This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Cricket by Ian Pont.
Line refers to bowling straight (at off stump). Encourage your bowlers to run up straight, go through the crease straight, and follow through straight. Then the ball will usually go straight. If you keep it that simple, most bowlers will not try to do anything awkward with their body positions. Bowlers often forget these basics and develop a bowling action that makes it harder to be consistent and accurate.
Length is simply when you let the ball go. Hang on to the ball too long, and it’s short; let the ball go too early, and it’s too full. So a bowler is effectively looking to give a high-five to the batsman to effect an ideal release point. Bowling with a perfect release point is a skill in itself, similar to hitting a tennis ball consistently well when serving. But through trial and error and feeling the release point, young bowlers can begin to understand when to let the ball go
Coaching the Basics of Bowling
When teaching bowling to young players, start with the four tent peg approach, named as such because these are the four things in the bowling action that are not negotiable—a bit like using four pegs to keep a tent stable and secure. Figure 8.1 shows the full bowling action, which we will further break down into each of the tent pegs. This will give you an idea of the sequencing and the key points to focus on to ensure your bowlers have repeatable actions.
Tent Peg 1
The first tent peg is back-foot impact. This is the moment that a bowler’s back leg impacts in the action, as shown in figure 8.1a. The idea is for the back leg to be stable and support the whole movement, which requires no leaning back but being relaxed and upright.
Once the back foot impacts at this point, any other part of the body can move except the back foot, so you’ll need to look at which way this foot points. If the back foot runs parallel with the crease, this is known as having a sideways setup. If the foot points at 45 degrees (toward the square leg umpire), this is known as having a midway or semi-setup. If the back foot lands pointing straight down the pitch, this is known as having a front-on setup. This is all very important to know as a coach and as a player because the rest of the action depends on that back foot’s position. That is, the bowler’s hips and shoulders will be at the same angle and not split apart on tent peg 1 because this would create a mixed action that might lead to injuries and line-up problems.
When bowlers are in the tent peg 1 position, their bowling hand is in line with their bowling shoulder, and their front knee is in line with their elbow, lifting the knee up as if attached by string. This ensures shoulders and hips line up correctly. They should be balanced and relaxed with all body weight supported on the back leg.
Tent Peg 2
The second tent peg is front-foot impact. It’s against the front foot and leg that a bowler pulls to create drive and speed. In the tent peg 2 position, the bowler looks like a five-point star or an X shape, with hands as far apart as possible (to create a stretch) and the balance of weight equally between each foot, as shown in figure 8.1b. The feeling for a young player might be that of grabbing the batsman’s collar with the leading hand and grabbing the sightscreen from behind with the other. The position is a power position in a straight line.
Tent Peg 3
The third tent peg is release of the cricket ball. The body leans forward, and the bowler feels as though he or she is giving a high-five with the bowling hand lined up with the bowling hip and in front of the front foot, as shown in figure 8.1c. The hips and chest face the batsman, and again the release is balanced, with everything moving toward the target.
Tent Peg 4
The fourth and final tent peg is the follow-through. The body drives forward, and the trailing leg drives hard toward the batsman to bring the hips through, as shown in figure 8.1d. The arms rotate fully, and the top half drives forward.
The four tent peg approach helps young bowlers understand where they ought to be at any one time. After going over and demonstrating the four pegs, have your bowlers try to put all the positions together in one flowing movement. Once they can do it, they have achieved full bowling action. In practice, have your bowlers walk up to the crease, step into tent peg 1, and flow through their bowling action. Also have them run up to the crease, jump into tent peg 1, and bowl with a flowing motion. By using the four tent peg approach, you reinforce that bowlers are aware of these important positions.