A batsman who can use their feet effectively is a spinner’s nightmare.
Spin is all about rhythm. You can easily upset that if you are able to move down the track to drive or rock right back to cut or pull.
However, the risk of moving out of your crease is that you can be stumped.
That means effective use of your feet is about minimising the risk to your wicket while putting the bowler off their stride.
Here is how you do it.
Think like a spinner
Start by looking at the field. Where are the close catchers and where are the deep fielders?
This will tell you much of a bowler's plan. As we know, spinner styles vary greatly. This is a risk factor for the batter because two very different spinners may have similar fields.
The more information you can get the better:
• The way the ball is turning (and how much).
• The bowlers stock pace, line, length and flight.
• How much bounce there is.
• What variations the spinner is using.
If you prefer (or need) to get on with things you may be able to pick this information up before you have even faced, giving you the option of moving your feet early.
Otherwise it's a safe bet to take a few balls to work this information out while playing defensively.
Wait for the right ball
Spinners want you to attack them because it increases their chance of getting a wicket. How many players get stumped in your club every season because they picked the wrong ball to come down the wicket?
In modern coaching terms, you need to pick the 'percentage ball': the one that gives you least chance of getting out:
• A good or slightly full length.
• Straight, especially if it is towards leg stump.
This gives you the best chance of making contact. If it is straight you can get a bat (or as a last resort, a pad) on the ball.
Compare this type of delivery to a left arm spinner bowling to a right hander outside off stump.
You have to reach for the ball away from your body and it is turning away from you further. If you misjudge you can't get anything else in the way and the keeper has a clear sight all the way to whipping off the bails. It's a low percentage shot.
Club spinners are sure to bowl balls you can hit, so pick your fights and up your chances.
Stay balanced and play the ball late
"... see the ball early and play it late. It's not easy to allow the ball to come all the way to you and hit it at the last second as opposed to going hard at the ball. You have to do that - go hard - sometimes when you want to hit the ball in the air. But I would say head position, footwork, balance and playing late are the key." (Martin Crowe)
Martin Crowe may have nailed the principle but timing is a very complex and not fully understood art.
In the ideal world you would pick up the flight early, select your shot with time to spare and then strike the ball as late as possible because you can hit the ball where you want with the force required. I
If you get through the stroke early, physics dictates the ball will go in the air with less power than intended.
You are risking getting caught.
To counter this, the feel you are going for is hitting the ball as it passes under your eyes.
Get the feel for this by getting your eye in before you bat with some throwdowns, this drill or regular nets against some decent spinners.
Be a surgeon
If you have an operation you want the surgeon who works with control, accuracy and precision.
You certainly want to avoid the guy who wants to hack away with gay abandon.
Your batting against spin should be like the former. Not that any surgeons do the latter, but a lot of batsmen do when coming down the wicket.
I think this stems from a misguided assumption: If you come down the wicket you have to smash it. Not only is this wrong, it's the highest risk way to play spin. What happens to most batsmen if they try and hit it too hard? They lose their technique, they take their eye off the ball and either miss it or loop it straight to a fielder.
The alternative is to place the ball into the gaps.
Much of the success of good batsmen can be found in their mindset: Stay in control. Look for areas to hit the ball. Place it where the fielders aren't. You can still hit boundaries this way and even clear the rope. However, you are doing it on your terms and not the bowlers. Make your watch words 'pinpoint placement'.
Practice, practice, practice
To improve a skill you need to learn the correct technique, groove it through repetition then apply it under pressure.
Have you gone through this process when coming down the wicket or are you winging it?
Remember, using your feet to spin is about reducing risk while scoring runs, not hitting and hoping.
Having a technique you can trust is the most important part of playing spin. You can only get that through deliberate practice or blind luck.
I know which one I prefer.
by David Hinchliffe, PitchVision Academy
© 2011 miSport Ltd