It is almost an hour past noon as the Hindu gymkhana overlooks the sensational Marine Drive with the sun beating down at 30°C. It is so windy and breezy that one might quip about the weather orchestrating an eventful day for a bit of cricket; and quite rightly so.
Josh Poysden is getting the ball to drift and flight beautifully. His energy is apparent in the field. Opening the bowling, he has bowled a couple of half trackers, full length deliveries, conceded runs at a miserly economy and has appealed quite animatedly but in vain. You can almost sense there is a wicket in the offing.
The build-up is exciting. Heck, what’s not exciting about a young leg spinner ripping the ball hard on dusty pitches?
He notices me watching the game from the sidelines and greets me with a friendly ‘namaste’ as he goes back to his fielding spot at mid-on after bowling two unchanged overs- not quite odd after you have seen Samuel Badree and Sandeep Lamichhane bowl in the powerplay.
In just his third over, he raps a local batsman LBW and is quite satisfied with one of his latest variations he has worked hard on working in his favour: a flipper which started on off, swung in a bit, stayed in the air longer and did the batsman for length.
The former Warwickshire leg-spinner, who is now contracted to Yorkshire, is on a week-long tour to Mumbai along with Somerset Academy players and County cricketers from Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.
In a candid interview, he talks about the tour, his experience bowling alongside Jeetan Patel and how Stuart MacGill is only a phone call away for any bowling tips.
“The English winter is quite long so it is nice to get some sun and a lot of cricket outside”, he quips about the weather. When asked about his tour highlights, he adds, “The highlight has probably been a mixture of being able to play some games and be able to experience new conditions in terms of bowling a lot of overs in the nets before the new season begins. Also, as someone who bats lower down the order you don’t always get the opportunity to face bowlers, so it has been quite an opportunity to face Indian bowlers here. Good practice in terms of that. Off the field, I have enjoyed getting stuck into the Indian culture and learning a few bits of Hindi here and there. I have been to Pune seven years ago. Mumbai is different but quite a nice city!”
Apart from netting down a lot of overs and games against local clubs, he has had the chance to work along side local coaches who have helped him with the technical aspects of spin bowling but overall, Poysden is quite comfortable with his action and has focused on absorbing as much as he can from the experience.
“About my bowling, it was about getting those overs in outside because there is only so much you get by bowling in indoor schools back home. I am pretty comfortable with my action in terms of technicalities at the moment. I have had the chance to train with Sairaj Bahutule (former Indian leg-spinner and spin-bowling coach of Rajasthan Royals). Having Matt Critchley (from Derbyshire), another leg-spinner here is good as we talk lots of spin bowling, something you cannot always do at length. I bumped into an old coach of mine from Pune and we spoke about a few things in terms of bowling. It was all about picking little hints and tips but I have got quite a comfortable action so not much to work upon apart from few tactical tips the Indian coaches told me about which was quite helpful. “
Few years ago, the best advice for a young spinner looking to hone his skills in England would have been to sharpen his batting skills so as to be able to score as many runs as they concede. The lack of encouragement from pitches led to Counties giving lesser importance to spinners but in recent times, the value of a genuine turn-a-mile spinner has come to realisation. More so with the recent success of the spin troika employed in Sri Lanka to spin a memorable whitewash in England’s favour.
As it stands with the modern trend of every side employing a leg-spinner in shorter formats, Warwickshire decided to go in with young Josh Poysden to complement Jeetan Patel’s unerring accuracy and experience. In just eleven First-Class appearances for Warwickshire, he was impressive as an understudy to Jeetan Patel by claiming two five-fors.
While he stands a chance to lead the spin bowling attack at Yorkshire, he credits Jeetan Patel for his development on-field.
“Playing alongside him has been really important to my development. I feel I was lucky at the start of my career to be able to play and train alongside him a lot. He is very knowledgeable and a great competitor, so just watching him go about his business from day-to-day basis has been massive. He talked about all the way through and not just bowling, but also batting, fielding and how to manage your life as a professional cricketer. He has had a massive impact on me. He is a really good friend and it has all played an important role in my career so far.”
As he prepares to step away from his shadow, there is always a mentor he can depend on. Stuart MacGill, the former Australian leg-spinner, is only a phone call away.
“I first worked with him about four years ago in Sydney. He has helped me with a lot of technical aspects and also given me a clarity about the mental side of bowling. We have spent a lot of time just having coffees together talking about leg spin bowling. It is such a unique skill so to have someone who is so good at it, is also a brilliant coach and has a brilliant mind has been really helpful. When I signed for Yorkshire, he was one of the first people I told and he was absolutely over the moon for me. We don’t talk much but when we do, it is mostly just a few tips and about life in general. If I am having any issues, I can always speak to him and he would help me out.”
With Duanne Olivier, the South African fast bowler, signing a Kolpak contract with Yorkshire and Joe Root set to be involved in the first two rounds of the County Championship, Poysden is bound to be in good company in the dressing room. However, with other two left-arm spinners Karl Carver and James Logan also with the squad, it remains to be seen how Yorkshire utilise their bowling stocks. In the initial rounds, the pitches tend to retain the greenish tinge and the possibility of any side employing two spinners at a time can only be talked of after the sunny spells in May become dominant.
With Adil Rashid unavailable for the major chunk of the County Championship, owing to a shoulder injury and World Cup commitments, Poysden could well get an eye in as a lone spinner in the XI. For now, he is only looking to warm himself up for the season ahead so as to ready himself before red ball opportunities come calling.
“Looking forward to getting stuck in with the Yorkshire lads. Played for about a month last year and trained with them over the winter. Really a special club to play for. With Rashid, I am not sure how much is he going to play for England. I am only concentrating on doing what I can control, that is, making sure I am bowling well. Main thing for me is to enjoy my cricket. It is a brilliant opportunity for me to be involved with the Yorkshire side, hopefully I put in some good performances and win some games for the club.”