Steve Harmison’s playing in Test matches because he’s England’s most dynamic bowler, but there was no sign of that at Hamilton yesterday. Harmison says himself that he can’t bowl line and length, but instead sees himself as a 90mph strike bowler. It’s worrying that that’s his view as it sounds like an acceptance of low standards of accuracy.
Yesterday, however, he failed to deliver the positive element in that self-description. 90mph? Try 80. He falls away a bit towards the off-side and that affects his direction and pace. He’s struggling for confidence and he’s a slow starter to tours. England have a specialist bowling coach, but there’s enough there that Harmison, a grown man, really needs to sort it all out himself.
In Glenn McGrath‘s first Test in England at Edgbaston in 1997, he returned the uncharacteristic bowling figures of 2-107 and 0-42 as England, powered by Nasser Hussain’s double hundred and the pace bowling of Gough, Malcolm and Caddick, won by nine wickets.
McGrath thought he’d bowled a yard too short throughout that match and spent an inordinate amount of time on the outfield after everyone had left, learning to bowl fuller. He placed a marker and he bowled at it until he got the feel for bowling that length. The next Test, at Lord’s, he took 8-38 as England were bowled out for 77 in their first innings.
An analyst didn’t identify that flaw and a coach didn’t tell him to rectify it. McGrath took responsibility for it himself and that’s why he was one of the greatest bowlers of all time. He identified his flaws and he rectified them.
For all the coaches and support staff, you’re actually on your own, Steve. You have to sort your bowling out yourself. The good news is that you’re the only one who has control over you and you have total control. Bowling with accuracy isn’t a pipe dream and it can be done at pace. It can even be done in your first over in a Test match.