Front on? Side on? Mixed? Halfway? There are many different positions a bowler can get in when he or she hits the delivery stride. Which one works best for generating pace?
Before we can decide on that, let's look at the different actions.
The bowling action is a series of movements designed to get the cricket ball to the other end of the pitch as fast as possible.
In years gone by it was thought there was only one way to do it; the side on action as typified by Fred Trueman:
'Fiery' Fred was the first man to take 300 Test wickets at a time when most people thought it impossible. He was one of the fastest and most accurate bowlers of his time; possibly ever. You can see from the video his action has all the classic elements of the side on bowler:
- Back foot lands pararrel to the crease
- Shoulders square on to the batsman as the back foot lands
- Head looking over the shoulder as the back foot lands
The other extreme of action is front on as typified by Malcolm Marshall:
As the video shows, Marshall could bowl very fast and swing the ball. His action was far removed from the one everyone had considered to be correct:
- Back foot lands pointing down the wicket
- Shoulders are open as the back foot lands
- Head looking inside the front arm as the back foot lands
There are also several 'midway' points where the shoulders and feet are less open but not as side on as the classical action.
Both examples: Trueman and Marshall were fast, accurate and could swing the ball. So which one is right for the budding fast bowler?
In fact, it's nothing to do with the position at all. As Ian Pont says, pace is about a series of movements, none of which depend on whether you are side or front on. You can see in detail what these movements are on Ian's coaching course for fast bowlers here.
In short, it's more important to have a smooth, flowing action that fires muscles in the perfect sequence than it is to worry about whether you are side or front on.
That said, an action can cause a bowler to slow to a complete stop.
Other considerations about the bowling action
The main point about your action is the one all coaches are taught on day one of bowling action school; never have a mixed action as it can cause injury that prevents you from bowling at all.
A mixed action is an unhealthy combination of front and side on; this cause twisting in the lumbar spine when it is dealing with a lot of force. Twisting that can lead to soreness and stress fractures. The spine needs to be as untwisted as possible so the shoulders and hips need to be lined up in front, side or midway positions. Take a look here for a video that shows you how you can check your action with a friend and some chalk.
It's also worth noting that a side on action tends to make it easier to bowl outswing. The position is just better to move the ball away. However, it is still possible to bowl both by mastering control of the ball through other methods, most notably wrist position.
Start scaring the batsmen. You can now get drills and techniques on how to bowl faster from a world class coach.Click here to view Ian Pont's fast bowling course on PitchVision Academy.