Bowling Skills and Strategies
Bowlers must understand the principles governing a sound bowling action. A mechanically sound technique can do much to ensure long-term involvement in the game with minimal interruption as a result of injury. As well, efficiency of technique can produce more effective outcomes in terms of generating power, spin or swing. Although it was not a major focus of this book to provide a comprehensive analysis of the skill of bowling, the players we interviewed mentioned some key aspects of technique, which we have summarised.
Quality pace bowling requires a smooth and accelerating run -up, a powerful and efficient bowling action and the capability to vary the line, length and speed of deliveries according to the perceived weaknesses of the batters and the circumstances of the game.
Because research has shown that the run-up in pace bowlers contributes approximately 20 per cent to the velocity of the ball, there has been more emphasis on bowlers’ run-ups. Dennis Lillee consulted a running coach to make sure he was accelerating effectively into the delivery stride. Others have followed suit, albeit somewhat late in their careers, as Merv Hughes indicated:
Being young you have a lot more on your mind than running style. This includes where you are going to bowl, what type of delivery and so on. Looking back now, the run-up, delivery and follow-through are the most important stages of bowling, with run-up the most important.
John Harmer believes that a bowler is an ‘athlete until the penultimate stride’, and so correct running technique is mandatory. Brian Mcfadyen contends that bowlers need an efficient run-up so that when they get to the crease, they don’t need to place enormous physical load on the body. As well as momentum, he believes the run-up should place the bowler in a balanced position at delivery. McFadyen warns that it is very difficult to alter the running technique of a 21-year-old, and suggests that most work should be done between 8 and 15 years of age.
The length of a pace bowler’s run-up has varied throughout the ages, but essentially it should be as long as needed to generate optimum momentum while enabling the bowler to be strong through the crease. Damien Fleming remarked that, like most young fast bowlers of his time, he initially ‘ran in like Dennis Lillee with a high bound in the penultimate stride’. Later in his career, he shortened his run-up from 28 paces to 15 and found that he maintained his pace, was taller at take off and release and had a shorter jump into the delivery, but most important, he felt more powerful and rhythmical.
John Harmer offered the following keys to achieving an effective body position in bowling:
- Leg stability with limited collapsing of the legs throughout the delivery
- Compactness of the arms so that all force is generated towards the target
- Alignment of all body parts inside the width of the bowler’s shoulders (see figure 4.1)
- An injury-free technique