Equally Cursed And Blessed: What Makes A Player Built For Fast Bowling?
Andrew Flintoff, it was often said, was not built for fast bowling. The stresses of the action eventually forced him to retire through injury.
But anyone who can send a series of cricket balls crashing down at 90mph onto the same handkerchief sized bit of pitch must have some kind of build for it.
Flintoff was blessed and cursed; built for fast bowling with a built in obsolescence.
So what are the traits a fast bowler really needs to be quick and injury free?
Not all good fast bowlers are tall but it helps if you are.
It's just physics: the longer your levers the more force you can generate. It's why medieval catapults were so massive; they had to be to get over the castle walls.
Then there is the extra benefit of bounce; something all tall bowlers benefit from and no batsman is truly comfortable playing.
But there is not much you can do about height - you got it or you aint - so let's move on swiftly.
Strength is no good without being able to access the force you generate. And that's where coordination of your action comes into play.
As you know, the bowling action is a combination of movements, all of which need to fire in perfect sequence to get to most pace.
Any slip up in the sequence costs you. Good fast bowlers have brilliant coordination of their movements in their action.
Good coaching is crucial to this, but the real key is to learn coordination as a young person through other activities than bowling: Learning and doing basic things like running, jumping, throwing, catching, keeping your balance and the like. The better-rounded you can be as a young player, the better you will be as a cricketer.
That's a fact that has been shown up in research that demonstrates the more sports a young player plays, the better he or she does when specialising later on.
We often talk about a fast bowler being strong and it's true, to be quick you need strength, but it's a certain kind of strength.
Olympic weightlifters have to move a big weight from a dead start and get it over their head. Bowlers have a tiny weight that they have to propel as fast as possible. Both require a combination of strength and speed. However, the bowler needs a bit more speed than strength, hence speed-strength.
Genetics dictates how much speed-strength you have naturally and how much you can improve it.
The good thing is that unlike height, anyone can improve it with fitness work. The trick is to do the stuff that gives you the best crossover onto the pitch.
Indestructible shoulders, ankles, back and knees
Of course all these traits are useless without a bit of resistance to the forces that bowling puts on your body.
Using your front legs as a brace while you twist your body round it takes a toll on the joints over time, especially if you are a Flintoff-like “big unit”.
On Flintoff's retirement we were sold that his injuries were inevitable because of this. But it's hard to say for sure. For example, had Freddie had a more friendly action he might have escaped the worst.
We can't know for sure in that case, but what we can say is if we work on the stability and mobility of our joints, they are less likely to get hurt whatever exercise we do.
Or to put it another way, if we focus on getting fit to play rather than playing to get fit we are increasing our chances of staying on the park.
So it seems being built for fast bowling is a mix of genetics, early development and continued hard work throughout your bowling career.
What would you say the important elements of being a fast bowler are?
by David Hinchliffe, PitchVision Academy
© 2011 miSport Ltd