Essex were left to rue releasing Chris Wright at the end of the 2011 season as he went on to play a pivotal role in Warwickshire’s County Championship title triumph, taking 67 wickets at 23 and earning a winter call-up to the England Performance Programme. Lithe and nippy, he is among the quickest speed merchants in county cricket and is known for his sharp bouncer. Here he gives his tips on cranking it up to full speed.
You appear to have added an extra yard of pace to your bowling over the last 18 months or so, Chris…
Yeah, I’d say so. I think certainly by playing more you’re more confident and you don’t worry about silly things, whereas as a younger bowler you might be thinking about technical things and outside pressures. You’re not going to bowl your best when you’re not thinking about the competitive element between you and the batsman. You’ve got to be very relaxed and confident to actually think ‘You know what? I don’t care about this that, or whatever else’ and just concentrate on the intent. The real intent to bowl quick.
If you’re trying to send down your quickest delivery, where should that extra speed come from?
Your run up should be meaningful and show intent. You don’t need to necessarily tear in but each step in your run up should be meaningful because you’re creating and storing energy which ultimately when you get to the crease and get into your delivery stride, is going to be coming through in your delivery. I don’t know many genuinely quick bowlers who ambled in. The slowest run up I can think of is Simon Jones but his was so rhythmical, so I wouldn’t suggest that route for an aspiring quick.
And at the point of release?
I think everyone has unique quirks but ideally a braced front leg is linked to bowling quick and also a kind of delay, so that when your front foot lands your bowling arm shouldn’t have started coming round and should have to catch up. You also shouldn’t be on your toe when your front foot lands; if you’re landing on your toe and not on the middle or back of your foot then you pretty much can’t bowl fast because there’s no real base there. But in my case I didn’t particularly think about any of those things to try and put on more pace. I trained quite specifically at the gym to bowl quicker and coming into the season just gone I was quite confident. I just wasn’t worried about anything else and started to think about the contest I was in.
When should you use the bouncer?
Firstly, at a batsman who you don’t think plays it very well. Personally I quite like bowling bouncers at lankier batsman; if you see a wicketkeeper that is 5ft 7in coming in you probably assume he’s better on the short ball than a guy that’s 6ft 3in. So pick your batters, for sure.
Would you still use it on a pitch without much bounce in it?
I think you still need to bowl it because if a batsman knows he can come forward every ball it makes his game much easier. So you’ve got to balance things out. It’s not necessarily going to be a wicket-taking ball but it’s a ball that makes your fuller delivery more threatening because the batsman’s foot movement might be compromised. If a batsman knows he’s going forward it’s easier for him to get into the position he wants, so you certainly need to think about using a bumper of some sort.
Is the slow ball bouncer something you often use?
Yeah, I use it a lot. I pretty much tried to copy what I saw England do so well in the 2010 World Twenty20 and it seems to be a ball that tall bowlers can bowl quite well. When I played a lot of one-day cricket for Essex at Chelmsford I thought the pitch could be quite conducive to it. It gripped and reacted quite well and what with the straighter boundaries being quite small, certainly from the end I bowled, it was a percentage option. You’re probably less likely to go for runs bowling a slow ball bumper than bowling a yorker with a short straight boundary behind you.
Would you ever use it in four-day cricket?
Yes, but not if I was bowling well. For it to work the batsman essentially has to be looking to smash it; if he’s defending the ball or leaving the ball there’s absolutely no point because they’ll just see it and react to it. The batsman has to have a preconceived idea of what they’re going to do, so they’ve got to be thinking ‘I’m going to slog the yorker over mid on, the bouncer’s going for six’. It wouldn’t work against a batsman who was batting head down without those thoughts.