photo credit: RaeA
Update: For the complete guide to fast bowling check out this 3 part series: The 10 immutable laws of fast bowling.
As you know, Ian Pont is a fast bowling guru: ECB National Skills Sets coaches for Fast Bowling, based at Loughborough.
He is author of the online coaching course: How to bowl faster and coach to coaches with his ABSAT courses (Advanced Biomechanics Speed & Accuracy Training). He's been good enough to answer a few questions on fast bowling for me.
How do you stay up to date with the latest findings in bowler development and coaching? I have a good network of experts in their field who keep in touch. For example, Dr Rabi Metha (the aerodynamics scientist) and I keep in contact regularly on reverse swing and contrast swing. I also chat with Troy Cooley and Allan Donald about things plus visit MRF Camp in Chennai every year with Dennis Lillee. But I am also developing my own things.
Do you recommend any specific fitness work for bowlers? Fast feet for speed - SAQ drills and sprint work drills are good for that. Cricket specific fitness drills (rather than running miles and miles) that use the muscles you need to bowl, plus core strength work. But you cannot substitute bowling overs when trying to get fit. I don't think people bowl enough overs anymore.
How do you recommend a bowler learn to vary his pace while retaining his accuracy? You have to practice variations in the nets without a batsman to start with. The secret is to have fun experimenting and getting it completely wrong. Bowlers do not really practice variations - bouncers, yorkers, slower balls, swing the other way etc - and it's no wonder they are inaccurate in matches. Always start in the nets on your own then introduce targets, then a batsman and get confident. It's only by understanding what you're doing that you'll be happy to use deliveries in a match that are consistently bowled where you want them.
Do you have any general drills a bowler could do to improve accuracy? Good old-fashioned target practice! I use a foam target and a 'carpet of uncertainty' mat so bowlers can see where they are bowling it. There are no real drills for this just a feeling of when to let the ball go and ensuring everything is lined up straight. Also, accuracy is more about line than length. If you can control the line of the ball you have a chance of setting fields and bowling to them. As I always say, if you run up straight, go through the crease straight follow through straight, you have the best chance of bowling straight. It's not rocket science.
Is there any need for club bowlers to understand about reverse swing and contrast swing as well as conventional swing? If so, what should they know? Short answer yes. I cover reverse swing in my book, but there is much confusion about it from bowlers. All you need to know is that reverse swing goes the opposite way to the way the seam points. The ball has to be rough one side and very dry. Club cricketers probably reverse swing the ball later in an innings and may not realise it. It can reverse swing as early as 20 overs in - dependent on the ball condition. If the ball is simply old, and the seam gone, this is great for contrast swing. Contrast swing is where the seam points straight down the pitch and it goes the other way to the way you think it's going to. EVERYONE can contrast swing a cricket ball; few can reverse swing it. That's because reverse happens at relatively higher speeds than contrast. Shane Warne can 'spin reverse/contrast swing' a cricket ball.
If a bowler were not following through fully, where would you start in helping him drive through the action? Shoulder rotation is the key to a full follow through. That's because it finishes off the action and adds momentum. You can achieve this by a full chest drive (parallel with the ground) on exit from the crease and the non-bowling arm pointing up and away behind the bowler - pointing skywards. I often use half kilo hand weights in the non bowling hand (without bowling a ball) to help achieve the drive necessary to complete the action. It's a complex series of movements that guarantee a full follow through, but weight driving at target starts it all off.
What can cricket learn from baseball? The sports are far more similar than meets the eye. The obvious link is with fielding, and we have taken on the sliding, fast releases and base set ups for fielding from baseball already. But how to access power (from the hips/core) is also something we need to focus on better than cricket does at present. This will impact on the pace of bowlers (and is what my ABSAT courses teach) plus power of a batsman.
You can now get all Ian's fast bowling advice in one place. It's the same information he provides on his ABSAT courses in person, only now you can learn it all online. Click here to view Ian's fast bowling course on PitchVision Academy.