Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hobart 2012: Day Three

Yesterday, being rather bullish about an Australian victory, I concluded:

On the other hand, although we often suspect there's a script in operation, real life tends to have fate lurking around the corner slipping the lead into the boxing glove, so I suspect both declaration scenarios will prove inoperative...

The lead, predictably came in the form of yet another breakdown from yet another Australian fast bowler, and all scenarios promptly went out the window when Hilfenhaus trudged off the field shortly before the Frockster and the Affianced arrived to whisk us off to Monte's for lunch.

An hour to get there, an hour for lunch and an hour to come back took a fair chunk out of the day, and when the neighbour fronted seeking assistance with a network problem that coincided with the Siddle burst that wound up the Sri Lankan innings, so I didn't get to see much of the day's proceedings, and was thinking of giving a Day Three blog entry the big flick pass until I spotted this article in this morning's online edition of The Australian.

I'm not in the habit of grabbing quotes off newspapers for blog entries, but in this case I couldn't help myself.

Team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said the spate of injuries was a complex problem.

That was followed by a longer quote that could've been cut and pasted, and a listing of the injury toll covering Pattinson, Cummins, Harris, Hastings, Hazlewood, Copeland, Cutting and Mitchell Marsh and goes on to point out that Kountouris has completed a number of studies on fast bowlers along with the team doctors, and that their research suggests anyone under 25 is almost guaranteed to break down once a year.


Looking down the list of walking wounded there are a couple of side strains apart from the one that took out Hilfie yesterday, back soreness and stress fractures and a serious hamstring injury (Marsh).

So there are recurring themes, and we need to figure out what's causing them. I spent most of the morning walk contemplating these matters and around half way around had reduced the possibilities to three basic factors. The actual cause of each injury issue probably lies in the interaction of the three of them, and that, I guess, is where the complexity comes in.

One possibility, of course, is that it's wear and tear, which is the explanation that brings out the it was different in the old days crowd. Wear and tear becomes a management issue, and we're already heading along that path, but the injuries keep coming.

We've been very careful to limit the workloads of kids on the way up, and we're a long way from the times when there were no bowling limits and I saw twelve-year-old kids sending down as many as twenty-two overs in a fifty over game. Workload limits have progressively been lowered, which may be a contributory factor to the current situation where you might question the core strength of some of these blokes, but those limits aren't going to go away.

And, in any case, if there are going to be wear and tear issues they're probably also going to reflect problems with the other two likely areas of concern.

One of those concerns bowling technique, and the other involves physiology and some of the associated biomechanics. There's almost certainly a degree of interaction between those as well, but let's look at the two of them separately.

You'd reckon that the technical issues that were identified with the bowling action would have been well and truly sorted out by now, but they might be worth a cursory glance just to remind ourselves of things that used to be important around thirty years ago.

At that point, there was a problem with what was termed a mixed action, which was seen to be a contributory factor in stress fractures and involved the correlation between the use of the front arm and the position of the back foot as the bowler lands in his delivery stride. The theory was that if you bowled in the classical side on manner your back foot should land parallel to the popping crease and your front arm should be high and come down straight rather than falling across the body.

If you've got a more front on action (a la Malcolm Marshall) your feet should have been pointing down the track. Land with your back foot parallel, the theory went, and you're setting yourself up for back problems.

Bowling techniques, of course, are an individual thing, and no two actions are exactly the same, but I suspect there are little issues that creep in and need to be addressed, but the key issue in this regard is who spots them and how they get addressed.

And, more significantly, when they get addressed.

There are a number of highly rated coaches out there doing their thing at various levels and it goes without saying they're not going to agree on everything. Dennis Lillee might look at someone's action and say it's fine while, say, Geoff Dymock might look at James Pattinson (and there was something on the ABC radio about this, so it's not something that I just plucked out of the air) and identify an issue here that might have implications there.

Given the nature of the beast, anyone trying to incorporate all of this often-contradictory advice is going to be reminded that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, but if there are highly rated coaches out there and they're identifying things that seem likely to be causing an issue these things should be noted.

Beyond the wear and tear and technical issues, there's the issue of basic physiology and the way it interacts with the bowling action, and here, I suspect, is where the problem lies, particularly if you're looking at the up and coming quickie and suggesting kids today don't have the same core strength they used to have.

The obvious way to overcome this is to set them to work in the gym, which is, I think, fine in theory, but tends to put muscle and bulk in areas where it wouldn't normally be, or places where there wouldn't normally be so much of it.

The other factor that might be contributing is the fact that bowlers in the modern era are trying to do too much in terms of variety of deliveries. Time was you had your quickie bowling a stock ball with one or two variations, but in the era of Twenty20 cricket I've heard suggestions that you need to be able to send down six different deliveries each over to keep the batsman guessing which could well be a recipe for disaster as far as the physiology is concerned.

But enough of that. With Sri Lanka having clawed their way back into the match with 336 in reply to 450, and with 27 added to the 114 run margin, that's a handy lead, and you'd expect, at around a hundred a session, under normal circumstances we'd be looking at around a 250 lead by lunch, 350 by tea and 400 an hour or so into the final session.

Allow for the extra half hour to make up for time lost through rain, and you'd adjust those (and modify again with Warner at the crease and Hughes to come). Hughesy's prediction: 290 ahead by lunch, 410 at tea. Half an hour into the final session before a declaration that sets the visitors 450.

So let's see how the wheels fall off this time...

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