What's more important for a swing bowler - wrist position or sideways action?
You don't have to be side-on to bowl outswing. That's a bit of a myth. Not too many guys get side-on these days. It's more about wrist position, your front arm and moving through the crease in straight lines.
Why is the wrist position so important?
Without a really good wrist position, it's really tough to swing the ball. You don't stand the seam up.
You want the ball landing on the seam when it gets to the wicket. Mitchell Johnson swung the ball and was obviously sheer pace. But when he didn't quite get it right, he had to turn the ball around. As a bowling group you want to keep one side of the ball nice and shiny. If Mitch didn't quite get his wrist up or the seam up and cut the ball a bit, he'd land the shiny side of the ball on the pitch. If you hit the pitch with both sides of the ball, you lose that edge with the ball a bit, so he would have to turn it round. Keep the shiny side for us.
If the wrist does come down nice and straight, it'll bring your bowling arm down over the top, which will allow the wrist to be behind the ball.
What's the ideal wrist position?
Fingers up and down the seam, thumb underneath, bringing fingers straight down behind the ball as you release. It depends on how strong the wrist is. Jimmy Anderson gets a good flick on his wrist behind the ball as he lets it go. Whereas Stuart Broad, when he's going well, gets his wrist behind the ball, but sometimes he can come down the side of the ball. If Mitchell Starc gets his action nice and tall, he really sweeps down the back of the ball, which obviously gets him some pace and also gets some revs on the ball.
"When I was younger I was out partying a bit too much. Train smart, concentrate on the parts of your body that cop a beating when you land at the crease. Make sure you've got plenty of flexibility"
Everyone is a bit different with how they hold the ball. Some have their fingers really close together on top of the ball with the seam. Some guys open their fingers up a bit. Some angle the seam towards first, maybe second, slip, depending on their action and where their wrist comes over.
Did you ever achieve the ideal wrist position?
That's something I probably lost a bit when I started to bowl a bit quicker. My wrist wasn't right behind the ball and I didn't get the swing I needed. Trying to get a bit of extra pace I probably pulled my arm a fraction away to the side, which didn't let my wrist come through nice and straight.
Is it possible to compensate if your wrist isn't quite right?
If your wrist isn't as straight or as perfect as you'd want it to be, angling the ball can give you that little bit of help, getting that seam moving away. That can start the angle.
When I wasn't swinging it as much, I tinkered with moving that seam around a bit. I got to a stage where I had it pointing to third slip, which was too much. I tinkered with having my thumb underneath, on the seam, where it joins the ball, or actually on the stitching. It would really depend on how I felt on the day. If it was coming out really good, I'd stick with what I started with. If I was not so sure, or it wasn't swinging as much, I'd make subtle changes.
Do you have to sacrifice speed for swing?
I suppose, yes, but when I started bowling quick, I was swinging it. My front arm determined that. I call it the rudder, the front arm, because it decides where you go.
When I had my arm nice and high, at a 60-degree angle, tall but not too straight, I felt like I was coming through towards the batsman and pulling my front arm in towards my side, I felt like I could keep the same pace and swing the ball. There were times when I didn't swing it, and when I looked at the footage afterwards, I was probably striving for a bit of extra pace, pulling that front arm over a bit to the side and not getting my wrist as straight as I'd have liked.
Some guys who strive for pace do lose a little bit of swing, but obviously you gain some speed. Every single day you bowl, it can be different because of the conditions or just the way you feel.
What about the run-up and the follow-through?
The problem with some young guys is that they have a really long run-up, take a long time to get into their stride and then are in the stride for too long. That can waste a lot of energy that you can put into bowling longer spells, particularly if you're in the field for two or three days.
I try to get guys with a little bit of intensity in their run-up, not jogging and then trying to make the pace at the wicket in delivery stride. You need a good hustle in your run-up, get some momentum going into the crease. There'll be a cruise part, three or four steps at the start of the run-up, to get balanced, but not too long, then top speed as you approach the wicket. By the time you release the ball, you've got to be balanced and into your jump.
I preferred a straight run-up. Some bowlers run in at an angle, but at some point they have to run the last few strides straight. You can't deliver the ball at an angle. With your follow-through, if you're going well, you'll just be going down the wicket at the batsman. Your weight, your front arm, your momentum.
"If your wrist isn't as straight or as perfect as you'd want it to be, angling the ball can give you that little bit of help, getting that seam moving away"
What does a swing bowler do when it's not swinging?
That's a tough one. If it suddenly stops swinging, it's easy to think that you're doing something wrong in your action, or you may start thinking bad things. You've got to have a plan B. That could be bowling stump to stump, locking up one end, bowling to a more defensive field, with a cover and midwicket. Plan C could be to bowl cutters, which would be effective on a slow, spinning wicket. But practise this in training. It shouldn't be something you just do in the middle. Trent Copeland could do that well.
A lot of guys change the grip, open their fingers so it doesn't come out as much. If they still can't control it, a lot of guys bowl cross-seam, which isn't great with the new ball. What normally happens is, the captain will take the bowler off, bring them back later when the ball is older.
What to do when there's a left-right combination at the wicket?
You've just got to adapt. Some guys change their angle of run-up, come a bit wider, swing it back into off stump. Some won't move at all. Against left-handers, if I wasn't swinging it, I'd still try and bowl a line that was challenging to the batsman. Then if it does swing, it would come into middle and off for lbws and bowled, and if it didn't swing, it would be the fourth stump and the keeper and slips would come into play.
Do you need to swing it a lot to take wickets?
That's what people think, but no - if you swing it too much, batsmen will play and miss, but by two or three feet. You only move it a fraction, particularly if you're bowling at a reasonable pace. A few millimetres' deviation can have a huge effect on what line the batsman plays and the difference between a nick and a miss. If you're a little slower you'll need a little bit more swing.
What are the best and worst grounds for swing bowling in Australia?
The best is the Gabba because of the conditions when they play the Test, in November. During the day it gets hot and humid. It's almost like the grass stands up on the pitch. The worst would be Hobart, probably because the breeze comes across at a different angle. I'm not sure, but it doesn't swing as much down there.
Why do batsmen hate playing swing bowlers?
Batsmen like to pick the line of the ball up early, get in position and wait for it. They can't do that if it's swinging. They have to track the ball right onto the bat, get their pads out of the way and make sure they're not nicking it.
What's the ideal length when you're bowling swing?
Hit the pitch, but at a fuller length. Bowl the ball into the wicket and hit the stumps three quarters of the way up. Floating it up gives the batsman an easy option. You're going to get murdered.
What's the most important quality for a swing bowler?
Aggression early on at the batsman, making him play. It's no good bowling eight overs first up with the batsman leaving six of them. You're wasting the new ball and your main skill. You need a bit of patience later on, if things aren't going as well. Not attacking as much, bowl that stump-to-stump line.
How does a swing bowler adapt to T20 cricket? Does swinging it out, in particular, make it easier for a batsman to hit?
The wickets we play on in Australia are so flat, it doesn't matter what you do. It's still an advantage to move the ball at 130kph or 135kph.
Who was the best fast swing bowler you saw growing up?
Probably Brett Lee - he'd bowl real quick and swing it. Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee were my idols growing up - not sure how much Thommo swung it, but Lillee bowled at a reasonable pace and swung the ball a lot. Terry Alderman swung the ball beautifully. He wasn't fast but he just knew where to put the ball. Damien Fleming could swing the ball both ways, and put it where he needed to put it.
"If you swing it too much, batsmen will play and miss, but by two or three feet. A few millimetres' deviation can have a huge effect on what line the batsman plays and the difference between a nick and a miss"
Craig McDermott must have been the perfect bowling coach, for you, as a player, since he bowled fast and swung it. How did he help you?
He was really good at what he did, but he didn't really do much. That sounds funny, but he got to know each individual, knew when someone wasn't doing what they were supposed to be doing, and he'd have a quiet word, get you back to doing what you do best. He said the right thing at the right time. Makes him a very good coach.
What advice do you give to young bowlers you coach about how to stay fit and avoid injury?
Look after yourself. When I was younger I was out partying a bit too much. Train smart, concentrate on the parts of your body that cop a beating when you land at the crease - legs, quads, glutes, and then your core. Make sure you've got plenty of flexibility.
There'll still be injuries at times, because we're doing such a unique thing that our bodies are not supposed to do. So you can train for it, but there aren't too many in history who have gone through their careers without at least picking up an injury here and there. You've got to make sure that when you get injured, you get over the disappointment pretty quickly and work out what you need to do to get back fit and strong.
Why do you think you were you injured so often when you played?
In my early years I thought I was training hard. But when I look back, yes, I trained hard but not well. It was only in my last eight years, after I moved to Queensland, that I learnt how to train properly. I wasn't even halfway where I needed to be when I was younger. If I'd trained properly back then, and got the bigger legs and the stronger core, I may not have got injured so much and may have added on a few more years to my career.
Should a bowler bowl through pain, or come off when they feel a niggle?
As a fast bowler, you know you're going to go through pain. Joe Dawes, my coach at Queensland, used to talk about good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when you're a bit sore but you can keep bowling. Bad pain is when you literally can't bowl.
In Cape Town, against South Africa, I managed. I modified the way I ran in, which enabled me to get off my right leg quicker, because it was hurting my knee. I used my shoulder more, to take the pressure off my sore spots.
You'll get a lot of older blokes who know their bodies, who'll push their bodies more than the young guys. Young guys get a sore hamstring and they'll think the hamstring has gone, and want to stop bowling. You don't want to push through and do damage. The trick is to know your body, know what type of pain you've got and when to push through or stop.
If a fast bowler doesn't train hard enough in his formative years, can that predispose him to injuries when he's older?
Cricket Australia these days try to get guys a lot younger, at 13 or 14, to try and get some bowling into them to get their bodies used to the stress. It's very hard to teach guys so young, to go to the gym and to bowl lots of balls. It's also a tricky one, because you don't want people to bowl too much and get injuries, but if you don't do it early on, and take up bowling late, you could have dramas.
What do you think of young bowlers having preset workloads?
A lot of guys are told how many balls to bowl in matches and at practice. They don't bowl enough in practice, and when they play back-to-back matches, they break down. A guy has to know his body and how many balls he needs to bowl to be ready for a game. Some guys will be given a certain workload and then that's it. Say if it's 24 balls, they might go in the nets and bowl 22 shit ones and two good ones, but they'll still walk out of the net. In my mind, you've got to come back and say, "I've got a game tomorrow. Yeah, my workload is 24 but I might have to bowl 36 to make sure I'm ready to go."
What's it like having gel injections in your knee?
I had them back in 2010. [They were supposed to provide padding in his knee as the cartilage is worn away.] After the second injection the knee blew up huge, really swollen, so I stopped having them. After that I had PRP injections [Platelet-Rich Plasma]. They take blood from my arm and inject it into my knee. It eases the pain and helps repair the cartilage.