Short sprint over long run-up for Mark Wood, Rubel Hossain | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Short sprint over long run-up for Mark Wood, Rubel Hossain

England’s Mark Wood and Bangladesh’s Rubel Hossain seem to be defying the age-old technique of gradual increase in speed in the run-ups. That was the feature of former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and a method followed by Mohammed Shami to great effect.

cricket Updated: Jun 16, 2017 23:41 IST
Siddhartha Sharma
England’s Mark Wood seems to be defying the age-old technique of gradual increase in speed in the run-ups.
England’s Mark Wood seems to be defying the age-old technique of gradual increase in speed in the run-ups. (Action Plus via Getty Images)

Have you seen a fighter jet take off from an aircraft carrier? Or a long jumper start his or her run-up? There is a certain similarity. A catapult effect is created to build instant momentum for the jet to streak down the ultra-short runway for take-off. A long jumper, bent forward, pushes off with either leg, and then sprints towards the pit. There is no gradual acceleration in either case as the jet as well as the jumper need to hit top speed immediately.

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Operating on the same principle are two fast bowlers in the ICC Champions Trophy. England’s Mark Wood and Bangladesh’s Rubel Hossain seem to be defying the age-old technique of gradual increase in speed in the run-ups. That was the feature of former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and a method followed by Mohammed Shami to great effect.

Usually, fast bowlers hit top speed in their run-up at the crease but the approaches of Wood and Hossain are the opposite. Wood stretches his right leg back and launches into a sprint while Hossain bends to start his quick run.

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Even with such a short run-up, Wood generates a lot of pace. He bowls at over 90mph. Against Australia in the last Group A game at Edgbaston, the Durham quick took four key wickets to end Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign. David Warner got out to a peach of a delivery that bounced from good length to kiss the edge, Steve Smith scooped a catch to mid-off, failing to cope with the rising delivery, while Glenn Maxwell was caught in the deep playing the pull. Wood also troubled Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson with disconcerting bounce, forcing him to glove a catch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Hossain’s strength is his pace and slightly slingy action. Hossain accounted for his only scalp in the form if New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, trapping him with a sharp in-cutter.

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But what is the significance of Wood and Hossain opting for a shorter run-up? Is it a ploy to save energy? MRF pace academy coach and former Tamil Nadu batsman M Senthilnathan answers the query.“If a bowler follows a proper run-up he will be in a strong position, and will use his front arm and core, and end with the follow through. Bowlers who are unable to find gradual acceleration do it with immediate momentum. With a short run-up, you sprint because you need quick momentum. They lack yards so they sprint,” says Senthilnathan.

Both Mark Wood and Rubel Hossain hurl the ball at high speeds. Rarely do they vary their speed. (HT Photo )

Although Senthilnathan hasn’t followed Wood and Hossain closely in the Champions Trophy, he says bowlers with shorter run-ups tend to muscle the ball. “This kind of run-up has its pluses and minuses. If they really sprint, there is a chance of muscling the ball every time,” he says.

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Wood and Hossain hurl the ball at high speeds. Rarely do they vary their speed. Wood’s dip in pace is usually marginal and because he fires his deliveries in, he finds disconcerting bounce from the pitch. His pitch map too is concentrated between short and the good length. However, not pitching it full could also be due to the Kookaburra ball not swinging.

During the three-match ODI series against SA last month, Wood’s pace ranged between 86-92 mph. Even his speed graph had small spikes indicating less reduction in speed. But what worked in Wood’s favour was his change of angles at the crease against Australia at Edgbaston. Hossain differs from Wood in his bowling length. With a slingy action, Hossain bowls slightly up and has a sharp bouncer, like Lasith Malinga. Wood has a high-arm action so he is generally seen probing the good length area.

Keeping the weight in front

Bending before starting the run-up keeps the weight ahead. Hossain bends before each delivery and then takes off. “Bending is putting the body in front. And if it is not in front, the strides become longer at the delivery point and it disturbs the set up. So, to make sure the strides remain equal, bowlers bend a little,” says Senthilnathan.

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Former India bowler and pace coach TA Sekar doesn’t agree with bowlers having short run-ups, and feels it could be due to their front-on bowling action. “Run-up is an individual thing. People like to imitate others. Brett Lee used to jump initially. It all started from there. Initially Richard Hadlee had a hop in 1977. But technically, if you are side-on bowler, you run like a steam engine, gradually build up and maintain the last seven-eight strides. Semi front-on bowlers run faster and then go through the crease. Today side-on and front-on bowlers run faster. I don’t know, but at some stage they might have a problem and then they might have to change,” said Sekar.

This sudden burst does take a toll on the body. Both Hossain and Wood have had serious injuries. In 2012, Hossain injured his bowling shoulder and was out of action for a long time. Wood has had three surgeries for ankle injury and wears specially designed boots for protection. You would often find videos of Wood on his Twitter handle doing strengthening exercises for his ankle and management of his load has been key to his strong performances.