Every bowler now is expected to have not just one slower ball but many variations of such. Along with the expectation they can be called upon at any point in the game.
Variations of the slower ball can revolve around the type of hand release, angle and length at different ranges of pace shifting down the gears.
For pace as an example, if a seamer is in the 135kmh range with the stock ball, the shifting down would be at 120 / 110 / sub 110 mark therefore giving three different speed ranges.
Ian Harvey (aka The Freak), was an absolute genius in being the master of control with the ability to execute subtle release variations out of either the back of the hand or the off cutter action.
Hand release variations include:
- Leg spin action, out of the fingers
- Back of the hand, leg spin action but full wrist rotation
- Off cutter, out of the index finger under cutting the ball
- Split finger grip
- Loose grip and altered follow through
Glenn McGrath made use of his long fingers to apply the split grip variation while holding the ball seam upright.
Shoaib Akhtar (aka The Rawalpindi Express), once ranked as the fastest bowler in the world, expanded his skills when playing in unforgiving conditions with a loose grip to create a super slow ball.
In the current era players like James Faulkner and Jimmy Anderson are regularly using the out of the wrist variation at any point of the game, even moreso during the Powerplay to disrupt the rhythm of the batsman.
Moises Henriques is able to apply length variations that are short in nature by bowling a slower ball into the wicket, where the combination of a docile or dead surface and an older, scuffed ball will become even slower again.
The most suitable variations are fundamentally found by experimenting and practice, plenty of repeat practice. Not just in a nets situation but also in closed, target sessions as well. Involving a keeper with a “dummy” batter helps to improve the skills collectively.
In conclusion, the shifting of gears (speed) combined with the variation of hand release creates multiple options. Include ranges of angle and length, any bowler has an extensive arsenal at hand.
Enjoy discovering the art of deception.