This is a guest article from Darren Talbot: professional coach, Managing Director of Darren Talbot Cricket Coaching and founder committee member of the Surrey ECB Coaches Association.
The Australian great Glenn McGrath built an amazing career on consistency.
He had pace and the ability to move the ball but it was his nagging line and length that wore down even a high-class batsman.
Since he retired in 2007, the Twenty20 game means that now even more the ability to hit particular lines and lengths is a necessity not a desire.
Behind the ability to do this lies a solid technique and repeatable action but over and above that there is an extra layer which has much an effect on accuracy as the technical side.
Having a Plan
If you don’t have a plan you are bowling with one-hand tied behind your back already.
Of course you can change your plan if you see the batsman move and can adjust, but generally you should have your game plan for every ball ready to go from the moment you set off.
In the amateur game we don’t always have the opportunity to build up information about the opposition in advance but there is merit in making notes about opposition batsmen after every game in preparation for the following fixture.
Identifying batsman strengths and weaknesses are critical in creating the perfect game plan. If you don’t have information from previous encounters to go on, you need to assess each batsman as quickly as possible in the match situation.
If you’re not an opening bowler you can do this from your fielding position. So not only are you concentrating and assuming every ball will come to you in the field, but you are also building up a mental database of shot selection.
As an opening bowler you need to think on your feet. Set up a demanding line and length early on and see how they cope. Watch how their feet move, how their bat comes down. Speak to the wicketkeeper and slips between overs if you can. See what they’ve noticed. Make sure they’re looking for you! They are an important part of your bowling armoury.
So you have your plan. Your technique is good. You have a strong repeatable action but you can’t hit line and length.
It’s probably pure and simply down to concentration and focus.
What are you looking at when you run it to bowl? The batsman?
Where you want the ball to end up?
You need to focus hard on the spot you want the ball to land.
With practice you can do this quite subconsciously but as you’re learning your trade you may need to be more visual about it.
Focus on the area of the pitch that is your target. Is there a different shade of grass maybe? Or a slight crack? Or a mark on the astroturf? That is your spot. That’s what needs to be in your mind when you run up and bowl.
Hit the spot!
Practicing for Accuracy
I’m afraid the age old adage "Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail" is true. You need to practice. And this may well mean on your own outside of organised training sessions.
Bowling accuracy can be worked on alone.
You don’t need a batsman or keeper you just need a pitch, some balls and a net. If you can persuade someone to collect balls for you all the better but if not you can build some fitness and stamina work into your practice.
Set up a target on your stock delivery line and length. The target can be as large or small as you would like.
An international would be looking to hit a target as small as a coin, so use that as a guide and work backwards. A handkerchief is a good size for an aspiring young player or club cricketer.
Bowl 6 balls and see how many times you hit the target. Award yourself points for accuracy. Maybe 10 for a hit, 9 for a very near miss, etc. Have a break after 6 balls to collect your thoughts (and maybe the balls) and start again.
Don’t overwork yourself on this especially if you are a fast bowler.
Factor in how many overs you would typically bowl in a spell in a game and don’t go over that.
Preparation is more than just technical, it is physical too.
Practise hard and prepare well and you too could be as accurate as McGrath.
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