Western Districts & University of Canberra vs Ginninderra at Keith Tournier Oval, December 3 2016.

November 28, 2016

Yesterday, I was thrilled that I was in the top 10 wicket-takers in 5th grade alongside Joe Laria and Adam O’Connor despite not taking any more than 2 wickets a game. Later today, once all the scores were in, we were within the top 20, but several of us were on 7 wickets apiece. I felt that it was the first time I had been consistent with ball in hand since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons that were on synthetic wickets. Last season, it took me about 10 bowling innings to take 7 wickets, and after the first 7 games, I had only taken 5 wickets and would have gone for plenty more than 3.25 that I’ve conceded so far.

It just reinforces the focus on the process of hitting the right length and generating swing and bounce most of the time. The performance on Saturday in my previous diary entry showed that I wasn’t just a new ball bowler. I can only bowl with an older ball. Apart from training with an older ball this season, I had been honing my bowling swing and bounce at Southern Cricket with very old cricket balls. This was similar to how Sir Curtly Ambrose, the West Indian fast bowler, prepared before an international game using a very old cricket ball, which helped him take wickets and starve opposition batsmen of runs.

I realized that I don’t have to bowl all my nine overs at the start. Instead, I can bowl some overs with the new ball and some with the older ball, preferably before the slog overs. That approach will allow Joe to rotate his bowlers a bit more than before. Even in a 2-day game, I can bowl short spells at different times of an innings because I can generate swing and bounce with both the new and the old ball.

Given that the top 4 grades were still locked in 2-day action, my thoughts were switched over to selection for our upcoming fixture against Wests. Adam was to be unavailable for the next two weeks, at least. So that will leave us with 11 to choose from. However, if Govind Thiagarajan, Chris Arcella, Samrudh Anavatti, and Blake Nitschke return, then JP will have his work cut out to select a squad of 12 out of possibly, 15 available players.

Hence several people will have to make way, but the question will be who. One thing is for sure, I would like to play and improve on my last outing against Wests. I believe I warrant selection given that I’ve bowled reasonably well this season, but that remains to be seen.

November 29, 2016

I was very much surprised that I found out that Wests lost to Tuggeranong over the weekend by 6 wickets, having only made 99. Tuggeranong, by that stage, had not won a game and were undoubtedly the whipping boys in 5th grade. It was why Joe had thought about experimenting against Tuggerangong like me coming on 1st change and possibly a batting promotion. I would think twice before we do this at all after this result.

Tuggerangong’s victory over Wests I felt gives us the confidence to continue our domination against our cross-town rivals, given that we’re comfortably in the top four even if we lose over the weekend. But it will be dangerous to write them off yet given that Damien Whitelum, their regular captain, had scored 80 odd and a 120 odd since the last time we played them. That’s provided he plays this weekend. As it showed last time, getting him out before he could inflict severe damage was one of the reasons why we managed to sneak home in a low scoring thriller.

On another note, there had been talk in the past about this diary given that people from the club had been reading it. Dominic Tran was even suggesting that it could be turned into a Ginninderra blog. That’s a fair point Dom I thought, but this is more to discuss a bit more about my own insights and preparations for cricket than anything else. Secondly, what if I, for some reason, move clubs or even leave Canberra, then the diary will no longer by just mine. Hence, let people contribute their pieces or possibly start a blog for the club. Nevertheless, it’s adorable to hear people talk well regarding the content I’ve written.

Going to training, it was an ok session. I continued the good work with the bat last week, but I had unfortunately dragged a pull shot back into my stumps. Bowling was ok. I beat the bat a few times, but I then struggled throughout the afternoon with my length. It was frustrating because I was able to get results on turf. Still, on practice wickets, which are obviously much bouncer, it makes it easier for batters, notably in the higher grades, to get comfortable off the back foot.

Nevertheless, I have been able to not just generate swing off the seam and off the air but also through my trunk rotation later in the day until it got dark. While I don’t want to give much away if opposition players read my diary, but I could play a round of different kinds of swing generation in the hope of catching a batsman’s wicket. For once in a while, I was looking forward to fielding because I wanted to practice watching the ball all the way through to the hands, which could explain why I tend to drop more catches then taking them. I was reasonably happy with my throwing at least and later on my catching when we were trying to go for half chances rather than bailout at the last minute.

Later on, after training, I felt that I needed some subtle changes to my run-up that will allow me to hit my lengths better with my unplayable swing and bounce. I would really like to have another crack at bowling at training to regain my confidence ahead for the weekend.

November 30, 2016

I was still trying to decipher the reasons why I bowled short, but as Vishnu told me since the Turf pitches aren’t as bouncy as the practice nets, it’s just the right length to bowl. Nevertheless, I was contemplating another change of bowling action. In the last few weeks, I was focusing too much on pace and thought to stick my focus on rhythm, swing, and bounce and fix the run-up that will give me speed to support these attributes.

Furthermore, I was experiencing left foot pain all day despite taking a couple of painkillers in the morning. I think the jumping and landing from bowling over the last few weeks may have started to take its toll. And I think it’s slowly becoming harder to consistently generating the swing and bounce I always crave. Hence, I was experimenting with another different bowling action to minimize the jump and the landing effect. I really liked it because my left foot doesn’t experience pain at all, and I have been able to incorporate the little technicalities that Luke that talked out in the bowling to trouble all kinds of batsmen on various surfaces.

Now it will be a matter of trying this out at training tomorrow. But I’m hopeful this will be an action that will stay with me for at least this season.

December 1, 2016

As it turned out, I went back to my other action when I couldn’t find any rhythm with my new one. I wasn’t that threatening as before. I figured that if I knew where I was going to land, I could easily coordinate my action better to hep generate the swing and bounce. It was one of the reasons why I have bowled reasonably well in the matches this season. I think I was more confident with my current action only after practicing bowling by myself. Using my body, I felt I can get the bowl to move more, but the key for me is to get my lines right. Swing bowling is considered by coaches as ‘risk and reward.’ If the ball swings, batters will struggle. If it doesn’t, then the bowler will be struggling.

As I indicated earlier, I was a little confused regarding the lengths I should bowl at training. I got a bit of encouragement from our chief selector JP who told me to bowl the lengths I bowl in matches. I mean, you can try to get the ball a little fuller in practice, but the problem is that on turf, the batters can just get underneath the ball quickly.

Before heading to training, I packed the Gray-Nicolls e41 bat that I stored away after last season instead of my Gray-Nicolls Kaboom bat, which has become a little light for me. I had initially put the e41 bat away, given I wanted to stick to my newer bats on turf. But, my increased strength had changed my intentions when the Kaboom became a little light. I used the e41 with mixed results, although I had my usual power when playing spin. Thankfully I didn’t get out, and neither did my batting partner Dominic Tran. If either of us gets out, then we have to run five, which is as bad as seeing your innings terminated when you get out.

Before batting, which was at the start of training, everyone did fielding. It made sense because all top four grades will be in the field at least this weekend; hence we need to work on it. It was also suitable for several of us 5th graders to continue working on our fielding given it has been a constant let down. My catching technique was frowned upon by Matty Andrews, the 3rd-grade skipper (who also was impressed with how I mentioned him previously in my online diary). Hence, he spent time with me developing soft hands and correcting my position to take any catch left or right, high or low. It wasn’t too bad when I caught most of the balls that came to me. It was more towards letting the ball come to you than anything else.

My thoughts immediately returned to selections. Now Adam and Dominic were unavailable. So with Govind and Archie coming into our side, we have 12 players regardless of whether Samrudh or Blake are available. For once, it seems I may not be needed to bat, but you never know.

December 2, 2016

As it turned out, I was in playing 12 when the teams came out on Facebook. Govind and Archie were playing in place of Adam and Dominic Tran. So, we have a solid batting line up. As I said earlier, I was anticipating not being required to bat. I told Vishnu this over MOC at work this afternoon, and he immediately thought differently.

He had been chatting with Joe during the week, and he thinks I’m a worthy 6, 7, or 8 as I have demonstrated my ability to know where my off stump is my defensive technique and my ability to score runs. Furthermore, Vishnu wants me to change my attitude when it comes to batting. He says I cannot go around and say I’m just a bowler because it can count against you for selections in the higher grades. I consider myself a bowling all-rounder and would welcome opportunities to bat provided. I have support from my captain even if I fail. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which grade I play in as long as I get a bowl, which is my primary preference. Playing as just a batsman doesn’t sit well with me, as I indicated when I played in the Twenty20 early this year.

I’ve had a chat with Joe regarding my chances to bat. He was considering a batting reshuffle this weekend and beyond to give other guys a go. It’s a gutsy move with the season still up for grabs, but at the same time, the experimentation can work really well for us when the finals come round. I’ve told Joe that I would prefer batting around five or six, given that I would like to play myself in before teeing off in the last 5 overs. That’s usually my style because people will be asking too much if I have to score immediately off the first ball.

Looking at the opposition line up for tomorrow, Joe told me that Wests only have a couple of good bowlers, which meant the backup bowlers tend to leak runs a bit more. Perhaps, it may not be a bad idea to have a crack with the bat tomorrow, if possible. I also found out that their regular skipper Damien Whitelum who twice made big scores in this season, wasn’t playing. Given that they have struggled without him (especially against Tuggeranong who beat them), we should still win.

I’m hoping we can bat first and put on a good total on the board, but it depends on the pitch. Last time we play at Keith Tournier Oval against Norths, they made 225, and it was a perfect track to bat on. One of the reasons why I’m hoping we should bat first was because I found out that Will can only be available to play from 4pm onwards, and hence, he’ll be available for just the 2nd innings. He can just turn up and bowl when we bat first; otherwise, we will be down a bowler if we have to bowl first.

I’ve told Joe that if Will’s opening, I would like to come on first change from his end if the wind is blowing sideways given that we’re similar bowlers. If Will’s unavailable, then it seems that I have to open the bowling, which is fine by me, given that I’ll have the end of my choice, plus I’ll be bowling the first over. Plenty of food for thought for our skipper, but I will have to wait and see how we go.

December 3, 2016

The wicket was similar to the game against Norths. It was perfect for batting.  The good news was that we had first use of the wicket when we won the toss and chose to bat. I managed to negotiate my way to bat up the order this time, and I’m batting at six. Will was pleased when I told him that we’re batting.

For the time being, it was the Sammy Gautam show. He was confident having made runs in the last two weeks, and he continued to channel his inner Sehwag. He swung hard, and that helped when edges flew over the slips cordon. This was indeed a stark contrast to the batter who made 2 runs in 3 innings. It was a testimony that the presence of Umesh Patel has helped him to start scoring decent runs. We were 2 for 81 after 15 overs at drinks, thanks to Sammy. He put on 25 with Umesh for the first wicket before adding 50 with Andrew Loveday, who threatened to perform but didn’t when he fell for 14.

We soon crashed to 4 for 96 after drinks. Sammy’s fairytale ended on 36 when he poked a catch to slip before Vasu Patel was stumped off Neil Hathaway for 2. That meant I was in. I had plenty of time to bat so I can play my natural game of batting for time before teeing off later. It worked when I put on a partnership with Vishal Suresh when we were 4 for 124 after 30 overs when we took drinks. Darab Fateh (who took 2/28 off 9 overs) and Neil Hathaway (who took 2/22 off 9 overs) was hard to get away, so we tried to go after Will Sackett and Brad McDowell. As a matter of fact, Sackett bowled a wide delivery outside off stump for me to square drive him for four.

Joe at drinks requested me to keep going but show a bit more intent. Vishal and I continued to take quick singles. A facet of my game that I believe I had improved immensely over the last 10 years. But both of us were soon out in consecutive overs. Vishal was run out trying to run two but was undone by a good throw and not running the first one hard. Me, having been bowled the short ball to pull, I failed to keep the shot down and hit a catch straight to square leg. Both of us made 14 apiece, but I was annoyed that I threw away a good chance of a long innings. Archie felt the pull shot lacked conviction, which costed my wicket while Vishnu later after the game thought I was rusty, given my limited batting opportunity.

Nevertheless, Archie really liked the way I batted my loud calls, mainly. They were loud and clear, and it even silenced the opposition. Sammy was telling me that he should learn batting from me, particularly on the calling side.

If we look at the bright side, my dismissal allowed Joe Laria and Sandeep Kumar to bludgeon the bowling in the last few overs to help us finish with 9/212. Sandeep made 34, and Joe was 26, not out. Wests were heard saying that they were into the tail, but as it proved that we don’t have any tail. Wests had to blame themselves for not bowling accurately and being disciplined enough. They conceded 48 wides and 6 no balls on the way to concede a total of 62 extras.

Will immediately arrived from his work at Manuka Oval to take the new ball with Dominic Ross. Although Will struck in his first over bowling Justin Keats, Wests were cruising at 1 for 52 after 10 overs. Dominic Ross had taken for a bit of tap, especially when he bowled too full and was driven through the offside for boundaries. I ended up replacing him, and we soon had Wests 5 for 57 at drinks after 14.1 overs.

My first wicket was an LBW to dismiss David Galeano, which I believe was pad first despite Galeano indicating otherwise. It was a while since I claimed a wicket in this manner. I was trying to swing the ball out, but it went straight on and hit him in front of the stumps. Will claimed the other opener, Toby Chugg, in the next over courtesy of a low catch by Vishal at mid-on who caught it with his fingertips. There was plenty of chat between Will and Chugg. I had heard that Chugg was having a go at me by telling me to shut up, but I honestly didn’t understand a thing.

My next over brought me a second wicket when I bowled Jack Dobson with a ball that came back in as opposed to moving away as I hoped. It might have hit a crack. I nearly had a third wicket when I spilled a return catch off Surojit Samanta’s bat (who averaged 0.40 with 2 runs in 5 innings). I couldn’t believe it and had lost my cool entirely. I usually in the past have taken caught and bowleds, but this chance should have been taken.

I eventually got Surojit bowled as he tried to drive and out-swinger that shaved the off stump. Unfortunately, tempers flew when Surojit was given a send-off, and he was pissed off with us, saying that we were unfriendly. It was at that moment that Adam, who came down to watch us play, gave us a spray for such childish behavior. He says we can provide chat to encourage our bowlers, but it shouldn’t go overboard. I took equal responsibility for our behavior and had decided to mellow down for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any more wickets in a 6 over spell, but I should have had a fourth when Darab Fateh edged a ball in the slip cordon, and Archie spilled a catch when he dived in front of Umesh at first slip. I had figures of 3 for 7, at the time my best ever figures in grade cricket for Ginninderra, and immediately went off the field. It was at that moment Joe gave Andrew Loveday, Govind Thiagarajan, and Sandeep Kumar a bowl, and all claimed a wicket. Andrew removed Josh Rowland courtesy of a good catch by Govind. Govind dismissed Neil Hathaway courtesy of a good catch off a thick edge by Vasu. Sandeep then bowled James Lockley. It was 8 for 110 after 30 odd overs. We could have taken drinks, but instead, Will then Dominic came back on to bowl with no success from one end.

I went back on the field on Joe’s request and immediately took the ball from the other end, replacing Sammy Gautam, who bowled his only wicketless over. I had three overs left, and I had a chance of achieving something special. In my 7th over, my first over back, I had Fateh LBW to a straight ball that didn’t swing. Now I had 4/7. One more wicket to go to achieve something special.

I couldn’t get a wicket in my 8th over. I had figures of 4/14 at this point. Thankfully neither Will and Dominic took the final wicket, which was a relief because I now have one last over to achieve a special milestone. But I nearly had it taken away when Joe told me to rest, but he later retracted as he was just joking and immediately handed me the ball.

Although the wise thing will be to keeping doing what I was doing, I eventually decided to mix it up. I was bowling to Alexander Szabo. The first ball was my stock out-swinger, play, and miss.  The second ball, I attempted an inswinger it back in using an out-swinger grip but with the shiny side on the left side, which Szabo dug out. Third ball was an attempted wobble ball with a wide grip. Overpitched and driven by Szabo for four. I tried cross seam for the next two deliveries. The first one, the fourth in the over, played out by Szabo. Then came the crowning glory; the second cross-seam delivery was hit in the air by Szabo, and knowing I was heading for a special moment, Sammy took a good chest mark catch, his first for the club.

I’ve done it. Five wickets in the innings. The first time ever, I’ve achieved it in cricket, and I’ve done it on turf on one of the most batting friendly wickets in the ACT. 5/18 off 8.5 overs, and I was extremely pleased with that effort. Wests all out for 132, and we won by 80 runs. Last time I played on Keith Tournier Oval, I bowled too full and too wide most of the time. Bowling wicket to wicket while trying to swing the ball brought terrific rewards.

December 4, 2016

People have asked me what it is like to take five wickets, and I will say it’s a great achievement. All the coaching I received from Luke and Masud has paid off. Luke had obviously played a significant role in honing my bowling, which has become extremely useful on these wickets. I later realized he was right when he told me that I may have found my bowling role in 5th grade. I had opened the bowling for the first 6 games of the season and only taken 5 wickets while keeping the runs down. Since relinquishing the opening role, I had taken 7 wickets in the last two games. I would have actually opened the bowling yesterday if Will didn’t show up in time for the 2nd innings, which could imply that I may or may not be able to take 5 wickets in an innings.

Masud should be given equal credit for my success. Had he not encouraged me to play grade on turf, then I would be languishing in City & Suburban and possibly being taken to the cleaners on synthetic wickets. Now, having given turf a crack, I have taken 12 wickets in 8 games and have become Ginninderra’s leading wicket-taker in 5th grade this season. Hopefully, I will be amongst the top 10 wicket-takers after round 8 during the upcoming week.

I am also grateful that both JP and Vishnu during the week encouraged me to not change my bowling much and not worry about the end result in the nets. Furthermore, JP deserves more credit for selecting me in 5ths that allowed me to get overs under my belt every game. I don’t think my achievements would have occurred anywhere else.

I almost forgot another reason why I got five wickets was because of Joe Laria’s belief in my bowling. He had bowled me in every game I’ve played in 5th grade, and he always thought highly of my bowling from the very first game. He should start to believe that we can beat anyone on any day, given that we have an extremely long batting line up and a decent pace bowling trio of myself, Will, and Adam. So far, the trio had played two victorious games this season, and I hope we continue to play together and dominate the opposition, especially against Norths, Weston Creek, and Queanbeyan, whom we’re yet to beat.

Over the coming week, I’ll look to continue my catching practice with Matty Andrews, having spilled a caught and bowled yesterday. Apart from that drop and the missed dolly off Govind’s bowling, our catching was much better than the last few weeks. It’s essential against stronger teams that we continue this intensity.

I have bad news for my team-mates and readers. I will not be playing the coming weekend with my fiancee being in town. Hence, there will be no entry for next weekend. As a matter of fact, it will be a good game to miss given we’re up against Tuggeranong (as I said, they’re like the whipping boys of 5th grade). I nevertheless expect the boys to win without me. I’m not disappointed to miss the game, but I’m sort of disappointed not to be batting because I could fill my boots against them.

Anyways, unless Joe or Adam takes 6 wickets against Tuggeranong, I’ll still be comfortably our leading wicket-taker until I return for the last game before Christmas against Norths back in Keith Tournier Oval.

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