December 16, 2012

How to keep fast bowlers in the park?

So what's changed in the last decade since the heyday of McGrath, Pollock, Vaas, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram and that genre of fast bowlers?
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So what's changed in the last decade since the heyday of Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock, Chaminda Vaas, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram and that genre of fast bowlers? It wasn't that long ago so one can only assume that medical science, strength and conditioning, warm-up routines and hydration practices were pretty similar to the system that is currently in place. If anything, it would probably be safe to conclude that all of these allied medical services would actually be more advanced today, augmented by a much larger support staff and a much more rigorously managed workload. Yet, it seems utterly clear now that something has changed, for the worse and no one seems to have the answer. It doesn't really matter which country we're talking about - they've all got pretty much the same systems in place and none of it seems to be working when it comes to keeping fast bowlers on the park.

Anyone who has followed my recent articles will know that this is a particular frustration of mine. I've written on this topic extensively recently and the most common-sense responses have come from seemingly common-sense folk who think that most bowlers are just not getting enough miles on the clock. They spend far too much time in the gym as opposed to bowling at intensity in the nets and that the extra athleticism required in the field is one of the main contributing factors to their breakdown.

Let's look at the most recent cases then; Ben Hilfenhaus bowls 34 overs on the last two days of the Adelaide Test in November. There were a few raised eyebrows when the selectors, presumably with some advice from the medical staff, decreed that he would not be fit enough to bowl in the next Test in Perth, despite having the extra seamer in Shane Watson to help shoulder the burden of bowling into the wind. He was then "rested" from the Hobart Hurricanes' first T20 game, presumably because it might have been too much to ask him to bowl four overs a mere eleven days after his long spell in Adelaide. So, twenty days after his most recent bowling spell in match conditions, he picks up a side strain in Hobart and is probably now sidelined for the rest of this Test. One can only assume that he followed all the usual recovery procedures after his late afternoon spell yesterday, he presumably had a good night's sleep, was well-hydrated and had an extensive warm-up this morning under the exclusive supervision of at least one dedicated support staff member. Despite all of this, he still picks up an injury that has nothing to do with any impact or an unfortunate accident. The injury can almost certainly be attributed to something that relates to his body simply not being ready for the fairly routine task of bowling a few overs, having been "prepared" for this task since play finished last night. 18 hours of preparation and it still makes no difference. Unbelievable!

Across the Tasman in New Zealand, Adam Milne is ruled out of the South African tour with an Achilles injury incurred while warming up. A dangerous business, this "warming up" stuff. Good thing for NZ that they discovered how soft he was before they left for SA. If you can't survive the warm-up, what chance of getting through the real action on-field? Let's replace him with Mark Gillespie - he should be fit and rearing to go after a nine-month injury lay-off. With that length of time in the care of the medical staff, he should be as good as new. Unfortunately, that plan goes pear-shaped when Gillespie himself then picks up a side-strain and has to withdraw from the tour. Another side-strain for a fast bowler who has presumably been prepped, stretched and massaged before he took the field but was unable to complete the task for which he was specifically prepared for. Maybe it's a trans-Tasman Side-Strain Bug that was transported on the trade winds from Wellington to Hobart and poor old Hilfenhaus was infected.

Over in India, Steven Finn, who missed the first two Tests, played a starring role in the Third Test and that was all she wrote! One solitary Test and his back's too sore. Stuart Broad meanwhile was ruled out of the rest of the tour with a bruised heel. James Pattinson understands what it's like to be ruled out for the rest of the season - he couldn't get through two consecutive Test matches without picking up a soft-tissue injury. At first, I thought it might have been an injury to his mouth, after watching him use those muscles liberally on the South African batsmen but the wonders of medical science now confirm that his brain, his mouth and the rest of his body operate totally independent of each other apparently.

Let's go back to those great bowlers we mentioned at the start of the article then; what was so different about their bodies, diets, preparation and support staff that afforded them so much more durability? McGrath's most significant injury came when he trod on a ball on the 2005 Ashes Tour and twisted his ankle. All of the other bowlers rarely succumbed to injuries at the current rate. So what's changed? Medical science must surely be even more advanced, there's even more dedicated one-on-one attention during warm-ups (and warm-downs for that matter) and the workloads are so strictly managed that one wonders if some of these guys can be classified as part-time employees of their respective cricket boards.

To me, someone like Courtney Walsh provides the obvious answer. The guy was a machine. He virtually played cricket 12 months a year, either for the West Indies or for Gloucestershire. He loped in and bowled at pretty much the same pace whenever he bowled. I suspect he may not have taken kindly to ice baths at the end of play and I'm not sure if he was closely supervised every morning when he warmed up to bowl another 20-over spell. He just bowled and bowled and bowled, much like Akram who also played for Lancashire and Shaun Pollock who was a regular for Natal and Warwickshire when he wasn't plying his trade for his country. They bowled much quicker than guys like Hilfenhaus, Gillespie, Milne, Broad et al so their bodies were under more stress in that respect but yet they just kept keeping on.

The current system seems to subscribe to the theory that "less is more". Less bowling + more rest + more pampering = less injuries. They might be better off with a slight variation on that theory. Less pampering + less supervision + less bulls**t sports science mumbo jumbo + more bowling = more time on the field, doing what you're paid to do. Perhaps that is just too simplistic but it's clear that the more complex and advanced things get, the less we get back in terms of a performance dividend. It's got to the point now where the army of medical professionals are arguably producing results that are counter-productive. At least with Broad and Finn, their injuries were diagnosed before the Test started which allowed a replacement to be selected and England were not disadvantaged. The Australian system seems to have it all wrong. They pre-emptively rest players on the basis of unproven assumptions about how fatigued they might be and once they are supposedly fully rested and prepared for action, they break down in the middle of a game. Is anyone higher up in Cricket Australia asking some serious questions yet?

Can you imagine telling any of those great bowlers mentioned at the outset of this article that despite a heroic bowling effort in Adelaide, the selectors (on advice from medical staff) think that they'll be too tired to play in the decider in Perth? There'd be every chance of an imminent injury after that conversation - selector nursing a sore jaw!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chris sargent on December 21, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    Sometimes it just comes down to the size of your ticker.

  • Kunal Talgeri on December 19, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    It is unfair to compare the current crop with their famed predecessors. Patently unfair. The cricket calendar is loaded with formats and continents in a year. Any professional (not just a cricketer) will tell you the perils of air travel if you are doing over 100 flights a year (even between cities). It does affect performance. Sleep too. So it is hard to imagine a bowler wanting to bowl more and more like a Marshall or Akram demanded. At best, they played three months of cricket in England, and Test tours were not as rampant then as now. The modern-day cricketer has to fly into all kinds of conditions. There are no practice matches to acclimatise. He just has to switch on to the First Test. And a month later, fly to a completely different time zone. First, mend the cricket calendar; then, ask bowlers to bowl more. Lastly, Walsh's or Kapil's body constitution may have been exceptional. They weren't the typical bowlers of their time. Bowlers (Patterson, McDermott, et al) too broke down.

  • Robin Hobbs on December 19, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    Michael, the main thrust of your argument is the sort of pub-talk I often hear from occasional cricket followers, and having read your previous pieces I know you're way better than that. What you're demonstrating is survivorship bias, with the likes of Walsh and Wasim being exceptions to the norm. This issue is nothing new, and has been debated ever since I started following cricket over 20-odd years ago - and probably way before that. During the 90s England could very rarely field their first choice bowling attack as Fraser, Gough, Caddick, Headley etc. were often crocked. Go back to the 80s and it was the same story - how often could we get Foster and Dilley on the park at the same time? Same with other teams - Bruce Reid, Ian Bishop, Shane Bond... the list goes on.

  • Steve meikle on December 19, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    Good article pleased to see some thought put into the reasons for injury problems amongst modern quickies... BUT! glaring problem in the comment "They bowled much quicker than guys like Hilfenhaus, Gillespie, Milne, Broad " Completely untrue .. Milne is mid 140s ( touching 150 ocasionally) Gillespie and Hilfy and Brioad are very similar in pace to the guys mentioned in the article... What all those bowlers ( who didn't break-down) mentioned share is a relaxed action... Courtney Walsh and Ambrose, Mcgrath and Pollock (add Holding and Hadlee from even earlier) all shared relaxed loping run ups and fluent stress - free bowling actions. This goota be at least part of the reason. Look at Milne his action is almost identical to Bond's and they share lightning pace and frequent break-downs.

  • Lyndon McPaul on December 19, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    Quite simply; the bowlers who are prone to injury either by their action or physical weaknesses will get injured, leaving those (a small minority) who by nature are more suited to the repetetive intense strain of fast bowling to carry on. For Australia; at least at the moment, this seems to be bowlers such as Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc. Both of these bowlers have good balanced runups and smooth actions and never look excessively strained at the point of delivery. McGrath had an easy, repeatable action. Pattinson on the other hand throws all of his considerable weight right behind each delivery. He has quite a solid upper body rather than a lanky; wiry type build which is more ideal for generating pace whilst with less effort.

  • vibhanshu on December 18, 2012, 15:57 GMT

    Michael Jeh's analysis has a survivorship bias. He only remembers those bowlers of the past who had long careers not those whose careers were hampered by injury. I remember Wasim having a persistent groin muscle problem, Jason Gillespie hardly completed a series without breaking down, Javagl Srinath couldn't throw because his shoulder was gone, Darren Gough had knee problems, Dion Nash had a injury-curtailed career, Waqar had a bad back, Ian Bishop's career was interrupted due to injuries. There will always be players with good and bad general fitness in every era.

  • Azeem on December 18, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    Would a selector have dared to tell one of the old West Indian greats that you've bowled too much so you're not playing the next test. Sore jaw may have been an understatement there.

  • SUZZANE on December 18, 2012, 4:49 GMT

    Great comments are written here, but i wanna add a question that, why there is a lack of fast bowlers in INDIA??

  • Ash on December 18, 2012, 2:42 GMT

    "If you don't have muscles you can't pull them." - John Emburey :-)

  • Murray Archer on December 18, 2012, 2:40 GMT

    @ Craig Dengate at December 16, 2012 8:17 AM

    Could not agree with you more mate ! The restrictions etc are ludicrous ! They especially do not take into account an individual's strength irrespective of age.

    I personally got brought up (lot earlier than you) in a world where only way to be fit to bowl was :-

    1. Bowl ! every day in any net till too dark for them to bat.

    2. Run ! miles and miles every day - more than 100 miles a week

    3. Sprint ! Cyclic 400 meters in less than a minute...... one minutes rest , sprint again ! ( doing 30 of these, showed aerobic/energy readiness for bowling.)

    Most importantly what Alec Bedser always said :- to be strong enough to bowl ..... bowl !!!!

    Totally apart from being fit enough to bowl...... whatever happened to just doing it when in total agony ? (will we ever see a Lillee against Pakistan '72/3 again ?)

  • chris sargent on December 21, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    Sometimes it just comes down to the size of your ticker.

  • Kunal Talgeri on December 19, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    It is unfair to compare the current crop with their famed predecessors. Patently unfair. The cricket calendar is loaded with formats and continents in a year. Any professional (not just a cricketer) will tell you the perils of air travel if you are doing over 100 flights a year (even between cities). It does affect performance. Sleep too. So it is hard to imagine a bowler wanting to bowl more and more like a Marshall or Akram demanded. At best, they played three months of cricket in England, and Test tours were not as rampant then as now. The modern-day cricketer has to fly into all kinds of conditions. There are no practice matches to acclimatise. He just has to switch on to the First Test. And a month later, fly to a completely different time zone. First, mend the cricket calendar; then, ask bowlers to bowl more. Lastly, Walsh's or Kapil's body constitution may have been exceptional. They weren't the typical bowlers of their time. Bowlers (Patterson, McDermott, et al) too broke down.

  • Robin Hobbs on December 19, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    Michael, the main thrust of your argument is the sort of pub-talk I often hear from occasional cricket followers, and having read your previous pieces I know you're way better than that. What you're demonstrating is survivorship bias, with the likes of Walsh and Wasim being exceptions to the norm. This issue is nothing new, and has been debated ever since I started following cricket over 20-odd years ago - and probably way before that. During the 90s England could very rarely field their first choice bowling attack as Fraser, Gough, Caddick, Headley etc. were often crocked. Go back to the 80s and it was the same story - how often could we get Foster and Dilley on the park at the same time? Same with other teams - Bruce Reid, Ian Bishop, Shane Bond... the list goes on.

  • Steve meikle on December 19, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    Good article pleased to see some thought put into the reasons for injury problems amongst modern quickies... BUT! glaring problem in the comment "They bowled much quicker than guys like Hilfenhaus, Gillespie, Milne, Broad " Completely untrue .. Milne is mid 140s ( touching 150 ocasionally) Gillespie and Hilfy and Brioad are very similar in pace to the guys mentioned in the article... What all those bowlers ( who didn't break-down) mentioned share is a relaxed action... Courtney Walsh and Ambrose, Mcgrath and Pollock (add Holding and Hadlee from even earlier) all shared relaxed loping run ups and fluent stress - free bowling actions. This goota be at least part of the reason. Look at Milne his action is almost identical to Bond's and they share lightning pace and frequent break-downs.

  • Lyndon McPaul on December 19, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    Quite simply; the bowlers who are prone to injury either by their action or physical weaknesses will get injured, leaving those (a small minority) who by nature are more suited to the repetetive intense strain of fast bowling to carry on. For Australia; at least at the moment, this seems to be bowlers such as Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc. Both of these bowlers have good balanced runups and smooth actions and never look excessively strained at the point of delivery. McGrath had an easy, repeatable action. Pattinson on the other hand throws all of his considerable weight right behind each delivery. He has quite a solid upper body rather than a lanky; wiry type build which is more ideal for generating pace whilst with less effort.

  • vibhanshu on December 18, 2012, 15:57 GMT

    Michael Jeh's analysis has a survivorship bias. He only remembers those bowlers of the past who had long careers not those whose careers were hampered by injury. I remember Wasim having a persistent groin muscle problem, Jason Gillespie hardly completed a series without breaking down, Javagl Srinath couldn't throw because his shoulder was gone, Darren Gough had knee problems, Dion Nash had a injury-curtailed career, Waqar had a bad back, Ian Bishop's career was interrupted due to injuries. There will always be players with good and bad general fitness in every era.

  • Azeem on December 18, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    Would a selector have dared to tell one of the old West Indian greats that you've bowled too much so you're not playing the next test. Sore jaw may have been an understatement there.

  • SUZZANE on December 18, 2012, 4:49 GMT

    Great comments are written here, but i wanna add a question that, why there is a lack of fast bowlers in INDIA??

  • Ash on December 18, 2012, 2:42 GMT

    "If you don't have muscles you can't pull them." - John Emburey :-)

  • Murray Archer on December 18, 2012, 2:40 GMT

    @ Craig Dengate at December 16, 2012 8:17 AM

    Could not agree with you more mate ! The restrictions etc are ludicrous ! They especially do not take into account an individual's strength irrespective of age.

    I personally got brought up (lot earlier than you) in a world where only way to be fit to bowl was :-

    1. Bowl ! every day in any net till too dark for them to bat.

    2. Run ! miles and miles every day - more than 100 miles a week

    3. Sprint ! Cyclic 400 meters in less than a minute...... one minutes rest , sprint again ! ( doing 30 of these, showed aerobic/energy readiness for bowling.)

    Most importantly what Alec Bedser always said :- to be strong enough to bowl ..... bowl !!!!

    Totally apart from being fit enough to bowl...... whatever happened to just doing it when in total agony ? (will we ever see a Lillee against Pakistan '72/3 again ?)

  • Mo on December 18, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    People don't realise the incredible toll weight training places on the central nervous system.A heavy weight session drains the relevant muscle group of 70% of its glycogen and it takes 4-7 days for the muscle to recover. IF bowlers are spending too much time in the weight room they wont be recovered fully at match time leave alone practise net sessions,thus the body must break down over time. Of course the body needs resistance training but for sportsmen these need to be brief,structured and focussed.A top exercise sports scientist suggests no more than one 30 minute session a week during playing season and 3 30 minute sessions during the "off season".Ill bet modern quickies are spending more time than that!

    Shaun Pollock trained with weights as did Lillee,Michael Holding and the great Windies team,Imraan Khan (Nautilus machines)and even Alec Bedser(weighted shoes!),etc.Its a great tool but too much of a good thing....

  • Mo on December 18, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    People don't realise the incredible toll weight training places on the central nervous system.A heavy weight session drains the relevant muscle group of 70% of its glycogen and it takes 4-7 days for the muscle to recover. IF bowlers are spending too much time in the weight room they wont be recovered fully at match time leave alone practise net sessions,thus the body must break down over time. Of course the body needs resistance training but for sportsmen these need to be brief,structured and focussed.A top exercise sports scientist suggests no more than one 30 minute session a week during playing season and 3 30 minute sessions during the "off season".Ill bet modern quickies are spending more time than that!

    Shaun Pollock trained with weights as did Lillee,Michael Holding and the great Windies team,Imraan Khan (Nautilus machines)and even Alec Bedser(weighted shoes!),etc.Its a great tool but too much of a good thing....

  • Michael Jeh on December 17, 2012, 22:26 GMT

    Regarding comments that so many fast bowlers of yesteryear were also prone to injury seems to be somewhat missing the point. Yes, fast bowlers used to get injured regularly but that was before all the new innovations, including business class flights, single rooms for uninterrupted sleep, ice baths, sports drinks, massages, elaborate warm-up and warm down routines, workload management, high-quality footwear, compression garments...the list goes on. To say nothing of the huge amount of medical staff whose sole job it is to prepare these bowlers for the task of bowling. If we are simply going to accept that fast bowlers will continue to get injured at the same rate as before, that is OK but in that case let's just dispense with all the extra cost of the things mentioned above. Just let them bowl until they get injured. Why waste money on all these new technologies and staff if we're going to concede that injuries will continue to happen and there's very little we can do to stop it?

  • Typos on December 17, 2012, 20:31 GMT

    Well written as usual Harsha but the over-arching question remains unanswered and bears careful consideration. In Walsh's time, Bishop developed stress fractures, Bruce Reid of Australia, also Bond of NZ. Before them, Dennis Lillee and I'm sure research will uncover many other instances. Fast bowling is tough business! Walsh, Pollock, Akram and Mcgrath were special and usually had quality support, plus, as seasoned professionals, knew how to read a pitch and conditions and tailor a spell to suit, probably not wasting effort balls. Are captains looking after them? Are pitches (especially drop in pitches) harder to bowl on? Is modern shoe design truly better? It might be unfair to suggest modern bowlers are a bit precious I feel.

  • sajjo on December 17, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    "They bowled much quicker than guys like Hilfenhaus, Gillespie, Milne, Broad et al so their bodies were under more stress in that respect but yet they just kept keeping on. " Is he mad. Walsh, and Pollock were just medium pace, so was McGrath. In that list only wasim akram was very fast. Broad, Hilfenhaus etc have much more pace than Pollock, Walsh etc

  • Ash on December 17, 2012, 13:04 GMT

    As others have pointed out, for every fit bowler of the past, there were as many that fell by the wayside. From an English perspective, Willis, Botham, Hendrick and Old all had major injuries and time out of the game. In more recent times, Gough had to be regularly patched up and Headley disappeared entirely after a promising start. For all the recent problems of Broad and Finn, both have missed relatively little cricket in recent years, whilst Anderson's fitness record has been exceptional.

    I accept, like the article, these are merely observations. However in the absence of any meaningful data to support the theory that most fast bowlers these days are injury prone weaklings, I'm sceptical.

    Like most superficially persuasive arguments appealing to 'common sense', the obvious and equally shallow response goes along the lines of 'if it was that obvious, don't you think that someone, somewhere would have tried it?'.

  • Stewart on December 17, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    Also, further to my earlier comments...... Bones harden with the right amount of stress, when put under pressure, ie bowling, tiny fractures will appear, then heal/ repair, hardening the bone placed under stress. (this also occurs in boxing with boxers hands, although similarly to bowling, too much stress can cause genuine fractures) But if this occurs at a young age when growth is occurring naturally then the likelihood of problems is reduced (as long as action is not mixed etc.) so by limiting the number of overs youngsters are allowed to bowl, you are limiting the amount the bones can strengthen. This is from reading extensively about the subject AND personal experience (between the ages of 9 until about 16 I bowled pretty much everyday in the summer months, for hours at a time)

  • Stewart on December 17, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    Good article again!! I have beat my drum about this in other articles written by you Michael. I equally cannot believe all of the breakdowns that occur in this 'enlightened' age, although I think alot of it is to do with bowling actions, and drastic changes made after puberty. Colin Croft bowled naturally to him.... was he signigicantly injured, i don't believe so. If you look at the bowlers you mention, Walsh, Ambrose, Pollock, McGrath (all in their prime genuinely QUICK bowlers) but they never looked as if they were straining, forcing the pace, they bowled quick with smooth relaxed actions. Bowlers today seem to really FORCE their bodies to bowl quick, contorting themselves to fold at the waist in follow through, lifting the left leg high to slam into the ground. It all seems a recipe for creating extra stressors on the body. Look at 2 Express bowlers of the past, Holding and Thommo, both different actions, but compared to bowlers of today, both very very smooth even Thommo!!

  • Praxis on December 17, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    Some commenting here that the writer conveniently skipped the names of past bowlers whose careers were injury ravaged. We need to notice the rate of injuries now. One doesn't have to be an expert to realize that there is something seriously wrong with these athletes. With all these support & care these guy are dropping too frequently. It makes them seem pampered & unfit.

  • Mohsin Khan on December 17, 2012, 8:01 GMT

    Massive exagerration, Wasim Akram was out with injury for ages at a time. Mcgrath hardly ever bowled over 75 miles an hour to get an injury.

  • Raghavan.N on December 17, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    Kapil Dev missed just 1 test, for reasons other than injury in his whole career playing 131 tests overall in 15 years.Most of his wickets were on slow and dead Indian tracks.Today's fastmen lack that kind of fitness and commitment.

  • Ali Shah on December 17, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    great article this one. Something that really needs to be pondered upon. The more we try to fix the problem of injuries the more it seems to occur. How about not tinkering too much with the natural bowling action of bowlers. Injuries will happen but to take away the natural action of bowlers and "coach" into being something that their bodies probably aren't is another thing that needs to be looked at.

  • I Bump G on December 17, 2012, 4:38 GMT

    So true. I have always said that a little knowledge sometimes messes things up. Stories are told of Wes Hall bowling forever in Australia, many times with ailments which would upend careers today. Keep them safe but do not pretend that they are children.

  • VeryeavY on December 17, 2012, 4:21 GMT

    Has anyone thought to look at general environmental issues, but in articular the bowlers' diets when they were younger? Might it just be that modern diets are leading to slightly less robust physical specimens being produced? Just a thought.

  • Swedgen on December 17, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Superb article, and pretty hard to refute.

    The first question is the obvious one - why would fast bowlers need to do endless gym work? I can clearly recall the awesome West Indies pace attacks from the 1980s, and the thing is, though they were very fit, they weren't musclebound. They were all very lean but still athletic. Most importantly they were durable. As you say, they got fit FOR bowling BY bowling. Players now are so pampered and protected I'm amazed they're allowed out in direct sunlight.

    The worst case was concerning Peter Siddle's omission from the Perth test this year. Here is the spearhead of Australia's attack, who nearly bowled them to victory in Adelaide. He is then rested for the deciding test of the series, because he "might" be sore. Well, it might have taken Merv Hughes ages to recover, but that's because he was fat and not dedicated. Siddle is and his omission helped Australia lose a test series. Unbelievable incompetence by the selectors.

  • Michael Jeh on December 17, 2012, 3:39 GMT

    Well, at least it's not just the fast bowlers. Michael Clarke has just done his hamstring when stretching for a third run as he hit one down the ground. I saw him stretch for that run and wondered if that would be too much for his tender body. Sure enough, he's cactus too. He tweaked his hamstring even when he was warm and stretched. Usman Khawaja just needs to wrap himself in cotton wool before Boxing Day and hope he doesn't strain a muscle in the next few days. My money's on Clarke not being fit for Melbourne.

  • Supra on December 17, 2012, 2:49 GMT

    I would go a step further and suggest that the modern lifestyle is the problem. Fast bowling is a tough gig - I can't think of any other sport where there is so much awkward repetitive bending & twisting of the body. Tennis possibly, but a tennis match hardly lasts as long as a test match bowling spell.

    I think the modern lifestyle doesn't allow the body to sufficiently 'harden up' for bowling fast. Out of Walsh, Akram, McGrath, Pollock I am pretty sure all those guys were brought up at a time and place (eg. farms, countryside)in environments where strenuous manual labour was done everyday. I think in the modern world where we drive everywhere rather than walk, use trolleys instead of lifting heavy objects and generally have all the services and infrastructure for a comfortable life at our doorstep(esp. in big cities), the environement is not very pace-bowler friendly.

    So...I'd hate to sound alarmist...but I don't think there are any easy answers...

  • Raza on December 17, 2012, 1:22 GMT

    Great read. I totally agree with Craig also. Young bowlers should be encouraged to bowl as much as they can and then some.

  • andrew schulz on December 17, 2012, 1:16 GMT

    On a TV interview yesterday, Siddle made it clear that the decision not to play in Perth was his. Pathetic criticism of Patterson too, considering blokes like Anderson, Broad, Shahadat, Best, Philander, Zaheer seem to get away with whatever they want to say.

  • Stuart_Watson on December 17, 2012, 0:49 GMT

    There's a great deal of bluster in this piece of the "it wasn't like this in the good old days" nature. It reads rather like a lecture from Fred Trueman. You're not comparing like with like. McGrath, Pollock, Walsh, Akram and Vaas are all bowlers who survived for long periods of time to become greats. In the meantime many promising young fast bowlers from those nations fell victim to injury and never fulfilled their potential. In fact most of those bowlers spent long periods sidelined by injury at some point in their careers. They often cut down their pace and adapted their actions to improve their durability. Pollock and Walsh didn't bowl quicker than Broad or Mark Gillespie for much of their careers. Pollock became a canny 78 mph swing bowler as a reaction to early injuries. Walsh bowled an incredible number of overs, but rarely at anywhere near his top pace, using height, accuracy and swing punctuated by occasional bursts of speed when something special was required.

  • Prasanna on December 17, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    All of the above reasons are interesting. I can think of an additional reason: with the increase in the number of support staff cricketers are probably less self-aware about their bodies until they break down. I am pretty certain the legendary fast bowlers of the yesteryear knew their bodies and managed their workload wisely!

  • Njr1330 on December 16, 2012, 23:18 GMT

    Michael, is it just co-incidence that many of the injured bowlers are tall and thin. Could it be that the ideal build for a quick bowler, is in fact, I.T. Botham rather than R.G.D. Willis?!

  • Rahul Bose on December 16, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    I think these trends are the result of lifestyle changes that have happened over the last two decades. Off the field people are living more sedentary lives. Compare that to the growing years of Walsh in Kingston or Akram in Lahore. No amount of gym work can substitute for a physically active life.

  • Ashley on December 16, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    Its easy to remember the guys that didn't get injured. what about Simon Cook, Paul Wilson, Shaun Tait, Matthew Nicholson, Brad Williams, Nathan Bracken? Even regulars like Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Damien Fleming all missed signfiicant time with injuries. Going back even further what about Greg Campbell, Bruce Reid and even Craig McDermott and Geoff Lawson. Lets not forget the vaunted Dennis Lillee missed a year with stress fractures. Fast bowling is a high strain/intensity/impact activity that is associated with injuries. The guys that don't get inured are the statistical outliers, the freaks that alter our perception of these injury rates.

  • ygkd on December 16, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    Craig Dengate is quite right.

  • Sam on December 16, 2012, 21:18 GMT

    Michale Jeh, You have written an excellent and common sense article. It's very straightforward and it's very easy to understand by everyone. We need more articles like this from very sensible people like you. Please write more articles like tyhis.

  • Keith on December 16, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    Another good example - Chris Martin.

    The guy is not an "athlete", but he bowls and bowls and bowls, all at the age of 38.

    Pumping iron may be beneficial if you want to add an extra yard of pace, but the old methods of running lots and bowling lots are the best at keeping oneself match fit.

  • Murugan on December 16, 2012, 19:10 GMT

    Courtney Walsh, Akram et al.. have no specialist bowling coach in their days. All the injuries are picked up when bowling coaches are in the team. I believe the coaching method has something to do with it.

  • Paceman on December 16, 2012, 15:19 GMT

    Yeah good point Craig, managing juniors with a view to "potential injury" doesnt make sense. Their bodies never get stronger / adapt. The article is spot on too. Im sick and tired of seeing Aussie quicks go down in the last 24 months, when guys like McGrath, McDermott or even guys like Bichel were bowling long, quality, spells in their mid 30s with 30 seasons (northern + english summer) of cricket under their belt. Siddle (who is a tough competitor) being rested by selectors for Perth - OMG! Merv Hughes played the whole 1989 Ashes with a HOLE IN HIS KNEE! Bring back Errol Alcott Australian cricket has lost a bit of its tenacity in the past 5 years with this sort of thing (insisting on a substandard spinner in the 11 for one - Opponent must laugh when we serve up guys like Hauritz, Beer, Doherty and Lyon - all terrible)

    Liked the article, think it was a bit tough lumping GIllespie in with the injured quicks. Had a shocking broken leg when cannoning into Steve Waugh in SL. Great bowler

  • David M. Ross on December 16, 2012, 14:36 GMT

    There is good reason to be concern but the depth of sports science in cricket is still in its infancy as compared to track and field and NFL.

    Cricket, especially fast bowling is a multi-planar activity with many biomechanical inconsistencies. Instead of dispelling the scientific approach we need further insights as to what is being done in order to identify the real problem and fix it.

    We cannot forget the infiltration of Australian coaching systems in the last decade or so. These systems were based on unproven theories. Maybe there lies the problem, major teams were copying the mistakes of the leaders blindly, instead of looking for evidence based training regimes.

  • salman on December 16, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    It all in the shoes. Wasim, Waqar, Imran & Shoaib all had their shoes made from this one guy in Punjab somewhere. With fast bowlers its always how they land and the pressure their feet can handle.

  • Bloo on December 16, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    Interesting article - though you are focusing on the outliers of the earlier game (and their obvious inherent longevity) compared to workhorses like Siddle or Hilfenhaus and the like. What happened to the bowlers in the 80s, 90s and 00s that weren't named Walsh, McGrath and Vass (Bruce Reid anyone?)? The article is not really comparing apples with apples.

  • amir shehzad on December 16, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    well said...extra care can be harmful as in this case..but it's happening all over the world,even in pakistan where still no concept of load management.i think change of action is the major factor..

  • veera on December 16, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    In my 54th year, I still find a brisk 1 hour walk/jog first thing in the morning (a daily routine for the past 25 years) the best cure for the aching joints one wakes up with, especially in the winter. Kapil Dev, the Indian all rounder, to the best of my recollection, didn't miss any match due to injury while taking over 400 Test wickets; he did some serious bowling everyday . Basically, the body does not get stressed and injured while doing routine stuff, and the professional sports person has to make his particular sporting activity a part of the daily routine.

  • Peter J Bovey on December 16, 2012, 11:56 GMT

    people are assuming that sports medicine is a science when in reality it's largely an evidence free zone

  • Russ on December 16, 2012, 11:17 GMT

    Michael, your memory is distorted because you remember the players who had long careers and strong constitutions, and forget the dozens who did not. What about the injuries that ended the careers of Hughes or McDermott? Recall that Reiffel was called up for injury to both the '93 and '97 Ashes tours, and he is one of several with that distinction (Whitney, Young). The shortened careers of Reid, Fleming or Bishop? There is nothing new about injuries; players in the 50s, 60s, and 70s all got injured, regularly. A search through newspaper records shows that. Nor do they appear to be any more common.

    You also seem to be greatly against sports science, without ever having read it? One of the findings is that bowlers need both enough work and not too much, which agrees with your column. But also, that more than 50 overs in a match, particularly in the second innings significantly increases injury risk. If cricket was serious about stopping injuries, they'd look at substitutes.

  • Meety on December 16, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    I think we need to take a leaf out of Rugby Union & the way they deal with 7s Rugby in relation to how Cric Oz deals with T20s. T20s are fairly recent & I think the fact that most T20 games involve one over spells (unless they are running rampant), this low volume is causing far more problems than a FC game would & possibly also an ODI. IMO (non-sports science background - just a bloke who loves playing sport), I think that a one over spell puts about as much potential for an injury as a 7-over spell in a Test match. The further a T20 match goes on, the less chance that a captain have pre-ordained who was going to bowl & when, so I don't think bowlers get the 4 or 5 overs of pre-warning whereby they can do appropriate warm ups. A one over spell still involves some form of warm up (but 1st ball onwards expected to be high intensity), high intensity workloads, & a warm down period. I think the warm up & warm down periods dictate whether a bowler is going to get injured.

  • Patrick on December 16, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    Good article, the circumstantial evidence can't be ignored. I'd add that the speed gun has potntially become an unhealthy obsession, the aforementioned bowlers (like Dale Steyn today) bowled regularly within themselves, they were good enough to be dangerous in any gear, adjusting their strategy to body condition as well pitch I'd speculate.

  • Hassam on December 16, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    And to think Wasim played most of his cricket with Diabetes.

  • Craig Dengate on December 16, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    100% agreement. I think it stems from junior level. I play 5th Grade in the Sydney Grade comp. I'm 29 years old, so I'm certainly not there as an up and coming junior. My time has come and gone. For me its about teaching the kids about the game and getting them to future levels.

    I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to do that when I have 5 bowlers in the side who are only allowed to bowl 5 overs at a time - insane. Even when I was a kid, there were no bowling restrictions. Kids are getting injured more now then ever before. For crying out loud, rugby league kids don't miss games just because they MIGHT get injured. You don't see centres coming off 3 times in game just because they are sweating. Why is cricket so different? Why can't our up and coming kids bowl their backsides out like we used to? Medical science and the people that listen to it are destroying our bowlers.

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  • Craig Dengate on December 16, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    100% agreement. I think it stems from junior level. I play 5th Grade in the Sydney Grade comp. I'm 29 years old, so I'm certainly not there as an up and coming junior. My time has come and gone. For me its about teaching the kids about the game and getting them to future levels.

    I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to do that when I have 5 bowlers in the side who are only allowed to bowl 5 overs at a time - insane. Even when I was a kid, there were no bowling restrictions. Kids are getting injured more now then ever before. For crying out loud, rugby league kids don't miss games just because they MIGHT get injured. You don't see centres coming off 3 times in game just because they are sweating. Why is cricket so different? Why can't our up and coming kids bowl their backsides out like we used to? Medical science and the people that listen to it are destroying our bowlers.

  • Hassam on December 16, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    And to think Wasim played most of his cricket with Diabetes.

  • Patrick on December 16, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    Good article, the circumstantial evidence can't be ignored. I'd add that the speed gun has potntially become an unhealthy obsession, the aforementioned bowlers (like Dale Steyn today) bowled regularly within themselves, they were good enough to be dangerous in any gear, adjusting their strategy to body condition as well pitch I'd speculate.

  • Meety on December 16, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    I think we need to take a leaf out of Rugby Union & the way they deal with 7s Rugby in relation to how Cric Oz deals with T20s. T20s are fairly recent & I think the fact that most T20 games involve one over spells (unless they are running rampant), this low volume is causing far more problems than a FC game would & possibly also an ODI. IMO (non-sports science background - just a bloke who loves playing sport), I think that a one over spell puts about as much potential for an injury as a 7-over spell in a Test match. The further a T20 match goes on, the less chance that a captain have pre-ordained who was going to bowl & when, so I don't think bowlers get the 4 or 5 overs of pre-warning whereby they can do appropriate warm ups. A one over spell still involves some form of warm up (but 1st ball onwards expected to be high intensity), high intensity workloads, & a warm down period. I think the warm up & warm down periods dictate whether a bowler is going to get injured.

  • Russ on December 16, 2012, 11:17 GMT

    Michael, your memory is distorted because you remember the players who had long careers and strong constitutions, and forget the dozens who did not. What about the injuries that ended the careers of Hughes or McDermott? Recall that Reiffel was called up for injury to both the '93 and '97 Ashes tours, and he is one of several with that distinction (Whitney, Young). The shortened careers of Reid, Fleming or Bishop? There is nothing new about injuries; players in the 50s, 60s, and 70s all got injured, regularly. A search through newspaper records shows that. Nor do they appear to be any more common.

    You also seem to be greatly against sports science, without ever having read it? One of the findings is that bowlers need both enough work and not too much, which agrees with your column. But also, that more than 50 overs in a match, particularly in the second innings significantly increases injury risk. If cricket was serious about stopping injuries, they'd look at substitutes.

  • Peter J Bovey on December 16, 2012, 11:56 GMT

    people are assuming that sports medicine is a science when in reality it's largely an evidence free zone

  • veera on December 16, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    In my 54th year, I still find a brisk 1 hour walk/jog first thing in the morning (a daily routine for the past 25 years) the best cure for the aching joints one wakes up with, especially in the winter. Kapil Dev, the Indian all rounder, to the best of my recollection, didn't miss any match due to injury while taking over 400 Test wickets; he did some serious bowling everyday . Basically, the body does not get stressed and injured while doing routine stuff, and the professional sports person has to make his particular sporting activity a part of the daily routine.

  • amir shehzad on December 16, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    well said...extra care can be harmful as in this case..but it's happening all over the world,even in pakistan where still no concept of load management.i think change of action is the major factor..

  • Bloo on December 16, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    Interesting article - though you are focusing on the outliers of the earlier game (and their obvious inherent longevity) compared to workhorses like Siddle or Hilfenhaus and the like. What happened to the bowlers in the 80s, 90s and 00s that weren't named Walsh, McGrath and Vass (Bruce Reid anyone?)? The article is not really comparing apples with apples.

  • salman on December 16, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    It all in the shoes. Wasim, Waqar, Imran & Shoaib all had their shoes made from this one guy in Punjab somewhere. With fast bowlers its always how they land and the pressure their feet can handle.