Bowling Faster by Training Smarter: How I Fed the Need for Speed

Abhishek Bhat
Apr 4, 2019 · 5 min read

Like countless kids growing up in this cricket crazy nation, I wanted to be a cricketer. The only difference was that while everyone wanted to be the next Gavaskar, Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly or any of the legendary batsmen to have graced the 22 yards, I wanted to be like Brett Lee. I wanted to see the ball flying past the batsman’s nose and watch the wicketkeeper jump full stretch to try and gather it.

I have no idea how my love affair with fast bowling started, but since the time I can remember watching cricket, I was always more excited when the ball dominated the bat. I always felt that the quality of cricket was at its best when both the teams had great fast bowlers. I grew up in the 90s watching amazing fast bowlers like Wasim, Waqar, Walsh, Ambrose, Lee, Akhtar, Donald, and Bond. However, I was always disappointed that I did not have an Indian bowler who bowled seriously fast. I remember thinking, perhaps naively, that hopefully one day I can be the answer. Indian cricket has come a long way since the 90s, and one could argue that the current crop of fast bowlers is the best in terms of pace, skill, and variety in perhaps our entire history. The passion to bowl fast, however, has stuck with me.

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I remember going to the Gatorade Speedster competition in Bangalore as a 18-year-old and clocking 110 kmph. That was the first time I had ever measured my speed. I remember thinking, this is how fast I bowl, let me see if I can bowl faster. However, I had no access to a speed gun and no way to know if I was indeed getting faster or not.

I moved to Singapore at the age of 16 for high school. After that, I went to Australia to pursue a Bachelor of Engineering. In both these places, I continued playing cricket competitively and trying to bowl faster and become a better bowler. There is only one problem, while it is easy to figure out if you are improving as a bowler by looking at the number of wickets you take each year and your economy rate etc., knowing your bowling speed is a different story.

I returned to India at the age of 22 as a better bowler but not necessarily much faster. I was fortunate enough to get picked up by Saurashtra to play Ranji Trophy and after that, the pursuit of pace took a back seat and was replaced by the desire to out-think the batsman.

It took coaches like Ian Pont¹ to reinvigorate that fire within me that I have the potential to bowl in the 140s, and that I should not settle for less. With Ian’s help, I worked on the technical aspects to improve my bowling action. However, it wasn’t until SeeHow came into the picture that I was able to get a consistent measurement of my bowling speed, session after session and day after day. I cannot overstate the impact bowling with the smart ball has had on my bowling speed.

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Sensor Data Courtesy: SeeHow Machine Learning Engine; Video Analysis: Ian Pont

I had my first bowling session with the smart ball in early November and I was bowling in the mid-120s, barely getting above 130kmph. Then with some technical adjustments in a couple of weeks time, I was consistently bowling close to the 130 kmph mark. It was then that I realized that bowling fast is more than just about technique, it’s about the mindset. You have to be willing to bowl fast and to push your body and mind to achieve the target. Another huge benefit was every time I tried a new drill or a subtle change in my action I would get instant feedback on whether that change was contributing towards an improvement in my bowling speed.

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Once I achieved the results of improving my bowling speed from mid-120s to low-130s, it was time to rinse and repeat. There were times when I tried a certain change and that adversely affected my bowling speed but I didn’t have to waste a lot of time doing something that wasn’t working. I would immediately switch back to what was working and then try something new to squeeze a little bit more speed out of my action. The result of this was that currently I’m bowling in the high-130s consistently and pushing towards 140.

Abhishek Reddy² “ I think the bowling speed has drastically improved! Last time I faced him in Karnataka Premier League, he was close to 125–128 kmph. Now I think he is clocking close to 135 kmph at least and upwards”

Ankit Udupa³ “ I could see a lot of improvement in his bowling since the last time I faced him. I felt he was consistently bowling 7–10 kmph quicker than before with a smoother action. He seemed completely aware of his bowling plans and execution”

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Speed data for the last 4 weeks with the SeeHow smart ball

But the journey is not over; in fact, it has just begun. I am continuing to work with Ian on the technical aspects of fast bowling and to work bowling strategy in different scenarios, when it comes to the real match situation. The SeeHow sensor ball helps accelerate this process by providing valuable feedback by running simulations of various scenarios with different batsmen.

Ian Pont “ I think Abi has worked tirelessly to improve his action. We are seeing the fruits of that. The increases in speed are clear - up around 8–10 kmph- nudging 140 kmph at times. Not only that but he has worked on his skill levels, too. Both his slower balls and variations are part of a white ball bowlers armoury. And I would expect and hope Abi can make a real impact in T20.”

[1]: Ian Pont is one of the leading fast bowling coaches in the world, the former coach to both Dale Steyn & Shoaib Akhtar and many other international players. He is the author of bestsellers like The Fast Bowler’s Bible and The Ultimate Pace Secrets. He is also the founder of The Ultimate Pace Foundation, the go-to place to bowl quicker and take more wickets.

[2]: Abhishek Reddy is an Indian first-class cricketer who plays for Karnataka.

[3]: Ankit Udupa is current Under 23 cricketer from Karnataka.

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