English cricket February 10, 2004

ECB establish fast-bowling conservation group

Wisden Cricinfo staff

The England & Wales Cricket Board has taken a leaf out of the National Trust's book, by setting up a conservation group to nurture and restore the fortunes of the traditional English fast bowler.

As Simon Jones continues his rehabilitation in India, and Darren Gough rests his fragile knee ahead of his new challenges with Essex, the current dearth of top-class fast bowlers in England is all too apparent. To that end, the ECB has called on Troy Cooley, the national fast-bowling coach, to take charge of a new elite fast-bowling coaching and research group, or EFBG, as it will otherwise be known.

"Fast-bowling coaching is starting to be a bit more specific," said Cooley. "There are some things that have come out in research, such as the need to align the shoulders and hips in delivery to prevent back injuries. We want to refine that further, not to build clones, but to look at the kind of body positions that will best suit certain people.

"If you look at the top 10 wicket-takers in cricket history," added Cooley, "they all bowl differently, and our aim is to be quite individual in the way we develop different players." The EFBG's first act will be to send two of England's brighter prospects - Worcestershire's Kabir Ali and Yorkshire's Steve Kirby - to work with Dennis Lillee at his bowling academy at Madras. Kabir took advantage of a litany of injuries to make his Test debut at Headingley last year, where he picked up five wickets, including Neil McKenzie with his fifth ball.

Cooley envisages the EFBG as both a think-tank and a hands-on working group, and hopes to have appointed six other specialists by the start of the season. Peter Gregory, the ECB's chief medical officer, seems certain to be one of the nominated men, alongside a youth and county coach, plus a specialist in bio-mechanics. According to an ECB spokesman, the EFBG will have direct responsibility for all current England and National Academy fast bowlers, and is the latest step towards putting the elite of English cricket under central control.