Worcestershire’s latest debutant Ben Twohig says bowling hundreds of deliveries at a handkerchief for day after day in India this winter helped him develop and gain the control needed as a spinner in the first class game.
But Twohig believes the whole experience of two months abroad and of “having to do everything for yourself” after being based in part of what he describes as “old school India” also helped him to grow up and mature as a person.
It all culminated in Twohig making his first class debut for Worcestershire in the Specsavers County Championship match with Surrey at the Kia Oval – a ground he admits he had never visited before – and showing plenty of promise with the ball.
Twohig made his second eleven debut five years ago as a 15-year-old and the former Malvern College pupil has always been regarded as one of Worcestershire’s most promising prospects, working closely with County legend and spin bowling coach Norman Gifford.
Now that potential is coming to fruition and Twohig recognises how this winter abroad, based mainly at Baroda at the MKGM School in rural India in addition to two weeks at the Global Cricket School in Mumbai, has helped him to make that step forward.
Twohig said: “Control was a main part of why I went away. I wanted to go away and try and get that understanding of my own action without input from anyone else.
“It was a case of ‘I’ll go and bowl and figure it out for myself’ because you are the only person on the pitch so that was the one thing I wanted to do, was gain that control and consistency and I feel I’ve come back a lot more consistent than last year.
“I’m still spinning the ball, which is a good sign, but I’m getting a lot more control and am more economical so on good wickets I might be going at three an over instead of four or five.
“I didn’t have to go to India to figure this out but they are taught, no matter what ‘hit line and length, line and length’.
“If you don’t hit a line and length you are never going to be a good bowler. If you can hit a line and length on a flat wicket, you can hit a line and length on a spinning wicket when you get your rewards.
“It’s all about hitting your line and length, obviously with the shape and revs on the ball, but that comes when you practice really hard and are tough on yourself.
“They are very simple in the way they play their cricket because they don’t have the facilities and the resources.
“They didn’t have the bowling machines, the technology to fast track, so it was just down to hard work and hitting thousands of balls and bowling thousands of balls.
“At the end of the day, that is how everyone practiced before it got too complicated and sometimes you need that simplicity like ‘I’m just going to bowl at a handkerchief for an hour’ and ‘I’m going to hit 1,000 balls.’
“I’d have days and think ‘I’m going to bowl 300 balls at a handkerchief’ and see how many I hit. If you hit 10, 20, 30, you’d just try and beat that.
“Sometimes you might hit 100 but then you get to know how well you can bowl. Other times you’d do drills, but you’ve still got to hit a length.
“If you hit a length with spin, and hold that length, you are going to get rewarded at some point.”
Twohig, who worked with coach Connor Williams, a left hand batsman and spinner, who played one unofficial Test for India, enjoyed the challenge of fending for himself in India.
He said: “I did a lot of one to one work with Connor and then went to the Global Cricket School for two weeks in Mumbai which I got a lot from as well.
“Mumbai was busy but I’m glad I got to see the real side of India first because it was a bit more old school where I was in terms of just nothing has quite got there yet.
“There are still a lot of animals on the road, there are not many cars, it’s like old school India whereas Mumbai is like any city in being busy with a lot going on.
“You can get anything you want whereas in Baroda you had to do everything for yourself, and I mean everything for yourself.
“You had to literally wash your own clothes. There were no washing machines. I had to walk to the ground everyday to practice.
“I did a bit of coaching as well and ate at the school with the kids three times a day, all vegetarian, so that was a shock because I’m not vegetarian!
“But they were just really nice people, very welcoming, and I really enjoyed it. It was a good experience.
“The trip helped me as a bowler, helped me as a batsman, with spending a lot of time at the crease, with a lot of overs bowled, but also it just helped me to grow up a little bit.”