Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Difference between Warne and Macgill

Terry Jenner talking to Sambit Bal

I did ask him, though, about the difference between Stuart MacGill and Warne. MacGill had benefitted from Warne’s absence and used the period profitably, claiming 43 wickets in eight Tests at 25.11, with a strike rate of 45.9. But of course he had made no impression on the touring Indians, nor was he expected to. During a meet-the-press event before the Test, MacGill, while giving fulsome praise to Warne, had questioned, only half in jest, his claims to mystery balls.

“Stuart is right,” Jenner said. “There is only so much spin you can generate, and there are only so many balls you can bowl.” Then he counted them: the legbreak, the topspinner, the backspinner, the flipper and the googly. The difference between Warne and Macgill, he said, wasn’t the number of different balls they possessed or how much they spun the ball. It was in how the ball arrived at the batsman.

Then he proceeded, oblivious to scores of other journalists and a few commentators around, to give a full demonstration. Because he was so round-arm, MacGill’s ball arrived at the right eye of the batsman and went on straight, giving the batsman 20:20 vision. “When Warnie bowls to right-handers,” Jenner said, mimicking Warne’s action, “the ball arrives at eye-level and then disappears behind the left ear, forcing the batsman to search for it.” That Warne had the ability to drift the ball wasn’t unknown, but Jenner’s way of explaining it gave it different meaning.

A tale of three legspinners

Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra and Rahul Sharma have the skills to be successful for India. But their actions still need some work

Aakash Chopra

May 30, 2011

We may have well seen the last of Shane Warne in a competitive game, but we haven't seen the last of his art yet. He may no longer roll his arm and spin magic, but he continues to make a strong case for his clan. Warne's legacy will be an effective blueprint for generations of aspiring spinners, who will now have a look at videos of him to pick up a lesson or two. Legspin is one of the toughest crafts to perfect, but once you've mastered it, like Warne clearly had, you can aim to win matches in all formats.

Warne had an almost perfect legspinner's action: side-on, bowled with a slightly round arm but with the wrist cocked. He drifted the ball in the air and got spin off the surface - usually only enough to get the edge. He also varied the pace and trajectory with consummate ease. But above all he was shrewd enough to decipher the batsman, formulate the right plan and execute it with precision.

It might be interesting to take a look at three young Indian practitioners of the same art: Piyush Chawla, part of India's World Cup-winning campaign, Amit Mishra, who replaced Chawla in the team for the West Indies, and Rahul Sharma, arguably the most impressive bowler in this IPL.

Unlike Warne, Piyush Chawla has an open bowling action. With such an action, you see the batsman from inside the non-bowling arm, while with a side-on action, you see the batsman from over or through the leading arm. Most legspinners prefer a side-on action because it not only allows them to bowl with a slightly rounder arm, which is essential to impart side spin, but also allows them to rotate the hip by pivoting on the front toe, and thus putting the weight of the body behind the ball. When you look from inside the non-bowling arm, you bowl with a high-arm action and have an insignificant pivot. It's much like with fast bowlers, where outswing bowlers prefer the closed action and inswing bowlers an open action.

Since spinning the ball across the right-hand batsman isn't his forte, Chawla bowls from the corner of the crease to make his wrong 'un more effective. His open action allows him to bowl a googly a lot more efficiently than most legspinners. A traditional spinner will have to make significant change in his action (from round-arm to high-arm) and go to the corner of the crease, so the trajectory starts from outside off stump. These changes are often a giveaway but not with Chawla. However, his high-arm action and delivery from the corner of the crease impair his ability to bowl a more orthodox legspinner's line, i.e. on middle and leg stump. Unless he gets some serious drift in the air, he has to really push the ball towards leg to change the line. And that's when he ends up slipping it down the leg side - the lack of spin doesn't allow the ball to spin back towards the off stump.

Playing Chawla As a batsman you must keep a close eye on his googly. Since it turns a lot more and is a lot quicker in the air and off the surface - a rarity - don't go back or play a horizontal shot. Even though he isn't a big turner of the ball, his point of delivery dictates that his line is mostly outside off, so you must go close to the ball while stepping out, else you run the risk of not getting close enough. Since he bowls fairly quick, you can also use that pace to pinch singles.

Sharma is the tallest of the three, and so he gets the most bounce. His high-arm open action ensures he makes the most of his height, but it also means he compromises on spin off the surface

Amit Mishra has an ideal legspinner's action, being fairly side-on, and he also bowls with a slightly round arm. He tries to get close to the stumps and imparts a lot of side spin on the ball. But he has a long bowling stride, with the front leg bent at the point of delivery, which effectively reduces his height during delivery, and hence the bounce he could potentially extract. Mishra started out as a big turner of the ball, which worked fine at the domestic level, but after a year or so of international cricket, he realised he had to stop turning it too much, lest he miss the edge. He was bowling the right lines, turning the ball, but wickets eluded him. So he learnt to cock his wrist, not only to control the spin but to get a bit more bounce. While he's fairly accurate with his line and length and banks on beating the batsman in the air, the lack of pace off the surface works against him: even when the batsman makes an error he can often adjust because of the lack of pace.

Playing Mishra You should always be wary of his spin and completely sure before going down the track; if you stay slightly away from the ball, it might mean you miss it entirely. Also it's necessary to play in the second line and cover the spin. Play with the spin and not against it, otherwise there's a good chance of edging the ball. For instance, unless you get to the pitch of the ball, don't hit straight; instead, target the gap over extra cover. Since his deliveries don't hurry on to you, it's best to stay on the back foot.

Rahul Sharma is the tallest of the three and so he gets the most bounce. He is possibly the most accurate legspinner on the Indian circuit, and his height has something to do with it. The taller the bowler, the better his chances of hitting the same spot more often and with accuracy. Sharma's high-arm open action ensures he makes the most of his height, but it also means he compromises on spin off the surface. He does not get too close to the stumps, nor does he go to the corner of the crease; he mostly stays in the middle of the box. He tries to bowl as straight as possible, with the length slightly on the shorter side to make the most of the steep bounce he generates. But while the bounce works in his favour, the lack of side spin works against him. He does impart a lot of overspin on the ball, which complements the bounce, but the position of his feet and the direction his toes are pointing in at the crease don't allow him to get much spin. His leading toes point towards third man instead of fine leg, which means he doesn't pivot a lot while delivering the ball. He must develop a googly to go with his topspinners or he runs the risk of becoming a one-trick pony.

Playing Sharma Back yourself to play him through the line and on the up, but keep your hands slightly higher up the handle than with other spinners. If you don't take the bounce into account while putting bat to ball, you'll find the ball eluding the sweet spot and hitting higher on the bat. Since he bowls quicker and flatter, avoid going down the track, for you won't have enough time for a successful advance. But that also means you can use the bounce to get under the ball while staying inside the crease.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Thursday, 26 May 2011

'A good spinner needs a ten-year apprenticeship' Terry Jenner

Knowing when to attack and when to defend is crucial to the success of good spinners, and that comes only with experience. Terry Jenner talks to Nagraj Gollapudi

Nagraj Gollapudi

September 27, 2007

Terry Jenner played nine Tests for Australia in the 1970s but it is as a coach, and specifically as Shane Warne's mentor and the man Warne turned to in a crisis, that he is better known. Jenner said that his CV wouldn't be complete without a trip to India, the spiritual home of spin bowling, and this September he finally made it when he was invited by the MAC Spin Foundation to train youngsters in Chennai. Jenner spoke at length to Cricinfo on the art and craft of spin bowling in general and legspin in particular. What follows is the first in a two-part interview.

"Most of the time the art of the spin bowler is to get the batsman to look to drive you. That's where your wickets come"

How has the role of spin changed over the decades you've watched cricket?
The limited-overs game has made the major change to spin bowling. When I started playing, for example, you used to break partnerships in the first couple of the days of the match and then on the last couple of days you were expected to play more of a major role. But in recent years, with the entry of Shane Warne, who came on on the first day of the Test and completely dominated on good pitches, it has sort of changed the specs that way.

But the difficulty I'm reading at the moment is that captains and coaches seem to be of the opinion that spin bowlers are there either to rest the pace bowlers or to just keep it tight; they are not allowed to risk runs to gain rewards. That's the biggest change.

In the 1960s, when I first started, you were allowed to get hit around the park a bit, as long as you managed to get wickets - it was based more on your strike-rate than how many runs you went for. So limited-overs cricket has influenced bowlers to bowl a negative line and not the attacking line, and I don't know with the advent of Twenty20 how we'll advance. We will never go back, unfortunately, to the likes of Warne and the wrist-spinners before him who went for runs but the quality was more.

What are the challenges of being a spinner in modern cricket?
The huge challenge is just getting to bowl at club level through to first-class level. When you get to the first-class level they tend to you allow you to bowl, but once you get to bowl, instead of allowing you to be a free spirit, you are restricted to men around the bat - push it through, don't let the batsman play the stroke, don't free their arms up ... all those modern thoughts on how the spinner should bowl.

Do spinners spin the ball less these days?
The capacity to spin is still there, but to spin it you actually have to flight it up, and if you flight it up there's always that risk of over-pitching and the batsman getting you on the full, and therefore the risk of runs being scored. So if you consider the general mentality of a spinner trying to bowl dot balls and bowl defensive lines, then you can't spin it.

I'll give you an example of an offspin bowler bowling at middle and leg. How far does he want to spin it? If he needs to spin it, he needs to bowl a foot outside the off stump and spin it back, but if he has to bowl a defensive line then he sacrifices the spin, otherwise he'll be just bowling down the leg side.

It's impossible for you to try and take a wicket every ball, but when you're really young that's what you do - you just try and spin it as hard as you can and take the consequences, and that usually means you don't get to bowl many overs. The art of improving is when you learn how to get into your overs, get out of your overs, and use the middle deliveries to attack

Legspinners bowling at leg stump or just outside - there's been so few over the years capable of spinning the ball from just outside leg past off, yet that's the line they tend to bowl. So I don't think they spin it any less; the capacity to spin is still wonderful. I still see little kids spinning the ball a long way. I take the little kids over to watch the big kids bowl and I say, "Have a look: the big kids are all running in off big, long runs, jumping high in the air and firing it down there, and more importantly going straight." And I say to the little kids, "They once were like you. And one of you who hangs on to the spin all the way through is the one that's gonna go forward."

Great spinners have always bowled at the batsman and not to the batsman. But the trend these days is that spinners are becoming increasingly defensive.
First of all they play him [the young spinner] out of his age group. Earlier the idea of finding a good, young talent, when people identified one, was that they didn't move him up and play him in the higher grade or in the higher age group. There was no different age-group cricket around back then, and if you were a youngster you went into the seniors and you played in the bottom grade and then you played there for a few years while you learned the craft and then they moved you to the next grade. So you kept going till you came out the other end and that could've been anywhere around age 19, 20, 21 or whatever. Now the expectation is that by the time you are 16 or 17 you are supposed to be mastering this craft.

It's a long apprenticeship. If you find a good 10- or 11-year-old, he needs to have a ten-year apprenticeship at least. There's a rule of thumb here that says that if the best there's ever been, which is Shane Warne - and there is every reason to believe he is - sort of started to strike his best at 23-24, what makes you think we can find 18- or 19-year-olds to do it today? I mean, he [Warne] has only been out of the game for half an hour and yet we're already expecting kids to step up to the plate much, much before they are ready.

It's a game of patience with spin bowlers and developing them. It's so important that we are patient in helping them, understanding their need for patience, at the same time understanding from outside the fence - as coach, captain etc. We need to understand them and allow them to be scored off, allow them to learn how to defend themselves, allow them to understand that there are times when you do need to defend. But most of the time the art of the spin bowler is to get the batsman to look to drive you. That's where your wickets come, that's where you spin it most.

Warne said you never imposed yourself as a coach.
With Warne, when I first met him he bowled me a legbreak which spun nearly two feet-plus, and I was just in awe. All I wanted to do was try and help that young man become the best he could be, just to help him understand his gift, understand what he had, and to that end I never tried to change him. That's what he meant by me never imposing myself. We established a good relationship based on the basics of bowling and his basics were always pretty good. Over the years whenever he wandered away from them, we worked it back to them. There were lot of times over his career where, having a bowled a lot of overs, some bad habits had come in. It was not a case of standing over him. I was just making him aware of where he was at the moment and how he could be back to where he was when he was spinning them and curving them. His trust was the most important gift that he gave me, and it's an important thing for a coach to understand not to breach that trust. That trust isn't about secrets, it's about the trust of the information you give him, that it won't harm him, and that was our relationship.

I don't think of myself as an authority on spin bowling. I see myself as a coach who's developed a solid learning by watching and working with the best that's been, and a lot of other developing spinners. So I'm in a terrific business-class seat because I get to see a lot of this stuff and learn from it, and of course I've spoken to Richie Benaud quite a lot over the years.

Shane would speak to Abdul Qadir and he would feed back to me what Abdul Qadir said. Most people relate your knowledge to how many wickets you took and I don't think that's relevant. I think it's your capacity to learn and deliver, to communicate that what you've learned back to people.

From the outside it seems like there is a problem of over-coaching these days.
There are so many coaches now. We have specialist coaches, general coaches, we've got sports science and psychology. Coaching has changed.

Shane, in his retirement speech, referred to me as his technical coach (by which he meant technique), as Dr Phil [the psychologist on the Oprah Winfrey Show]. That means when he wanted someone to talk to, I was the bouncing board. He said the most uplifting thing ever said about me: that whenever he rang me, when he hung the phone up he always felt better for having made the call.

"Think high, spin up" was the first mantra you shared with Warne. What does it mean?
When I first met Shane his arm was quite low, and back then, given I had no genuine experience of coaching spin, I asked Richie Benaud and made him aware of this young Shane Warne fellow and asked him about the shoulder being low. Richie said, "As long as he spins it up from the hand, it'll be fine." But later, when we tried to introduce variations, we talked about the topspinner and I said to Shane, "You're gonna have to get your shoulder up to get that topspinner to spin over the top, otherwise it spins down low and it won't produce any shape." So when he got back to his mark the trigger in his mind was "think high, spin up", and when he did that he spun up over the ball and developed the topspinner. Quite often even in the case of the legbreak it was "think high, spin up" because his arm tended to get low, especially after his shoulder operation.

Can you explain the risk-for-reward theory that you teach youngsters about?
This is part of learning the art and craft. It's impossible for you to try and take a wicket every ball, but when you're really young that's what you do - you just try and spin it as hard as you can and take the consequences, and that usually means you don't get to bowl many overs. The art of improving is when you learn how to get into your overs, get out of your overs, and use the middle deliveries in an over to attack. I called them the risk and reward balls in an over. In other words, you do risk runs off those deliveries but you can also gain rewards.

There's been no one in the time that I've been around who could theoretically bowl six wicket-taking balls an over other than SK Warne. The likes of [Anil] Kumble ... he's trying to keep the lines tight and keep you at home, keep you at home while he works on you, but he's not trying to get you out every ball, he's working a plan.

The thing about excellent or great bowlers is that they rarely go for a four or a six off the last delivery. That is the point I make to kids, explaining how a mug like me used to continually go for a four or six off the last ball of the over while trying to get a wicket so I could stay on. And when you do that, that's the last thing your captain remembers, that's the last thing your team-mates remember, it's the last thing the selectors remember. So to that end you are better off bowling a quicker ball in line with the stumps which limits the batsman's opportunities to attack. So what I'm saying is, there's always a time when you need to defend, but you've got to know how to attack and that's why you need such a long apprenticeship.

Warne said the most uplifting thing ever said about me: that whenever he rang me, when he hung the phone up he always felt better for having made the call

Richie Benaud writes in his book that his dad told him to keep it simple and concentrate on perfecting the stock ball. Benaud says that you shouldn't even think about learning the flipper before you have mastered the legbreak, top spinner and wrong'un. Do you agree?
I totally agree with what Richie said. If you don't have a stock ball, what is the variation? You know what I'm saying? There are five different deliveries a legbreak bowler can bowl, but Warne said on more than one occasion that because of natural variation you can bowl six different legbreaks in an over; what's important is the line and length that you are bowling that encourages the batsman to get out of his comfort zone or intimidates him, and that's the key to it all. Richie spun his legbreak a small amount by comparison with Warne but because of that his use of the slider and the flipper were mostly effective because he bowled middle- and middle-and-off lines, whereas Warne was leg stump, outside leg stump.

Richie's a wise man and in the days he played there were eight-ball overs here in Australia. If you went for four an over, you were considered to be a pretty handy bowler. If you go for four an over now, it's expensive - that's because it's six-ball overs. But Richie was a great example of somebody who knew his strengths and worked on whatever weaknesses he might've had. He knew he wasn't a massive spinner of the ball, therefore his line and length had to be impeccable, and he worked around that.

In fact, in his autobiography Warne writes, "What matters is not always how many deliveries you possess, but how many the batsmen thinks you have."
That's the mystery of spin, isn't it? I remember, every Test series Warnie would come out with a mystery ball or something like that, but the truth is there are only so many balls that you can really bowl - you can't look like you're bowling a legbreak and bowl an offbreak.

Sonny Ramdhin was very difficult to read as he bowled with his sleeves down back in the 1950s; he had an unique grip and unique way of releasing the ball, as does Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan]. What they do with their wrists, it's very difficult to pick between the offbreak and the legbreak. Generally a legbreak bowler has to locate his wrist in a position to enhance the spin in the direction he wants the ball to go, which means the batsman should be able to see the relocation of the wrist.

In part two of his interview on the art of spin bowling, Terry Jenner looks at the damage caused to young spinners by the curbs placed on their attacking instincts. He also surveys the current slow-bowling landscape and appraises the leading practitioners around.

"Most spin bowlers have enormous attacking instinct, which gets suppressed by various captains and coaches" Nagraj Gollapudi

Bishan Bedi once said that a lot of bowling is done in the mind. Would you say that spin bowling requires the most mental energy of all the cricketing arts?
The thing about that is Bishan Bedi - who has, what, 260-odd Test wickets? - bowled against some of the very best players ever to go around the game. He had at his fingertips the control of spin and pace. Now, when you've got that, when you've developed that ability, then it's just about when to use them, how to use them, so therefore it becomes a matter of the brain. You can't have the brain dominating your game when you haven't got the capacity to bowl a legbreak or an offbreak where you want it to land. So that's why you have to practise those stock deliveries until it becomes just natural for you - almost like you can land them where you want them to land blindfolded, and then it just becomes mind over matter. Then the brain does take over.

There's nothing better than watching a quality spin bowler of any yolk - left-hand, right-hand - working on a quality batsman who knows he needs to break the bowler's rhythm or he might lose his wicket. That contest is a battle of minds then, because the quality batsman's got the technique and the quality bowler's got the capacity to bowl the balls where he wants to, within reason. So Bishan is exactly right.

What came naturally to someone like Bedi was flight. How important is flight in spin bowling?
When I was very young someone said to me, "You never beat a batsman off the pitch unless you first beat him in the air." Some people think that's an old-fashioned way of bowling. Once, at a conference in England, at Telford, Bishan said "Spin is in the air and break is off the pitch", which supported exactly what that guy told me 40 years ago. On top of that Bedi said stumping was his favourite dismissal because you had beaten the batsman in the air and then off the pitch. You wouldn't get too many coaches out there today who would endorse that remark because they don't necessarily understand what spin really is.

When you appraised the trainees in Chennai [at the MAC Spin Foundation], you said if they can separate the one-day cricket shown on TV and the one-day cricket played at school level, then there is a chance a good spinner will come along.
What I was telling them was: when you bowl a ball that's fairly flat and short of a length and the batsman goes back and pushes it to the off side, the whole team claps because no run was scored off it. Then you come in and toss the next one up and the batsman drives it to cover and it's still no run, but no one applauds it; they breathe a sigh of relief. That's the lack of understanding we have within teams about the role of the spin bowler. You should be applauding when he has invited the batsman to drive because that's what courage is, that's where the skill is, that's where the spin is, and that's where the wickets come. Bowling short of a length, that's the role of a medium pacer, part-timer. Most spin bowlers have enormous attacking instinct which gets suppressed by various captains, coaches and ideological thoughts in clubs and teams.

You talked at the beginning of the interview about the importance of being patient with a spinner. But isn't it true that the spinner gets another chance even if he gets hit, but the batsman never does?
I don't think you can compare them that way. If the spinner gets hit, he gets taken off. If he goes for 10 or 12 off an over, they take him off. Batsmen have got lots of things in their favour.

What I mean by patience is that to develop the craft takes a lot of overs, lots of balls in the nets, lots of target bowling. And you don't always get a bowl. Even if you are doing all this week-in, week-out, you don't always get to bowl, so you need to be patient. And then one day you walk into the ground and finally they toss you the ball. It is very easy to behave in a hungry, desperate manner because you think, "At last, I've got the ball." And you forget all the good things you do and suddenly try to get a wicket every ball because it's your only hope of getting into the game and staying on. The result is, you don't actually stay on and you don't get more games. So the patience, which is what you learn as you go along, can only come about if the spinner is allowed to develop at his pace instead of us pushing him up the rung because we think we've found one at last.

How much of a role does attitude play?
Attitude is an interesting thing. Depends on how you refer to it - whether it's attitude to bowling, attitude to being hit, attitude to the game itself.

When you bowl a ball that's fairly flat and short of a length and the batsman goes back and pushes it to the off side, the whole team claps because no run was scored off it. Then you come in and toss the next one up and the batsman drives it to cover and it's still no run, but no one applauds it; they breathe a sigh of relief

When Warne was asked what a legspin bowler needs more than anything else, he said, "Love". What he meant was love and understanding. They need someone to put their arm around them and say, "Mate, its okay, tomorrow is another day." Because you get thumped, mate. When you are trying to spin the ball from the back of your hand and land it in an area that's a very small target, that takes a lot of skill, and it also requires the patience to develop that skill. That's what I mean by patience, and the patience also needs to be with the coach, the captain, and whoever else is working with this young person, and the parents, who need to understand that he is not going to develop overnight.

And pushing him up the grade before he is ready isn't necessarily a great reward for him because that puts pressure on him all the time. Any person who plays under pressure all the time, ultimately the majority of them break. That's not what you want, you want them to come through feeling sure, scoring lots of wins, feeling good about themselves, recognising their role in the team, and having their team-mates recognise their role.

I don't think people - coaches, selectors - let the spin bowler know what his role actually is. He gets in the team and suddenly he gets to bowl and is told, "Here's the field, bowl to this", and in his mind he can't bowl.

Could you talk about contemporary spinners - Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Daniel Vettori, Monty Panesar, and Muttiah Muralitharan of course?
Of all the spinners today, the one I admire most of all is Vettori. He has come to Australia on two or three occasions and on each occasion he has troubled the Australian batsmen. He is a man who doesn't spin it a lot but he has an amazing ability to change the pace, to force the batsman into thinking he can drive it, but suddenly they have to check their stroke. And that's skill. If you haven't got lots of spin, then you've got to have the subtlety of change of pace.

And, of course, there is Kumble. I always marvel at the fact that he has worked his career around mainly containment and at the same time bowled enough wicket-taking balls to get to 566 wickets. That's a skill in itself. He is such a humble person as well and I admire him.

I marvel a little bit at Murali's wrist because it is very clever what he does with that, but to the naked eye I can't tell what is 15 degrees and what's not. I've just got to accept the word above us. All I know is that it would be very difficult to coach someone else to bowl like Murali. So we've got to put him in a significant list of one-offs - I hate to use the word "freak" - that probably won't be repeated.

I don't see enough of Harbhajan Singh - he is in and out of the Indian side. What I will say is that when I do see him bowl, I love the position of the seam. He has a beautiful seam position.

I love the way Stuart MacGill spins the ball. He is quite fearless in his capacity to spin the ball.

I love the energy that young [Piyush] Chawla displays in his bowling. The enthusiasm and the rawness, if you like. This is what I mean when I talk about pushing the boundaries. He is 18, playing limited-overs cricket, and at the moment he is bowling leggies and wrong'uns and I think that's terrific. But I hope the time doesn't come when he no longer has to spin the ball. When he tries to hold his place against Harbhajan Singh, for example. To do that he has to fire them in much quicker. He is already around the 80kph mark, which is quite healthy for a 18-year-old boy, but he still spins it at that pace, so it's fine. But ultimately if he is encouraged to bowl at a speed at which he doesn't spin the ball, that would be the sad part.

That's why I say this, there are lots of spinners around but it's the young, developing spinners who are probably suffering from all the stuff from television that encourages defence as a means to being successful as a spinner.

Monty is an outstanding prospect. You've got to look at how a guy can improve. He has done very, very well but how can he improve? He has got to have a change-up, a change of pace. At the moment, if you look at the speed gun in any given over from Monty, it's 56.2mph on average every ball. So he bowls the same ball; his line, his length, everything is impeccable, but then when it's time to knock over a tail, a couple of times he has been caught short because he has not been able to vary his pace. I think Monty is such an intelligent bowler and person that he will be in the nets working on that to try and make sure he can invite the lower order to have a go at him and not just try and bowl them out. That probably is his area of concern; the rest of it is outstanding.

What would you say are the attributes of a good spinner?
Courage, skill, patience, unpredictability, and spin. You get bits and pieces of all those, but if you have got spin then there is always a chance you can develop the other areas. For all the brilliant things that people saw Warne do, his greatest strength was the size of the heart, and that you couldn't see.

Who's in control? Not just governments, that's for sure

Andreas Whittam Smith in The Independent

How did the media on the one hand and the financial markets on the other build themselves up as such great forces in society?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

We have seen two big powers in action this week. They are not countries. But they can take on governments and win. They are the media and the financial markets. While British newspapers were forcing the UK Government to rethink the use of injunctions issued by courts to protect privacy, the financial markets were maintaining almost unbearable pressure on the currencies of the weaker members of the eurozone.
It was surely resentment at the power of the media that led a gang of masked men to vandalise reporters' cars outside the home of Ryan Giggs on Tuesday. An injunction taken out by Mr Giggs to prevent press coverage of an alleged extramarital affair had been dramatically revealed in the House of Commons on Monday after details had been made freely available on Twitter.
As to the power of the financial markets, my colleague Hamish McRae noted yesterday that the Greek government "may have the electorate's mandate but it does not set policy. That is being determined... in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Washington. Power has gone". In turn the politicians and civil servants in such cities look to the financial markets to discover what actions are required. Take another case, Spain. As the Financial Times commented: "Watching Spain's agony as it tries to escape the clutches of the eurozone's expanding sovereign debt crisis is like being a spectator at a particularly cruel gladiatorial fight. Whenever the weaker contestant skilfully sidesteps an assault by his opponent, he is promptly confronted with a still more ferocious attack."
How did the media and the financial markets build themselves up as great powers? The most significant date in plotting the growing influence of national newspapers in Britain was 17 November 1969 when Rupert Murdoch launched the Sun as a tabloid. Thirteen years later Associated Newspapers created the Mail On Sunday. In little over a decade, therefore, the market for scandalous news had been substantially expanded. Until then the Daily Mirror and the News Of The World had dominated this area.
This was an era when everything began to change, as much in the financial markets as in the behaviour of the media. Governments strictly controlled exchange rates, for instance, until the early 1970s. When US President Richard Nixon closed the so-called "gold window" on 15 August 1971, ending free exchange between US dollars and gold, he brought to a close a 25-year period during which the world's leading currencies, including sterling, had been fixed in terms of the dollar. Speculation against them had been almost impossible.
From then onwards they could "float", and when a particular currency declined in value against its neighbours', the government concerned began to feel the pressure. In 1979, one of the first decisions of Mrs Thatcher's newly formed government was to abolish UK exchange control. It was a welcome act of self-confident liberation, but it also, in accordance with the law of unintended consequences, handed a weapon to currency speculators, who would use it ruthlessly in 1992 to drive Britain out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on a day known forever afterwards as "Black Wednesday".
Repeated oil shocks since the 1970s have also contributed to the power of financial markets. Essentially a higher oil price takes spending power out of the pockets of consumers and places it into the treasuries of countries, mainly in the Middle East, who have no means of spending their new wealth – other than by investing it back into the financial markets of the West. By this mechanism the financial markets have become larger and larger in relation to national economies. Since the first oil shock in 1973 when the price of oil shot up to $10 a barrel – it's now $100 – there have been at least a dozen oil spikes, each time magnifying the size of the financial markets as the unspent surplus was invested in securities.
During the same period, the power of the media has also continued to increase. In the UK, the politicians partly brought this on themselves. From the early 1990s they began a process of non-stop electioneering. So great are the penalties for losing power – the splitting of the party into warring groups, the lengthy period in exile – that party leaders feel they must do what it takes to regain or retain office.
In relationship to the press, Tony Blair described what was needed: "Our news today is instant, hostile to subtlety or qualification... To avoid misinterpretation, strip down a policy or opinion to one key clear line before the media does it for you. Think in headlines." Then when Labour came to power in 1997, the Government Information Service was taught the same rule. Alastair Campbell told Whitehall press officers a few months after the election: "Decide your headlines. Sell your story and if you disagree with what is being written, argue your case." But the more the political parties sought control, the more aggressively the press struck back.
Add to this the dramatic expansion of unregulated digital media. The first email was sent in 1971 (the two computers were sitting next to each other!). The first web browsers became available in 1978. The first social networking site saw the light of day in in 1994. MySpace was created in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006.
I don't describe the rise of the media and the financial markets to positions of great power to argue that something should be done about them, though they are both, in their different ways, crude and rough. I particularly dislike the untrammeled greed of bankers though doubtless they equally hate the untrammeled inquisitiveness of journalists. Where the power of media and finance is at its most objectionable, however, is in their ability to deter governments from protecting us from their worst excesses.
In the United States the banks, for instance, use their formidable lobbying skills and resources in Congress to deter lawmakers from curbing their abuses and this phenomenon in turn has the effect of holding back regulation in other markets around the world. In Britain, so far as the media is concerned, there is a strong case for a law on privacy, but I doubt whether any Cabinet would have the courage to propose such a measure. Of course even democratically elected governments can be frightening bodies, but so are their most formidable opponents, finance and media.

Monday, 23 May 2011


New study reveals 24-hour water fast is good for your heart

Monday, 23 May 2011

Thinking of trying a detox fast this spring? A new study reported in health and science website Science Daily claims that routine 24-hour water-only fasting is good for your health and your heart.
US research cardiologists found that fasting can lower your risks of developing coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also can improve your blood cholesterol levels. The study also reveals that fasting for 24 hours can bolster a metabolic protein called human growth hormone that protects lean muscles.
Another study reported in American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2007 also found a link between lower rates of heart disease and people who fast one day each month for religious practices.
While some experts agreed that a one-day water fast won't do too much harm, they urge caution when trying a more extended detox plan, such as the Master Cleanse or Lemon Detox Diet, Fat Flush, 21 Pounds in 21 Days, or the Liver Detox Diet.
"Extreme diets generally do little more than cause frustration, are potentially dangerous, and are in general a waste of time and money," Michelle May, MD and author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work, in an interview with health website WebMD. Strict regimens can lead to fluid losses that can upset your electrolyte balance, causing upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, moodiness, and even dehydration. 
Experts also say that your body naturally detoxes itself, through your hardworking kidneys and liver, which eliminate toxins. If you're looking for a safe cleanse or a way to lose weight, load up on healthful all-natural foods, drink lots of filtered water, and avoid excess medications and alcohol.
For more on the pros and cons of fasting diets: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=64306
For more on the new study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110403090259.htm

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Arundhati Roy on India's fight against Corruption

We are here, all of us, because like many others in this country we are concerned about the rampant corruption that is hollowing out the institutions of our democracy. Twenty years ago, when the era of “liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation” descended on us, we were told that public sector units and public infrastructure needed to be privatised because they were corrupt and inefficient.

We were told the problem was systemic. Now that nearly everything has been privatised, when our rivers, mountains, forests, minerals, water supply, electricity and communications systems have been sold to private corporations, we find that corruption has grown exponentially, the growth rate of corruption has surpassed everything we could possibly imagine. In scam after scam, the figures that are being siphoned away are completely off the charts. It is not surprising that this has enraged the people of this country. But that anger does not always show signs of being accompanied by clear thinking.

Among the millions of understandably furious people who thronged to Jantar Mantar to support Anna Hazare and his team, corruption was presented as a moral issue, not a political one, or a systemic one — not as a symptom of the disease but the disease itself. There were no calls to change or dismantle a system that was causing the corruption. Perhaps this was not surprising because many of those middle-class people who flocked to Jantar Mantar and much of the corporate-sponsored media who broadcast the gathering, calling it a “revolution” — India’s Tahrir Square — had benefited greatly from the economic reforms that have led to corruption on this scale. (The same media has in the past ignored rallies of hundreds of thousands of poor people who have gathered in Delhi in the past because their demands did not suit the corporate agenda). It was not surprising then, that several corporate CEOs generously donated lakhs of rupees to support the campaign, cellphone companies weighed in with free SMS messages — here was their chance to undo the beating the public image of the corporate sector and corporate media had taken when the 2G scam hit the news.

When corruption is viewed fuzzily, as just a touchy-feely “moral” problem then everybody can happily rally to the cause — fascists, democrats, anarchists, god-squadders, day-trippers, the right, the left and even the deeply corrupt, who are usually the most enthusiastic demonstrators. It’s a pot that is easy to make but much easier to break. Anna Hazare threw the first stone at his own pot when he shocked his supporters from the left by rolling Narendra Modi onto centre-stage, in his “Development Chief Minister” clothes. Leaving aside the debate on Modi’s extremely dubious achievements in the field of “development” — many of us were left to wonder whether we were being offered a supposedly incorruptible fascist as an alternative to hopelessly corrupt supposed democrats.

I am not against having a strong anti-corruption body, though I would like to be reassured that it in itself does not become an unaccountable, undemocratic institution accruing great powers to itself. However I do not believe that we can fight communal fascism or economic totalitarianism (that has led to us having more than 800 million people in this country living on less than 20 rupees a day) with only legal measures.

As long as we have these economic policies in place, the National Employment Guarantee Act will never be able to do away with hunger and malnutrition, anti-corruption laws will not do away with injustice, and criminal laws will not do away with communal fascism, the twin sibling of economic totalitarianism. They will, at best, be mitigating measures. As the historian Howard Zinn said “the rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and power in such complicated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.”

Will the Right to Information Bill or the Jan Lokpal Bill force the government to disclose the secret MoUs with private corporations it has signed in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand for which it is prepared to wage war against its poorest citizens? If they do, then these MoUs will disclose the fact that the government is selling the country’s minerals to private corporations for a pittance, a small royalty. It’s not corruption. It’s completely above board, it’s legal plunder which is more scandalous, and has economic, environmental and human costs that will outstrip the 2G scam several times over. If we do get the information, what will we do with it? I do believe that if anyone present at the “revolution” at Jantar Mantar had raised the question of the secret MoUs, the adoring TV coverage and a good proportion of the crowd would have disappeared very quickly.

The lawyer Prashant Bhushan who is on the drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill understands all of this very clearly. In his years as a public interest litigation lawyer he has consistently represented mass movements as well as individuals who have been fighting these policies with their backs to the wall. He is the counsel in the PIL in the 2G scam in which Tata and Reliance, the biggest corporations in the country, along with their allies in the government and the media, have been badly exposed. Yesterday in court he asked why only the paid employees of these corporations were being arrested and not their proprietors. Such a man must be targeted, taken down, right?

The viciousness of the smear campaign against him is proof of the threat he poses to vested interests. I have known Prashant Bhushan for years. First as a comrade and now as a close friend. We may disagree about some things, but I would vouch for his integrity anytime, anywhere. He is acutely aware of his family’s social and economic privilege. Even more so of the fact that that most of that privilege is derived from his father to whom is he is very close, but with whom he has major ideological differences. Like many of us who are privileged compared to the majority of the people in this country (some of us by birth, caste, race, gender, and/or by virtue of writing a best-selling novel), Prashant had to decide what to do with that privilege. He chose to use his training as a lawyer to create as much space as possible for those against whom the Powers are arraigned. This is why he has been at the barricades of almost every issue of social justice that is being fought in this country. This is what has been turned against him. And this is why he is being hunted down.

In a filthy battle such as this one, in which facts are made up, none of us can ever be pure enough or righteous enough. None of us can hope to emerge untainted. However, the fight will continue. Retreat is not an option.