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Sight Screen

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Jenner effect

Shivlal Yadav was just about making his mark; the hypemeisters were already speaking of him as the next Prasanna (why, at the first sign of emerging talent, do we dub said talent the 'next John Doe', anyway?).
After a bit, though, his bowling began to fall off, and a well-wisher suggested he speak to Prasanna, get some tips. 'Who is Prasanna?', Yadav famously answered. Oh, and in passing, he only played another two, three Tests for India.
Maninder Singh was showing signs of real talent, when the inevitable comparisons to Bishen Bedi started up -- and got under the young spinner's skin. Maninder, the legend goes, changed his action in a bid to 'look different' from Bedi -- and in the process, took the edge off his skill, and was never the same bowler again.
Several of our cricketers have tended to believe that to ask for advice, to tap into the accumulated wisdom and experience of the past, is infra dig. And they've paid a heavy price for it.
Mercifully, the younger ones coming through today are radically different -- they go out of their way to seek know-how (Irfan Pathan's constant calls to Wasim Akram being the obvious, but not only, example).
Was reminded of all this on reading a story in the Guardian, that talks of the Terry Jenner-Shane Warne interaction just ahead of the first Test. Warne is the finished product -- you would think there is nothing anyone can teach him about the art of leg spin bowling.
And yet, he regularly seeks out Jenner; just as regularly, Jenner fine tunes his performances just that hairline fraction, and the results show.
Concerned that he was becoming more dot ball than ball of the century, the once-feared leg-spinner Warne approached Jenner for an inspection, a tune-up and, if need be, a major overhaul. Immediately it was apparent why.
"He was closing off," Jenner said. "He was basically bowling around himself and negating the spin. Justin spanked him a couple of times before we started working on his alignment."
The change, according to Jenner, was startling. Within minutes, Warne was forcing Australia's veteran left-handed opener into false strokes, rediscovering the flight and spin that have kept English sports psychologists booked solid for a generation.
His confidence lifting by the second, Warne promptly called in Adam Gilchrist and the Australian coach John Buchanan for a centre-wicket practice session, where balls continued to dip, fizz, leap and skid. Tune-up complete.

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