When I was playing for England, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shane Warne were inventing all these new deliveries. Saqlain had his doosra and, later in his career at Surrey, claimed to be working on a ‘chotra’ and a ‘teesra’ without ever really explaining what the hell they were (although Pakistan’s current star off-spinner Saaed Ajmal of course has now added the ‘teesra’ – a backspinning ball – to his armoury).
Shane had the leggie, the toppie, the zooter and made up names for other variations on fairly standard deliveries, a ploy he later admitted was just part of his mind games to scare the opposition. it worked because it got everyone saying that England also needed a ‘mystery’ leg-spin bowler if we were going to compete . . . which filled me with confidence as I was the spinner they had to make do with in the meantime (‘We need a leg spinner or we’ll have to keep Tufnell in the team . . .’).
In English spinners’ desperation to be seen as more, er, mysterious, people started trying all sorts and claiming they’d reinvented the wheel. For instance, off-spinner Robert Croft developed one where he paused mid-action before bowling it, a bit like a penalty-taker at football pausing mid run-up. The ‘Croft Pause’ wasn’t a bad ball, it made the batsmen think, but I think Crofty would admit it was no doosra.
Then there was old muggins here. What have you got, Tufnell? er, well, I’ve got an arm ball, a slower ball and a quicker one.
So imagine my surprise when recently, almost a decade after I retired, I realised that I actually was a mystery spinner after all. All it took was a brainstorming session with a team of top brand con- sultants (well, a couple of mates). Between us we came up with a few names ending in ‘ra’ for my various deliveries to discover that I had more, um, mysterious balls than Warney, Mushtaq, Murali and Ajmaal put together, I just hadn’t marketed myself effectively.
Lamby, a keen fisherman, used to say to me, ‘Don’t change the fly, Tuffers. They’re rising!’
So here, revealed for the first time, the mysterious Tufnell bowling repertoire:
Your bog standard left-arm off-spinner, but sprinkled with some indefinable (possibly, non-existent) Tufnell magic dust.
Redwigglera (aka Blackgnatra)
This one I used to call my ‘Ball on a string’ which basically involved varying the flight to get it to drift in the air before pitching and spinning sharply. Bamboozled many a fine batsman, and clearly deserves a better name, which comes courtesy of my old England chum Allan Lamb.
When I was bowling it well, Lamby, a keen fisherman, used to say to me, ‘Don’t change the fly, Tuffers. They’re rising!’ – meaning I was dropping the ball on an awkward length, like dangling the bait in front of a fish’s nose (do fish have noses?) to lure them in, and the batsmen were rising to the bait. he’d say to me conspiratorially, in his thick South African English accent: ‘What fly have you got on today, Tuffers? is it the red wiggler or the black gnat? Whatever it is, keep using it.’
The North London Swinger(a)
The delivery formerly known as the arm ball, bowled by holding the ball like a seamer rather than across the seam, which curves into the batsmen’s legs.
I came up with this filthy delivery, frankly, out of desperation, when everyone was banging on about England needing a ‘mystery bowler’.
A bit like a Teesra, only better. I used to call it the ‘finger ball’ but ‘Milfra’ adds a touch of class. I came up with this filthy delivery, frankly, out of desperation, when everyone was banging on about England needing a ‘mystery bowler’ to match Warney and spinners up and down the country were trying to invent new deliveries. after a bit of fumbling around in the nets, I tried holding the ball across the seam which made the ball skid on. Quite literally, bowling porn.
The bouncing bomb (add ‘ra’ for extra exoticism) is a slight top- spinner where you roll the wrist over the top of it to get a bit of extra bounce.
Now we’re getting into the realms of desperation. The last three variations in my repertoire would usually be deployed, deep into the second day of the opposition’s innings when utter despair had set in (for instance, Durban, Gary Kirsten, 1999).
The Labradora one is bowled ‘blind’ by turning your face away from the batsman in the delivery stride. I’ve named this one in tribute to all the guide dogs doing a great job up and down the country.
A very complex delivery which required me to propel my tongue out of my mouth at the point of delivery in a vain attempt to put off the batsmen. named in tribute to the legendary Buster Bloodvessel, because it was terribly bad manners.
A frankly ludicrous delivery which is delivered front on to the batsman with both arms windmilling over at the same time. as I say, desperation stuff.
See? That’s eight whole mysterious balls! If only I’d known this at the time, I could have saved myself all those years of feeling inadequate while the England selectors, pundits and fans searched fruitlessly for another Shane Warne, and got myself another forty or fifty Test caps.
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