Let me ask you something; how much better a bowler would you be if you could hit a perfect line and length?
It's a challenge that takes a lifetime to master, and a road that is littered with distractions. Yet the simplicity is appealing: Put the ball on the spot, hit the seam again and again and watch the wickets tumble.
You don't need to be quick. You don't need to rip it square. You don't need to swing it round corners or even have a clever mystery variation. Those things are nice, but accuracy... accuracy is within reaching distance.
It's so tantalisingly close that you can almost taste the success it will bring.
Yet, so few achieve what should be simple.
How do you break through the accuracy barrier and take your game up a level?
Here is some advice.
Become obsessed with process
Modern coaching uses terms like "processes" to break the shackles of outdated methods. We used to use technique as the beginning, middle and end of bowling. It was striving for perfect technique that created bowlers with perfect accuracy.
That is certainly true, but we also know now that techniques vary. Technique is an important part of the bowling process that also includes other factors. Take the example of Lasith Malinga. The Sri Lankan has a bowling technique that should be super inconsistent. Yet he can bowl that death yorker for 12 balls in a row if he likes. He has a process.
And that's what you need too.
That starts with your bowling technique. Does your technique give you the best chance of bowling with accuracy? Do you find that you action can vary between balls?
Video yourself bowling both in nets and in games, especially towards the end of a match or session where fatigue can influence your movement through the crease. Watch to see what stays the same, decide what changes as you get more tired or stressed.
When you can see an area of weakness, strive to improve it.
This is not about wrist or head position or any other particular technical point per se. It's more about seeing what works in your technique, and what goes wrong when you fire it down the leg side. For example:
- If you notice your head falling to the off side at the end of the game, you might need better fitness (both core strength and endurance)
- If there is variation in your arm position as you release the ball, work backwards through each step of your action and decide where it breaks down, then work on it with chaining drills.
- If you bowl poorly under pressure situations, start developing methods to become better and handling those pressure moments.
You get the idea: Spot the issue (technical, fitness, or psychological), design a drill or training plan to overcome that method and work on it with single-minded obsession.
Remember the basics
Of course, all this takes some effort and no small amount of skill and knowledge. Luckily, during this process you can do something a lot simpler and that is almost always effective: basic target bowling.
Target bowling is useful because it is the purest form of deliberate practice: You can set it up quickly, get instant feedback and track your improvements over time. PitchVision even does this for you, but you can use a pen and paper or track it in your notes app on the iPad.
So, set up some targets, mark your pitch and bowl like a crazy person until it starts to click and your percentages shoot up. The more you do it, regardless of any other factor, the more accurate you will get. You learn where to look, you learn how bowling a good ball feels, you learn how to stay focused in a long spell. If you do it enough you develop bowling stamina.
Like all practice methods there are limits - you don't learn how to bowl under pressure, and you can't correct technical issues - but overall it works so well I would be amazed by any bowler who didn't use it.
Combine your target bowling with your new obsession with process and you have a bowler, over time, who can reach insane levels of accuracy.
Cricket is simple when you put it like that isn't it?