Friday, January 13, 2012

What will be Ajmal's new 'mystery' delivery? A knuckleball?


I read that Saeed Ajmal will unveil a new 'mystery' delivery against England in the UAE test series. What could it be?

Since Ajmal is too shrewd to mess with his beautifully-honed action - which is making him into the best world spinner, overtaking Swann - and knowing the method of his stock deliveries

i.e. ball held between middle and ring finger, spin imparted by a forward flip (extension) of the wrist with the back of hand facing batter...

Then I can make a guess that the mystery delivery will be a straight, floating, wobbling ball with no spin at all (thereby creating turbulence and unpredictable movement, like a baseball pitcher's knuckleball) - and he will deliver this simply by not flipping the wrist forward and instead releasing the ball completely dead, seam sideways to the batter.

It's just a guess - and it will be interesting to see if my prediction is correct.



Anonymous sbastonvilla said...

If he can pull it off...hats off to him. I'm skeptical but excited by the prospect of his mystery delivery being a knuckle ball. Knuckleballs are hard to bowl with a cricket ball. With a baseball, the seams are placed ideally to push it out with your knuckles. With cricket balls and Ajmal's action, he really needs to have strong knuckles to be able to 'push' the ball out before he usually flips it. If he does pull it off though, it could be lethal in the UAE this time of year. Tim Wakefield, one of the greatest modern knuckleballers in the game of baseball, was always most effective in autumn, when there was a swirling wind present. There will be some uneven breeze in UAE now...should be very interesting.

3:26 PM  
Blogger bgc said...

I didn't mean literally a knuckleball in terms of how the ball is delivered - usually knuckleballers in baseball hold the ball in a 'claw' of their thumb and first three fingers and thrown with the palm of the hand facing the batter - but the idea of a ball that has no spin on it and is therefore prone to be 'buffetted' with the turbulence caused by its movement through the air.

I was 'imagining' a ball delivered with the back of hand facing the batter - and just released 'dead' without any spin or movement in any direction. It might be an effective full-pitched surprise delivery which would float and wobble through the air. Of course, if it was read, the batter could step forward and hit it as a full toss, but he might mis-hit.

The reason I am suggesting this is simply that it took Ajmal many years to develop what is a new type of spin bowling, and he seems very shrewd - so I don't think he would tamper with his basic action.

Also, his success depends on the fact that nobody can read him from the hand, and he would not want to use a variation which could mess up this aspect - and all the 'normal' spin variations would, I think, be very easy to spot.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous TheTeesra said...

I wonder if this (the announcement of the new mystery ball) is an attempt to emulate Shane Warne's mind games.

Does Ajmal really have a completely new delivery?

I do hope so!

- TheTeesra

11:29 AM  
Blogger bgc said...

@Teesra - Ajmal seems a very different kind of person than Warne (but then again, who isn't!) - so I'm sure it is genuine.

I think Warne was accurate as well, when he claimed new deliveries. They were of course various types of straight delivery - but the point is that they were superbly disguised and pitched on different lengths - some bounced while others skidded.

However, I think spinners only *need* two deliveries (one that turns, the other that doesn't - or turns the other way)- so long as they are indistinguishable from the batter's perspective. Pitch variations and random factors will do the rest.

12:36 PM  
Blogger bgc said...

Seems like I was wrong - whatever Ajmal's disappointing new delivery is (some kind of very poorly-disguised back-spinner?) it certainly ain't any kind of 'knuckleball'!...

3:38 AM  
Blogger keith said...

Appears to be a backspinner, skiddying through low. But the round arm action should warn all but the worse batsmen. Then again if he learned to spin the ball the other way with a slingy round arm action then he might be on to something. Titch Freemen did ok bowling round-arm so many years ago.

But length, bounce or lack of it will often do the work as much as deviation off the pitch, as proved in this match.

It does seem that his doosra not only holds its own off the pitch, but pitches differently from a normal off break. He had a few backfoot lbws which implies it was pitching further up than the batsmen expected. Sort of doosra with a hint of backspin.

But in addition to the breaking ball, the arm ball and now the doosra, I was wondering how a finger spinner would deliver a top spinner? I can only think out of the top of the hand, which is side on with the little finger leading down the pitch.

But I can't think of any great exponents of it.

6:06 AM  
Blogger bgc said...

@keith - well as you can tell from my analysis of his action - I don't think Ajmal is a conventional 'finger spinner' but is a wrist spinner.

So, back of hand facing batter and flipping his wrist forward towards batter he could deliver doosra, top-spin or off-break with little perceptible change in delivery.

But he couldn't bowl a back-spinner using this action.

Simon Hughes mentioned another important feature of Ajmal's action - that he pauses in the middle of the delivery, to different degrees, so the batter is made uncertain exactly when he will release the ball.

I has an e-mail from someone who taught as Lancing College (an English Public School) when Ajmal was employed as a coach, and he thought the very slow, deliberate action was due to the need for careful control of such a strange method of releasing the ball.

But it now begins to look as if the variable hesitation in the release of the ball may be very important in putting the batter off his timing, and - in particular - making it difficult for the batter to judge length - where the ball pitches...

7:21 AM  
Blogger keith said...

Would it be correct to call Ajmal's main action "over the wrist" bowling? If I read you, and others, correctly he bowls an off break like a googly action out of the back of the hand.

But instead of flicking the wrist through the legside fielding positions in the horizontal plane, he flicks it over through the upper arm in the vertical plane.

Therefore, at the top of his action the fingers are underneath the ball, which will spin like a top spinner.

If he flicks his hand even further forward, the fingers and hand will be splayed out facing down the pitch, at 1.30 or 2 on a clock, imparting a bit of deviation but also a lot of top spin.

It may explain why the off break and top spinner impart on each other as it about where precisely he releases the ball on an arc, rather than using different fingers to rotate the ball in opposite directions out of the hand.

I used to be able to do it my youth but it does hurt after a few overs and needs exceptional control, especially if you are trying to get it to spin the other way ie hands splayed out.

BTW I was meaning the back spinner was the one Ajmal bowled with the clearly different action, likened to Malinga's sling. (although if you bowled the off-break/googly early it may impart a bit of backspin)

Wristies with a good leg break eg Warne, tend to bowl slightly round arm (Benaud said this was a necessity) while those who prefer googlies bowl more straight and high armed.

Makes me think that Ajmal was trying to send one down quickly in the direction of slips.

9:20 AM  
Blogger bgc said...

@Keith - yes, that's how I think he does it. Also remembering that he grips the ball between midle and ring finger (like a leg spin bowler) and uses the middle finger to impart spin - I think the extra length of the middle finger is what enables the doosra.

I also agree with what you say about leg breaks and round arm - the famous wrist spinners with a very vertical arm action - e.g. Chandrasekar, Kumble and - to some extent - Mushtaq Ahmed were actually top-spin/ googly bowlers in terms of their stock delivery (Mushy did bowl a log of leg breaks, but turned his googly more sharply)

10:19 AM  

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