One of the hardest problems to solve as a bowler is if your length is inconsistent. To many four balls results in a lot of head scratching at nets.
That's because unlike a poor line, there is not an immediate cricket technical reason for the problem. It's more vague because it's about very subtle differences: release point, repeatability of positions and fatigue.
Things that take more investigation than saying "well, it's obvious because..." from your cricket coach.
How do you go about fixing it?
Here are some drills you can try to see what happens when you start to lose your bowling length.
Look for the problem
Your first step in the journey is to film yourself at a session bowling normally. You don't need a fancy camera, your phone will do fine. This will allow you to review the footage later and look for the problem.
Using PitchVision, compare the balls you bowled that were too full to the too short balls and the good length balls.
Don't worry if you don't have a system, you can use your eyes too. It's a little less convenient but it's worth the effort.
Then ask yourself, "what's different?"
Chances are you will see something at one of the Four Tent Pegs that differs between the right length and the wrong length balls. This takes a good bit of playing, pausing, scrubbing and looking like a hawk until you spot what it is that changes.
Some reasons for poor length
So what might these things be?
Everyone is different, but there is a fair chance one of the following apply to you:
- You are "falling away". When you release the ball, your head is not over your front leg and your arm is over your non-bowling hip (see the image below).
- You have a lot of "non-mission critical" movement. This could be anything from wobbling your head to waving your arms around. The more unnecessary movement, the greater chance of a different action between balls. More noise, less signal.
- You focus on the wrong place. Where do you look when you bowl? Does this change sometimes and what is the result?
- You are either not warmed up sufficiently, or too fatigued. You can see this by a change in accuracy over a session.
Example of "falling away" in a fast bowler (blue line is optimal location for bowling arm)
And the big one:
You don't know how a good ball feels.
This is most important because it involves the actual moment you release the ball.
Simply, if you let the ball go too early it will be fuller, and if you let the ball go too late it will be shorter. But there is more to it than that.
Your moment of release depends on everything that has happened up to that point from the start of your run. In other words, the whole action. Any misfire in your timing of jump, landing, core firing, hip drive, and shoulder rotation will also change when the ball is released.
In short, look at when you release last of all, once you are sure everything else is in order.
Get back to good bowling
Don't leave it there though, also take the time to examine what a good ball looks like. Your action might not be technical perfection, but it can produce a good ball. You have it on video. So, use that as your template.
Once you have spotted the difference between the template and the off balls, you can start to eliminate it.
This might be in the form of drills.
Here's one for "falling away" that will help.
It might mean a better fitness regime if you see your accuracy take a long time to get right and fall away quickly.
Or, it might be the most difficult one of all; learning the "feel" of the right moment to release the ball.
Old pro bowlers have lots of tips for this one. For example, feeling the ball roll up your fingers so the tip is the last thing to touch the ball as it comes comes out. Frankly, there is no general advice that works for everyone because these are highly personal. You need to understand your own cues, so work on trying to describe how it feels when it's right and tell yourself that at the top of your mark.
I know that's not as simple as a drill, or as clear as a 90mph away swinger on a length, but sometimes all we have is how it feels. It might be complex to get into your head, but once it's in there, it could not be simpler or easier. That's why it's so hard, because when you "get it" you wonder how anyone else could not get it!
- Compare your good balls to your bad balls and find the cause.
- Work on the flaws; technical and physical
- Learn how it feels to bowl a good length, and give yourself a cue that works to get you back there.