Fast Bowling: How to Bowl Faster (Cricket)
Do you want to be a speed demon like Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait, Dale Steyn and Shane Bond? The express fast bowler most valued player on a cricket team and their ability to have impact a match in a short period of time is unparalleled. This article will give you some tips for how to get the most out of your body and bowl at your fastest:
Run-up and Approach to the Crease
The run-up/approach is vital to bowling. You rarely see an express fast bowler that does not achieve great speed/momentum through their run-up and those that try to bowl fast without generating enough momentum through their run-up will be putting excessive stress on their shoulders and risk injury in the medium to long-term.
It is important to find an appropriate run-up length that will allow you to achieve good rhythm and generate good speed and power through the bowling crease. Find what works best for you through experimentation. You might want to trial different lengths in practice from 15-25 paces (Brett Lee's run up length is 21 paces) or alternatively, mark a set starting point on an open field, run up and pretend 'bowling blind' (eyes closed) when you feel you have maximum momentum behind you, repeat this up to 10 times and find the average (they all should be fairly close to each other) - that is your ideal run-up length. Measure this length in paces and remember it so you can use it during practice and matches.
Keep in mind that longer run-ups aren't necessarily better as they can waste energy. For example a run-up that is too long may result in deceleration or just not generate any extra pace than a shorter one. It will also take longer which will result in slower over rates (which your captain will not appreciate!) and cause you to fatigue faster.
Because the run-up is so important to generating great bowling speed, acceleration and speed are important qualities to possess as a fast bowler. Acceleration and speed are best improved by a combination of strength training (which will also help prevent injuries when done correctly) and sprint training (which will also help improve your stamina by creating a greater 'speed reserve'). For strength training I would recommend focusing on compound exercises (e.g. squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, pull-ups, rows) for best results and for sprint training I would recommend focusing on a range of short acceleration distances (5-40m) and 'flying sprints' over short distances (10-20m).
For more in-depth information about strength training, I would recommend referring to Mark Rippetoe's which details the most essential weight training exercises, how to use correct technique and implement appropriate programming for progressively building strength. Starting Strength
Delivery Stride and Bowling Action
Your bowling action is an individual preference. There are genuine express fast bowlers with very different actions and delivery strides. For example:
- Front on e.g. Malcolm Marshall and Mike Proctor
- Side on e.g. Dennis Lillee and Wasim Akram
- Mixed e.g. Brett Lee and Shane Bond
- Sling e.g. Shaun Tait and Jeff Thompson.
Finding out what works best for you is key - don't try and fit a square peg into a round hole.
The fundamental necessities are to have a cocked wrist, be 'tall' at the crease (i.e. not collapse significantly in your bowling stride), reach high with your lead arm (non-bowling arm) looking through the 'window' and pull the lead arm down explosively, which will allow you to take advantage of the body's natural levers. You can practice this off a couple of steps (without a run-up) to get the feel of it before incorporating it into a complete delivery with a run-up.
Watch footage of some of the aforementioned great fast bowlers and others such as Shaoib Akhtar, Michael Holding, Waqar Younis, Dale Steyn, Colin Croft, Mohammad Aamer, Jason Gillespie and Mohammad Sami for inspiration and different express fast bowling actions.
Follow Through and Finish
After the delivery has been released you want your momentum/weight/energy to still be behind the ball heading towards the batsman in a straight line. It is efficient to do so from an energy standpoint and also helps with accuracy. Additionally it also gives you more physical presence which allows you to feel more confident and impose yourself more on the opposition batsman.