Bowling strategies and decision-making in cricket

There is a saying in cricket that
batsmen can set-up games or save them but it’s the bowers that win matches a lot of skill and guile and a bit of luck is needed to take 20 wickets
and win a Test match It can be a hard slog especially on flat pitches
with an old ball against batsman who has set and in-form Bowlers need a solid game plan And not only do they need
to be good enough to execute they also need to adapt
as the situation changes or when their plan is not working We asked Jonathan Conner
Jonathan Conner a specialist in skills A specialist in skills acquisition
with Cricket Australia to help explain some of techniques
and the strategies bowlers use and why they make
certain decisions At start of the game the bowler is always
looking to get into a bit of a rhythm to make sure that they’re
working efficiently And from a research perspective,
we don’t know too much about what rhythm actually looks like but often it’s a kinesthetic
feel that bowlers talk about they feel like they’re in rhythm they feel like everything’s working
towards what they’re trying to do One way for a bowler
to find their rhythm and gain confidence early is to bowl their stock ball We often refer to a stock ball as a ball that bowlers are
most confident in bowling It’s almost their natural and
and most practiced action and it’s something that… whenever you perhaps
feel a bit out-of-form or not quite bowling where
you where you’d like to you always refer back
to that stock delivery that you feel gives you
the best opportunity to start to build-up
a bit more rhythm and a bit more pressure
on the opposition Bowling, especially fast bowling,
is an unusual action And a complex one There are a lot of moving parts Fast bowlers are not only trying
to produce maximum velocity but also need to pitch
it in a particular area while potentially trying
to make the ball move From a research perspective
we often talk about during performance, not to think too
much about the movement itself but instead the movement effects So, what it is that you’re
actually trying to do So, pitch the ball on a good length… that’s where your focus should be externally on the environment
as opposed to internally on a specific movement Given that the movement
itself, bowling, is such a complex action and there
are so many moving parts if you focus internally on one you might find that a lot of
others start to break down For a bowler, it’s all
about taking wickets And one of the most
effective ways to do this… is to create confusion
for the batsman and make them hesitate At the start of the game what the bowl is probably
trying to look to do is get the batsman to play
off the front foot and execute some vertical bat shots So often, what the
bowler might do is try and bowl what’s called
a good length delivery where the batter
is in two minds or indecisive about coming forward or stepping back Visually what it looks like for the batter,
given that every individual is different is a ball that’s about
knee high to waist high So, for example, with a
full-length delivery what we often see is, batters execute a
vertical bat shot off the front foot and it’s quite stable, it’s quite
comfortable and it’s quite efficient Likewise, when a ball
is pitched very short often we see batters
step back to the ball and play a horizontal bat shot Again, that’s a quite a
stable, efficient position However, when bowlers bowl what’s
considered a good-length delivery which can be anywhere between
four to six meters from the batter it often becomes this region
where it’s not quite stable or not quite efficient to be on the
front foot or the back foot So, the batter has a
choice to make as to whether they go forward or back And this can often result
in some executional errors and often results in a dismissal As we have seen with batting, being
able to adapt is crucial in Test cricket Everything changes
and changes quickly The new ball is only new for so long The pitch starts to change And you might also have batsmen
who are growing in confidence to complicate
matters even further And not only that, where you want to
pitch is obviously incredibly difficult but also you’ve got a batter
who ultimately can adapt and move to you So, if you’re bowling a
particular ball outside off you can have a batter like Steve Smith,
who will walk two stumps across and be able to play shots that
you might not necessarily anticipate or expect are batter
to play to you which can basically
disrupt your game plan What bowlers are often
trying to look to do is is build up pressure for the batter so while they may score
singles and boundaries often the bowler is looking for
the batter to play high-risk shots or look uncomfortable Both batters and bowlers will walk into a
game with their own game plan or their idea of what
they’re trying to accomplish or how they’re going to
try and accomplish it But, naturally, you always
have to adapt to… not only the conditions,
but also the opposition So, while a good-length
delivery might be your stock ball that you feel helps you build pressure the ball in which you’re looking
to take a wicket with perhaps might change So, instead of being a little
bit fuller and outside off it might be back-of-a-length
and short trying to get the batter to
play a shot that he shouldn’t play or that’s incredibly high risk So, in that sense, bowlers will
often have a game plan and they’ll often adjust it slightly depending on the conditions
and the opposition In a team, there are many
different types of bowlers Captains will use different bowlers
in spells throughout a game The purpose and duration of
each spell will be different based on the bowler, the batsmen
and the stage of the game Similar to batting and roles bowlers have their own roles Bowlers might come in different spells different periods of the game and have different
game plans for that For example, the game plan during the
first six to eight overs of the game is going to be very different to what it
might be during the 50th or 60th over when the ball and the
conditions have changed But ultimately, the bowlers might
employ a particular game plan for a particular spell Often, you’d start to expect spin to come
into play as the ball starts to deteriorate and get a little bit older As the pace bowlers start
to go a little bit more fatigued spin bowlers provide
the opportunity to deceive the batsman in different ways Often, they bowl quite a bit slower however, able to extract a large
amount of lateral deviation off the pitch So, international level off spinners often
can impart over 2,000 revolutions per minute, on the ball while our leg spinners
often impart over 2,500 revs which gives them greater
opportunity to spin the ball One of the most interesting and perplexing
developments in bowling has nothing to do with
optimal spell duration or reverse swing it’s actually the success
of left-arm bowlers The fact that we have seen so
many left-arm bowlers comes through in the last ten to thirty years We draw on some previous research that’s looked at the
fighting hypothesis or the negative frequency effect where, if you’re an
up-and-coming cricketer and you face 75% of your deliveries
against a right-handed bowler and only 25% against
the left-handed bowler all of a sudden, once
you get to the higher levels that left-handed bowler
has an advantage simply because you haven’t seen them you haven’t attuned to
their kinematic cues and perhaps you don’t
anticipate their bowling action as well as you do
against right-handers So, that’s certainly been quite
a big avenue of research that we’re also looking at is the natural advantage that
left-arm batters and bowlers have

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