Monday, May 16, 2011

More on Warne versus Murali (v Kumble) - top-spinner versus flipper


I recently saw a journalistic piece by Shane Warne on the subject of Muttiah Muralitharan (Murali) - full of back-handed (!) compliments; the sub-text of which was that the Australian batsmen in Australia had 'worked out' Murali, and negated his doosra - which is why Murali's record against Australia was modest (13 matches, 59 wickets at an average of 36) especially in Australia was poor (5 matches, 12 wickets at 75).

Of course, since Australia were the best batting side in test cricket during this era, especially in Australia, this is strictly *irrelevant* to a comparison between Warne and Murali - Warne never bowled against the great Australian batting side; and in those match-ups against the best non-Australian test sides Murali clearly out-performed Warne

of particular relevance is the comparaitive record against India, which was the second best batting side after Australia during the Warne v Murali era:

Murali 4.5 wickets per match @ 33; Warne 3 wickets per match @ 47


IF Warne had bolwed against Australia he would have been much less effective than against other sides; because Australians use their feet against spin, negating Warnes best variation for the early part of his career - the Flipper: a faster, straight, pitched-up delivery which could trap LBW those batters who stepped back and played spinners from their crease - but which is negated by batters (such as Australians) who play forward and skip down the wicket to spinners.


The high bouncing top-spinners is the spinner's straight delivery variation which would be most effective against batters who come forward to spin - and who was the best recent top-spin bowler?

Neither Warne, nor Murali - but Anil Kumble.

Take a look at Kumble's record against Australia in Australia: 10 matches, 49 wickets (!) albeit at an average of 37 (spinners do the bulk of bowling in high scoring losing matches, which hurts their averages).

This suggests to me that spin bowlers who have a lot of top spin on their straight ought to have done better against the great Australian sides of the 1990s and early 2000s than did spinners who lacked such a variation.


(Also relevant is that some Australian umpires in Australia were no-balling and referring Murali for throwing; and this seriously damaged his confidence since it was potentially career-ending. My opinion on this is that throwing is an irrelevant consideration with respect to Murali's unique action; because even if he did straighten his elbow, the delivery was only a 'back-chuck': with the back of the hand and the point of the elbow facing the batter. Ie Murali delivered the ball with the forearm in pronation - to use the anatomical term. The regulations banning throwing implicitly apply to the front of hand delivery with the forearm in supination; when a chuck can be much faster than a straight arm delivery. Indeed throwing with the forearm in supination could lead to quick bowlers delivering balls at over 100 mph - like a baseball pitcher's 95 mph thrown delivery from standing *plus* the extra speed from a run-up. Dangerous!)


Anonymous sbastonvilla said...

This is one of the best posts I've seen on spin bowling. You're spot-on right about Kumble probably being the most effective because of his top-spinner.

On the chucking, his bowling with the cast on persuaded me. I didn't know about the unusual shoulder rotation he was capable of.

Warne's other weakness was his inability to turn it sufficiently both ways. I'm thoroughly unimpressed with his "slider". It doesn't take a fucking genius to throw a messy leg-cutter with a legspinner's grip. I personally think Kumble is underrated in this discussion because the Ashes always inflated Warne's numbers and Sri Lanka are notorious for playing weak oppositions.

And if we use the metric of best spinner against India, Saqlain in his prime has to take that mantle. Only guy I've seen do it.

1:04 PM  
Blogger bgc said...

Thanks - I forgot to mention that Kumble also had a flipper, so his straight delivery could *either* bounce high to catch the edge of the bat or offer a return catch - or stay low and bowl or trap lbw.

Saqlain was a wonderful, elegant craftsman in his day, I agree.

The equivalent craftsman now would be Ajmal - who would trouble most batsmen with is undetectable variations in something like a 45 degree arc from off break to doosra.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous sbastonvilla said...

I was about to say Ajmal as well but I wish we had a larger body of work to judge him. Something about Pakistani spinners; even Mushy put in some good performances

On the flipper, careful there. From my analysis of Kumble's bowling, he really didn't have a flipper. It was a quicker ball that was pushed with the fingers but he wasn't using his thumb and clicking his fingers like Warne. There might have been a little bit of backspin like a seamer but it wasn't a true flipper. Now that's not to say it wasn't effective; it probably was more effective than Warne's flipper because it was much harder to pick.

12:56 PM  
Blogger bgc said...

I accept your correction - I never saw what was described as Kumble's flipper - I only read a description by a journalist which said K learned to 'squeeze' the ball out between his fingers when he used to bowl with a tennis ball (or maybe tape ball, I'm not sure).

I have a theory that England would have more innovative bowlers if our teenagers played with a soft ball (a tape ball, or one of the modern soft orange balls of standard size with a moulded seam), like the Asians do.

It would also encourage stroke play among the batters.

Instead, kids are worried about getting hurt by the ball, the bowlers just trundle in seam up, and the batters play defensively or hack wildly instead of using wristwork.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous sbastonvilla said...

you're probably right, and yet I don't understand why those in England and probably Australia, SA, and NZ as well, don't practice spinning the ball with a softer ball to begin with? I started out with a tennis ball and slowly worked my way up to a bigger and harder ball.

9:27 AM  
Blogger bgc said...

Macho - people think it is 'girly' to play wit ha soft ball. I suppose the presence of semi-professional tape ball cricket played by adult men - who may be local heroes - probably combats this.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous sbastonvilla said...

That's unfortunate. I see you haven't posted recently. If you're looking for something interesting to analyze in the world of spin bowling, I'd suggest you take a look at Shahid Afridi's recent performances. Afridi is a really interesting bowler who gets overlooked because of his idiotic antics and flashy batting. He really has it all when it comes to varying turn, drift, pace, and bounce but he just needs to get more consistent.

1:15 PM  

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