Though pace bowlers tend to rely on speed, as bowlers develop this more sophisticated art of swing bowling. Swing bowlers are more effective than sheer pace bowlers as the swing can confuse a batsman. ‘Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis of Pakistan were masters of this skill, and were capable of causing an older, misshapen ball to swing the opposite way from normal, i.e. toward the shiny side. This is known as reverse swing and has become an increasingly important skill in the last 10 to 15 years.’ ()
In cricket today, the line usually aimed for by fast bowlers is the ‘corridor of uncertainty’, the area just outside the batsman's off stump. It is difficult for the batsman to tell whether or not the ball is likely to strike their wicket and therefore, they do not know whether to attack, defend or leave the ball. James Anderson for England also has a very good technique as he can control his swing and length of the bowl.
Psychological Aspect (Visualization):
An excellent cricket tip I picked up is the power of visualization. It is a skill which is often ignored by cricketers. For batsmen, bowlers and fielders at any level of the game it is an important skill that should be mastered. Visualization is a very powerful technique that can help increase both your efficiency and effectiveness in achieving your cricket goals, whether it would be scoring one hundred runs, playing a perfect cover drive or taking that important wicket or catch.
“You must see your goals clearly and specifically before you can set out for them. Hold them in your mind until they become second nature.” Ricky Ponting. (A book called Visualization: The Key To Success? By Ian Canaway.) I believe this was the phrase that allowed me to set myself a positive and competitive attitude towards Cricket.
When you begin to use the visualization techniques, you want to mentally create a vivid scene in your mind of what you want to achieve. You want this scene to be as detailed and clear as possible, you need to be able to see and feel your success. An example of this would be picturing yourself taking that critical wicket or scoring that winning run.
Being able to visualize your success allows other mental advantages to come in such as a build-up of confidence and self esteem. Confidence will allow the bowler to be more consistent and be able to vary up his or her bowling styles and tactics as they will believe that they can do these types of bowls and therefore, make more of an impact on the result of the game. Confidence may also introduce a form of positive aggression which may possibly make a bowler bowl faster if he or she is a pace bowler, or this could inflict on others in the team, which would create a positive atmosphere. However, an overload of confidence may lead to a form of inconsistency and the negative approach to improve your technique and turn into a somewhat ‘Cocky’ behaviour.
Physical Aspect (Flexibility):
Flexibility is the ability to move the joints or any group of joints through an entire, normal range of motion.
Improved Cricket performance and injury prevention is incomplete without incorporating a dedicated approach to flexibility. Failing to appreciate the importance of this quality can undo all of the benefits achieved with other types of training and increase the chance of injury while reducing movement efficiency and effectiveness. Flexibility is critical in Cricket because of the joint stress associated with dynamic movements like batting and bowling. Lack of range of movement can lead to injury and a reduction in speed, agility, strength and endurance potential. It can also limit your individual cricket skills. Flexibility also allows a bowler to be able to achieve more speed on the ball as the flexibility of your upper body combines with the speed from the run up that you have created.
It has also been established that strength and power gains can occur more effectively through resistance work that is accompanied by muscle lengthening or flexibility exercises. This is partly the reason why stretching is crucial before and after training. So if you balance your strength training by stretching your muscles before and after each session, your progression should be increased.
It is also important to set time aside to simply stretch. Stretching only during warm-ups and warm-downs isn’t enough if you are playing cricket on a regular basis. It is crucial that players organise their time to regularly stretch either with a partner or participate in a stretch class or yoga class as this allows a more specific focus on flexibility exercises.
During the trajectory from your run up, this is when the body is at its optimum flexibility and the body is arched ready to release the bowl at its maximum height and velocity. Paul Collingwood is a good example of flexibility, he gets very arched when he bowls and is great in the field as he can use his flexibility to achieve hard tasks like catching the ball.
Physical Aspect (Muscular Strength):
‘The common definition of Strength is the ability to exert a force against a resistance. The strength needed for a sprinter to explode from the blocks is different to the strength needed by a weight lifter to lift a 200kg barbell. This therefore implies that there are different types of strength.
The classifications of strength are:
- Maximum strength - the greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction
- Elastic strength - the ability to overcome a resistance with a fast contraction
- Strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over’
A lot of muscular strength in Cricket relies solely on training when you are at elite standard and not so much on the muscle development during age development. While there are many methods to improving your strength for cricket, the basic principles remain the same. I consider strength training to be any kind of training that requires you to move your body against a resistance with the aim of increasing strength, power or speed. This resistance could be anything from Free weights to medicine balls, resistance bands, kettlebells or a partner during a training exercise. Cricketers get the best benefits from strength training about 2-4 times a week. Total training time can vary a little more but 1-3 hours split between those sessions are recommended by ‘UK Sport’. The fitter you are the more you can do.
‘The best strength training is the type that gives greatest crossover to the pitch in both performance (speed, power) and injury prevention. This is generally referred to as functional training. While this is an area of great debate in the strength coach world, there are some generally agreed areas.
- Multi Joint. Exercises that involve the whole body have a greater crossover (more functional) because they more closely emulate what you do on the pitch. They are also more time efficient as you are training several muscles at once. Variations of squats, deadlifts, bench pressing and rowing are all examples.
- Explosive movements. Cricket requires you to move fast so generally your training should be fast. That may mean less weight moved more explosively but it will give you a better result on the pitch.’ ()
I chose strength as one of my five components as it allows the bowler (especially a pace bowler) to have more variety of bowls to select from during an over, as strength creates speed, and speed creates variety such as swing, bouncers etc. It also allows less time for the batsman to choose a shot to play and therefore may end up getting himself or herself out.