Loughborough University researchers have teamed up with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to improve batting techniques against the short ball and to encourage spinners to spin the ball more.
For the last nine years Dr King, Reader in Sports Biomechanics in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, has been working in collaboration with the ECB to investigate fast bowling technique with a view to understanding how bowlers can consistently bowl in excess of 90 mph while minimising injury risk.
This research has had a substantial impact on the coaching of fast bowling and, as a result of the success of that work, the ECB are now supporting two new projects – one in batting and a second on spin bowling.
The batting project is focused on playing against fast, short pitched bowling. Dr King said the motivation for the batting project came from Graham Thorpe, National Lead Batting Coach at the National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough.
He said: “Graham believes that aspiring England batsmen have to develop the skills to play short pitched fast bowling and he thinks developing, talented players should get more exposure to those types of delivery. He wants to know the right techniques to have against short pitched bowling, what works and what doesn’t.
“He makes the argument that we need to expose young players to fast, short pitched bowling so that they develop the right technique, so they are fully prepared to make the next step up to international level where they will often face faster and more hostile bowling than they have previously experienced.
“So we are looking at elite players, the ones who are good, the ones who are not good, and finding out the differences.”
The people involved with the batting project are Dr Mark King, Dr Andy Harland, Director of the Sports Technology Institute, Chris Peploe, a PhD student, Graham Thorpe and Dr Michael Bourne, Head of Sport Science and Medicine at the ECB.
The project is expected to take a further three years after starting just over a year ago and the first data has just been collected and is now being analysed.
The researchers have been working with England players like batsman Joe Root, who came through the ranks of the England Performance Programme based at Loughborough, and spinner Monty Panesar.
Dr King said: “The ECB give us access to some of their best players so, for example, one of the players we analysed this year was England’s Joe Root.
“We converted their National Cricket Performance Centre into a laboratory for a few days and recorded in detail each batsman playing a range of shorts against fast bowlers, the ‘sidearm’ and a bowling machine.
“We plan to collect data for the next couple of years to build up a substantial data set from which we can investigate why some batsmen are more successful against short pitched bowling than others”.
The spin bowling project is focused on how to produce more spin on the ball.
Dr King said: “We have been working with Peter Such, the National Lead Spin Coach at the ECB, for a few years already and have started to better understand the components of a ‘solid repeatable action’.
“But what we want to understand in the next few years is how to maximise the amount of spin on the ball.
“Why, for instance, can bowlers like Graeme Swann put 300-400 more revs on a ball than other off-spinners in the country? Are they simply stronger? Probably not. So what is it about their technique that allows them to produce more spin?”
The people involved with the spin bowling project are Dr Mark King, Liam Sanders, a part-time PhD student, and Peter Such.
Dr King said: “This spin bowling project is only possible due to the excellent support provided by the ECB.
“Like the batting, and fast bowling projects, the ECB give us access to some of their best players so, for example, one of the players we analysed this year for the spin bowling project was England’s Monty Panesar.”