Warming up with different weighted balls isn’t cricket: Deakin research

Fast bowlers may be using weighted cricket balls in practice under the false impression it enhances skill, Deakin University researchers have found.

Dr Simon Feros, a lecturer in functional anatomy and strength and conditioning sciences within Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, said switching between the weighted and regular balls created a ‘kinaesthetic illusion’ that led to the wrong belief that the heavier balls had helped them bowl faster.

Dr Feros, who recently undertook a trial of the effects of cricket ball weight under three different warm-up conditions (regular ball, heavier ball, lighter ball) followed by a bowling skills test with a regular ball, said his data suggested that switching from heavy to regular created the illusion.

During the trial, a radar gun and a grid-based accuracy scoring system measured the bowling speed and accuracy of 13 amateur pace bowlers from Geelong and Melbourne, over three separate days.

Bowlers rated their ‘rhythm’, ‘effort’, and ‘feel of the ball’ in each delivery.

The researchers found amateur pace bowlers bowled with the same rhythm, speed and accuracy, regardless of whether they warmed-up with a regular ball, a 10 per cent heavier ball, or a 10 per cent lighter ball.

Dr Feros said bowlers reported the regular ball felt significantly lighter after warming-up with the heavier ball. However, the change in feel of the ball did not alter bowling speed, accuracy or rhythm.

The researchers also found there is an optimal intensity for amateur pace bowlers to train at.

When fast bowlers were instructed to increase the effort of delivery from 80 per cent to 100 per cent in the warm-up, ball release speed was on average 3.7 km/h faster – a change Dr Feros said was not very noticeable to a batter.

“Amateur pace bowlers often try too hard to bowl fast, which can be counterproductive from a biomechanical perspective,” Dr Feros said.

“Our study has shown that increasing the effort of delivery beyond 80 per cent results in greater stress on the bowler’s body upon landing in exchange for a little extra speed, which means that for all factors considered, the optimal intensity for amateur pace bowlers to train and play at is between 70-80 per cent effort.”

Dr Feros said Deakin was putting the science behind cricket so that coaches and players could use their training time more efficiently and effectively to enhance performance and reduce injury risk.

“Around 1.5 million Australians play amateur cricket and so it’s important that we educate and support our players to get the most out of their game,”Dr Feros said.

The findings by the research team, which also includes Deakin lecturer Kris Hinck, will be presented at the 6th World Congress of Science and Medicine in Cricket at England’s Loughborough University in July.

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