Here's a shocking fact.
On average, the cost of wides and no balls at school is 27.3 runs per 50 overs bowling innings (28.4 runs per 50 overs for the opposition).
We know this because we analyse the impact of wides and no balls:
WNBI (wide and no ball impact) = runs from the wide ball or no ball delivered + runs from the resultant extra ball.
Incidentally, there have only been 10 no balls bowled (3 front foot with a free hit consequence) in the 580 overs bowled to date. So the main culprit is wides, especially from the seam bowlers.
So, it's not just my team but most of the teams that we have played against this year.
I have always been taught that the best coaches and players see a problem and look in the mirror for answers rather than blaming others or bad luck.
So off I went to the mirror and asked the following questions:
- How can this be?
- Why is it happening?
- Has this always happened, yet I have missed it?
- What am I doing wrong?
- What can I do about it?
- What skills am I presently short of in my coaching of bowlers?
This has led me to one huge question:
Do the high levels of formalised coaching for seamers facilitate the development of coach-reliant bowlers?
What do the stats say?
I have looked over many scorebooks from the past both in club and professional cricket to see how WNBI looked back then. Out of the randomised 25 matches analysed, the highest WNBI that I could find was 15. The average for those 25 matches was 8.
Now I have to factor in the relatively recent addition of free hits for front foot no balls which wasn't prevalent back in my youth. So the highest WBNI of 15 turns into 16.7 (average cost of a free hit this year in our matches has been 1.7) and the average WBNI of 8 turns into 8.1.
Back in the day, we used to run up in nets, alley ways or towards stumps scrawled on a brick wall and practice our bowling day after day. We haired in, bowled really fast and bowled really straight.
There was no coach in sight.
We created games with ourselves where we pretended to be bowling at legends such as Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Allan Border. We would set fields in our head, have a plan to each imaginary player and look to execute them.
There were no looks to the coach or parents.
It was bowler vs. (pretend) batter.
Our only focus was the top of the crate, the white line on the wall or the off stump. We used to run up and bowl straight, even when it swung.
The result was that we could go into a game, bowl fewer wides and if we did sneak one out then we had a self-made coping strategy or focus to remedy the glitch.
We took responsibility for our own performance and development.
Glenn McGrath, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Lasith Malinga all learnt their skills in home-made facilities, without formalised coaching and through their incredible powers of "pretend".
Solving the issue of wides and no balls
Here are some thoughts.
Do we as coaches leave a box of balls for the seam bowler and ever ask them to practice through pretending?
Are we good enough at building the "pretending skills" in our young cricketers?
Do we have the confidence to leave the bowler alone for a session and for them to report back to us on their findings?
Do we feel that we need to justify our existence by always being next to the bowlers? By leading each session?
Of course, I shall still be monitoring bowling actions (from an appropriate distance) and asking a few questions, but my approach is going to shift.
I'm going to develop less coach reliant bowlers capable of limiting their WNBI and increasing their overall impact on a game of cricket.