2015 was a very odd Ashes. When the ball swung significantly England won. When the ball didn't swing for long periods Australia compiled heavy first innings scores and won as a result of scoreboard pressure.
Only 6 batters (Root, Rogers, Warner, Smith, Cook and Ali) averaged over 30 in the series. Cook and Rogers are Test match specialists, Warner adapted his method during the series, Smith and Root swapped over as World number one batters and there is a good chance that England's number 8 in this series will open the batting in the next one!
Other than these players, there were a lot of "walking wickets" on show in the series. Especially when either side got the ball to move laterally. As coaches, we have a huge role to play in the development of cricketers who have the skills to cope with balls that swerve in and out and also deck off of the pitch.
This comes in the technical wisdom that we impart on the players and also in the way that we expose the batters to tough conditions and to swinging balls.
Technically, when the ball swings, the feet have a tendency not to move.
Jos Buttler showed this in the last couple of test matches. His only method was to try and save himself with his excellent hand to eye coordination. But even that wasn't enough in tough batting conditions.
So what could Jos do to prepare himself for lateral moving conditions in the future?
Research into fast bowling has revealed two simple changes to your action goes 50% of the way to top bowling speed.
Forget about "hip drive", "chest drive" and "pulling your non-bowling arm in": It's all about the feet and legs at the crease. This simple knowledge, which so far has been ignored by coaches, can be turned to your advantage.
You see, coaches sometimes forget that our world is ruled by the laws of physics. As a result, we have simply guessed why some bowlers are quicker than others without any physics to back up their assertions. It becomes pot luck if a bowler can deliver at pace. This situation is unique to cricket: no other sport has such a lack of understanding of the physical principles which govern their discipline.
Because I'm going to show you the results of my extensive research into the physics of throwing and the anatomy of the human body. Fast bowling should be surprisingly simple and can be taught to anyone who has the dedication to stick at it.
What has physics got to do with fast bowling?
There are three concepts that govern fast bowling. Good technique allows you to successfully perform all three in the correct order. The good news is that good technique is very easy to understand.
- The generation of 'kinetic energy' in the run-up. In a human body, kinetic energy (think of it as movement energy) arises from the contraction or shortening of muscles. These muscles are fuelled by chemical energy stored in the body.
- The stretching of elastic tissue prior to delivery. Like an elastic band, the muscles store 'elastic' potential energy. This stored energy allows the muscles to return explosively to their original length. Correct technique will allow us to use these stretched tissues to speed up our bowling
- The efficient transfer of energy to the ball. An efficient bowler uses the kinetic energy generated from his run-up and transfers it to the ball by using correct technique. This is ultimately an issue of controlling the energy to take it where it is wanted; in other words, the ball.
These points form the backbone of good bowling: We must run in to create kinetic energy, move our body in such a way as to put our muscles on stretch and then allow that kinetic energy to be transferred from our legs to the ball. There are two things to note about these points:
- Each leads naturally onto the next.
- Poor execution of one will dramatically affect your ability to perform the next.
For example, many club bowlers run in fast but cannot transfer the kinetic energy they have generated to the ball. Many club bowlers also fail to put their muscles on stretch. This means they are not bowling as fast as they could.
Use your legs to bowl faster
What gels the three elements together to make the complete product is a combination of technique, power and flexibility. Although equally important, today we will look at two simple technical points.
After the bound, the back leg should land and bend at the knee. This allows you to conserve your run-in energy through the back-leg landing. Imagine that the cricket field is a scale; your back foot landing should make the reading on the scale as small as possible. It looks like this:
Does it seem a bit old fashioned to say "pitch it up, hit the stumps"?
In these days of slower ball bouncers, enforcers and bowling dry outside off stump you might think so. Actually, it's still an effective way to bowl in most situations.
Swing bowler on a slow English pitch in May? Yes.
Spinner on a Bunsen burner? Absolutely.
Fast bowler on a flat deck? Without doubt.
Go to nets, do your drills and play cricket. These are the steps to improving your skills. But how much time does it really take to make it as a cricketer?
One answer looked at in the last 10 years is 10,000 hours: A number plucked off the back of a study into top class violists, and popularised by authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Geoff Colvin. The idea has since been expanded to cricket. People have stated that simply training every day for 10 years will take you to of the cricket tree.
Hard work, yes, but you know what you need to do. It's been proven by science.
I got 10,000 problems
Except, in recent times, the headline of "10,000 hours" has demotivating to people who play club and school cricket. Most of us can't dedicate so much time to the game. If you train, on average, four hours a month, mastery will take 208 years!
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"Bouncebackability" is not a word. The ability to come back after failure is a skill you want as a cricketer or coach. David Hinchliffe discusses his own woes with Mark Garaway and Sam Lavery.
Here's a problem: Batting is unfair, batting practice is too fair.
What do I mean?
The biggest frustration of batting is getting out. One mistake and it's over, even if it's the first ball you have faced of the season. Yet when we go to a net practice we all do 10-20 minutes no matter what happens and walk away satisfied that we got a good hit.
The problem, then, is when you practice you feel no pressure and when you bat in a game you feel all the pressure. There is a huge disconnect and your practice time is wasted. It leads to losing focus, playing poor shots and fewer runs.
The solution is simple: make practice unfair.
This week's winner of the Cricket Show podcast question competition is Wajeeh. He wins a free coaching course from PitchVision Academy.
The winning question was,
It was the summer of 2009. My club side had romped to victory in the league.
I could not have had a more demotivating season.
In fact, I was more motivated a couple of seasons later when the same side finished dead bottom of the division and were on the opposite side of weekly drubbings.
I'm not crazy.
It's a common situation because motivation is about far more than how you do as a player or a team.
When you know this, you can make changes to stay motivated through the whole year, even when things are not going as planned.
I know you don't like to think about it - nobody does - but there will be times where your innings has collapsed and you are at the crease. If you have the right approach, you can see this as your moment to shine.
Picture the scene in your mind: The let's say the score is 140-7 in 40 overs.
There are 10 to go and you are batting first. You know a winning score on this ground is close to 230. Numbers nine, 10 and 11 are all tail-enders who can hang about but are not going to score a match winning innings.
You have two options.