Some say bowling is a 'god given' skill. Those rare few with the talent for it are the only ones who can succeed.
Bowling ability isn't bestowed by a higher power at birth. It's the result of 5 simple things, all within the reach of anyone wanting to be successful with the ball.
You can be a spinner or seamer, 10 years old or in your forties. These are the universal truths that dictate your success.
1. The Law of single minded obsession
There is a proven fact from every walk of life from brain surgery to gardening: The best are the ones who practice the most.
The obvious conclusion is to practice more than anyone else if you want to be better than everyone else. You are the first to arrive at nets and the last to leave. You are the one taking a box of balls on your own and bowling at a target until it gets dark. You are the one seeking out games in the summer, even if it's just a pickup match in the park.
Cricket obsession is born from a deep love of playing; something you can't fake. If you enjoy what you do you will do it more, and so you will get better at it.
Also you will be relaxed, focused and happy. If you feel that way, success will be far more likely.
Even the boring, hard work doesn't feel that hard if you are having fun.
2. The Law of pinpoint accuracy
Think of any great international bowler. The variety in styles is huge from the pace and athleticism of Michael Holding to the spin of Shane Warne. When they were at their best they all had one thing in common: accuracy.
Accuracy is not just the realm of wily medium pace bowlers. If you have searing pace, you need to be accurate. If you are a leg spinner, you need to be accurate.
Nobody gets a pass because without accuracy you can't set a field and if you can't set a field you can't build pressure on batsman to force a mistake.
Mostly this is down to single minded and deliberate practice (see Law 1), but the ability to know how to stay confident and control your concentration levels are also key skills for staying accurate. You need to trust yourself in the middle and controlling the mental side of the game allows you to focus on just playing without over-thinking.
To learn some simple tricks to improve your confidence and keep your concentration buy the online coaching course "How to Use Mental training to Boost Your Game" on PitchVision Academy.
3. The Law of explosive power
All bowlers also need to be explosive. Seamers need to generate as much pace on the ball as they can muster. Spinners must spin the ball hard. That takes a powerful action.
That means every part of your body is involved in your action to put pace or spin on the ball. Your front leg should brace, your hips should drive through, and your shoulders should rotate fully.
In that moment of delivery, effort is at 100%
It's not just a psychological thing to work on in the nets either. Your fitness training also needs an explosive element. Throw medicine balls, do clap push ups, learn power moves with weights and experiment with light plyometrics.
Nobody needs 5 different slower balls or to invent new types of leg breaks, but all good bowlers need to know simple ways to mix up their style because it confuses the batsman and knocks him or her out of rhythm.
It doesn't have to be dramatic or clever because batting is difficult enough. Even a small change is enough to upset a player. Pick one or two changes and work on them:
- Pace. Either slower or quicker with no change of action.
- Angle. Round the wicket, wider on the crease, tighter to the stumps.
- Length. Yorkers are a winning variation for all types of bowlers. Good seamers can call on a bouncer.
Spinners, naturally, also have their variations from the hand be it the leg spinner's googly or the finger spinners arm ball.
A good rule of thumb is to practice a variation about 20% of the time and use it sparingly in games unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise.
Knowledge gleaned through playing builds up a bank of experience you can draw on in any situation.
If you have been hit round the park before, you know how to handle it tactically and mentally. If you are able to read a batsman's weaknesses because you have seen it in another game, you can bowl the same way again.
But such skill takes a conscious effort on your part. Take time to read up on techniques (not just bowling either), Pay attention when you play and ask other players about why they did things when you get the chance. The more you know, the better armed you are when you are standing at your mark and wondering what to bowl.