It’s the nightmare for all bowlers: Getting suspended for an illegal action when you have made it into international cricket.
Imagine how it felt for Brian Vitori, Zimbabwe left arm seamer, who was assessed in February 2016 and found to have gone beyond the 15 degree allowed limit for bowlers. He was suspended immediately.
Many would have given up.
But Brian knew he could get back on track. He steeled himself and turned to coach Justin Sammons. Justin and Brian immediately got to work to correct his action. The pair headed to Cricket South Africa’s High Performance Centre and tooled up with PitchVision video analysis technology.
More importantly, they started working hard.
A few weeks later, PitchVision caught up with Brian and Justin at a break in one of their sessions. The pair had put in dozens of hours, thousands of reps and a lot of video data from a variety of angles.
They revealed what had happened.
Finding the fault
Justin explained that when the pair first got together, they wanted to find out exactly why Brian was bending his elbow.
They used high-speed cameras from a wide range of angles, including front on and from behind. It wasn’t long before they spotted what was happening. It was all about alignment.
When his back foot landed, Brian’s back leg would “collapse” - or bend a lot at the knee - causing his back hip to come through early. He was losing power and energy.
This forced Brian to work towards the line of a right handers fine leg. His bowling arm was forced to follow the same line; taken back towards the right hander’s mid off.
Due to this poor alignment (and the muscles in his body all working against each other) there was a large amount of compensation resulting in him throwing the ball.
Once they had used video analysis to discover these causes they quickly moved to correct the flaws.
Rebuilding an action
Justin gave me a ball-park figure that they did around 3000 repetitions of simple drills. This was needed to rebuild Brian’s action.
So, thousands of time, Brian stood - like a total beginner - and learned to bowl again. He slowed it down. He got it wrong time and time again. He slowly started getting it right from a standing start. Eventually, they added in a step. Brian was moving again. Yet he was still in such early stages. Would it ever end?
Brian revealed that this process was very hard. He had to relearn what it felt like to bowl. And that is different for everyone. Fortunately, Justin’s coaching style fitted with Brian. They worked together, learning how Brian moved and what path was most comfortable to get him to his goal.
Brian said he knew he could trust Justin, even when it was at the darkest hour because he knew Justin was working to helpl him learn his own way, and not trying to prescribe something that may or may not work.
It may have felt like an age, but before long Brian was running in from a couple of step again.
The role PitchVision played was more than video analysis.
Brian said the system help him to stay motivated by showing him speed and accuracy data. When he was bowling he instantly saw his new action gave him more pace. It flowed more and as a result he was bowling quicker with less effort.
Most importantly, his arm was straight.
Everything was working well. Brian felt good and Justin was positive.
They had used a combination of high-class coaching with PitchVision technology to rebuild an international action.
At the time of writing, Brian is having a couple weeks break to allow for his body to recover, he will then return to Justin in South Africa where they will spend another two weeks together, once again performing simple drills to perfect the action by breaking it down into its various components enforcing the muscle memory needed for when it is all brought together.
Thanks to his hard work and the use of great technology, it won’t be long before he is back in a Zimbabwe jersey.
For more about how PitchVision helps cricketers improve their game, give Neil Fairbairn a call. He will tell you more stories, give you drills and outline easy ways to get you on PitchVision system.