4 reasons why Mike Selvey is wrong about running. (Or why Steven Finn won’t be like Bob Willis.) | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

4 reasons why Mike Selvey is wrong about running. (Or why Steven Finn won’t be like Bob Willis.)

Mike Selvey, cricket writer, commentator and England international knows a thing or two about fast bowling. He took over 1000 wickets.

But he’s perpetuating a myth will harm upcoming young bowlers if they follow his advice.

So it’s time for a rebuttal; long, slow distance running is not the way to get fit for bowling.

In this article Selvey eloquently outlines his arguement for England bowling talent Steven Finn. Rightly he points out that Finn is young. He has not developed the strength and stamina for ardous bowling tasks. He risks injury because he has not bowled enough.

The answer appears simple, follow what Bob Willis did:

“A German, Ernst van Aaken, who having studied the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek, became a proponent of stamina being built by long, slow distance running: LSD. It was at a barbecue in Australia in the mid-70s that Bob met another doctor, a hypnotherapist and disciple of Van Aaken called Arthur Jackson, who gave him the book on the subject that was to alter his career. He did his laps and roadwork, mile after plodding mile, and went on until 1984, taking 325 Test wickets with hardly a breakdown. It was a remarkable transformation.”

If it worked for Bob (and Selvs too) then why wouldn’t it work for Finn, or you?

Here are 4 reasons why:

1. Distance running doesn’t prevent imbalance injuries

Running may strengthen joints but it does nothing for some of the big causes in injuries in bowlers: imbalances.

Because you only bowl with one hand, over time problems creep in. Typically a bowler, even with a good action, can find tightness in their front leg muscles and bowling arm shoulder. The greater the tightness the more likely you are to be injured.

In short, jogging makes no difference to your chance of getting injured in this way.

2. Distance running reduces your mobility

We all know how important it is for a bowler’s pace to have mobile hips. Good hip health also means less chance of injury, so we love hip mobility.

The problem with distance running here is that at best it makes no difference, at worst it reduces mobility. This is because it is repetitively making your hips move through a small range of motion. Certain muscles work hard (rectus femoris) while others do nothing (psoas). Over time your body adapts and your hips get stiff.

Or to put it another way: You end up with an ouchie.

3.  Distance running reduces your power

Bowling fast is like pinging a rubber band. 

To get maximum effect you need to stretch it before it fires (contracts). All really fast bowlers have a fearsome ‘pre-stretch’ in their action. The fast you can stretch-contract the quicker the ball goes.

And guess what exercise is the opposite of a fast, quick action? Can we all say “long slow distance” running?

4. Distance running is boring

Finally, let’s be honest. Running is dull for cricketers. To run you need a certain mindset that is different from playing competitive team sport.

Young players don’t want to spend their time running round the outfield. Heck, old players don’t either. Fitness should be as much of a challenge as playing, so don’t waste time plugged into your ipod, so something engaging and interesting.

It’s better for you any way.

Of course, Finn’s strength coaches already know this and won’t be programming much road work for the young man.

But now you know why too, and can work on other ways to get fit that give you more bang for your buck.

For a training guide that focuses on reducing injury risk and increasing performance based on the latest research and proven methods of success check out Strength and Conditioning for Cricket at all Levels by county strength coach Rob Ahmun.

image credit: SarahCanterbury

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Totally agree with the comments posted. Cricket is about short bursts of explosive power and sustained levles of energy in order to be highly alert and reactive to the immediate spatial surroundings.

Our indoor nets start tomorow in Melbourne Australia!!

This is absolutely spot-on. I've been thinking about this lately as I've started getting into Olympic lifting. I used to be a fast bowler in high school and once I started with the Olympic lifts, I realized that fast bowling is fundamentally a quick, high-intensity hip-dominant movement, and that current ways of training it may be doing more harm than good. Looking for other people who had similar ideas, I stumbled across your site.

Great to hear from you Prasan, its good to hear there are like minded people reading the articles on this site.

completely disagree


I bowl every once in awhile. I used to bowl a fair amonut in college. I use a two finger spin technique. I think this is where my problem is. I am fairly consistent but I never seem to improve. I want my average to go up. Do you have tips on improving my two finger spin technique? Also a couple of my buddies have changed over to a three finger (two fingers and a thumb) technique which has really helped them improve and be more consistent. I have tried it but do not know how to spin the ball using this technique. Can you help me out?

Then distance running reduces power than what about makhaya nitini he used run a lot

first, n=1 is not a good sample. Second, at best the evidence provided is anecdotal and therefore the least reliable. Third, we don't know his complete programme. Last, who knows how quick he could have been of he cut out the running.

Either way, we can draw no conclusions from this evidence. Whereas the peer-reviewed studies are far more reliable.