Biomechannics of cricket 101

By Dr. Michael Seepersaud
Stabroek News
September 28, 2003

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THE cricket-loving public has been hearing about the importance of bio-mechanics in cricket for some time now. But what is bio-mechanics?

Simply put, bio-mechanics is the study of the mechanics of movement of living organisms. Bio means body and mechanics means how it works. By studying human movement, bio-mechanics can help the coach to analyse cricket techniques and to develop indicators of good techniques. After all, the movements that comprise all cricket techniques are bio-mechanically related.

For many years, former players undertook cricket coaching when their playing days were over.They were successful in their careers, but they all had their own opinions on how the game should be played.

As the demands of the game grew and as we saw the evolution of coaching as a profession, the cricket message needed to be more accountable. No longer was relating the experiences of a long career sufficient to develop players. Players began to ask who, and “how,” and “what if.”

And so a universal language of coaching was necessary. The basis of this new coaching language was the human body and how it moves in a way to achieve natural balance and efficiency. It was the language of body movement or bio-mechanics.

Through bio-mechanics, coaches began to understand that players who were poorly balanced were unable to execute skills with efficiency, consistency, power and control and that the great players were naturally balanced.

In cricket terms, coaches looked for balanced players who were stable, who kept their arms, bat and head in line, who moved their body in sequence, who looked smooth and natural. The language that developed introduced words such as stability, levers, alignment, gravity, force, impact, control, and power, all to do with the efficiency of the human body when it moves.

Cricket coaches need not be scientists, but they must understand how the elements of the body works, why it moves in a particular way, and what happens if it moves out of sequence or is out of balance. This is bio-mechanics to the cricket coach.

The sceptics may still ask why bio-mechanics? In simple terms, bio-mechanics enhances performance and reduces the risk of injury. In more complex terms, the game of cricket involves a wide variability in the kinematics and dynamics structures of movement of the body and, therefore, lends itself easily to bio-mechanical interpretation.

There are three fundamental concepts in bio-mechanics:

Balance Force Motion

Balance is when the centre of mass (the torso) is over the base of support. The wider and lower the base of support, the more stable you are. A batsman, for example, will usually have his/her feet roughly shoulder-width apart in the stance (there are exceptions of course).

Balance could be stable or unstable, static (standing) or dynamic (walking/running). Moving body parts outside the base of support affects balance. That is why coaches will advise to keep the hands close to the body in the back-lift or bowler’s run-up.

Force refers to the pressure or impact exerted when a bowler bowls/spins the ball or when a batsman strikes the ball. Force can be more efficiently generated when the base of support is stable and aligned with the target. Coaches will tell bowlers to keep all body parts/levers moving towards the target and bowl from a stable base. Batsmen will be advised to step towards the target, stabilise the front leg and swing straight at the target. In batting, forces relate to acceleration and mass or bat speed and timing in cricket parlance.

In cricket, movements incorporate linear, angular/rotational and projectile motions.

A bowler’s run-up creates linear motion.

The bowling action constitutes angular and rotational motion.

The delivery of a cricket ball is an example of projectile motion.

Cricket coaches will now study these various motions, using Newton Laws, to make bowlers more efficient and safe. One law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, by depressing the non-bowling elbow rapidly into the hip, energy is transferred to the bowling hand: action û reaction.

The leading leg pointing towards fine/long leg at delivery would cause the upper part of the body to lean back or to the side in an effort to maintain balance.

A collapsing back leg could be caused by the delivery stride being too long or too high or by the angle of the run-up. Coaches will, therefore, not look at symptoms anymore, but the root causes of faults.

In our next installments, we will introduce the concepts of stability and the dangers of hip-shoulder separation in fast bowling.

DR. MICHAEL SEEPERSAUD is Chief Cricket Development Officer of the West Indies Cricket Board.