The Life of a Pace Bowler

As I briefly mentioned in my post about Brett Lee’s retirement from Test cricket, the lifespan of a fast bowler these days seems to be getting shorter and shorter, and in England’s, and Ryan Sidebottom’s case, even medium-fast paced bowlers.

Already without James Anderson, who is at home resting his knee after persistent problems, England have again seen Ryan Sidebottom forced out of a tour by injury. Added to that, they now concerns over the fitness of their other first choice pacemen, Stuart Broad and Graham Onions.

As a result of this an opportunity has presented itself to Tim Bresnan, who is promoted up from the ODI squad, and also for promising Middlesex seamer Steven Finn, who is called in as cover.

Such is the extent of the current injuries that the inexperienced Ajmal Shahzad, along with Liam Plunkett, who were both named in the original squad as back up bowlers, now look likely to play in Chittagong next Friday with Shahzad making his Test debut.

This seems to be becoming a more persistent problem on England tours of late, and home series for that matter. The list of injuries seems to be getting endless, they lost Simon Jones during the 2005 Ashes. In 2007 against India, England were without three (Harmison, Flintoff and Hoggard) of their first choice pace attack for the whole Test series, one of the replacements in that series, Chris Tremlett had to pull out of the next tour – to New Zealand – through injury.

We all know the story of the amount of injuries Andrew Flintoff has had, the currently rested (or resting an injury) James Anderson had his fair share of injuries in the earlier days, Darren Gough’s Test career was cut short as a result of his knee. The list just goes on.

It’s not just the amount of cricket being played either, think back to England’s recent tour of West Indies and the state of the pitches they had to bowl on. They could have bowled for 10 days on some of them and still not got 20 wickets such was the make up of them to suit the batsmen.

To play in 4 or 5 match Test series is long enough, the recent Ashes series had spells when the bat dominated, and spells when the ball was on top, prompting some batting collapses resulting in less time spent bowling. That’s fair enough on the bowlers.

In contrast, some of the pitches we are seeing in India and West Indies at the moment are just a fast bowlers graveyard, totally designed to suit batsmen and Chief Executives, to expect top pace bowlers to toil away on them for 2-3 days at a time is a joke. It’s time ICC did something about it.

As we are currently seeing in Australia, they seem to have adopted more of a seamer rotation policy in the recent ODI’s against West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand. We are now seeing Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger regularly rotate, with Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes coming in to play the T20’s.

After a recent crippling injury list of bowlers of their own, they must have concluded that they couldn’t continue in the same manner. No less than Brett Lee, Nathan Barcken, Ben Hilfenhous and Peter Siddle have recently been ruled out injured, Shane Watson has also had some well documented problems in the past.

Only Mitchell Johnson really bowls in all three forms of cricket, and he is now looked after with regular rests, Shane Watson also plays all forms but hardly bowls a ball in Tests. The Aussies, it would appear have taken the bowlers workload on board, prompting this apparent policy rethink.

With England, James Anderson and Stuart Broad play in all forms and neither are (before Anderson at the moment) regularly rested enough, Dale Steyn also takes on a similar workload for South Africa. I fear unless there is a change in approach they will all succumb to the treadmill of non stop bowling on batsmen friendly surfaces, and as a result will probably spend more time on treatment tables than cricket pitches.