Is it Time to Stop Inexperienced Bowling Machine Feeders Delivering Short Balls? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Is it Time to Stop Inexperienced Bowling Machine Feeders Delivering Short Balls?

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Coach Gary Palmer wants to know your opinion on how to train playing the short ball.

Are we pushing the boundaries of safety?

It's time to stop inexperienced and underage people feeding short pitched deliveries on bowling machines.

I don't want it to sound like it's the bowling machine that's dangerous. It's more the inexperienced feeding. The bowling machine is one of the best coaching tools. These machines are ideal constructing, enhancing, maintaining and challenging technique.

But they can become very dangerous in the hands of young and inexperienced feeders when delivering short balls at high speeds.

As an experienced coach who uses the bowling machine on a regular basis I rarely use it to deliver short pitched balls beyond 75mph (120kph) around shoulder and head height. I have pushed up the speed on rare occasions, but only with professional players. Even then I feel uncomfortable. It's high risk practice. It only needs a worn surface, poor lighting or a worn bowling machine ball and the batter is likely to get seriously hurt.

Its one thing, qualified coaches doing this who have plenty of experience on the bowling machine. You can account for dangerous factors. It's quite another thing when inexperienced people are feeding each other. This, to me, is highly dangerous, irresponsible and could end horribly. We need to be aware that aiming the ball at head height at speeds over 110kph is very dangerous.

Allowing young or inexperienced players - under supervision - to feed machines for front foot play at lower speeds is a safe environment. For back foot, if I am coaching a group of 15-17 year olds I will always make sure the coach feeds the machine. If there are not enough coaches we just won't do back foot. There is no compromise.

Having played professional cricket and faced short pitched deliveries at my head at high speed I realise how difficult it is to play. I also realise how easy it can be to get hit. I was a player who practised a lot and still found this type of delivery hard to play. Many professionals do. This is not a reason to use the bowling machine to try and improve. It's even more difficult against a bowling machine because the ball is just fired out at you. You don't get the cues from the bowler's run up. This is why it seems much quicker from a machine. It just puts you under more danger.

Imagine if an inexperienced feeder forgets to raise their arm and just puts the ball in the machine. This will catch you unaware, you might not be ready and a ball is coming at your head at 75mph. You will get hit.

My advice would be only let qualified coaches feed the machines when back foot play is concerned. The short ball is best introduced by the right coaches at the right time and in the right enivironment. Never let teenagers feed bowling machines for short ball practice.

Does your organisation, club, school, academy or region have any guidelines on this topic?

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My rule of thumb: take the speed of the average fast bowler you will be facing, take 10mph off for full balls and 20mph for short balls.

Gary - I do agree that we need to be very careful with bowling machines, especially the older models that my Club (and I imagine many others) use. It is too easy to accidentally send down a much faster delivery, or introduce sideways movement, by inadvertently jogging a switch or dial.

In fact, if I am lead coach for a junior session, no-one except a qualified coach (level 2 or above) feeds the machine, even for front-foot practice.

AB - your rule of thumb makes sense, but I might go even further, and slow the machine down even more until I am sure that the batsman is able to play the ball confidently.

Does the speed of the ball matter when developing muscle memory by training. Training on a slower short ball will develop a player to act on a real one.