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Rob Key: ‘Officious’ junior umpires are discouraging young leg-spinners

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket, Rob Key explained how, in his opinion, overly strict umpiring in junior cricket is discouraging the next generation of spinners from developing fully.

Key’s argument centred around the unforgiving calling of wides, which he felt meant that children would stop trying to spin the ball hard, instead focusing on accuracy or being put off altogether.

“That’s exactly what I think kids have got to do,” he said, after footage of a young cricketer bowling a hard-spinning off-break was shown. “This is from my own experience. I’ve umpired my daughter in a mixed game, a couple of years ago, and they’re [umpires] so officious on wides. It drives me absolutely mad. As soon as it’s a little bit out there – two runs – because they think they’re speeding the game up. So then kids get so disheartened.”

Key gave an example of a leg-break bowler he had watched to illustrate his point further. “Don’t be so officious with stuff,” he said. “We had a leg-spinner come up and actually bowled a beautiful leg-spinner in a game I was umpiring. The next ball was slightly wide and I said ‘no, no, the batter could have gone and hit that’. But at the other end they start widing them, and you see the kid tense up, and you lose that ability to really rip the ball because that’s a hard art to do.

“Don’t be too worried about it. If it’s so wide, fine. But if the batter can go and hit it, let them hit it, let the kids try and rip it, let them fail and then not punish them too much for that, because that’s why I think leg-spinners, we don’t have many of them in this country. They get booted out the game because every wide’s two runs and the captain goes, ‘No you’re off’. It’s a nightmare for them.”

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