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Batsmen will have to learn to master spinners

By Clay Smith

This past week saw the Bermuda national cricket team travel to Florida for a weekend training camp where they played the USA national cricket team in a three-game practice series. Bermuda were beaten in all three games, causing great concern with only three weeks to go before the T20 World Cup qualifiers in Dubai.

With USA being considered a mediocre team one can only wonder how Bermuda will do cope against the likes of Scotland, Kenya, Netherlands and Afghanistan. The next three weeks of preparation will be critical for Bermuda if we are to stand any chance of qualifying for the T20 World Cup as one of the six teams who will advance.

This past excursion to the USA further exposed our inability to bat against quality spin.

I couldn't help but smile at a few of the comments made by our national coach (Arnold Manders) in a recent Royal Gazette article when he stated: “That's just a result of what we've been playing the whole year,” referring to the league format.

“We don't have quality spinners and the size of the fields doesn't help. Here, they can play around and miss-hit a ball and it goes for six and they are out of trouble, whereas out there you would be caught”.

First of all, I applaud Mr. Manders for boldly acknowledging the fact that our league system this past year was inadequate.

Basically, saying it did very little to help prepare our senior national team for international competition.

Secondly, it is a common known fact that we struggle to bat spin and while most people simply want to put it down to the size of our fields I beg to differ. If our fields were so small then why did we still struggle in the recent ICC tournament held in Bermuda where we barely survived staying in Division Three?

Even with our fields being small our batsmen struggled against decent spinners. Therefore, we must get to the root of the problem which is our players' lack the technical ability to score freely off decent spin bowling.

Part of the problem is that we cannot continue practising indoors and expect to learn how to bat against spin bowling properly. This is an art that has to be mastered outdoors.

The basic skill work can be done indoors, i.e. sweeping tennis balls over and over, skipping down the wicket and playing the ball from a bowling machine, but at the end of the day batting spin has to be mastered on the field of play for obvious reasons.

Training wickets indoors do not spin or bounce like outdoor wickets for one. In the nets the big factor is you can never assess where the fielders would be, you can only assume. The Bermuda Cricket Board must find our team an outdoor wicket to train on every day for the next three weeks, preferably the National Stadium, due to the turning wickets and the size of the field.

At the end of the day, players must have the confidence and ability to score freely off the spinners without taking too many risks. The aim when batting against spin is to make the bowlers adjust their line and length. Too many of our batsmen like to play spin from their batting crease, which is a cardinal sin because most quality spinners can bowl an excellent line and length, thus making scoring runs difficult.

So what are some things a batsman can do to counteract quality spin bowling?

There are several tactics that can be used to thwart the spinner. Here are a few:

• As the bowler runs in the batsman can move across from leg to off stump, thus causing the bowler to have to make a late decision to readjust his line.

• Late in the bowler's approach to the wicket and just prior to him delivering the ball the batsman can feint as if he is going to skip down the wicket, but doesn't. Most times this will cause the bowler to drop the ball shorter in anticipation you are going to come down the wicket to him, thus allowing you to rock back and hit the short ball wherever you like.

• Sweep length, our batsmen have to learn how to sweep and gain confidence in sweeping as this is one of the most vital shots off a spin bowler, but very few of our players play this shot.

• Skip down the wicket with a purpose, always look to hit the gaps but when you skip you don't always have to play big extravagant shots. Players have to learn to play the chip shot over short cover and short mid-wicket.

• Constantly rotate strike, especially if left and right hand batsmen are batting together because this will force the bowler to have to keep adjusting his line.

Another major issue for us is that when batting spin we tend to be front foot players. Far too often as a spin bowler delivers the ball our first reaction is to plant our front foot down the wicket, which restricts our scoring ability.

Players have to learn to wait and identify the line and the length of the ball because sometimes that same ball that they go forward to and block could have played slightly off the back foot. Or the player could stood tall and played it with an angled bat and got a single.

Again, I reiterate the only way for our players to overcome these major flaws is by training day in and day out on a turf wicket with fielders in place as if it was a game situation. In addition to this, whenever teams go abroad, the host country should be asked to provide teams with bowlers who can help us practise. I would strongly recommend that Bermuda acquire three spinners, two of them being left arm spinners and one right arm spinner, along with a training wicket if possible. The more we bat quality spin the better chance we have of being successful come game time.

Reality is most teams will play a minimum of four spinners against us and could even open the bowling with spin so this is an area that the coaching staff must address.

Our coaches now have the responsibility of fixing it and getting the best out of their players. This is why we coach for challenges like this.

Players, I encourage you to come outside your box, outside your comfort zone to improve yourself. The reason you practice is to improve your skills so that you have the confidence to apply those same skills in a game setting.

At the end of the day Bermuda's cricketing future is in your hands. You guys are the ones who have earned the right to play for Bermuda through hard work and commitment and I applaud you for that.

For the next three weeks, do not miss a single training session, learn all that you can learn so that when you reach Dubai you are hungry and ready to claim one of those six qualifying spots.

Quote of the week: It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice — Eric Lindros

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Published October 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm)

Batsmen will have to learn to master spinners

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