There is a lot of rot talked about the lack of good spin bowlers and this of course nestles side by side with the general recurrent moans that England batsmen can’t play spin.
Thinking about it, this seems illogical. If batsmen are so vulnerable, why aren’t counties stuffed with spinners to exploit this vulnerability. Ah wait. Must be the wickets. The weather.
Trying to untangle this:
Fact: Schools, clubs and counties, the latter especially through the Emerging Players Programme, prior to academy selection, produce a good number of fine spin bowlers. In under 11s,12s,13s,14s county cricket and even U15s they can dominate.
What happens next?
First, selectors of representative sides and selectors of other development opportunities seem to prefer control over attack. Rotations, especially early in a young bowlers development, are gained at the cost of control. The pursuit of control also produces a different line to be bowled and a different field setting.
Bowling coaches on country grounds that are hard and true know they need rotations from their bowlers, teach and favour rotations. You don’t just get turn from rotations.
The Magnus effect causes drift and dip in various combinations. The latter increases late dip, which in turn provides extra bounce. Turn makes possible the attacking line and rewards attacking field placings.
The coaching of this kind of attacking spin bowling has been revolutionized over the last ten years – the revolution was so dramatic that many batting commentators seeing the straight approach and rapid hip and shoulders rotations essential to the new way of bowling (imported from Asia) often criticised proponents as aberrant. Bowlers tended not to share the new ideas with batsmen. Here’s a perfect example.
Other counties see spin as a necessary interval during which the seamers rest. The containment it aims for becomes a filler in the game before the next new ball, if it is bothered with at all. Given this limited role, spin alone cannot demand selection. Spinners (who can bat even a bit) are overlooked in favour of batsmen who can provide this containment role – either seam-up or with flat, low rotation, low risk, high control, finger “spin”.
So county squads are stuffed with batsmen and seam-up bowlers.
The groundsmen work for the counties and produce the wickets necessary to support the Cricket Committee’s hirings. They have all the coverings and heatings and soil choices to produce if they wished to, extremely fast bouncing wickets that produce wonderful cricket – truly fast intimidating bowlers and later deadly conditions for spin bowlers in the third and fourth innings. But few risk anything other than aiming to produce the feather bed – safe from criticism from their employers and safe from the dreaded ‘pitch inspectors’. Lord’s rather than leading the way is surely the worst example.
Along with one day formats, these wickets have hidden the vulnerability of low hand slappers and across the line leg-side bullies – a few of whom have been exposed for what they are when required to play real pace, from bowlers and from wickets.
And worst of all; spectators get boring monochrome cricket, that they eventually found difficult to tolerate for more than a day … and now find difficult to tolerate for more than 40 overs tops.
But the greatest mistake is to believe that this game that is presently constructed in cricket is all that there can be; that it is some inevitable result of genetics or climate.
It isn’t. It is what the cash in the game is purchasing. Change the incentives and you change the game … for the better.
There is an alternative