Bowling — back to base

Had a fascinating evening last week, with Steffan Jones talking about the Governing Dynamics of Fast Bowling.

Anyone who follows Steffan on twitter, instagram or LinkedIn will know that he is dedicated to developing fast bowlers, and to developing the knowledge needed for coaches to develop fast bowlers.

It was an absorbing session — so much so, that we only got 15 minutes at the end to play with the wide array of “toys” that Stef had brought along to demonstrate some of the techniques he is using in his own coaching!

Key take-home for me on the night was the absolute necessity of making practice specific to the activity (bowling) and to the performer (bowler).

But for all the inspiration from Steffan’s presentation, it was a couple of almost off-hand comments that might have the greatest impact on my day-to-day coaching practice.

  • The bowler’s back foot must be pointing forwards when the ball is released.
  • Stef has beginners bowl from the “base” position with both their feet already aligned to the target.

Could it be that we have been teaching the basics of bowling incorrectly?

I currently teach the base position with the bowler’s feet in an “L” shape – front foot (toe) pointing to target, back foot perpendicular to line of delivery; draw a straight line from the back heel through the front foot, to the target.

“Classic side-on”, so looking behind front arm, line drawn through back and front shoulders to off stump.  We might allow a midway action for a bowler who really struggles to get side-on.

But the base position is a static approximation of front foot contact, at which point in the bowling action the back foot should be (or be well on the way to being) pointing down the pitch, towards the target.

For the back leg to follow through from base, it must first swing out (to the right, for a right-arm bowler) as the hips turn, before it can swing through straight towards the target; often, the back leg actually describes a wide circle around the fixed front leg, causing over-rotation of the hips (and shoulders).

For beginners, bowling from the base position, they probably lack the momentum to twist the back leg and swing it through after delivery, without describing a wide circle with their foot.

Think of the number of bowlers (right up to international level) with a “fly away” back foot in their follow-through, or with a follow-through where their lower half that veers violently across the line of delivery.

Is the standard base position storing up inefficiencies that will have to be unlearnt at a later stage?

New “bowling from base” position:

  1. feet hip-width apart
  2. front foot advanced, toes pointing to target
  3. back foot with toes pointing to target
  4. hips squared to target (so feet are approximately hip-width apart
  5. upper body in “midway” position – front-side advanced, bowling arm delayed; probably looking just inside the front arm.

That means that the bowler has

  • Back foot pointed to target and not “blocked off” by front hip/side (able to follow through towards target, not around front leg);
  • Shoulders & hips separated.

 Why wouldn’t you?

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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