Loughborough has always played an integral part in the ECB’s development of young and talented cricketers, using the advanced facilities and high quality testing equipment to improve every aspect of their game. Recent names that have graced Loughborough’s Astro flooring include Chris Woakes, Steve Finn, David Willey, and Mark Wood, all of which are currently representing England at the highest level.
It’s been no different for Club Young Cricketer of the Year Tom Curran, England U19’s Sam Curran and Durham County’s Paul Coughlin, all arriving in Loughborough as a place to hone their bowling skills, become the quickest they can, and prevent long term injuries.
“The analysis helps us to understand where the player is with his development and assess their potential to injury” explained Dr. Paul Felton, a former PhD student, research associate, and the ECB’s consultant for biomechanics who undertook his Undergraduate studies within Loughborough. “More recently the questions have changed to understand performance.”
Utilising eighteen cameras, three dimensional biomechanical analysis, reflective markers, and a force plate, it’s fair to say the Performance Centre had it covered.
Starting in 2005, the ECB began to look into performance characteristics of fast bowling. Since then, research has only improved. With ECB commissioned work and the development of the “Pace Programme”, the young prospects have never had it better.
“The biomechanical analysis each fast bowler receives has evolved to use the research from over 15 years, to provide them with a solid base to prevent injury and improve their individual performance” Dr. Felton explained. However, he also argues that the knowledge surrounding the art of fast bowling isn’t complete.
“The results of (the research) were that the fastest bowlers run up faster, trunk flexed more between front foot contact and ball release, had a straighter front leg at ball release, and delayed their bowling arm. However, these results are derived over a group of bowlers and not for any particular individual, therefore it is not appropriate to just assume if he runs in faster he will bowl faster, as he may already be at his optimal run up speed.”
“Although there were pieces of research linking certain technical characteristics to ball speed there were a number of contradictions” – this is where Dr.Felton and Loughborough come into the frame. The ECB commissioned another piece of research in 2010 to understand the factors which limit an individual’s performance more specifically, utilising all the equipment outlined above in a complex simulation programme.
After completing an Undergraduate study in Mathematics and a Sports Biomechanics Masters both at Loughborough, Dr. Felton applied to work with the ECB. In order to find the answer, Dr. Felton and his team used this simulation model, which he explains “allows you to investigate how changing one technique aspect effects the rest of the bowling action”.
For anyone wanting to become the quickest they can, it may simply come down to 1 or 2% in a certain area. The margin is minimal, particularly at the high end of athletes which Loughborough regularly comes into contact with.
For Sports Biomechanics with an enthusiasm for cricket, you really should take a look at the prospects on offer here at Loughborough as you may well be working with England’s finest in the not too distant future!
– By Jordan Everett