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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 09:40 GMT
Techno tools
By Pranav Soneji

Andrew Flintoff runs in to bowl
When Andrew Flintoff plants his front foot on the crease as he bowls, a force equivalent to the downward pressure of a small elephant is absorbed by his left leg.

That is approximately 12 times the bodyweight of England's star all-rounder, who stands 6ft 4ins tall and weighs more than 100kgs.

Some bowlers go through the same strenuous motion up to 200 times in one day, so it is no surprise that a growing number are finding their careers cut short by injuries.

England's coaching team, however, have come up with their own strategy to give their pace bowlers greater longevity in the game.

It is called biomechanics, and the man at the centre of the revolution is bowling coach Troy Cooley.

Australian Cooley analyses his elite bowlers from his base at the England and Wales Cricket Board's National Academy at Loughborough University.

The jewel in his crown is Vicon 3D imaging, a 250,000 computer package which simulates each bowler's action.

"Through Vicon we gain a beautiful profile of what each individual bowler is doing," Cooley told BBC Sport as he examined footage of rising star Liam Plunkett's action.

Liam Plunkett has reflector diodes attached to him at Loughborough
Biomechanic man: Plunkett is wired up by the ECB team
"For example, Liam has been specially marked up on the joints we think are appropriate with about 40 special reflector diodes.

"They are picked up by high-definition cameras that feed back into a central computer, which changes his physical bowling action and recreates it in a 3D environment."

As well as forming an expansive 3D image, Vicon gives Cooley the ability to manipulate the bowler's action from any angle, giving him greater scope to analyse any potential flaws.

The main emphasis is on examining the alignment between the hips, shoulders and back to assess the impact of the forces going through the body.

"When the forces are at their peak, there is four times the bodyweight going through the back foot and up to 12 times the bodyweight going through the front foot," said Cooley.

"Vicon shows us where contact is, where alignment is and whether we should go in and do any coaching intervention.

"If we need to make changes, we can measure those and see whether it makes an impact in the future."

A Vicon 3D image of Liam Plunkett's bowling action
England's pace bowlers have already benefited from Cooley's input - Simon Jones, Steve Harmison, James Anderson and Flintoff have all acknowledged his enormous contribution to their game.

"I have a constant monitoring process with the England bowlers, looking at their techniques and actions to help them bowl more consistently," he said.

"It's a daily thing, so I'll film them at a net session and overlay that footage on their 3D profile. I look at the things that make them bowl well."

But Cooley is quick to emphasise there is no one overriding model which bowlers must follow - each bowler must keep their action as individual as possible.

"We're all built differently," he said. "If you look at the top 10 fast bowlers in the world, they all have different actions.

"They all have similar things they do - they are the things we're trying to recreate with Vicon and other research.

"This will help us in our coaching and make it easier and more specific."


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