Thursday, December 18, 2008


I am looking forward to a couple of coaching trips early in 2009.
Firstly my third visit to the MAC Spin Foundation in Chennai has been pencilled in for 2-6 February and later in the same month I am hoping to return to the UK for a few Spin Doctor Clinics.
My initial plan is to endeavour to conduct a clinic either in Leeds or Manchester the weekend 14-15 Feb or 21-22 , depending on availability of indoor facilities and the number of spinners we can attract.
Closer to London the 23rd-25th Feb has been pencilled in at Westbrook Hay School in Hemel Hempstead.
We are seeking expressions of interest during the next fortnight before booking an airline ticket, accommodation and venues.
So, if you or your son/s are looking for coaching from the Spin Doctor prior to next season, now is the time to contact me at

End of an Era

A lot has happened since posting my last blog.
I have been doing lots of coaching but in many ways the most significent happening since the previous blog was our decision to end Test Brekkies after 18years. We received some lovely compliments per letter, phone and e-mail after the curtain came down on November 28th.
While we were aware our function on the Saturday morning of the Adelaide Test match was well supported over the years we didn't necessarily realise how important it had become as part of the Test match calendar for those who attended year after year,
Comments like "what are we going to do now? It has been a ritual for 10 years!!" were common.
In explaining the decision to end 'our' ritual which started in 1992 we simply felt it was time.
We had become to rely on the same people year after year and it was not fair on them.
With Brekkie tickets at $75 and Test match tickets at $70 it had become an expensive day for the majority of our loyal band of supporters.
Guest speakers at the finale were Sir Richard Hadlee, Michael Slater, Barry Jarman, Ian Chappell, Eric Freeman and Ken 'KG' Cunningham. Some say it was our best ever. If so it was a great way to finish.
I am 65 next September so perhaps age also had something to do with the decision!!
Ann and I are delighted and proud of the impact Test Brekkies had on the lives of the many supporters.
Some had come to almost all (19 or 20), some for at least the last 10 years or so but only Bob Day of Homestead Award Winning homes had been every year since inception.
It was only one day a year (occasionally two when CA played with our dates) but it seemed like each Brekkie lasted until the next one.
We will miss it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

in a spin

We have recently completed a hectic 5 weeks of "live in" clinics at home in Adelaide. During that time four coaches from England and three leg spinners, also from England plus two from New Zealand attended.
The ECB sent Chris Brown and Andy Siddle for two weeks and they worked with the two NZ boys and one boy from Dorset in England, under my guidance.
The second pair of coaches and leg spinners were sponsored by the ECB and Brian Johnston Memorial Trust.
Former England off spinner Peter Such was accompanied by Richard Wilkins of Yorkshire as coaches of the second pair of leggies, also with my guidance.
All coaches commited to their respective programs and definitely benefited from their time here in Adelaide.
The Brian Johnston Memorial Trust support for this program has been ongoing for almost 10 years now and it is fair to say the rewards are shown by the number of young wrist spinners being contracted to English Counties.
"Johnners", a lover of spin bowling and in particular leg spin would be delighted to know his generosity is reaping these rewards and it is quite possible he is looking down from above with a huge smile on his face.
I deliberately do not name the boys for fear of adding unecessary pressure to them during their period of development.
Suffice to say the standard of young English wrist spinners is getting better and better.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Five ways to keep it simple

I often get asked by coaches and parents "what should I look for?"

Below are five simple parts of the action to look for whilst the spinner is bowling.

It is not possible to look at all five at the same time so my encouragement is to work from the bottom up or the top down during a bowling session.

Make a note of any variances from the five and then discuss with the spinner.

Simple coaching:

Align shoulders & hips toward target

Lead with front arm toward target. Pull down.

Bowl "up and over" with shoulders

Pivot- rotate shoulders 180 degrees

Complete action with bowling shoulder facing target, with bowling hand to left hip and front arm "out the back'.

Run up/approach

Whilst the approach is an indvidual thing, too many spinners have run ups which are either too angled or too straight. If it is too angled then when the spinner arrives in the crease the tendency is to pull the front arm to the side diminishing rotation and affecting the amount of spin. If the approach is too straight the tendency is to jump in at the crease causing the delivery stride to be closed off. Again this causes the front arm to pull to the side or encourages the bowling arm to become too high, both lessening the degree of spin obtained.

Look at Cameron White and you will see what I mean.

Below are some tips which can successfully be used when assisting a spinner with his/her run up/approach.

Fit run up into delivery stride

Slightly angled approach

'Twitch' into side-on position one step prior to jump (bound)

Run up/approach is for rhythm and balance

Slight lean forward an advantage

Long strides better for rhythm than short steps

Focus on target at commencement of approach


Reverse chaining from the delivery stride, maintaining spin along the way, is a good method to discover the ideal approach.

If the spin stops, the run up is possibly too long, so move forward until spin returns.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coaching tip..field placements.

Field placements for spinners at all levels has been a constant concern for me since I began coaching in 1990. It is certainly one of the questions most asked of me, especially by junior spinners and their coaches.
My attitude has always been that the bowler should encourage the batsman to drive, therefore his catchers and run savers should support that tactic.
Inviting the drive encourages the maximum spin available to the bowler.
Shane Warne started that way, setting fields which encouraged him to spin the ball up, working the batsman across the crease as he did so.
Once he reached his prime his field settings changed to support two of his special gifts....spin and accuracy, a rare combination for a wrist spinner.
In my view his ability to almost always bowl with two fielders under the batsman's nose impacted heavily on the expectations of captains and coaches in all grades. They expected their leggies to bowl to the same field, despite the majority needing to sacrifice maximum revolutions on the ball to do so.
I recall a Richie Benaud story about how on a rare Saturday afternoon off he would drive around Sydney hoping to see a young spinner in action. Passing an oval his encouragement to stop and have a look was generally motivated by a glance at the field setting. If it was spread far and wide it usually meant a young spinner was having a trundle so he would pull over have a quiet look . That was quite a few years ago of course. Now, so the story goes, on a similar drive around town on a Saturday afternoon the same field is employed to diddley dobblers drying up the runs, so Richie drives on until he comes across a game where there are close in fielders suffocating the batsman. Ahh, better stop for a look, must be a spinner bowling!!
I am not sure how true the story is but there is a lot of substance in it.
Warnie discussed fielding settings with the spinners at the Centre of Excellence on the 12th September. To a man they believed that to put men in close meant you were attacking. I also think there is a touch of ego about wanting fielders around the bat. It suggests that pressure is being applied...and it is...mostly to the bowler!!
Shane said to the group" if you attack with the field then you defend with the ball. If you defend with the field, you attack with the ball." How simple that is and how true?
Spinners need a chance to develop their accuracy with maximum spin. Field settings play a major role in their growth.
I hope this article reaches captains, coaches and spinners out there because there is a need to apply the Warne principle in our cricket matches, for spinners at all levels.
It isn't old fashioned to set a field based on the bowlers ability and age.
It is common sense!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Warne 'uncomplicated'

It is hard to believe it is a month since last recording a message. Mind you it has been very hectic with our time in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Berlin. Ann and I arrived home in Adelaide on the 9th September and on the 10th it was up at 4,30am and off to Brisbane for a National Spin Camp from 10th to 12th inclusive. It was great to have young spinners such as Nathan Hauritz, Dan Cullen, Cullen Bailey, Aaron Heal and Steve Smith attend the sessions held at Allan Border Field. What a great facility that is.
Coaches from interstate including Ray Bright and Murray Bennett joined John Davison and me in offering advice to the spinners.
No doubt the hilight for the boys (and the coaches) came on the 12th when we were joined by Shane Warne for most of the day.
Shane spent time in the nets and in discussion groups. Every thing he spoke about was commonsense. It was also simple and non elitist.
We all hung onto every word and I can tell you my coaching will be improved with the addition of some of Shane's "pearls".
Following the clinic it was back to Adelaide for a rest on Saturday before again rising at 4.30 am to head to Hobart for 3 days coaching.
The flight between Melbourne and Hobart was the roughest I can recall. We sat in thick cloud during descent which was unsettling but when the plane dropped, lurching from side to side in the process my stomach began to feel queezy. Luckily there were 2 bags in the seat pocket and no one sitting next to me!
As we left the plane I offered the bags to the steward who politely pointed to the toilet saying "it was pretty rough, wasn't it?"
I spent the day recovering and began my coaching stint on Monday, feeling a lot better!
During the 3 days with Richard Allenby I attended a senior net session and was able to congratulate Jason Krajza upon his selection in the Australian team to tour India. Unfortunately for Jason his A team tour to India was spoiled by rain and he never got to bowl a ball in the middle. He looked in good shape and was bowling well.
On Monday night I presented the Spin Matrix to Tasmanian coaches in Hobart to complete my day, having also worked with 8 or 9 young spinners in the indoor nets earlier.
Tuesday it was on to Launceston where my first session was with young leg spinner Jason Shelton. There is a lot to like about his bowling and I get the feeling he will be a late bloomer. Keep your eye on the sports pages in a couple of years from now!!
A session with a few young spinners followed and amongst the group was a little red headed kid. What improvement he has made during the past couple of years. When I first saw him he bowled with his front foot off the ground at release. I have found that problem one of the most difficult to eradicate from an action. "Blue", as I called him, has not only got his front foot on the ground at release but he is bowling up and over his front leg and generating very good spin combined with nice shape. He is a determined young lad. Pity all the kids aren't the same.
Another Spin Matrix session followed in the evening for local coaches followed by a longish drive back to Hobart. The Wednesday was occupied watching a trial game between the Tassie Tigers players. Instead of being a "nothing" trial, coach Tim Coyle and his selection panel chose a country versus city concept and played for a trophy and bragging rights!
There is a good feel in Tassie.
So, as you can read I have been pretty busy but am home in Adelaide for a while now so the blogging should become more plentiful.
In fact in the next day or so I will write something on Bryce McGain, Jason Krazja and the two spinners they seem to have slipped past, Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Leaving England

I am writing from Oslo in Norway having spent three days sightseeing with Ann and our friends Ian and Carol Berry. Tomorrow we move on by train to Copenhagen.
If I was asked what the high point of the Oslo stay was it would be not having to watch the Olympic games in England!!!
There is no doubt the Great Britain sportsmen and women have done very well indeed given the expectation of the media there.
There has been all kinds of Aussie bashing going on and I am not sure why really. Perhaps it is because in recent Olympics Great Britain has underachieved and in some way Australia has over achieved.
If so that is over now because the huge sums of Lottery money being pumped into the preparation of athletes in Great Britain has closed the gap.
What saddens me is the fact that by 2012 the gap between Great Britain and Australia will have widened because of the 600 million pound being given to athletes to train and not need to work at a job.
I will say however that no amount of money can make the difference between winning and losing an Ashes series. So to my English friends I simply say keep your feet on the ground. Enjoy the Olympic result but do not confuse what money can buy with talent and desire!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Club Initiative

On the 14th of August I spent a couple of hours in the nets at Amersham Cricket Club with a group of enthusiastic young kids. I can't say I saw a future England spinner amongst the boys but I am sure Amersham will have plenty of players to call upon in the future.
Club President (or is it Chairman?) Phil Ketteringham organised my visit which concluded with our customary dinner at Amersham's (maybe England's) best Indian restaurant, beautifully named Spices and Herbs. I recommend a visit if you are in the area. The food is great and the service even better!!
Go getter Phil and his commitee has embarked an enterprising fund raiser for the club. They have invited the Tanzanian cricket team to play a match against the local team.
I am not sure how good either side is but I do know initiative should be rewarded so anybody reading this blog looking for a great day out on August 25th (Bank Holiday Monday) should head to Amersham. Phil plans for all styles of entertainment to ensure a good family day out.
The setting at Amersham Cricket Club is lovely...ideal for such a day. Check out their web site for more details.
Good luck. May the weather God's smile upon you.

Jordan Capel

A few weeks ago I talked about young Jordan Capel and the drama surrounding his impending heart operation. Well it as finally taken place and I am delighted to say the operation went well and as I write he is due to come out of intensive care.
I received a text from his father David with the good news. The other news in the text tells us all why cricket is such a great game. David told me that one of the first people to visit Jordan was none other than Monty Panasar. Monty of course plays for Jordan's beloved Northampton when not on International duty and his visit would no doubt have brought a smile to Jordan's face.
He is a couragous young man and all of the members of the leg spinner's union wish him well in the difficult months ahead

Monday, August 4, 2008

ECB/Brian Johnston Clinics

With only 24 hours rest between my Delhi assignment and the Loughborough Wrist spin Programme I can tell you the mild weather made life pretty easy. The first two days of the four day spin programme were devoted to finger spinners, batsmen and wicketkeepers. The finger spin was run by Jack Birkenshaw and he was supported by Peter Such and me. A net session each day was followed by a "scenario" session against the batsmen for around 50-60 overs.
Paul Johnson and David Houghton looked after the batsmen whilst Bruce French attended to the keepers needs.
Jack and Peter stayed on and supported me with the wrist spin which was great. Also there for the four days was Paul Lawrence from Somerset. Paul has come a long way as a coach since the days at Taunton when he would stand at the back of the net too shy to speak.
He now shows the ability to spot areas of concern and offer advice on how to improve those areas.
During the finger spinners camp, two leg spinners were in attendance. One was Jordon Capel the son of former England player David Capel. I especially mention Jordon because the reason he attended on the Monday and Tuesday was because he was to have a serious heart operation on the Thursday. A big thing for anyone let alone a 15 year old boy. When you think about the number of boys who make weak excuses to not attend some training sessions it say's something for Jordon's desire. When I tell you the operation was cancelled at the last minute due to lack of beds in Intensive Care I hope it gives you an idea of what he has been through. It starts again this coming week. Good luck cobber.
Back to the camp. It went well and I believe I saw the most talented 13 year old of all.
He has been bowling for less than a year and he has learned it all via You tube and Shane Warne's King of Spin DVD.
More on him later.
We will announce the two leggies to travel to Adelaide in October in the next two weeks.

Delhi Camp

Five very exhausting days in Delhi were rewarded by a lot of improvement by most of the boys. The squad was varied with 8-9 left arm orthodox spinners, 5-6 right arm off spinners and 10-12 right arm leg spinners. The numbers varied from day to day with a maximum of 24 on any one day. The difficult part of the equation was trying to balance the numbers in only two nets!
The boys were terrific as they spent a lot of time away from the nets bowling on the grass whilst awaiting a turf pitch opportunity.
I was assisted by Arun Khurana, Gokul Inder Dev, and Mahesh Sharma.
Arun was a great help in making sure communication was not a problem as well as working mostly with the left armers. It will not surprise you to know that every, yes every one of the left armers bowled between the umpire, approaching the crease at a serious angle. Spin was at a minimum. It set me a challenge as being a "new age" coach I believe good alignment is the secret to obtaining maximum spin. The boys and Arun needed to be convinced and it is my feeling that by the end of the week all found some belief as well as more spin. No doubt a problem will arise when they arrive back with their regular coaches. I am trusting Arun to be strong with his support of the alignment issue.
Gokul, a former leg spinner and aged in his upper 60's has a passion for the art of wrist spin. He worked with the leggies and set himself to coach alignment, strong front arm, plus shoulder and hip rotation. Pivot was a big issue too. Keeping it simple, I feel he found success with the boys as well as the confidence to work on the simple basics.
The Delhi heat/humidity really got to me each day but I am glad I went.
I hope the boys and coaches are also pleased I went to Delhi.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Chennai clinics

I must say I had 5 enjoyable days at the Mac Spin Foundation in Chennai.
Having been there previously I knew what to expect which made things easier to co-ordinate.Between 20 and 26 boys plus one girl attended on various days during the week with the minimum number of 20 on any given day.
As before I had trouble with names so resorted to nick names to help us communicate. All responded well and they all knew to whom I referred when my voice boomed out across the four clay/turf nets.
Big Fella, Thommo, Vemkat, China, Lefty and Princess were some of the "handles" given to the spinners.
In one group discussion I trotted out this Bishen Bedi quote "Spin is in the air and break is off the pitch". The quote was followed by asking the left arm orthodox spinner "who is Bishen Bedi?" It astonished me that he did not know! I then put the same question to the group and one or two sheepish looks accompanied a slight raising of the hand. Strewth, I thought, it upsets me when young Australian or English spinners don't remember 'Bish'.
Despite that disappointment it was pleasing the way they bowled for four hours each day in very hot and humid conditions.
Princess spun her leg breaks, particularly early in the week. On one occasion I called all spinners into a net so she could demonstrate a leg break. It was magnificent. In fact it was so Warne like with its curve and spin I started calling he "Shanette" for a day or two.
A little 8 year old joined us for a couple of days which also coincided with computer analysis. I called for "Thommo" to come out the front as we showed his clip and as I did the 8 year old announced that Jeff Thomson was a fast bowler. So was our Thommo! The other spinners burst into laughter. Taking a punt I asked our 8 year old, who by the way is based in Singapore, to come to the front. "Who is Bishen Bedi?" I asked. "Bishen Bedi is the greatest left arm spinner to play for India" he replied without a moments hesitation. On a roll I then asked "who is Prasanna?" Again with out a second's hesitation he replied "Eripali Prasanna is the greatest off spin bowler to play for India."
It was an uplifting time for us all.
I was assisted with the clinic's by Peter Fernandez, Chief Coach of the Mac Spin Foundation and his friend Vincent.
Peter has a passion for spin, in particular wrist spin and he willingly coached the basics as introduced by me. Alignment as always was a key factor and we improved that with the spinners over the five days.
However the biggest area of concern for us was the Shane Warne elbow! This is the front (leading) arm which has the hand back near the bowling shoulder with the elbow facing the batsman,as they move into their delivery stride. It worked for Shane but the kids are not strong enough to get it to reach out toward the target. Would you believe that of 22 spinners on one day, 16 had Warnie's front arm?
Of all the strong basics Shane exhibits they chose the one hardest to copy.
I am now in New Delhi on the last of 5 days here.
When I arrive in England I will file a report on that clinic.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It all started when....

Today is July 13th and it is not a Friday. Although one could be excused for thinking it is.
Let me take you through my day so far. I set the alarm for 4.15am to be up in time to shower, dress and catch a 4.45am cab to the airport in time to board my 6am flight to Chennai via Sydney and Mumbai.
TeBe our cocker spaniel woke me around 12.30am seeking treats and a visit to the toilet. That was it for me because from that moment on I stayed awake for fear I would sleep through the alarm.
Having packed the night before it was a breeze once I showered. I had purchased a new zip up top to wear on the plane and again in England, later in my trip.
That was my second mishap. (TeBe waking me the first). The zip was broken and non functional. Trust us boys not to look at these things when we make a purchase.
The taxi arrived early, which was a positive. Then I managed an up grade using points. Another positive!
Arrived into Sydney on time and caught the bus to the International terminal. There was only 40 minutes between the arrival of the domestic flight and boarding time for Mumbai but we looked good.
Not such a bad day afterall, I thought. Then it all changed.
I had forgotten the different liquids rules between Domestic and International. Stupid me had two magnificent bottles of red wine as a gift for my friend Victor in Chennai. They were confiscated and will next surface at the Airport Security booze up!
As you might imagine I was pretty disappointed with them even though they were enforcing the rules. Less than a minute later a lady tapped me on the shoulder with a passport and boarding pass in her hand. They were mine! Losing the two bottles of red had obviously created a state of shock because the documents were previously in my hand!!
Duty free beckoned to replace the wine and I snapped up a special deal on two bottles of Chivas Regal before seeking out the departure gate. As I was doing that an announcement came over the air telling us of a gate change for the Mumbai flight. A few seconds later it was announced that there would be a two hour delay due to "engineering".
Damn! I will miss my connection between Mumbai and Chennai, I mumbled to myself. Within half an hour a further two hours was added to our delay due to "engineering".
Now I definitely won't make the connection.
We want our plane safe so we cop these delays when we are hit with them. I took the time to write this blog during the delay and until the next announcement, (cynical) there is still two hours of waiting.
The amazing thing is that there are ten aircraft delayed for "engineering" as I write. It doesn't give the hopes much of a lift when the very next announcement is calling for the passengers on the flight to Singapore delayed from YESTERDAY to board!!
Hope I make it to Chennai in time to start my weeks coaching on Tuesday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Future clinics

On July 13th I fly to Chennai to conduct 5 days of spin coaching for the MAC Spin Foundation. I was there last September and enjoyed my time immensley, especially working with passionate young Asian spinners. I worked with both finger and wrist spinners last September and imagine the same will apply this trip.
From Chennai I will travel to Delhi to conduct a five day clinic there. This will be my first visit there and if my dealings with Mr Sunil Dev of the Delhi Cricket Association are an indication, it should be a wonderful experience.
My Indian experience concludes on July 26th when I head for London. Following a 24 hour stopover to recover it is off to Loughborough to assist David Parsons with four days of spin trials from which two boys will be chosen to visit Australia for two weeks intensive coaching, in my home town of Adelaide.
It is a great opportunity for the two boys who have an opportunity to follow in the foot steps of Mark Lawson, Adil Rashid, Michael Munday and Matthew Gitsham who have all progressed through this system on to First Class cricket.
The boys become known as BJ boys because it is the support of the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust that ensures the ECB are able to continue with this specialised wrist spin program.
In early August I will be conducting two private clinics, one at Teddington Cricket Club and the other at Chigwell School. A few vacancies are awaiting interested persons at both venues. If interested please forward your enquiry to my e-mail address on this page.
My coaching concludes with an evening at Amersham Cricket Club on August 14th.
A few days in Lancashire with Ann will be followed by 15 days in Europe with our great friends Ian and Carol Berry before returning to Australia on September 9th in time for the Centre of Excellence Spin Week in Brisbane.
It is a tough life but someone has to do it!!

Front Arm

It continues to amaze me just how many young spinners around the world fail to gain any benefit from the use of their front arm. As this arm leads and guides the action it is little wonder these bowlers are struggling to improve at a reasonable rate.
My belief is that a strong front arm leads to a strong action. I call it the rudder.
A lot of the boys seem to copy the Shane Warne front arm with one major difference. Warne takes his arm from bent towards his chest to outstretched towards the target, taking his weight over his front leg. Those attempting to copy him take the front arm back towards their chest but do not then reach out toward the target. Most flop it to the side encouraging their body to fall away, not allowing the bowling shoulder to become powerful. Certainly there have been fewer (if any) more powerful wrist spinning actions than Shane's.
His front arm reaches out, pulls down hard encouraging his bowling shoulder to rotate up and over along the path set out by his "rudder".
Follow his lead and you are almost certain to improve.
Whilst on the front arm, let me share a true story with you.
"A young leg spinner bowled his deliveries with virtually no lead from his front arm. It basically stayed by his side throughout the action. It looked odd and it made it difficult for him to gain spin and consistency.
A group of coaches (me included) were discussing his lack of a front arm (typical coaching expression) over a few beers in a bar at the end of a coaching session. We probably mentioned the "no front arm" comment at least half a dozen times before heading to dinner.
One of the coaches wives was present and heard our conversation and when they finally arrived home after dinner she got stuck in to him. "How dare you criticize that boy with no front arm. At least he has the courage to play cricket with his disability". She went on " Can you imagine how hard it is for him to bat and field one handed?"
The coach burst into laughter, of course because he knew it was only cricket terminology we were using. She never saw the funny side!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Where to for Stuart MacGill

If I was shocked when Stuart MacGill retired from Test Cricket during the current Australian tour of the West Indies then I was astonished when he announced he would like to represent New South Wales this coming summer.
MacGill has nothing to prove. More than 200 Test wickets speaks for itself.
So what is the point in going on?
He said it would have been more embarrassing for him to play in the 3rd Test in the Windies than the decision he made to pull the pin.
Does that mean he feels he can find improvement somehow between now and the start of the new season? Or does it mean that less than his best is good enough for Sheffield Shield cricket?
Stuart is a proud man so the answer to the latter must be no.
The bigger problem facing MacGill is the double whammy in the contract stakes.
Having retired from Australian cricket one assumes his 2008/9 contract has or will be withdrawn.
All states have finalised their contract lists so unless there is a special clause covering retired CA contracted players I don't think Cricket NSW can offer him one. I don't know that for a fact, it is more a guess on my part.
When the dust settles my guess is he will come to a decision that will suit all parties.
As I said earlier, he has nothing to prove so why play on?

spinner matures

I mentioned last month that I would tell the Matthew Gitsham story.
Who is Matthew Gitsham you ask?
In 1999 he was chosen as the very first leg spinner to travel to Adelaide as part of the Elite Wrist Spin Program co-sponsored by the ECB and Brian Johnston Memorial Trust.
Matthew, from Somerset was joined on that trip by Geraint Bowers from Glamorgan.
As far as cricketers go Matthew showed heaps of promise and was rewarded with selection in England under 17 and under 19 squads.
Because he was so gifted he never really worked hard at either his bowling or batting and so drifted along without purpose for four or five years, stacking on the weight as he cruised along . We never left him out of any of the spin programs I conducted in England during that time in the hope that one day the penny would drop.
Out of the blue he contacted Ann and I in Adelaide and asked if he could spend a summer out here playing club cricket. With one proviso we said yes. He had to lose weight.
He arrived still too heavy but we couldn't send him home.
Cullen Bailey arranged for him to play at his club, Sturt.
First night at training the coach sent him on a lap of the oval whilst he was preparing others for a net.
It was reportedy the slowest lap ever.
Chosen in the C Grade for round one he scored 6 not out before injuring his knee at training the following Tuesday.
An operation followed and his summer ended right there.
Twelve months later Matthew returned for a 3 month stint with Sturt.
It was a different cricketer who arrived in Adelaide. He had lost about 10 kilograms and increased that to 15 before he headed back to the UK.
His luck then changed thanks to a meeting with Owen Dawkins who took a shine to him. Owen worked at Lords with the Young England program until an opportunity arose at Gloucestershire.
He kept in touch with Matthew and ultimately encouraged him to try out in the County second team where he spent most of 2007.
Recently he was chosen in the Gloucestershire County first team as THE spinner and managed to take his first first class wicket.
This story is special because it gives hope to all the young spinners out there who have been discarded by counties around the age of 17-19.
I feel it is naive to think a spinner will mature in his teens. Shane Warne certainly didn't.
If Matthew Gitsham doesn't end up as a leg spinner with a 100 or more first class wickets it will not mean he has failed.
Getting there makes him a success and an inspiration to others.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

MacGill a shock

To say Stuart MacGill's retirement half way through the second Test in Antigua was a shock would be a massive understatement!
There has been all sorts of rumours floating around and I guess at some time in the future we will discover the validity of those rumours.
Watching him bowl in the period since Shane Warne's retirement in January 2007 rarely, if ever has he reached the standard he set early in his career.
An operation on his bowling hand followed by another on his knee seem not to have allowed him to bowl with any confidence either in Pura Cup or Test matches.
For him to pull the pin as he did he too must believe a return to his best is out of the question.
He appears to have lost the "feel" in his fingers.
The door is now open for the next generation of spinners. It would now be pointless to go back to Warne, as some pundits are suggesting or choose Victoria's Bryce McGain at the age of 35 or 36.
Australia has three very promising spinners in Dan Cullen, Cullen Bailey and of course Beau Cassin who is the only one of the three to be contracted by Cricket Australia this year.
Cassin is in the West Indies so he is "Johnny on the spot" to get first crack.
Trouble is he hasn't bowled in a match since the Pura Cup final in March so it is unlikely he will become Australia's 401st player on this tour.
It is more likely Ricky Ponting will opt for safety first and use Michael Clarke and Andrew Symons as his spinners. I hope I am wrong.
The next tour is to India in September which means Cassin as the contracted spinner will tour there and probably be joined by Redback's off spinner Dan Cullen who injured his hand during the Pura Cup final when looking good.
Cullen has been working on his spin and pace in the off season and a week at the Centre of Excellence has him going very well.
Should he be chosen for India it may well present Cullen Bailey with an opportunity to impress the Redback's selectors which could (should) lead to the two South Australian's bowling in tandem for most, if not all of the summer.
Bailey lost form and spin last season for a number of reasons but he looks to be back to spinning his leg break again due to work since the season ended in disappointment for him.
Both boys will attend another week or two at the Centre of Excellence later this month.
We must all be patient with these three young spinners who are going to attempt to fill big shoes of Warne (the best leg spinner of all time). MacGill the greatest "understudy" and possibly the unluckiest and Brad Hogg who was Australia's World Cup winner on two occasions.
They cannot be replaced overnight. It will be exciting watching to see which of the boys is the first to place his name in front of the selectors as the year unfolds.
I make no prediction there!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

mum's 90th/ coaching around Australia

I was very fortunate this past week to combine business with pleasure. On Tuesday 27th my mother, Queenie turned 90. What a milestone. Would you believe we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken where she enjoyed a drumstick and a couple of chips followed by a cup of tea.
Mum is very tired now and wishes to rest most of the time which is a far cry from the 80year who went to South Africa and spent a couple of days at Kruger Safari Park pacing it with the young ones. She was still playing competitive bowls into her early 80's until a couple of small strokes slowed her down. I looked at her having yet another nap and thought just how many changes she has witnessed since arriving in Australia as a 6 year old in 1924. The mind boggles!
The business side of the trip to Perth involved presenting my spin program to WACA coaches and approximately 65 young male and female spinners.
I was delighted to see quite a lot of spin in the groups but a little disappointed with the technical standard overall.
My National program continues with 2 days in Darwin followed by 3 days in Sydney, a weekend in Brisbane with the Australian Womens squad before returning to Adelaide for a 3 day clinic there.
Following a few days off it is on to Canberra for 2 days, Melbourne for 3 then Brisbane again for another weekend with the ladies followed by a week with some young male spinners.
My around Australia trip concludes on June 27th.
It is a lot of travel but the pleasure of working with the young Australian talent makes it worthwhile.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Warne & MacGill

Following Australia's unconvincing win in the first Test against the West Indies Stuart MacGill came in for a lot of criticism. I have no doubt he suffered mostly because he was unable to do a "Shane Warne" and grind the batsmen into submission.
MacGill has never been Warne like in the way he gets his wickets. There has always been a mixture of short and over pitched deliveries with some wicket taking deliveries thrown in as well.
When those wicket taking deliveries don't gain positive results his figures can look ordinary.
It reminds me of that old saying about a little boy. "When he is good he is very, very good but when he is bad he is horrid".
Despite that he still managed 4 wickets in the Test,
In my view the bowler under the pump is Mitchell Johnson, not Stuart MacGill.
Mitchell is a magnificent athlete without a bowling action to match.
His inconsistency is consistent!
Ricky Ponting obviously has a lot of faith in him as he does seem to get more than his share of overs.
The fact that he struggles to knock over the tail because he is unable to bowl at the stumps is a major concern.
Let us hope in the second Test match he steps up and rewards Ricky and company for the faith they have in him.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


In 1999 I was invited by Hugh Morris of the England and Wales Cricket Board to develop a wrist spin programme in England. The Brian Johnston Memorial Trust (BJMT) immediately became partners with the ECB and have remained as a major supporter ever since.

The programme continues this year for the 10th year, something "Johnners" , a lover of wrist spin, would have been be proud . Wrist spin was never that popular with English County teams but they have embraced the concept by supporting the boys who have been BJMT Scholars over the years.

Yorkshire has given First Class experience to Adil Rashid and Mark Lawson. Michael Munday has represented Oxford University and Somerset and the most recent debutante has been Matthew Gitsham for Gloucestershire. Each of these leg spinners has been to Adelaide on more than one occasion as part of the ECB/BJMT wrist spin programme.
The Matthew Gitsham story is one which will occupy a Blog space later.

In July this year we will conduct trials at Loughborough University to decide the next two boys to attend the Elite Spin Programme in Adelaide during October.
Along with the spinners four coaches will attend the programme to continue the development of both spinner and coach.

Spin Matrix

Recently I delivered a wrist spin presentationat the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane for Cricket Australia.

The Level 3 course, which is Australia's highest coaching level, was attended by approximately 40 Australian and overseas coaches including former Test players Darren Lehmann and Greg Blewett.

For the first time at a Level 3 presentation I used Power Point to introduce and explain coaching method.

The Spin Matrix evolved for this presentation.

What is Spin Matrix you ask?

A dictionary definition of Matrix is as follows: " a medium in which an influence develops"

It seemed to have an impact with the coaches.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spin Doctor Clinics - UK

Having spent many years coaching in the UK and working with the ECB and the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust I became aware of a need for spinners not in the system to access coaching. With the assistance of coaches parents and cricketers I have been able to run Spin Doctor Clinics across the country.

During the summer this year I will be holding Spin Doctor Clinics at Chigwell School and Teddington Cricket Club.

Any spinner from around 10years of age to adult, can enroll and benefit from the sessions which are held for 2 hours a day over 3 days.

If you are a spinner looking to develop, contact me to book a spot.