Hunt in a pack: How to become a stellar fast bowling unit | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Hunt in a pack: How to become a stellar fast bowling unit

Bowlers win cricket matches. Because of this, the fast bowlers are a team within a team and need to put unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

In other words, you need to hunt as a pack.

What does a pack of fast bowlers look like?

When you think of a pack of fast bowlers the first thing that springs to mind is the great West Indian teams of the 1970's and 80's.

As you know, they worked together by bowling fast and accurately from both ends all day. Each bowler was slightly different: Marshall was slippery, Ambrose got steeping bounce, Croft was plain mean. Each bowler also knew his job was to never give the batsman a chance to relax.

It was a method England followed in 2004 and 2005. Guided by the then unknown Troy Cooley; Flintoff, Jones, Harmison and Hoggard formed a tightly bonded team that were greater than the sum of their parts. They went on to win several series in a row, culminating in an Ashes victory.

In both cases, the pack of bowlers work as one. When a bowler gets tired he is replaced, but the pressure remains. That's what signifies a tight knit team.

How to build pressure

It's all well saying you need to build pressure, but how do you do it?

  • Take wickets. Batting collapses are about the mindset of the batsman. Take wickets and you switch the incoming batsmen into panic mode.
  • Bowl maidens. If you can't get them out, stopping them scoring also ramps up the pressure. This is where the ideas of team maidens and focus balls comes in. It requires the bowlers to work together and the fielders to be totally switched on.
  • Sledge. Good sledging isn't abuse (abuse comes from frustration meaning you are not in control). Sometimes it doesn't even need a word to be said. A look or well placed comment shows you are the one in control.

Good individual performances can contribute to this, but it's rare a bowler wins a game single handed. That's why every bowler needs to feel like he is working for the team aim of building pressure on the batsman. That can only be done by feeling like you are in a pack.

The coach has an important role to play here. He can show a group of individuals how to play as a team within a team by leading them effectively.

What to do when it goes wrong

It's easy to work together when you are on top as a team. What happens when things are not going to plan?

Imagine it's 200-1 and the opposition are flying. Do you still feel like you are in a pack or are you looking at the other bowlers out of the corner of your eye and wondering why they are undoing all your hard work with poor bowling?

The good unit doesn't blame, it supports.

If someone is having a bad game, others are ready to work extra hard to take up the slack. Each bowler knows he may be in the same situation in the next game. It boils down to trust.

Even when the game is lost, and it is clearly been caused by poor performances, there is more than one way to look at it.

Good coaches can help players realise that each mistake is simply one step closer to getting it right. Getting angry about it is easy, learning from it and coming back stronger is much harder.

The best way to do this is to be in a unit of bowlers that work together, even in the toughest of situations. It may mean they criticise each other as well as gee each other up and take up the slack, but the critique is always constructive and never seeking to switch the blame. Responsibility rests with the whole unit.

A stellar bowling unit has skills and a tough but flexible mentality. It's greater than the sum of it's parts because it's members trust each other, and that's something any unit can achieve from the best internationals to the under 11's.

This article was inspired (with permission) by pages 94-102 of Ian Pont's book, The Fast Bowler's Bible. Ian's insight demonstrates what a coach can do to get the best out of a bowling unit, something that only comes with vast coaching experience and world-class interpersonal skills.


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