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
No wonder it was the case that for years we thought that to bowl fast you must bowl lik Fred: Side on.
Then we started to realise it wasn't that simple.
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
On top of these two extremes, there are several 'midway' points where the shoulders and feet are less open but not as side on as the classical action. Some super-fast bowlers have also bowled midway.
Then, to confuse things further, we have a breed of bowlers who sling the ball with a delayed bowling arm. Think of players like Malinga and Jeff Thompson.
Malinga, Thompson, Trueman and Marshall were fast, accurate and could swing the ball. Yet they all had different actions. 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. Ian calls these positions the 4 Tent Pegs and you can watch the video about them 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.
Keep safe, stay fast
Of course you can't get wickets if you are injured. So, safety is also a huge priority in your action.
The main point about your action safety 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.
Another area of potential injury is "lateral flexion", sometimes called falling away. If your head is outside the line of your body you will bowl slower and have higher injury risk. Look here for an answer. And of course, get fit to play.