Bowling – A tough task

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by Kevin Keys

A tough task

Apart from the wicket-keeper, you, the bowler, have the toughest task of any member of the fielding team. The pitch may not suit your style of bowling, your captain may have asked you to bowl up slope into a strong breeze, the two best batsmen in the opposition are at the wicket and in sparkling form, the ball is soft and not swinging, and you have just had a “sitter” of a catch dropped. How do you respond? As the famous saying says -“when the going gets tough, the tough get going”! You display guts and determination, intelligence and hard work, and remember the basic mantra of “line and length”. Remember, a change in your fortunes need take only one delivery.

In order to become a top bowler you must grow to love bowling, and lots of it. You must thrive on the responsibility and be keen to take the ball whenever your captain calls you to the bowling crease. You must have a consistent bowling action which you can repeat under all conditions. You must be able to control where the ball goes, which requires that you learn how and when to consistently release the ball.
You will need to think about your bowling. This starts in the nets when too often young bowlers practise their bowling without giving it any thought. Net practice is the time to experiment, to learn new variations, to concentrate on bowling to a plan. Talk to others, read about bowling, watch great bowlers on television, and always continue to learn.

Do you have the right temperament?

If you want to become a successful bowler you need to develop a bowler’s temperament. Having a happy-go-lucky, carefree and good-natured outlook does not sit well with becoming a successful attacking bowler. You need an inner fire which will come to the surface when you have a cricket ball in your hand at the top of your bowling mark.

Practising in the nets

You should be aiming to develop certain skills when you bowl in the nets:

  • Accuracy: set aside an over here and there where you tell yourself the length and direction you wish for each ball before bowling it. You will find this difficult at first but will be pleased by your rapid improvement.
  • Variations: spend some time with a team-mate away from the nets where you can practise a particular variation over a distance of 8-10 metres. Then spend some time during your net session improving your skill level with the variation in question.
  • Concentration: set aside six balls here and there where you bowl to a field you have set in your mind, keeping an honest record of your figures for that over. Repeat at intervals throughout the net session.
  • Rhythm: you should be able to do this by “feel”. If things don’t feel right, ask your coach or a team mate to check you out.
  • Building stamina: this can only come from long bowling spells in matches and during practice. Be careful, however, if you are a budding young fast bowler, no to overdo it as over-use injury may be the result. Young pace bowlers are limited by competition playing conditions in the maximum number of overs they can bowl in a spell and in a day. Do not exceed these in practice and stop immediately and seek advice if you develop any soreness.
  • Spotting strengths and weaknesses in the batter: this process should go on all the time when you are watching, playing or practising cricket.
  • When bowling at pace, practise imparting some backspin on the ball by dragging your index and middle fingers down the back seam of the ball. This backspin will help keep the seam of the ball vertical and will aid your attempts to swing and seam the ball.