Friday, August 01, 2014

Moeen Ali cannot bowl a doosra (or, at least, not a useful one - or so I predict)


I am delighted that Moeen Ali bowled so well in the Southampton Test against India - and I am not at all surprised.

He has a really nice classical off-spinner's action, and spins the ball almost as rapidly as Swann (and considerably more rapidly than either India's Jajeda or of Sri Lanka's Herath).

But I predict that Moeen will not be able to bowl a doosra - at least, he will not be able to bowl a useful doosra at teh test match level (i.e. that a delivery that is legal, hard to pick, reliable and effective). This is simply because he has a classic off-spinners grip and action - holding the ball between index and middle finger and delivering it from the front of the hand; and a doosra cannot be bowled with that kind of grip and action (nobody has ever done it).

The fact that Moeen has been tutored by Saeed Ajmal at Worcestershire is irrelevant; since Ajmal has a completely different method. He grips the ball between middle and ring finger, and delivers both off-spinner and doosra with the back of his hand towards the batter and a forward flick of the wrist.

But Moeen does not need a doosra - he has already shown that he can beat the bat on both sides - even with very good players.

Given his excellent batting and superb temperament, England now solved their spin problem and have a really valuable all-round cricketer in Moeen Ali.  


Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to bowl a flipper-doosra


This should work for an off-spinner (or orthodox slow left armer) who has a high action (near vertical arm at delivery) and large hands.

For an off-spinner - the usual grip is between index and middle fingers across the seam , with the ball stabilized by the thumb and ring finger, also resting on the seam.


To deliver the flipper-doosra the grip is very similar, but with index and middle fingers just spread apart and resting on top of the seam - while the ball is actually being gripped between the thumb and ring finger, which are on opposite sides of the ball, thumb and ring finger on the seam.


For the normal off-break, at the moment of delivery the seam is angled towards leg-slip.The ball is spun by rotating the wrist and forearm to move the seam in a clockwise and pointing-forward direction.


For the flipper-doosra, at the moment of delivery the little finger side of the hand is presented to the batter, and the seam is angled towards first slip; and the ball is spun by snapping the ring finger down, so the ball pivots on the thumb  - just the same motion as you could use to 'snap your fingers', using ring finger and thumb.


So, from the batter's perspective, there is only a small angular difference between the delivery angle of the off-break (stock delivery, coming in towards the right-hander) and the flipper doosra (moving away from the right-hander).

Given that the grip is so similar, I think the flipper-doosra would be hard for a batsman to 'pick'. 


The disadvantage of the flipper-doosra (assuming that it could be practised until it was controlled) is that the finger snap is tiring for the fingers, so the delivery probably could not be used very frequently - and the ring finger is neither very powerful nor easy to control.

If the fingers actually snapped together, made a snapping noise, then this would potentially alert the batter that the variation which goes the other way was coming.

Otherwise it might be worth a try. 


Note: The flipper-doosra could also be used to bowl an off-break - therefore making it a double-bluff against batters who manage to 'pick' the flipper action. This would simply be done by rotating the wrist before release, so the seam points towards leg-slip (instead of towards first slip).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What would be the maximum speed of a fast bowler if throwing was allowed? 110 mph


In the previous posting 

I suggested that the long run-up of a fast bowler generates about an extra 10 mph pace, on top of the short run-up of a slow, spin bowler.

I am assuming that the short, slow 'walk' to the crease of a typical spinner is more about achieving balance and technique than speed - and that the typical spinners 'run' up does not add to the arm speed.


In baseball, where the pitcher throws the ball after standing then a single step forward (no run up), a Major League fast ball travels at about 95-100mph).

So a fast bowler with long run-up is 90-95mph, and a fastball pitcher without run-up is about 95-100 - therefore the throwing adds about 10 mph (and we already know that the run-up adds about 10 mph).

Therefore, a combination of throwing plus run-up in the fastest bowler/thrower would probably be about 105-110 mph (fastball 95-100 plus 10).

In other words, if throwing was allowed in cricket, the fastest possible delivery that combined both throwing and a long run-up would probably be about 110 mph


Saeed Ajmal is as good or better than Shane Warne


Warne: 4.9 wickets per Test Match; average 25; economy rate 2.7.

Ajmal: 5.3 wickets per Test Match; average 27; economy rate 2.7

So Ajmal takes significantly more wickets per test than Warne, but at a slightly higher average per wicket.

However, if adjustment is made for the generally higher batting and bowling averages of modern cricket compared with Warne's era, this probably leaves Ajmal ahead. 

Ajmal is a really, really good bowler! In the same league as Warne and better than any other spinner in the modern game except of course the best of all: Murali.

This means that , from statistics, currently - now - playing each other in the same Test series - we have one of the very greatest ten or so spin bowlers of all time, and probably the greatest ever pace bowler of all time.

(I mean Dale Steyn.)

Why isn't more of a fuss made about this?


Friday, August 30, 2013

T20 six-hitting sluggers seem to be using performance-enhancing drugs


It looks to me as if the new generation of T20 batters are going the same way as baseball sluggers - in other words getting into the whole body-building culture, including performance enhancing drugs - many of which are undetectable.

When I say 'looks to me' I mean that there is a fairly characteristic body shape and coarsened facial appearance (heavy brows, prominent lower jaw) which many of these drug users develop - and I think I see some of these changes in some of the big hitting T20 batters.

If this is the case it will, no doubt, be quite well known to insiders - as was always the case in baseball where heavy drug use was endemic among the most successful batters for many years before there was any attempt to stop it - and even after testing drug usage has remained very widespread.


Why T20?

Partly the big money to be made; but also the one-dimensional and simple nature of T20 batting makes it the kind of sport where drugs can make a significant difference.

Hitting sixes is at a premium, and this requires strength and bat speed - both of which are amenable to drug improvement.

And the organizers want lots of sixes, so there is a conflict of interest with respect to detecting drug use; as also happened in baseball with their equivalent of home runs.

The increased frequency of baseball home runs was very popular with fans; for example in the Sosa v McGuire home run record breaking chase of 1998, now presumed to have been drug-fuelled, and of course the remarkable drug-revived career of Barry Bonds.


Test batting and first class cricket, by contrast, is so multidimensional and strategic that drugs would probably make it worse, by 'messing with the mind' as they do - and many of the best T20 batters are mediocre at the longer game, which fits the pattern of drug use.

Up until now, the main (detected) use of performance enhancing drugs has been the relatively-benign situation of anabolic steroids apparently being used by bowlers to speed-up their recovery from injury (this would fit the most most famous example of Shane Warne).


If it is suspected that T20 batting may be drug-fuelled, then it is unlikely to be prevented by drug testing, since the sports pharmacologists are always a step or two ahead of the testing regimes (even when testing is applied non-corruptly).

What is needed to detect drug use is the kind of police detective work which led to the exposure of Lance Armstrong - discovery of laboratories, chains of supply, evidence of corrupt coaches and patterns of usage.

Detection would be a complex and expensive business, in other words.

Given the fact that both top players and T20 organizers benefit from the six-hitting abilities which come from the culture of performance enhancing drug usage, I don't suppose it will happen.

Note added 10 Oct 2013 - This article by John Hotten independently came to similar conclusions about performance enhancing drug use in T20 as this one, but a few months earlier -

Monday, February 04, 2013

Where does a bowler's pace come from? Spin compared with run-up


By comparing the speed gun measurements of a spinner's stock delivery with their straight (fast) ball variation - and a fast bowler's stock delivery with their slow delivery variation (usually an off-cutter) it looks as if the spin accounts for 10-15 mph of the delivery.

Therefore, about 10-15 mph of the energy into a delivery goes into generating spin.


What about run-up?

Well a 'big spinner', with a fast arm speed, who bowls at 55 mph off a few slow paces to the wicket can often deliver a fast ball variation at 70 mph (maybe a little more, but I would suspect chucking) - whereas a normal quick bowler off a long run-up will bowl at about 80 mph.

Therefore, assuming that the spinner's and quick bowler's arm speeds are about the same - then a long run-up probably generates about an extra 10 mph for the quick bowler.


So - taking the bowler's straight delivery off a few paces as standard: spin subtracts about 10-15 mph while a run-up adds about 10 mph.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Reverse wrist/ off-break doosra bowling needs a bent elbow - but chucking is not necessary


This report about Ajmal clarifies what seems anatomically necessary: that a reverse wrist spinner/ off-break-doosra bowler very probably needs to have a bent elbow, but does not entail chucking

This is quite simply because the elbow needs to be bent in order to rotate the arm (specifically to rotate the shoulder) to point the elbow towards slips (for a right handed batter) - which enables the forward flip of the wrist to generate the doosra.


Note added 12 March 2012 - it is notable that the two best doosra bowlers so far seem to have had a permanently bent, unstraightenable elbow on their bowling arm.

Murali had this congenitally (i.e. he was born with a bent elbow), while Ajmal had a bent elbow as a result of an accident.

This suggests that unless a bowler has a bent elbw, he will probably not be a really effective (as well as legal) doosra bowler.

The possible exception is Saqlain Mushtaq; but for whatever reason, nobody seems to be able to replicate his method.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reverse wrist spinner - the best name for an off-break-doosra bowler like Ajmal


In Mike Selvey's Guardian column today

he used the term reverse wrist spinner to describe off-break/ doosra bolwers like Ajmal.

Sounds like the perfect name!


(I found a couple of other previous uses of the term reverse wrist spinner on Google - such as this time ten years ago on cricinfo by Sambit Bal - . Perhaps the cricket journalists have been saying it for a while?