It was no surprise to me that Gloucestershire CCC had a renaissance in One Day cricket in 2015 after being in the doldrums for so many seasons. The catalyst for change was their Assistant Coach, Ian Harvey. He brought innovation and planning to the side.
For those that don’t remember, Harv was the fantastic Australian player that Gloucestershire built their one day team around during their period of dominance in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Harv built up an armoury of tricks with deception being his most valuable asset: He had an array of expertly honed slower deliveries, a magnificent toe-crunching yorker and a skiddy bumper that would keep the world’s best players guessing. The ball would arrive at the contact zone with different time lags, pace and spin or cut in each ball.
He was incredibly difficult to line up, virtually impossible to dominate and for us mere mortals, tough to survive against too!
Here's how he brought this approach into his coaching.
Modern world thinking
The advent of wall to wall TV cricket, the internet and coaching courses such as Nathan Bracken on Pitchvision make this a brilliant time to play and coach. We can study the skills of a top performer in the subcontinent from the comfort of our sofa. We can then take on some of their slower balls and variations into our practices.
There are more variation in shots played and balls bowled than at any other time in the history of the game. It’s brilliant.
There are many people in 2016 with the equal number of variations in their armoury as the 1998-2006 version of Ian Harvey. Yet how many of them are as good or as influential as the forward thinking Australian?
Framework and plan
So many talented bowlers find it difficult to choose the right option for the right moment. As a result, their variety is often their biggest weakness. They lack a framework or a plan of application that optimises the impact of their skills.
The beauty of Harv was that his variations were complex, yet his application of his armoury of skills and tricks was very simple and clear. This combination gave him an edge in pressurised situations throughout his career.
If a batter was set and seeing the ball well he would set his fine leg, deep square, deep mid on back and look to bowl straight yorkers with the intention of getting the batter off strike.
Harv would then release his entire box of tricks against the new batter; all of them!
Every delivery reaching the “new or lesser quality” batter arrived at different times and different paces.
This way, the batter was constantly feeling for the ball and found it very difficult to line up the pace of the ball and pitch. As a result, the batter is often left swinging at thin air or miscuing the ball, often into the fielder’s hands.
Emulate, don't copy
This article is not about making plans a carbon copy of Ian Harvey. It’s about building a bowling plan to have a similar level of clarity and simplicity.
Encourage your bowlers to keep working at variations (yorker, bumper, slower ball bumper, wide yorker, different slower balls) and have a clear plan of execution.
Maybe then the bowlers you coach can influence games of cricket in the same way as Harv did?