Falling away - or lateral flexion - is a common issue with fast bowlers.
Most coaches and players can spot the issue easily. But can (and should) you fix it?
There is no doubt it is a fault compared to the template fast bowling action. It can cause issues from loss of pace all the way up to serious injury. But it's not a done deal that you should correct it every time. Let's look at some cases.
What is falling away?
Lateral flexion happens at the point a bowler releases the ball. You can see an example here:
You can see the pink line going up their back has an angle in it. The bowler's head is over to the off side.
The green line is the ideal position of the back. So the head is over the front foot when the ball is released.
This matters because it allows you to both get more pace into the ball, and reduces your chance of injury to your lower back. If a bowler complains about a sore back, falling away is often the culprit.
So we should fix it then?
Before you barrel in to try and overcome this flaw, think about;
Do I need to fix it?
Can I fix it?
If you are an adult club player bowling injury free and have both suitable pace and accuracy then there is not much point in making a change. It will take a long time and a lot of effort to fix for a minimal return.
On the other hand, if you are a young, ambitious bowler wanting to move up the ranks you have better motivation. You can change things more quickly. The investment in injury prevention and getting faster gives you a much better return.
Remember, big changes can take a lot of time, effort and frustration. Before focusing on technique, think about outcomes (bowling speed, back pain) and then decide if is worth committing the large amount of time it takes.
If you can, read on!
What causes falling away?
Falling away is a result of something else rather than an issue in itself. So, as Mark Garaway often says, go backward in the action until you find the root cause.
There are a couple reasons for it:
A kink in your run up.
The bowling arm not going back straight (not "grabbing the sightscreen" as bowling guru Ian Pont puts it).
Trying to "brush the ear" and ending up leaning to get your bowling arm high.
Video yourself bowling in games and in practice (from behind) to work out which of these is the root of the trouble. You can then apply your drilling to the cause, and not be scattergun in your fixes.
To fix a run up kink, place cones out to create a "railway track" (another Ian Pont term) that restricts you from jumping in at the last minute.
When you first try this, you may well feel off balance. This is because your feet want to align towards fine leg and you are encouraging a straighter alignment. The picture below shows the difference between alignments in pink and green:
To counter this, you can drill to get the feel of a balanced and aligned foot position at the crease. My favourite way to do this is Steffan Jones' sequence here:
You don't need to do every drill - especially if you do not have the equipment - but the key is letting your body learn it can stay balanced with feet alignment to off stump.
And in fact, these "sequencing" drills also help with your bowling arm position.
The eventual outcome - after starting with static positions and moving up in speed until at full pace - is a straighter back and no more comments about falling away!
How difficult is it to change?
Letting your body learn how to move through this sequence in order is a hard habit to establish.
Get it out of sequence and you quickly end up falling away again. That can be frustrating.
However, your ability to learn an aligned and balanced bowling action depends on letting go of "trying" to do it, and just let your body work it out for itself.
Brain scientists have long known that the subconscious mind is where the body learns to move. It's how babies teach themselves to walk without any corrective drills or coaching! When your conscious mind tries to help out by criticising errors and looking to correct mistakes, it shows you are not trusting your own ability to learn.
Of course it still takes time to learn a new habit and prevent falling away. But the big secret is not that you need fight for hours with corrective drills, but that you need to build an environment where your body can work things out for itself.
Trust the process, do the drills, take as long as it takes and don't sweat it. You'll get there if you let yourself!
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