Who'd be a Leg Spinner?
Who’d Be A Leg Spinner??
There is something about Leg Spinners.
Something illogical, irrational and maybe even…irresponsible…about them.
They are a special breed. They are put upon the earth to defy every type of God there is, particularly the sporting Gods. They are often not the most athletic of players. Almost universally they see the world through questioning, not quite fathomable, eyes. They enigmatically embrace their lot of being on a hiding to nothing. They are rarely understood.
Captains have never embraced them. They’ve suffered them. As Saint Paul “suffered fools gladly”, so have countless Captains suffered Leg Spinners “gladly”. (Which means NOT.) They’ve tossed them the ball when all else has failed. When the accountants of bowling, the purveyors of “line and length”, have exhausted their limited repertoire, bored batsmen and spectators witless, failed to make an impression on the wickets column in the scorebook, only then has the Captain begrudgingly tossed the ball to the leg spinner. When they have been bereft of any idea of what to do next. Except to summon up the always enthusiastic purveyor of the most incomprehensible of arts. That’s when they’ve tossed the ball to the Leggie.
The other players have then scattered to all points of the field with only the most recalcitrant or, perhaps even more athletically challenged, remaining within coo-ee of the batsman.
The leg spinner has pleaded for a slip or a short leg or someone who can catch but most of those pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They’ve looked hopefully at the wickey who might be able to stop, or even catch, balls that travel on an obvious trajectory but is witless when it comes to stumping or gloving feathery offerings from bemused batsmen befuddled by balls that loop, bounce and maybe even spin. By the time the Leggie is tossed the ball the batsman is, more often than not, set. Which means they’ve got their eyes in and are seeing the ball like a watermelon.
The Leggie marks out their run. It’s almost perfunctory. None of the Music Hall snorting, staring and scratching of the “accountants”. It’s a few paces, perhaps a roll of the arm to mid off who inevitably is of the opinion that they should have been tossed the ball instead. The Leggie doesn’t care. Doesn’t even notice. Is too focussed on the Art of Leg Spin to even consider such trivialities.
Up to the mark the Leggie waddles. The ball magically contorts its way out of the back of the hand, the batsmen’s eyes light up, they swing, collect, the ball flies up into the air, the midwicket fielder cups their hands, eyes vaguely on the ball, the Leggie watches optimistically, the midwicket inexplicably lets the ball fall between their butter fingers, the batsman stands agog, the Leggie shrugs and returns to their mark.
The next ball the batsman dances down the pitch, misses the ball by a country mile and is stranded halfway down the pitch. Meanwhile, wickey has completely, inexplicably, been unable to lay glove to ball and the batsman has somehow been able to recover their ground. The Leggie looks on, mouth agape, arms akimbo, legs askance, wondering if there is, in truth, a God.
You know what happens next. The fortunate batsman swings wildly at the next delivery, somehow connects and the ball flies over the boundary for a six. And another. And another. And the Captain, fuming, grabs the ball from the Leggie, dispatches them to fine leg and promises never to trust a Leggie again.
I’m a Leggie. I’m still bowling. It’s one of the advantages of plying the trade. I can keep rolling them over until my arm drops off, or my heart stops, or both.
I’m not old enough to have seen Clarrie Grimmett bowl although I love his philosophy of not giving a toss about how many runs he was clobbered for, instead pointing to the wickets column and leaving it at that.
My Damascus moment when it came to Leg Spin took place at the SCG when I was blinded by the sight of Richie Benaud bowling. I was converted by a Vision Splendid and I never turned back. He was everything and more that a young boy could dream of following. He had panache. He strode onto the field with his shirt rakishly unbuttoned, his hair brylcreemed and you knew the world was his oyster. He exuded confidence, joie de vivre and sportsmanship. He applauded his opponents and encouraged his team mates. He took wickets and was hit for six. He took it all in his confident stride. He was my Odysseus, Don Quixote and Cyrano all rolled into one.
He was my hero.
I never turned back and never stopped bowling Leggies. I bowl them in my sleep. I relive the dropped catches, the near misses, the almost hat tricks and missed stumpings.
I toss and turn and wonder why it is so?
I enjoy the conundrum almost as much as I enjoy the Art of Leg Spin.
I have Richie to thank for showing me the way.
The Way of Cricket.