Fast and straight – why not?

Another interesting discussion on the Cricket Coaches Worldwide group on LinkedIn, this time on the increasing prevalence of wides in junior cricket. The catalyst for the discussion was a posting from Mark Garaway on the PitchVision Academy site, in which he advocates more old-fashioned target bowling, and less (technical) coaching, as the remedy for wayward bowlers.

Where the balance falls between coaching and individual practice I am not sure (although I do agree with Mark’s initial post – the player does need to bowl more without coaching interventions), but as coaches we need to allow our players to express themselves. If that means running in fast and hurling the ball down as fast as possible, that’s what we have to help them to do.

In defence of today’s coaches (and bowlers), the interpretation of wides is considerably stricter than it used to be. T20 and one-day match regulations specify that any delivery passing outside the batsman’s leg stump (and behind his legs) is now a wide. And the stricter interpretation is often (mis)applied even in traditional “time” games.

Back in the 1980s I could get away with the odd delivery speared 6 inches down leg…not today.

So a proportion (although perhaps only a relatively small proportion) of the greater number of wides can be attributed to the stricter application of Law 25.

That said, I do agree with Mark’s prescription – bowlers need to do more target bowling, and probably with minimal coaching intervention.

  • Target bowling is (IMO) essential.
  • Bowling to batsmen in the nets is useful, if the session incorporates realistic game scenarios (bowlers to set (imaginary) fields and bowl to a plan; 6-ball overs; forfeits for no balls and wides).
  • And technical work is also important, to develop new variations and/or iron out biomechanical flaws.

The challenge, however, is to square all this with the (very sensible) ECB Fast Bowling directives that seek to protect young bowlers from over-use injuries.

I do also accept the suggestion that if a bowler is running too far and is not capable of bowling accurately under match conditions, she can try bowling slower off a shorter run…but where’s the FUN in that?

It is possible to combine speed and accuracy. It just takes a lot of effort before you step onto the pitch.

As an example – I refuse to believe that Mitchell Johnson (to take a recent example) has “super human” powers that allowed him to bowl fast and straight (sometimes). To bowl as well as he did in the winter Ashes series, he must have worked very hard on his technique, and on confidence and concentration.

Some technical work with his coach, no doubt (although the slingshot delivery looks pretty much as it did previously, when Johnson occasionally struggled to hit the cut strip); some time with a sports psych; almost certainly, time spent bowling at a target, or simply visualising the chaos he was preparing for England.

So, once again – fast and straight?  Why not?

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Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB CA cricket coach working at the MCC Academy, the Essex Indoor Cricket Centre, and with the junior sections at Oakfield Parkonians CC & Regent's Park CC; All Stars Cricket Activator; ECB ACO umpire.

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