The life of a cricket player has developed immensely over the years, with players now able to make a full time career of playing cricket professionally around the world and in different formats.
Today, elite players have a physically intense and arduous schedule compared to many of their predecessors, playing more matches in a wider range of formats in different locations, both nationally and internationally.
To ensure that these elite athletes can cope with their playing schedule, many national cricketing bodies have developed scientific programs that mesh sports science and cricket together. These programs aim to understand and develop healthier, fitter, stronger athletes to draw the most from each player.
Cricket Australia is just one example of this – the Cricket Australia (CA) Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, Australia. The CA Centre of Excellence is focused on four components:
- Player Development Unit
- Sport Science Sport Medicine Unit
- Information and Resource Centre
- Coaching, Umpiring, administration and Curator development
What sport science findings have been found in cricket?
In a recent conference held by the Centre of Excellence, Conference of Science, Medicine & Coaching in Cricket 2010, Bruce Elliott from the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, presented on where the two fields were currently at.
Mr Elliot found that sport science has played a significant role in developing cricket in Australia. Some of his recent findings in various sport science fields are below.
Sport and Health Psychology
The development of a ‘mental toughness’ inventory for high performance players. Mental toughness is a collection of experientially developed and inherent sport-general and sport-specific values, attitudes and emotions that influence the way in which we approach, respond to and appraise construed pressures, challenges and adversities to consistently achieve goals. Research by Gucciardi and Gordon (2009) identified a 5 factor 15 item model, the factors being: affective intelligence, attentional control, resilience, self-belief and desire to achieve.
Preparing cricketers for various formats (Pertersen et al., 2010).
- Overall, ODI & Twenty20 required 50 -100% more sprinting/hour than multi-day matches.
- However, the longer duration of multi-day matches resulted in 16 – 130% more sprinting per day.
- Shorter formats were more intensive per unit time but multi-day cricket has a greater overall physical load.
Modifying techniques (Elliott & Khangure 2002; Ranson et al., 2009)
- Early work showed that providing data and a seminar to players, coaches and parents was NOT successful in changing key bowling characteristics over ~2.5 yrs.
- An individual approach, with small group coaching was successful in modifying bowling techniques, shown to be related to back injury.
- 2-years coaching intervention with elite 18 year old bowlers, showed specific changes, such as shoulder counter rotation were possible, even with high performance players.
Workload and injury (Orchard et al., 2009; Saw et al., 2009).
- >50 over’s/ match had an injury incidence in the next 21 days of 3.4/1000 over’s bowled.
- >30 overs in the 2nd innings increased the risk of injury.
- Injured players threw ~40 more times/week (12.5 throws/day) than uninjured players.
Lower back injury reduction in male and female fast bowlers (Stuelcken et al., 2010 – data collected on 26 high-performance female fast bowlers; Portus et al., 2007).
- 14 females had a history of lower back pain (LBP), and bowlers with more counter rotation of the shoulder alignment were no more likely to have a history of pain.
- Female bowlers with a history of LBP positioned the thorax in more lateral flexion relative to the pelvis.
- Female bowlers with LBP moved the thorax through a significant greater range of lateral flexion relative to the pelvis.
- Age, growth and physical maturation are important factors when assessing back pathomechanics in fast bowlers.
- Adolescent fast bowlers more susceptible to injury from poor technique (ie shoulder counter rotation) than their senior counterparts.