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November 7, 2012
At a time when the case of Pat Cummins has underlined the difficulty of bowling fast at a young age, Australia's former bowling coach Craig McDermott is hoping he can help prevent the next generation from succumbing to similar problems.
Aspiring young quicks will get the chance to have their actions tested for risk of injury at a series of clinics to be helmed by McDermott this summer. The clinics will feature video analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of young bowlers, and significantly will allow them to be tested for their degrees of shoulder counter rotation and lateral flexion of the spine - considered important measures of whether their bowling action will lead to injuries.
Cummins, currently sidelined by a back stress fracture, had been slated to have similar testing done on his action on his return from the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa. This technology has previously been available only at sporting laboratories like those at the University of Western Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, but will this season be taken on the road to state capitals and major regional centres.
Under the banner Pace Bowling Australia, the clinics arose out of McDermott's desire to ensure fast bowling fundamentals are learned at a younger age. When coaching Australia's pacemen including Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, McDermott made significant strides simply by pushing basics like the grip of the ball, the right length to bowl and the importance of a high fitness level.
"I'm trying to educate kids from a very young age what we're actually teaching bowlers at a higher level, and trying to get bowlers ready earlier," McDermott told ESPNcricinfo. "Rather than waiting for our bowlers to get to 17, 18 or 19 and then say 'oh now we've got to do this, this and this to get them ready to play first-class cricket'.
"We're doing these clinics from a talent identification perspective at a very young age, then we can start to work with the better ones as it comes along to get them the right ideas about strength training, diet, nutrition, all the way through from a younger age. So it's really an education.
"I want our bowlers to come through more educated and more ready from a younger age. You want guys who are 12 or 13 with some arm speed and some ability to be able to go through to the next level. If you teach kids the right mechanical set-ups when they're younger, who knows, we might unearth somebody who would never have got through."
Also at the forefront of McDermott's mind was the concept of better educating coaches in how to teach fast bowling. "I've felt over the period of time I've been involved in coaching there's been a big void between the years 8-17 or 18 for good pace coaching and also coach education," he said.
"I've seen this gap in the coaching side of things, coaching a young bowler on their grip, where they should pitch the ball, how to swing it, all those things. And then education of coaches, some are level one, some are level two, some are just fathers on weekends. They'll be educated on how to teach young bowlers how to bowl more readily than the way in which it's done today."
Having taken part in the clinics, young bowlers will then be able to access the footage taken of them online, and go on to receive further advice on how to improve their action and their various tactics and methods for dismissing batsmen. McDermott would like to discuss the clinics and the talent that may be identified through them with Cricket Australia, offering another pathway for young bowlers to be discovered.
"That'll be a discussion down the track. I know that's something that they would acknowledge needs to be looked at, and whether we work together on that we'll see over a period of time. Certainly it is something that would work well together," McDermott said.
"When I was with the Australian team I still did a lot of other coaching with younger kids and seeing them improve gives you a real kick, just as it did with the likes of Siddle, Pattinson, Starc or whoever it may be. It's a rewarding thing to see kids unfold the talent they may or may not know that they've got.
"That's the beauty of teaching younger kids at a younger age the correct way to do things, it may lessen their injury rate, but there may also be another Jeff Thomson out there somewhere."
The first clinics will be held in Sydney from November 11-14.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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