It’s Never About The Technique
An interesting fact about cricket coaches – some can and some cannot, coach. Yet, the thought is if you have played at the highest levels you are automatically a superb coach who can teach others the same skills you had.
This phenomenon seems particularly superimposed on the most technical of all disciplines – fast bowling. And there’s an oddity to why this seems to happen.
The great leg spin coach and sadly missed, Terry Jenner, is widely credited with an astute quote that explains this. He says that ‘C’ stands for coaching when it’s to do with batting, but ‘C’ stands for change when it comes to bowling. This is seemingly how people view fast bowling coaching – change. We don’t want to change a bowler. And there are some extraordinary comments such as ‘non intervention’. ‘leave well alone’, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and ‘fast bowlers are born, not made’ when it comes to teaching the technique of pace bowling. This is sadly very wrong and explains a great deal.
Former players who really know little about this subject will want to ‘keep things simple’ and ‘not change too much’ whilst focusing on ‘bowling in good areas with a decent wrist position’. Yet when it comes to batting coaching, we rarely ONLY look at the outcome. In fact we employ technical coaches (”it’s all about technique, technique, technique” Geoff Boycott famously said) to work with our batsmen. Player’s technique come under fierce scrutiny when they don’t perform as has Alistair Cook’s, who has changed himself not once, not twice but multiple times in his career, as well as change coach.
Coaches will never allow a batsman slog across the line or hit a ball badly without trying to make them ‘better’ even if those batsman have a canny knack of missing the fielders. It just doesn’t look right if they don’t have a certain style or technical expertise. It proves we don’t watch a batsman and only focus on the outcome.
However, in fast bowling the exact opposite seems to happen. Bowlers with poor actions, mistakes in their technique and errors that restrict their speed are not corrected because coaches do not look at those things.
The root problem is more to do with the educators of coaches because they do not teach how to coach pace and accuracy. Simply put, they do not know themselves. And this is the reason we appoint former test players at international level where possible, just because they used to be able to bowl. T’was ever thus.
The thought process is inherently flawed in this line of appointment. Even if you were to listen to the amazing stories a great fast bowler has to tell you, how they did what they did and how they achieved their goals, it doesn’t make YOU a better bowler. You cannot learn from someone else’s experience. It does make them a great after dinner speaker though.
To truly learn about fast bowling, you need to work alongside a coach that understands how YOU can bowl fast and straight.
Sadly, fast bowling is never about the technique and it’s why we don’t produce as many fast bowlers as we could. We substitute technique for strength and conditioning, fitness and other parts of the essential make up of a pace bowler instead. We bowl less, train more. We do less skills, more fitness. We do more box ticking, less educating. But it does justify the money spent on ‘coaching’. Bowlers come through in spite of it, not because of it.
One day, maybe not soon, cricket authorities will have to review this area and come to the same conclusions about pace bowling. If we are truly to have places of excellence and world best practices, all options should be looked at. If we are truly to be great we have to be open to all the possibilities. We may all have long, white beards by the time this happens and meanwhile, the coaches appointed in fast bowling will ever increasingly rely on their own playing experience – rather than the knowledge of how to coach technique.