 is to not let the big hitters hit big, he was the best opening bowler in the WT20 by a country mile.
Also at the WT20, India’s Amit Mishra was a joy. He is not afraid to float the ball up, and occasionally he mixes all four of the magic ingredients – flight, drift, turn and bounce – to dramatic and always watchable effect. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on in English conditions this summer.
Scott Borthwick is an interesting prospect for England, front of the queue after Swann’s departure. It remains to be seen if he keeps that place at the start of the summer, against some of the least helpful conditions and best players of spin in the world.
And some might be worried to see the potential successor to Warne emerge in the confident and self-assured shape of the 20 year old James Muirhead, who’s not afraid to toss it up and rips it almost sideways.
But to me this is far from worrying. As a lover of cricket’s dark art, they are all welcome prospects, wherever they’re from.
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