Had back injuries not plagued Ian Bishop, he would have finished his career well in excess of 161 Test wickets and 118 ODI wickets that he took in his 10-year career. An orthodox side-on action with pace that was thrilling to watch, Bishop was a gentle giant.
His second innings has been exceptional, today one of the best broadcasters in the business, his reading of the game is excellent. As world cricket finds itself blessed with the presence of genuine young fast bowlers, Bishop gets into analysis mode.
I picked five bowlers who have been cranking up the speed gun and consistently asking questions to the best batsmen in world cricket and this is Bishop’s interpretation of how they go about their bowling and what is working for them.
“By any measure of technique, Jasprit Bumrah has a unique action. The first point of observation is that a bowler’s run-up is usually a high contributor to ball speed. Hence, if you think of the great bowlers of the game - (Michael) Holding, Waqar (Younis), Wasim (Akram), (Dale) Steyn etc. - you will find a running style being compared to maybe a 400M runner.
“Jasprit has a very short approach, and for two-thirds of that run almost stutters or ambles in. It’s only in the last four or five strides that he gathers any consistent stride pattern of length and speed. It, however, seems to work for him at this juncture.
“In his gather, coil or bound as it is sometimes known - his final leap to set himself for release, many bowling scientists talk about keeping the bowling arm “short” in its pick-up and then its downward rotation. Bumrah bucks that trend. His pickup of the bowling arm is a fully extended one, and even more fascinating is its full arms-length as it begins the first half of its downswing.
“After release with an open-chested action, his bowling arm then finishes between his legs after ball release.
“Jasprit’s great strengths though are a braced front leg at delivery which allows him to get the most transfer of momentum from his run-up and power through his delivery.
“He also has a very still head which facilitates focus on where he wants to land his delivery, and alignment or the transfer of his body momentum towards his target.
“The wrist position at release is strong and facing its targets so he can swing the ball in either direction.”
“My wish is that Jasprit should not play every game or series for India so as to maintain his pace along with his enormous skill. Pace is the thing that separates many of these bowlers from their contemporaries.”
“Cottrell is physically a strong bowler. That strength is one of his main assets. He is not as consistently quick as the others in this group, but he is sharp enough and gets the ball to swing and seam.
“His run-up is very athletic, with a nice bounce to his strides. The approach to the crease gathers pace at the right time and then maintains to his point of release.
“Where Sheldon is perhaps leaking energy is that his front or right leg collapses at ball release. He, therefore, losses height at delivery, and also does not maximise his pace due to that idiosyncrasy of the right leg at release.
“If Sheldon had to build his action over again, one other thing would be to get his non-bowling arm to work harder through his delivery. At times, it just sort of drops down and dies during release, not working as the lever to the bowling arm that it is meant to be. This sometimes leads to inconsistency in his pace as the bowling arm occasionally does not finish with the expected force past the right hip after delivery.
“However, Cottrell is as mentioned before, a very strong man physically, and drives himself and his action through to the crease to good effect.
“A good wrist position also allows Cottrell to swing the ball away from the left-handed batsman and into the right-hander.”
“I would like to have seen Sheldon do more strength work to stand taller at the crease. And use his non-bowling arm a lot more in delivery.”
“Archer, in my view, has the best skill-set and combination of technical factors in this group. His action is the most efficient and well-aligned. A smooth, upright and accelerating run-up; so smooth in fact, that to many onlookers he does not seem to be running with any haste. I believe that is an illusion. At his fastest, Archer runs in quite briskly, but he achieves it so easily and efficiently that it looks effortless.
“Archer, when compared to Bumrah’s bowling arm, leads his gather; upswing and then downswing of the bowling arm, in more conventional style. It’s just in the gather, which is the upswing prior to the start of the downswing and then the arm straightens into the final upswing once again of the arch of the arm rotation and into ball release.
“Archer then delivers from close to the stumps mostly, which allows him to bowl at either right-handed, or left-handed batsmen with ridiculous ease and regularity. Driving through the crease after a fairly low gather, Jofra is quickly off his back [right] leg and onto his left or blocking leg, setting himself for a deceptive ball release. With his left leg well positioned down the pitch and trailing leg just to the inside, Archer then thrusts his upper body over that braced front leg using all the momentum gathered from the run-up approach.
“The delivery then comes from a very tall action with a super quick arm speed. Archer’s wrist position is strong, as with any decent quick bowler, and then he releases the trigger catapulting the ball with a final flick of the wrist at the top of its release.
“Finally, Archer gets everything from his non-bowling arm to his head and his feet and then his bowling arm in the best position, towards his target.”
“Like Bumrah, I pray that Archer is not burnt out by being over-bowled. As an all-format bowler, he needs to be managed more carefully. The ECB are going to have to take criticism on the chin if they allow him to miss some series and games. It is in their best interests to give him adequate rest over the next few years of his career.”
“Ferguson, like Cotterell, derives a lot of his pace from a strong upper body and powerful lower half strength with a very rigorous and forceful action.
“The run-up is a bounding, powerful approach synonymous of a good athlete. Things I like about his action are a nice high jump into his gather, the coiling of the bowling arm near the right ear and looking down the inside of the left arm, [semi open action], a braced front leg and strong finish of the bowling arm past his left hip after ball release.
“Lockie can be a bit awkward for batsmen to face because his upper body, head, left shoulder and upper torso do fall significantly to the left just before he releases the ball. Ferguson, therefore, does not deliver from anywhere near above the front leg in the way that Archer does. Because of this, I sometimes worry that he is predisposed to back problems because of the stress this puts on his back.
“Some of his energy/momentum leaks to the left of his target, but he makes it up with two things: his strong front leg and those powerful shoulders.”
“Lots of strength work on his core to be able to sustain his workload and safeguard him from back injuries given the uniqueness of his action.”
SHAHEEN SHAH AFRIDI
“Shaheen Shah Afridi has the attributes to be an excellent asset for his country. He has the height and pace to make him a tough opponent to face. In some ways, he reminds me of a much more athletic, shorter version of Mohammad Irfan.
“The technical strength of his run-up is nice and fluent, gathering pace and then maintaining it. A nice strong front leg at ball release, coupled with a very still head position and a bowling arm that drives right through the action giving him great dynamism. He manages to use a lot of that run-up momentum because he is able to bowl over that braced front leg.
“Although some others may be quicker, Afridi’s bounce and pace combined can be awkward to face. He has also got excellent skills for one so young (19 years old). His improved bowling lengths during the 2019 World Cup are indicative of a quick learner with excellent variations in his deliveries.
“In addition, he seems to be able to serve up a toe-crushing yorker with reverse swing in the finest tradition of great Pakistan fast bowlers.
“The one drawback, if any, is that he sometimes falls to his right slightly before ball release. This means that he sometimes delivers just in the inside of his highest point of ball release.”
“Strength work, lots of it. And good workload management.”