Monday, November 24, 2008

Ryan - the broken-down engine

It's time for another TRSM fearless prediction. Ryan Sidebottom is unlikely to bowl for England again.

For years he made a name for himself on the county circuit trundling in at a steady 82 or 83 mph. Being left- arm-over gave him a head start, and excellent control and movement brought success. At county level that's plenty - the wickets are helpful enough, and there are enough cheap wickets around to help you make a fairly tidy living.

Then Peter Moores came calling, and someone obviously suggested that a few more mph on the radar gun could mean a decent run in the England side.

It thus came to pass, and for a year he nobly led the England attack. Indeed, in the absence of Flintoff, Harmison throwing the toys out of the pram, and Anderson showing all the self-control of a teenage girl watching Robbie Williams, Sidearse was the England attack for the best part of that year.

Then it all started going wrong.

Every bowler finds a groove within which he's comfortable. A bowling action becomes repeatable, so that you can do it with your eyes shut. You start your run up - 1,2,3,4,5 strides, leap and deliver. (At this point I'll 'fess up and say that I've never tried this in an actual game - and the only time I even did it in the nets ended with me running into the stumps, but you get the idea) Because the action is so repeatable, the ball will, more often than not, land on a decent length. It's why a lot of bowlers take time to acclimatise when they tour abroad - the length your instinct lands the ball on is a couple of inches wrong and it takes time in the nets to get your radar re-adjusted. It then takes further adjustment for the one that's just short of a length to stop in turning into a rank long-hop... and so on.

Sidebottom's physique was attuned to bowling in the low 80's. To suddenly demand that he perform in the high 80s was ultimately going to cause problems. I've had it myself, asked the question from a new captain - 'can you bowl quicker?' At the time I was too young and naive enough to answer 'no', then tried to prove it- quicker yes, the odd ball even made the batsman hurry up a bit, but for every good ball there were several bad ones that were put away on the 'harder they come onto the bat, harder they come off it' theory - so I ended up going for about 60 off 9 overs.

At first his undoubted fitness based on a heavy county workload saw him through, but then when one thing went, the body over-compensated and gradually the stresses have transferred themselves elsewhere in his body. He's tried to play through it, which resulted in the rather controversial decision to play him at Edgbaston last summer. He clearly wasn't fit, England were therefore a bowler light, and it effectively cost them the game and the series, and Michael Vaughan his job.

It's like having a basic, reliable saloon car which works perfectly as an 'A to B' machine, but which you then decide to flog to death on the motorway every week. At first it will cope, but gradually bits will start dropping off - and you're soon looking for a new model.

He'll bowl again, but not in the high 80s, and therefore not effectively for England.

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