Any fast bowler wants to increase the speed of their delivery, whilst maintaining that pinpoint accuracy. Being able to send down quick deliveries with minimal effort will not only intimidate the batsmen at the other end, but will also increase confidence knowing that you are the fastest bowler and the go-to person when wickets are needed.
Even being able to up your pace for a short spell is a pleasing achievement, however being able to do it consistently is what will set you apart from the rest.
And it is that consistency that the likes of James Anderson, Glenn McGrath and Wasim Akram did for years, which helped them to become some of the greatest fast bowlers ever to play the game. But how can we improve without the aid of the best coaches in the world?
Small Tweaks Can Bring on Huge Gains
There are some small changes to your technique that you can make which will hopefully start to pay dividends. The ability to bowl quickly rests on two very important aspects. The speed you generate through your run up, and the speed you can get through the delivery stride. It is about finding the best, most effective way to transfer the energy from that motion, out of your hand and into the ball.
It will take time and practice to perfect your action. Jimmy Anderson always points to the hard work he had to put in to get to where he is today, but you can develop the necessary skills to produce a sharp delivery from a strengthened body to become a great fast bowler.
Here are a few simple things you can work on to increase your pace and accuracy to keep the opposition on their toes.
Getting Straight to the Point
Ensuring you have a straight line from your mark, all the way down to the stumps, is crucial for maintaining as much energy and momentum into the delivery as possible. Think of it as getting from A to B in the quickest, most efficient way you can. A straight line is always best.
You need to be bowling on a straight angle, driving through the crease to use all the power you have built up and reserved. This will also help you to focus on where you want to bowl. Having a jump or flailing your arms out to the side is a waste of energy and if you do this, you are already working against yourself.
As soon as you have mastered the straight line and you are able to keep your form, only then can you start to work on bowling quicker.
It All Begins With the Run Up
Have you heard people talking about a bowler having a great rhythm? What they mean is the smoothness of their run up. It is easy to think that being a better, or faster bowler, is all about the release of the ball and where it lands. But being able to take wickets starts with the run up. It is where the delivery begins, culminating in the crucial delivery stride and the all-important follow through.
To make sure you have a run up that is going to give you the best chance of taking wickets, you need to get the distance of it correct. It takes approximately 50-60 metres for people to reach their top speed, which will then help you with your motion through the crease. Being able to run faster doesn’t have to be worked on in the gym, you can practice running anywhere in a smoother, more disciplined way, with a ball in your hand.
It goes back to conserving as much energy as possible. Arms tucked in, straight back and drive your legs through. It all helps to create the momentum needed to push that energy into the ball.
By practicing your run-up, you’ll be able to tighten your strategy, whilst enabling your muscle retention to direct your body, and then the speed of delivery will come naturally.
This Is One Big Step for…Bowlers
When landing in the crease as the bowler, you want to make sure you are able to release the ball from a strong foundation. Your front foot needs to be pointing towards the target and it should be supported by a strong, braced front leg. Being able to master this technique also has huge benefits for the rest of the body too, allowing it to move more efficiently, right up through your hips and shoulders.
You will notice that the quickest bowlers in the game have a braced front leg, which acts as a springboard for the body to push through all the momentum you have generated in the run up, and power through the delivery.
One common issue we see with a lot of bowlers is when they stay on their back foot for longer than they should, before taking off into the delivery stride. This often results in the bowler falling over as they release the ball.
Why? Well, having carried all that speed and momentum that they have been able to build up, it is easy for people to lose their balance in the delivery, but this is especially the case if they have stayed on their back foot for too long.
Tweak Your Technique to Match Your Run-up Speed
There are two main styles for fast bowling, front-on and side-on techniques. A front-on bowler will generally rely on the momentum of their run-up, which then generates the speed through the crease. You’ll see these bowlers run in hard before exploding through their delivery stride to direct all that momentum straight towards the target.
A side-on bowler tends to land their back-foot parallel to the crease and employ a lot of counter rotation between the hip and the shoulder to generate their speed. This type of bowler would need to generate the majority of their speed through movements in their delivery stride, such as upper body and hip rotation.
Therefore, if you struggle to build up much speed in your run up, a side-on technique might favour you. You will need to be flexible though, so plenty of stretching and rotation exercises will be of benefit.
Whatever technique you decide is best for you, the importance of having a strong core cannot be underestimated. It is an integral strength to have in any sport you play, and bowling is no different. Having a strong core, or trunk, means you can generate more speed in the delivery stride thanks to the stability you’ll have.
The Importance of Your Non-Bowling Arm
It is important to recognise the significance of your non-bowling arm, which is often an area of a bowlers’ action that is completely overlooked. It shouldn’t be. The non-bowling arm allows you to drive your energy in the right direction, making for a quicker and more accurate delivery.
You can work on getting your elbow as high as you can then letting it pull down the side of your body as sharply as possible. The non-bowling arm should act almost like a lever that pulls the upper body through your action. It’s crucial to get the elbow coming down before the bowling arm comes over, so it works like a slingshot and then you get that snap.
One good tip we’ve heard about is to think that you are pulling the stump towards you as you are moving into the delivery stride. It really helps you to focus on driving your non-bowling hand down.
Work on Your Wrist Action
Another area of a bowlers’ action that is too easily ignored is getting the angle of the wrist correct in the delivery. You want to be aiming for a nice strong wrist position as this is where you are going to be releasing all the momentum you have generated. Having a strong and stable wrist can add a couple of miles-per-hour to your speed thanks to the amount of flexion you can get behind the cricket ball, which ultimately allows you to release it at a much higher speed.
Make Sure You Follow Through
The follow through is so important. We see a lot of bowlers struggle with this aspect of the delivery, too often stopping or slowing right down as they go into the delivery stride. If you do this, all the momentum that has been built up through the run-in is lost and a batsman’s eyes will light up as they dispatch you to the boundary.
This can be a mental thing as you might be concerned about staying accurate at your top speed, or fearful of the ball coming back your way when you have lost sight of it – but the speed and distance of the follow through plays a crucial role in fast bowling.
Don’t be fearful, the confidence to bowl fast aided by your follow through only comes with practice. Aim for your follow through to be going past your left knee (if you are a right-handed bowler), this can also help you to get some crucial late swing on occasions too, which will get into the batsman’s head.
Mix up Your Delivery and Try the Wobble
Once you are happy that you are bowling faster and more accurate, it might be time to start throwing in a few different types of delivery. Again, we can turn to the talent of Jimmy Anderson. The ‘wobble ball’ is his creation and one that is well worth practicing. Here’s how to do it.
Hold the ball a bit wider on the seam with your fingers slightly further apart. You should still be holding the ball for an away-swinger with the seam pointing towards the slips, but your wrist will still be set for an in-swinger.
The effect, hopefully, is that the seam wobbles as you release it and when the ball lands on that seam, you should see it veer off the straight line. If it comes out right, it’s an amazing ball that will totally flummox the batsman.
It is definitely a delivery that is worth having as part of your arsenal, but practice, practice, practice.
Try to Stay Fit and Injury Free
Staying fit is easier to accomplish than remaining injury free, but you can do several strength exercises to reduce your risk of picking up any niggles or more serious injuries. When you are bowling fast you will be putting your body under pressure and twisting quite a lot, so having a strong core will reduce your chance of harm.
Some exercises you can do that don’t need a gym subscription include:
- Sit-ups and crunches to increase stomach strength
- Hang from a bar and lift your knees towards your chest, this will strengthen the stomach and whole upper body
- Simple bends from side to side will improve flexibility
- Perform twists through the hips, again to aid flexibility and motion
Record and Self-Analyse
Sometimes the bowling action feels right, but how do you know what feels right is right? Being able to see how you are bowling is an incredibly useful tool for improving your technique and evaluating what you could be doing differently.
You can easily record yourself on a smartphone or other device and watch it back. You might notice things you didn’t even know you were doing and then you can work on those specific aspects to improve your performance.
It is advised to record several deliveries to get a better measure of your form and overall technique.
Hopefully, you will have found some of this information useful and it has given you a few pointers on what to concentrate on to pick up some speed in your deliveries.
Remember the key aspects to focus on are a strong and smooth run-up that builds and carries a lot of momentum – the explode element through your delivery stride, depending on your action, and to be confident to follow through towards your target.
Best of luck with the wicket taking!