Joseph gets the balance right

Friday 6th March 2009

By Charles Randall in Christchurch

THE Kent seamer Robbie Joseph (pictured) might or might not retain his place in the England Lions for the second Test against New Zealand A starting at Lincoln University on Saturday, but he took an important step towards conquering an unusual disability this week.

Joseph, 27, having joined the tour from the domestic season in the Caribbean, bowled surprisingly well at Queenstown in the first Test in view of his 33 hours-plus in various aircraft. He was not expecting to play until minor back trouble ruled out Sajid Mahmood, and he knows this week he might have to stand down to make way for Mahmood’s return at Christchurch.

A year ago such a long journey by air would have ruled Joseph out for certain in view of his vulnerability to motion sickness, but last year he began a regime of spatial awareness exercises to combat what had become a disability.

Joseph said he had to avoid any movement that could make him queasy.

"Boats are a nightmare, with the bobbing up and down," he said. "I have to travel at the front of a bus not the back for motion reasons. The main reason for my improvement at Kent last summer was that I started doing a brain training programme."

He reckoned that the extent of his dyslexia was not fully realised until he had left Sutton Valence school, and he had troubl with balance and hypersensitivity during his time at St Mary’s College.

Joseph said: "What I have done is to train my eyes and muscles to work in a certain way with a group of exercises I go through twice a day, once in the morning once in the evening. That is the only thing I have done differently from any other year, as I have always trained hard.

"The balance thing might be something to do with a head injury I sustained when I was younger. One of the symptoms, when I first realised the extent of the problem, was when I had to spin around in a circle in one of my exercises. After doing this I would literally just pass out. The first time I did it I passed out for two hours without knowing. Someone came in and found me lying on the floor.

"In the championship match at Scarborough last year I was doing a pre-match warm-up and, even though I was cautious because it involved a little bit of spinning, I ended up on a bench in a cold sweat. The doctor asked me questions and said afterwards ’there’s something wrong’. Spinning round a couple of times gets me really ill. Going through bigger tests involving that sort of motion would make me ill for perhaps a couple of weeks.

"My spatial awareness is much better now. I know exactly where I am in space and time, and it helps my bowling a lot. My balance and muscle co-ordination are much better — it used to be a battle moving around and I used to get lots of minor injuries. The Scotland rugby player Kenny Logan was one of the first people to use these spatial awareness exercises."

At Queenstown, Joseph went close several times to dismissing the obdurate Jamie How early in his career-best innings of 190 not out.

"I’d like to buy that side of his bat," he muttered. "The ball went through the slips a few times, even when he had passed his hundred, but I was happy with the way I stuck at it. There will be hard days, and that’s what I need to do. In the battle between me and him I would even say I won it — a moral victory."

England Lions go into the second Test full of confidence, even though they will meet a much-strengthened side. The New Zealanders announced before the drawn first Test that they would be bringing in senior players for tuning and assessment before the Test series against India. That meant six of the side at Queenstown knew they would be dropped for Christchurch, including Peter Ingram, an Aucklander who hit 73.

The call-up of Test candidates Aaron Redmond, Dan Flynn and Peter Fulton to join How seemed to add power to the batting, but England felt they had the advantage of knowing more about them. David Parsons, the Lions coach, reckoned that analysing the strength and weaknesses of the New Zealanders had suddenly become easier.

"They have called more players into their side with Test experience, and our capacity to get footage and statistics on international players is greater than on players less well known and less accessible. And in the first Test we’ve had an opportunity to assess the remaining players," Parsons said.

The Lions took first-innings honours when, after Rob Key’s declaration at 493 for five, they dismissed their opponents for 430, with How surviving chances and scares.

Parsons added: "Had we got Jamie How at various stages throughout his innings and the fact we took their last six wickets for 45 runs makes you wonder that, had things gone our own way a little bit earlier, we would have been in a position to win the game."

Photograph courtesy of Getty Images