I think I’ve mentioned before over the course of this blog how one of my great loves is the game of cricket. I’ve been a big fan of the game since I was taken to test matches in the mid seventies. These were definitely glory days for the game. The Australian team included names like Lillee, Thomson, Walters and the Chappell brothers. Exciting times to be oriented into a sport.
As much as I loved watching cricket, I really wanted to be good at playing it. However, I discovered fairly quickly that I didn’t have a lot of talent for it. I couldn’t bowl fast. I struggled to hit the ball. How was I supposed to find a way into the game?
I quickly settled on an answer. There was one type of cricketer that every team needed but none of my classmates was interested in. Spin bowling.
For those not familiar with cricket, a spin bowler is one who bowls the ball slowly but employs a number of tricks to get the ball to change direction, trying to out-think batters and guile them into making a mistake. Not cool. Not sexy. But a definite opportunity for someone who couldn’t do anything else.
So I tried to be a spin bowler. I had no idea what I was doing, but I flicked my wrist, and – who would have thought it – the ball actually spun. I didn’t have a lot of control over it. And it was so slow that nobody had trouble hitting it. But it was a definite start.
As I learnt more about the art of spin bowling, I discovered that what I was doing was bowling what is known as ‘leg-spin’ because the ball spins from the leg side of the batter. More specifically, I was bowling ‘wrong-uns’ which are a type of delivery that spins the wrong way, i.e. into the leg. Except because I’m left-handed, my wrong-un spun the opposite way, like a typical legspinner. Confused? I know I was.
Now, if spin bowling was uncool, legspin was the uncoolest of all. Hardly anyone tried to bowl legspin. It was the hardest type of bowling to do, and rarely seen in international cricket.
Until it wasn’t. Anyone who follows cricket will know about the emergence of Shane Warne into the Australian team in the early ’90s, where he bamboozled batters for years with his brilliant legspin, becoming the most successful bowler ever for Australia.
Of course, by the time Shane Warne made legspin cool and sexy, I had long since given up on my legspin ambitions. I had become a (barely) passable batter and completed a number of seasons at local cricket level. I even played in a premiership team.
I like to think my legspinning dreams say a bit about me. It’s another sign of how, even as a youngster, I could think outside the box, and refused to follow what was popular. It shows that once again, I was ahead of my time. I had created the opportunities for legspinners that Shane Warne was eventually able to exploit.
Of course, with that last point I may just be pulling your leg.
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