The Importance of Deceleration in Cricket
There has been a huge surge in deceleration-based research in the last couple of years. Mainly due to the realisation that there was hardly any data within this field and the importance of being able to decelerate more efficiently as well as decelerating harder. The prominence of deceleration has a massive part to play within cricket, across all positions of the game. This article aims to highlight the value of being more effective at slamming on the brakes.
In many sports, the art of rapidly slowing the body (deceleration) is critical to the success of movement within that sport (1). In relation to cricket, the main areas where maximal deceleration can be found is within fast bowling, batting, and fielding. The forces that are exerted on the body whilst maximally decelerating are large in magnitude. This is why it is crucial to practise appropriate techniques to reduce the risk of injury, controlling the body safely at speed and also to be able to transfer the accumulated elastic energy into the succeeding movements after the deceleration has happened (1, 2).
The objective of decelerating is to decrease the body’s momentum (mass x velocity) by applying as much force as possible into the floor over as little time as possible in order to completely stop or to change direction.
This is what is meant by “slamming on the brakes.” By decelerating maximally, the athlete needs to be prepared for the forces exerted, and by completing physical preparation in force acceptance, we can look to improve technique and gradually expose athletes to higher forces to allow them to decelerate more effectively. Parameters in testing that relate to deceleration are the eccentric rate of force development (ERFD), Peak/average breaking force (N), breaking velocity, relative breaking power (W/kg) and also, percentage differences between the left and right leg to see if there are any imbalances. These parameters can be measured via force plates and are such a useful tool when screening athletes. By testing for these parameters on a regular basis it gives us an idea of how well-prepared athletes are to be able to decelerate. If they are highlighted as poor, then we can draw up interventions in order to increase their deceleration capability that directly transfers onto the field.
The table below shows the kinematic differences between accelerations and decelerations. By understanding which actions occur at certain points of a deceleration, we can then look to isolate some of these movements within a gym or an on-pitch session to try and progress athletes so they can carry out these movements more efficiently. The primary muscles used for decelerating are the quadriceps and gastrocnemius (1). These muscles work through an eccentric contraction as the impact force is absorbed and dispersed. The anterior forces acting upon the body leaves the braced legs in a potentially injury-occurring position (3). It is the pre-activation of these muscles that allow the absorption of these large eccentric forces that are observed during ground contact.
Having to be quick between the wickets is a must for any top-order batsman.
Being slow to turn and re-accelerate could be the difference between sneaking a quick 2 and being run out.
The ability to perform a sharp 180-degree turn should be worked upon in field-based and gym-based scenarios. Not only should you be practising applying maximal force and hitting the correct shapes before & during the maximal deceleration, but also the positions batsmen make on the way back out in a maximal acceleration. This will help with the development of neural pathways and physiological tissue changes which in turn, will improve the acceleration and deceleration capabilities of the athlete.
This can be targeted by using field-based practices looking for reactivity through the frontal plane. Key physical characteristics to be going after in these practices would be increasing ankle stiffness, reactive strength index (RSI) and lateral acceleration & deceleration capabilities. These will directly translate onto the pitch when looking to decrease time turning and increase the speed of running between the wickets.
Example gym-based techniques to increase deceleration capabilities and lateral acceleration could include:
- Lateral Plyometrics progressions
- Lateral explosive jumps
- Overloaded Jump progressions
- Overloaded decelerations with bi/unilateral progressions
- Using resisted sprints starting from side-on positions
- Olympic lift derivatives
One major factor when looking at deceleration in fast bowling, is the deceleration between the back foot contact and the front foot contact. The run-up velocity has a large part to play in this as well. If the entry velocity at back foot contact is high, this gives the rapid deceleration of the body more potential to translate greater forces to the delivery of the ball. This can only happen if the bowler has the relative strength to withstand the high forces that go through the front leg in order to bowl quickly. If the bowlers can’t withstand the forces, then we lose that front-braced leg that we are chasing after (4).
How to target deceleration capabilities in a field-based scenario :
- Isolated delivery stride practise
- Overloaded run-ups into delivery stride
- Practising the skill with a technical coach
- Continual exposure to braced delivery stride
Deceleration examples to use in a gym setting:
- Drop Jump progressions
- Plyometric progressions
- Braced leg single leg isometric mid-thigh pull (IMTP)
- Overloaded Jumps and landings
- Overloaded braced leg throws
- Olympic lift derivatives
Being able to decelerate late when chasing a ball towards the boundary is a great physical attribute to have. This means you have the physical capability to accelerate closer to the ball but also stop closer to the ball and therefore restrict the distance the ball travels away from the stumps and potentially restrict the opposition to a single rather than doubling up. These runs saved could be the vital difference between winning and losing.
Field-based practises to benefit deceleration when fielding:
- Unilateral stance decelerations
- Bilateral stance decelerations
- Lateral Plyometrics progressions
- Lateral explosive jumps and stick
- Assisted accelerations into decelerations
1. Hewit, J., Cronin, J., Button, C., & Hume, P. (2011). Understanding deceleration in sport. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 47-52.
2. Weaver, L. M. (2005). Balance in netballers (Doctoral dissertation, Auckland University of Technology).
3. Andrews, J. R., McLeod, W. D., Ward, T., & Howard, K. (1977). The cutting mechanism. The American journal of sports medicine, 5(3), 111-121.
4. Feros, S., Young, W., O'Brian, B., & Bradshaw, R. (2012). Physically preparing the fast bowler in cricket: A review of the literature. J Aust Strength Cond, 20, 117-122.