Having a bowling machine to practice with is a mixed blessing. Yes. It's way more accurate than any bowler can hope to be, but it also changes the way you bat.
Sport boffins recently tested the difference between batting against bowlers and machines, finding the batsmen naturally adjust their backlift when facing the machine (pdf). That means you need to be cautious when practising with the Bola.
Developing Unconcious Reaction
Facing a human bowler gives you a wide range of tiny clues: The effort in their face ans shoulders as they run up, seam position, delivery stride and wrist position. All these are processed by your brain in a split second to give you an idea of where the ball will be before it has even been released. It's why top batsmen seem to react so fast. They are not just reacting, they are second guessing based on previous experience and tiny cues the bowler gives them.
It's also why, according to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, there is a tennis coach in the US who can tell if a player is about to fault before they serve. It's subconcious though, so he has no idea how.
There is no way a bowling machine can do the same thing, so when you are facing it you are not learning how to unconsciously read the bowler like the coach can read the tennis player.
Batting Drills and Learning Movements
The bowling machines strength is that it can put the ball in the same place as many times as you like. That means you can drill a particular shot until you can do it instinctively with balance, coordination and timing. Here you are developing the 'muscle memory' you need to be able to actually execute the shot after you have picked the line and length.
What do you get when you put all this together? I would recommend facing real bowlers as much as you can, ideally in practice games as this is the most realistic practice you can get. Use the bowling machine to support this by using it to drill the same shot until it feels right or learn new shots from scratch. This way you get all the technique development benefits you can from the machine, while improving your unconscious reactions against real bowlers.
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If you want to learn everything there is to know about developing technique with a bowling machine, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.
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