Warwickshire v Middlesex, LV= Championship, Division One, Edgbaston, 4th day September 4, 2015

English spinners don't practise enough - Patel


Middlesex 207 (Dexter 53, Patel 5-59) and 173 for 6 (Dexter 43) drew with Warwickshire 254 (Ambrose 89, Murtagh 4-55)

Jeetan Patel had some home truths for how English spinners go about their game © Getty Images

After taking eight wickets in the draw with Middlesex, Jeetan Patel now needs only two more to reach 50 first-class scalps in four consecutive English summers.

Patel is an admirable cricketer, varying his pace, flight and delivery point on the crease and unerring in his accuracy. Still, for English cricket it is also a little uncomfortable that the most proficient spinner in the county game today is a 35-year-old New Zealander who averaged 48.46 in his 19 Tests.

To Patel, there is no great secret. He speaks like an evangelist of Matthew Syed's theory that success in sport and beyond is built less on raw talent than upon ten thousand hours of purposeful practice.

"I don't think spinners do enough in the UK. They need to practise a lot more," Patel said. "If you talk to our guys they notice that I do a lot of work. I am sore and I am tired but I know that I have to bowl 30 overs in an innings. The only way to practise bowling 30 overs in an innings is to bowl 30 overs throughout several days, and make sure you get your numbers up and then you start to realise what you can and can't do.

"In this game for example I felt like I bowled at least an hour more than Ollie Rayner outside play. That may just be what I do, and it may be harsh for me to say that about someone else but the reality is the more you do the better you get.

"You've got to know what your stock ball is. It's great to have all these variations and be able to beat the bat. If you don't know your stock ball then what's the point? What's the ball that you know you can bowl best and when it comes out is perfect? That's when it comes back to practice."

It is often claimed that English spinners are hampered by a schedule in which the vast majority of Championship fixtures take place in April, May or September, but Patel has shown that this apparent obstacle can be overcome.

"They need to be more specific with their training - it's very easy to say that it's green and therefore it won't spin but you've got to find a way to succeed in the game.

"To say that we play too much in April and May? Well too bad, just get on with it. It's just what it is. If you want to succeed, want to be good and get to the next level, then you've got to find ways to do that, whether it's getting bounce, drift, spin - whatever it is you've got to find a way to do that."

Patel has seen encouraging signs in Moeen Ali, who played every Test this summer, but believes he lacks self-belief.

"He's certainly got some tools. He probably battles himself a bit, fights with himself a bit to believe in the skill he's got. Again I don't think he's bowling enough overs - that's the whole crux of it," Patel said. "It's a shame that he has to compete with Saeed Ajmal for overs at Worcestershire."

Patel's overall assessment of the state of English spin bowling was not overly negative. "It's okay. It's at a point where it's starting to get better, and I think that's purely because the numbers of spinners is higher."

He picked out Lancashire's Arron Lilley, Ravi Patel and Rayner at Middlesex and Adil Rashid as sources of hope, even if Patel is unsure of how he will fit into England's Test attack.

"He's got some great skills and he bowls very well for Yorkshire at this level, but can he transfer that to Test level and accept that guys will pounce quicker than they do at first-class level?

"You can pick a bowler and say yeah he's got the tools, but does he complement the side? Does a leggie who's going to go at three and a half, four an over complement the English attack at the moment? I don't know because Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are great bowlers but they could also go at threes and fours as well."

While Patel bowled with craft once again on the final day against Middlesex, and Keith Barker claimed both openers in a venomous opening spell, Warwickshire always seemed to lack the requisite time to force a result. They were not aided, either, by their curiously anaemic approach to batting in the morning: Warwickshire added just 30 in 14.2 overs in the morning; while they claimed a second batting point, they took copious time out of the game.

The sight of Ian Westwood bowling his rarely sighted offbreaks - plenty of loop, not much turn - was an unbecoming end to three often absorbing days of Division One cricket. So was that of Barker, who had bowled with verve, resorting to left-arm spin.

"It would have been nice to play that extra day and interesting to see where the game was at after that," Patel reflected as he nursed a beer after play. It was well deserved after all the hard work.

Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Darrell on September 11, 2015, 5:39 GMT

    I,m with you KIWICRICKETNUT, not a fan of Patel or nearly all right arm offspin, when they come on to bowl i usually turn it over to watch ITM CUP, even if it is a replay, I was going to write Highlights but all the ITM has been thrilling to watch.

  • jared on September 6, 2015, 11:14 GMT

    I've never been a big Patel fan, I also think he had plenty of opportunities to prove his worth but never did himself justice, he can only blame himself for being dropped not the selectors and when they picked him he declined anyway, if any spinner in nz has been hard done by it's probably Todd astle but that's another story, I actually think what Patel is saying has merit and just because he never fashioned a great record doesn't mean we should dismiss what he's saying, hard work and practice is probably the foundation of every great cricketer, nothing prophetic about that statement and if Patel thinks they aren't working hard enough and that's why he's doing better than them then he's probably right, that's something English cricket can change very easily in their training systems, and if they do and get a world class spinner, look out they will be tough to beat.

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2015, 23:24 GMT

    Its funny when fails at international level talk about ways to succeed and pick on others keep playing county cricket and keep talking how to succeed mate

  • Alex on September 5, 2015, 19:28 GMT

    Practice is obviously very important to become very good at anything, but natural talent makes the difference at the highest level. Was Shane Warne a greater legspinner than Stuart MacGill because he practised more? Does Federer practise more than Murray?

  • dave on September 5, 2015, 14:30 GMT

    Stevies - I don't think Adams ever got it right for NZ and he was tried often but back then the BC's were a such a woeful group of under-performers it wouldn't have made any difference either way.

    628notout - Malcom Gladwell is a major and relentless collector of other people's theories?

  • Jordan on September 5, 2015, 14:29 GMT

    Over the last 3-4 years Patel has been NZ's best spinner and hasn't played for us once.. It saddens me that we haven't been able to benefit from a guy who for a large part of his career was just unfulfilled potential. He was always behind Vettori in the pecking order and he eventually got dropped after that tour to South Africa where Steyn bounced him out (and Patel basically ran away from the deliveries). We then tried every spinner in NZ trying to find a replacement for Vettori, basically ignoring Patel thinking that he wasn't up to scratch. A few years later he started tearing up County Cricket and now refuses to join back up with NZC.

    And who could blame him? He has been living in England with his family for a long time now, he can't uproot them (at the age of 35) on a gamble that NZC are going to stick it out with him when we have other spinners like Craig, Sodhi, Hira, Todd, Williamson, etc, coming up the ranks.

    I've always liked him though and this is a great interview

  • Garry on September 5, 2015, 12:13 GMT

    kiwi542 treated how? He was rubbish at test and ODI cricket, should they of stuck with him because in 5-10 years time he may do well in country cricket? He was offered a chance to play again and he turned it down. I think you are confusing him with Andre Adams, now there was a guy that was treated rough.

  • Curtis on September 5, 2015, 8:27 GMT

    I hope New Zealand bring this bloke in as a spin coach when he retires. Although why would he want to, the way he's been treated by nz cricket has bennet less than ideal to say the least.

  • John on September 5, 2015, 4:30 GMT

    I think Patel is absolutely right. England has had over the years several decent spinners at county level who never made the transition to test cricket successfully. Test bowlers have to work and work on their technique. Richie Benaud said that he was told by the great legspinner Bill O'Reilly that he must learn to turn his legbreak sharply and it would take him 4 years to master it- and he was right.

    Rashid and Borthwick, both picked for England as young legbreak bowlers, focussed more on batting than bowling. Rashid has since gone back to bowling, but Borthwick just turns his arm over occasionally while batting #3 for Durham. He's never going to play for England as a batsman, so he's giving up an opportunity for an England career.

    England needs some spinners who will work their tails off to get better. The only one in recent years has been Swann and look what a difference he made to the England side.

  • William Francis on September 4, 2015, 21:19 GMT

    Well said, sir! CMJ was quite the proponent of more practice time during the County Season.

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