Monday, 6 May 2019

The Non Turning, Short, Fat, Left Arm Spinner

In my last two books, The Definitive Guide to Club Cricket and The Exhaustive Guide to Club Cricket, I have written about various individuals that permeate our clubs here in the UK. One individual that I forgot about, is a man who is in every club across the land. He is a conman, a man who you really wouldn't buy a used car from, a fraudster, or as they say in posh circles - a cad, a bounder or a rotter. Ladies and Gents, Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I bring you, the non turning, short, fat, left arm spinner.

One of this breed...
Often hiding down the bottom of the order when his side are batting, you look around the field and as he doesn't open the bowling you wonder if he is a 'fill in'? You wonder if the skipper has got his mate out of the pub on a Friday night, having had a late drop out. This is due to the left armer's lack of athleticism, stubble, or the smell of booze which wafts across from fine leg to the wicket. Note, this individual is often hidden down at fine leg. In the covers, you need fielders who pounce like a panther; this chap moves towards the ball like a panda.

Suddenly, the skipper brings him on to bowl and your eyes light up. This is what this man wants. He is like an angler fish with a light on his head that batsmen are attracted to, like a mermaid to sailors or like a moth to a flame. Or a professional footballer to an orange model. Twirling the ball from hand to hand, he takes his time getting the sightscreen moved, getting his fielders into position and bowling one to mid off, normally at their ankles meaning that they have to run forty yards to go and fetch it. The cry of "left arm, around the wicket" from the umpire is their siren to cause havoc.

Within no time, he has picked up a five wicket haul and he is back in the bar supping on the sauce, quietly contemplating his success over a well earned pint and a fag. Kevin Pietersen was one of the best batsmen to play for England, yet often struggled against these cack handed fraudsters.

The left arm spinner works on angles. His modus operandi is that you think he is going to turn it, he doesn't and all of a sudden your defences are breached quicker than those by a Chinese phone manufacturer. He has been through more gates than a postman, pinned more people on the crease than Caster Semenya's surgeon and is and out and out conman. He is the Arthur Daley of cricket. He will tell all and sundry how he does turn the ball square, although his team mates may remember one that hit a stone in 1997.

"Left Arm around the wicket, please umpire"

He works in a double act with his wicket keeper. His gloveman knows that he doesn't turn it, yet will give the impression that he has a chinaman, a top spinner, an arm ball and a conventional turner. He is setting you up; a fluffer in cricketing terms. A couple of straight ones lures the batsman into thinking he is crap, dancing down the track like Nuryev before the angle takes it even further away and a leg side stumping sees you back in the hutch before you can say "Bishan Bedi".

At club level, he gets by through angling it into your pads. Often buttering up the umpire when he is fielding, he gets an lbw out of them by having a good chat with him at square leg. To get an lbw as a left armer, bowling around the wicket to a right hander, generally you need to pitch it on the stumps and straighten it. This bloke straightens it as much as his morals. He never goes for many runs, due to your average club player not being very good off their legs unless there is pace on the ball. Woe betide, the leg side fielders should he be squirted out into the on side for singles.

You see, all slow left arm bowlers have a temper on them. It is their way of voicing their displeasure. Not able to bounce the batsmen in response, or get aggressive with their opponent, continual refusal of their lbw appeals, or batsmen taking singles to half asleep fielders often results in unruly behaviour from these temperamental southpaws. Think Phil Edmonds, Phil Tufnell and you get my drift?

If you look at your averages towards the end of the season, you'll always find this bloke towards the top. Even at the professional levels, slow left armers are worth their often considerable weight in gold, as those who turn the ball away from right handers seem to do better than their right arm counterparts. The left armer at club level is always one of the leading wicket takers in every club.

So whilst this bloke may look like he is rubbish, he may bat eleven and have to be hidden in the field, be very wary when the slow left arm spinner comes on to bowl. There is a reason he is in the side, there is a reason why they are up there in the amount of wickets taken in every club and there is a reason why they take so many wickets in their careers. How do they do it? Only they know, but one thing I can say is...

Be very wary.

The Exhaustive Guide to Club Cricket is out on sale now via Amazon