Fast Bowling – Keeping count of weekly deliveries

(by Adrian Le Roux)

As a strength & conditioning coach I am a true supporter and admirer of the fast bowler. In order to be a successful fast bowler you need not only a high level of skill but you need athletic ability

Fast bowlers have consistently been identified as cricketers at the greatest risk of injury, with a combination of predisposing factors including poor technique, poor physical preparation, and over-training. So or many years we looked at the 123/188 rule.

In order to best avoid injury during a season a first class bowler will need to bowl on average no less than 123 deliveries per week and not more than 188 deliveries per week. Added to that we looked at a few other factors including to bowl 2-3 sessions per week with a session frequency of 2-5 rest days per week. These numbers were recommended through research done by Rebecca Dennis in the early 2000s. No doubt that this research contributed a great deal to cricket and the conditioning of our fast bowlers.

In saying that we also need to ask that since we implemented these guidelines did it work in the two directions it were suppose to namely performance and injury prevention. True counting balls bowled each week made everyone more aware but are we accurate enough in terms of numbers and more importantly does the bowler bowl enough to improve his skill and level of conditioning.

Are there a specific number of deliveries that a bowler can bowl in practice before there is reason for concern? Will a one size fits all rule work or depends it on the individual and the situation. I am not suggesting that the count of weekly deliveries is meaningless and we should throw them out. What I am suggesting is that the way that we do and apply it is ineffective at best. The challenge with implementing any universal count for everyone, like number of deliveries per week is that almost no two fast bowlers are the same.  Counting deliveries have definite benefits but not implemented and interpreted in the right way can ensure that we are heading the wrong way.

I am not saying that we should throw delivery counts away and that every bowler can now bowl 300 deliveries per week but what I do say it will be unwise to suggest that we know the appropriate number of deliveries that each bowler should bowl each week. Some bowlers will be able to handle a higher workload without any problems and some wont. So how will we know

There are a few factors we can consider. If the bowler in practice bowl for example 36 deliveries in a 15 to 20 min duration or does he do that in a 35min session because there are 3 other bowlers bowling with him allowing him more time to recover between each delivery.

We can also look at obvious signs of fatigue

  • If during practice or a match there is an obvious sign that the bowler cannot maintain his pace and there is a decline in velocity. This would be an indication that for that session or spell the bowler has done enough
  • If the bowler fails to consistently bowl the line and length required. A loss in accuracy is a tell tell sign
  • Collapsing at the crease. If the bowler are not able to keep his position and action at the crease in relation with his position when he was fresh

Other influences that needs to be considered with each individual bowler

  • The bowler has had previous injury
  • The bowlers other roles in the team
  • The bowler has been sick
  • The time of the season, especially early season
  • The age and experience of the bowler
  • If he was over extended in a previous match
  • If is biomechanically efficient
  • Alignment asymmetries
  • The Bowlers level of fitness

In conclusion we have to acknowledge that keeping count of weekly deliveries are important. However it will only be effective if the information is accurate and we put this to use in a way for we cater for each individual bowler and take in consideration other influences that effects workload and performance