Published on December 18th, 2012 | by Ian Pont1
Maximizing a bowler’s assets through skill drills
“Once the drills have been done at a walking pace, build them up into a slow, gentle jog through the drill. Timing will change and it becomes a challenge again. When they have mastered this, move into a run through drills. Again it will be a challenge.” Writes Ian Pont
Let’s be honest here. You are not going to change a bowler’s action or make tweaks to his positioning at the crease if you ask him to come charging in from a full run up, with a ball in his hand bowling to a batsman. The reason? He’s only focusing on the outcome. But technique changes are part of the process. So you’ll have to be smart about changing that.
Processes create outcomes. What you get in a match is the result of how you do it. And that’s why if you only ever focus on the end result, you’ll never know how to make any technical changes that are worthwhile or long-lasting.
I often hear coaches say, ‘’Bowlers deal in the currency of taking wickets’’. This is very true and no one can argue with that. But a poor coach fails to understand that if you keep doing the same things wrong, you’ll keep getting the same results. In other words, your ‘currency’ or at least your wealth of wickets can be dramatically improved by changing the process you use to get them.
It’s no good just looking at the outcome and saying to a bowler, ‘’you’re bowling too short/full/down the leg side/too wide’’ without examining WHY he’s doing that. Every outcome had a process – every effect has a cause.
The skill drills are thus designed to give you access to making changes to a bowler’s action by helping them (and you) understand what should happen.
Here’s a rough guide to how skill is learned:
1. Match situation – very little technical or process learned. Maximum experienced gained.
2. Nets – again very little learned technically as bowlers are thinking about batsman and where they are bowling
3. Bowling without a batter – good way to train in the nets for a bowler as there are very few outcomes that can detract from experimenting
4. Bowling without a batter and a ball – this is the very best way to start doing skill drills. There are no external influences, no penalties for a bad outcome, and no ball to worry about. In other words, this level of training is all about the bowler and their action.
You must strip out skill drills from nets and allow a bowler the opportunity to get it wrong. If you have a batsman thrashing away or hitting the ball, the bowler will only ever focus on the outcome – and the outcome doesn’t matter in the slightest at this stage. So remove all external influences that can affect a bowler, which includes the ball itself. This type of bowling is called ‘shadow bowling’ and this lets a bowler ‘bowl’ many deliveries without a bad ball ever being bowled.
So now you’ve established the parameters for the drills, ensure the bowler is doing them at walking pace. Why? Because you want the bowler to be aware of what they’re doing. And by walking things through the bowler will have to think about the drill in a way they do not think about their bowling. You are seeking to change a bowler’s muscle memory, or ability to do the same thing repeatedly without conscious thought. And you will only make this change if the change is initially conscious.
Otherwise the bowler will merely go back to type. Their original software will take over and they will find change almost impossible or at least very hard. So change the environment, and slow everything down to the point they become aware of what they’re doing.
It’s at this point that you might find they even get it spectacularly wrong. I like sessions where bowlers get it wrong. Some of the best learning sessions are like this. It’s challenging for the bowler and can lead to an even deeper level of understanding.
I have also worked with bowlers on drills with eyes closed.
Take the stumps away and have a bowler walk through their action to really feel what they’re doing. Are they balanced? Or are they falling one way or the other? Where are their arms going, feet, head, legs? By closing the eyes on walking drills, you can help a bowler tap into their emotion or kinesthetic side. This is because when you lose one of your 5 major senses (vision) the others are temporarily heightened, and it’s the feeling part we wish them to utilize.
It helps them to learn faster and change their muscle memory.
Once the drills have been done at a walking pace, build them up into a slow, gentle jog through the drill. Timing will change and it becomes a challenge again. When they have mastered this, move into a run through drills. Again it will be a challenge.
Only when you are BOTH happy the action is what you want, then introduce the ball. Get them to hold it, but not let it go YET! By holding the ball part of their original muscle memory wants to take over, so don’t let it. Drill it out. And when they have done this move to a ball release… let them bowl. But also know they will probably only be 50% of the drill, but hopefully 100% better than they were. And tell them not to worry WHERE the ball goes!
The secret is to get the bowler to do two things: experiment and exaggerate. This means trying things to find out what works for them, and exaggerates the movements so the brain understands the changes by feel. That’s all you can ask of a bowler who’s doing skill drills.
Changing things a bowler has done for some time isn’t easy. So be patient. Also, you won’t ‘break’ someone’s bowling action so don’t worry about that. Too many coaches think they don’t want to ‘mess’ with an action in case they break it. But let me tell you that however hard you work, after a session that the bowler will go back to what they know. Therefore a bowler needs to do work in between sessions, which they cannot always do. It’s what they do in between sessions that helps accelerate learning. The process of change starts when people think about change. And by working on things in between highly advanced technical sessions, they will move ahead faster.
Please tell the bowler and also understand yourself that while the drills are taking place, a bowler will probably go backwards in speed and accuracy or control. But you now know that these are outcomes and we are working on the processes. So it does not interest us in the slightest. That’s why understanding what a skill drill is and what it achieves is vitally important. A skill drill is skill acquisition. You will change the timing and also the feeling of what comes as ‘natural’ for a bowler. They will experience a loss of timing and probably be out of their comfort zone. However, this is temporary. And with regular work on technique those changes start to become the new norm.
The time it takes to make changes permanent depends much on the individual. So get a bowler to agree to the changes (buy in) and help them to realize it will sometimes take them round a block in their action by going sideways or backwards.
Finally, the skill drills are designed to help a bowler to be as efficient as possible – and not perfect. We don’t seek perfection but we are aiming for a bowler to become the best they can with what they have naturally. In other words, a bowler will adapt and adopt in the best way that suits them. These are tweaks to positioning and not action changes.
If a bowler does every skill drill perfectly well, they should have an outstanding action. So I put this to you. How many times have you seen someone with a Brett Lee or Dale Steyn action, playing 3rd team club cricket? None. That’s because if you do those things that make you consistent and fast, you will migrate to the top naturally. So the drills are designed to help a bowler maximize their assets.
Image Credit: Warren Page
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