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Variability of ball release properties and pitch length accuracy in cricket fast bowling

Authors:

Abstract

Accurate ball pitch length in cricket fast bowling is potentially achieved from a redundant combination of four ball release parameters. Yet, it is unknown how parameter co-variations affect pitch accuracy. This study investigates whether pitch length variance is determined by coordinated ball release parameter co-variability. Twelve fast bowlers performed 18 trials at a target length and ball kinematics were captured from an indoor 3D camera setup. Multi-linear regression analysis showed that the four release parameters accounted for 79% of pitch length variance, where vertical velocity variance accounted for the most variance. When each release parameter was independently shuffled across trials, a pitch length model showed no indication of coordinated co-variability between input parameters. Therefore, pitch length accuracy was achieved by independent control of vertical velocity.
VARIABILITY OF BALL RELEASE PROPERTIES AND PITCH LENGTH
ACCURACY IN CRICKET FAST BOWLING
Alan Sutherland1, Mark King2, Michael Hiley2, Stuart McErlain-Naylor3 & Simon
Taylor1
Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia1
School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, Loughborough University,
Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK2
School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Suffolk, Ipswich IP3 8AH,
UK3
Accurate ball pitch length in cricket fast bowling is potentially achieved from a redundant
combination of four ball release parameters. Yet, it is unknown how parameter co-variations
affect pitch accuracy. This study investigates whether pitch length variance is determined
by coordinated ball release parameter co-variability. Twelve fast bowlers performed 18
trials at a target length and ball kinematics were captured from an indoor 3D camera setup.
Multi-linear regression analysis showed that the four release parameters accounted for
79% of pitch length variance, where vertical velocity variance accounted for the most
variance. When each release parameter was independently shuffled across trials, a pitch
length model showed no indication of coordinated co-variability between input parameters.
Therefore, pitch length accuracy was achieved by independent control of vertical velocity.
KEYWORDS: pitch accuracy, variability, co-variability, fast bowling.
INTRODUCTION: Attributes of maximum ball release speed and pitch accuracy (i.e.,
successful attainment of intended ball projection length, or flight range) in cricket fast bowling
are advantageous, because this combination leads to batting errors of the opposing team. Ball
release speed has been a primary focus of bowling biomechanics research (i.e., Portus et al.,
2004; Worthington et al., 2013), while the inter-relatedness of ball release parameters that
contribute to pitch accuracy have received less focus (Glazier & Wheat, 2014).
As such, there is a knowledge gap related to pitch accuracy. Bowling accuracy has been
investigated whilst exploring performance characteristics between different levels of expertise
(Phillips et al., 2012), effect of differing pitch lengths on junior performance (Harwood et al,
2018) and the effects of dehydration on ball speed and accuracy (Devlin et al., 2001). However,
no reported studies attempted to investigate how a bowler controls pitch length accuracy. Only
Harwood et al. (2018) reported the effect of different pitch lengths on release parameter
attributes in children, noting a change in ball release angle explains most of the variance in
pitch length.
Therefore, it is currently unknown how fast bowlers minimise variability of ball release
parameters to control pitch length accuracy in adults. Indeed, performance variability can be
mitigated if contributing elements cooperate (e.g., coordination co-variance of parameters).
Phillips and colleagues (2012) noted for task demands such as accuracy, the valuation of
technique would provide valuable insights into fast bowling performance. For example, how
does a bowler control the inherent variability of a redundant combination of ball release
parameters: (i) horizontal velocity (ii) vertical velocity (iii) horizontal position, and (iv) vertical
position? There is a gap in the current literature on cricket fast bowling that relates to the effect
ball release and velocity on pitch length accuracy. Therefore, this study aims to explore
variation and co-variation of these four release parameters and identify the key parameters
related to pitch length accuracy.
METHODS: Twelve male fast bowlers (mean ± standard deviation: age 19 ± 1; height 1.87 ±
0.04 m; body mass 82.4 ± 11.5 kg) who were members of the Marylebone Cricket Club
University team were tested in accordance with the guidelines outlined by the Loughborough
University Ethical Advisory Committee. Each bowler bowled a minimum of 18 good (participant
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40th International Society of Biomechanics in Sports Conference, Liverpool, UK: July 19-23, 2022
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determined) length deliveries captured by an 18 camera VICON MX system (250 Hz, OMG
Plc, Oxford, UK) in an indoor cricket specific facility. Forty-two retro-reflective markers were
attached to the body as specified by Worthington et al. (2013) and two additional 15 x 15
patches of reflective tape were placed on each hemisphere of the ball. Participant marker data
was filtered by using a fourth order low pass Butterworth filter at 15Hz. The global coordinate
system z-axis was recorded in the upward vertical direction, the y-axis was defined to run
parallel to the long axis of the cricket pitch (middle stump to middle stump), with the positive
direction being measured from the batter’s end. Ball release was determined as the first visual
frame where the selected ball marker exceeds 50 mm of horizontal separation of distance from
the virtual landmark. The virtual landmark was created as an expression 20% separation gap
between the hand and ball marker. This method was determined as an appropriate measure
to obtain ball release after a sensitivity analysis and comparison to the method of Worthington
at al. (2013).
Ball flight properties were calculated using simple projectile laws based on constant
acceleration (over ten frames post ball release), negligible air resistance and computed within
the global coordinate system. Pitch length was calculated from the four ball release parameter
inputs of (i) horizontal velocity (Vz); (ii) vertical velocity (Vy); (iii) horizontal position (Py); and
(iv) vertical position (Pz). Horizontal and vertical resultant ball release velocity were recorded
from the average of 10 frames post ball release. Horizontal position (recorded relative to the
middle stump from the bowler’s end) and vertical release position (ball height) were also
recorded at ball release in the global coordinate system. The equation used to calculate pitch
length from a standard 22-yard pitch (20.12 m) was:
  󰇡 󰇛  󰇜󰇢
  
Box plots of ball release parameters and pitch length for the bowling group were used to
describe normal distribution of results (Figure 1). Mean pitch length was assumed to represent
their goal pitch length and standard deviations were calculated as estimates of bowler
variability. The first 18 trials per bowler were used to determine accuracy and ball release
parameter values, with an additional ball added in place of any identified outlier trial. Outliers
were determined by conducting a Grubbs’ test.
Matlab v.2021a (The MathWorks Inc., Natick, MA, USA) was used to complete a cyclical
simulated release parameter shuffle, whereby each parameter’s individually recorded value
was cyclically shuffled 18 times for each of the 18 deliveries. The other release parameter
values remained un-shuffled. This shuffle determined the random pitch length variability
contribution (standard deviation) of each parameter. Index of Cooperation as used by Kusafuka
et al. (2021) was then adopted to indicate parameter co-variability. IBM SPSS Statistics v. 27
(IBM, Armonk, NY, USA) was used to perform a multi-linear regression analysis to explain pitch
length variability (dependent variable). The percentage of variance in the dependent variable
explained by the independent variables within the regression equation was determined by the
R2 value. P-value of <0.05 was used to determine significance of the regression model and
independent variables in describing variance of the dependent variable.
RESULTS: Group average pitch length mean, and group average standard deviation was 6.12
± 1.89 m. Mean vertical velocity variability (1.11 m·s-1) was greater than horizontal velocity
(0.81 m·s-1). However, mean vertical position variability (0.02 m) was less variable than the
mean horizontal position variability (0.14 m).
A multi-linear regression model successfully predicted pitch length variance from four ball
release parameters (F (4, 7) = 6.55, p = .016, R2 = .789). Of the four predictor variables
investigated, only vertical velocity variability (β = 1.313, t-(7) = 4.437, p < .05) was significant.
The surrogate data set and output of modelled (cyclical shuffle) pitch length found that pitch
accuracy was not significantly more (or less) variable than random variance of model input
parameters (± 1.89 m: After shuffling the model inputs (ball release parameters) across trials
the average pitch length variance was 1.90 m for vertical velocity, 1.91 for horizontal velocity
m, 1.88 m for vertical position, 1.90 m for horizontal position, and 1.88 m for the
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horizontal/vertical velocity double shuffle). In support, an Index of Cooperation (IC) revealed a
lack of co-variability on pitch length variance (vertical velocity 1.00, horizontal velocity 1.01,
vertical position 0.99, horizontal position 1.01, and vertical/horizontal velocity 1.00).
Figure 1: Box and whisker plots showing the group median and quartile distribution: a) pitch length
standard deviation b) horizontal velocity standard deviation c) vertical velocity standard deviation d)
horizontal position standard deviation, and e) vertical position standard deviation.
DISCUSSION: This study quantified the impact of the four ball release parameters on pitch
length variability. Group accuracy was found to be (1.89 m) which was only slightly less
accurate than data collated by Cork et al. (2012) (1.76 m). The most variable ball release
parameter was found to be vertical velocity which varied by (1.11 m·s-1) amongst the bowling
group. Release position standard deviation in contrast varied much less (horizontal position
0.14 m, vertical position 0.02 m) and was comparable to results gathered by Cork et al. (2012)
with a horizontal position standard deviation of 0.27 m and Salter et al. (2007) with a vertical
release position of 0.03 m. The four ball release parameters were then run through a multi-
linear regression. Horizontal velocity variability, vertical velocity variability, horizontal release
position variability and vertical release position variability, together explained 79% of the
variance in pitch length. Vertical velocity variance was found to significantly describe pitch
length control. This result was not unexpected, as Kusafuka et al. (2021) and Harwood et al.
(2018) both noted ball release angle played a role in explaining baseball pitching accuracy and
cricket bowling pitch length. However, the lack of significance of other parameters suggests
vertical velocity is the prominent predictor and influencer of pitch length control. Thus, for
bowlers to bowl an accurate length reducing vertical velocity appears to be important.
The lack of evidence indicating ball release positioning’s influence on pitch length variability
too was not unexpected, because they are deemed as constrained variables. Vertical release
positioning is constrained by the physical height of the bowler and any fluctuations in the
magnitude have a very limited influence on flight time and range, as demonstrated in underarm
throwing by Dupuy et al. (2000). The horizontal release position is also constrained by the
bowling crease, whereby the magnitude only varied by 0.14 m in the group, delivering the ball
1.65 m from the bowler’s stumps or almost exactly over the bowling crease at 1.6 m. Harwood
B)
A)
C)
D)
E)
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Published by NMU Commons, 2022
et al. (2018) noted junior bowlers showed no indication of adaptive change of their foot position
when bowling different lengths and the small change in release position of 0.14 m in this
dimension supports that result.
However, it was the lack of evident coordinated co-variation between the release parameters
that was the most intriguing result. Index of Cooperation results (vertical velocity 1.00,
horizontal velocity 1.01, vertical position 0.99, horizontal position 1.01 & vertical/horizontal
velocity 1.00) showed no indication of cooperation between any of the release parameters, as
there was no distinct difference in Index of Cooperation scores. Index of Cooperation scores
should be regarded as an expression of cooperative contribution to the degree of variability
(Kusafuka et al., 2021), and a score close to one poses no distinction between the performed
and simulated cyclical results. Thus, the results from this shuffle demonstrate very little if any
cooperation is occurring to reduce pitch length variability. Kusafuka et al. (2021) found similar
results in baseball pitching vertical displacement, whereby scores close to one were likely due
to their limited impact on pitch location. This likely indicates, as with baseball pitching, bowling
pitch length accuracy is highly influenced by vertical velocity variability and that pitch variability
is unlikely to be adapted or controlled through coordinated co-variation.
CONCLUSION: This study aimed to investigate how cricket fast bowlers controlled their pitch
length accuracy from the variability of four ball release parameters. There was found to be little
coordinated co-variability amongst the release parameters in reducing pitch length variance.
This indicates the release parameters work independently from each other, with vertical
velocity having the largest impact on pitch length variance. Therefore, reducing vertical velocity
variability is advantageous in improving pitch length accuracy and, as such, understanding how
the bowler controls vertical velocity variability should be of focus moving forward.
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Dupuy, M. A., Motte, D., & Ripoll, H. (2000). The regulation of release parameters in underarm precision
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The associations between fast bowling technique and ball release speed: A pilot study of the within-bowler and between-bowler approaches
  • C W Salter
  • P J Sinclair
  • M R Portus
Salter, C. W., Sinclair, P. J., & Portus, M. R. (2007). The associations between fast bowling technique and ball release speed: A pilot study of the within-bowler and between-bowler approaches. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(11), 1279-1285. https://doi.org/10.1080/0264041060109682