It is heralded as one of the new frontiers for female cricket. Who will be the first bowler to break 80mph?
A few caveats should be made here, as it may have already happened, but until recently, speed data in the women’s game was not widely collected and still is not uniform across all competitions.
Now Project130, a partnership between Cricket New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), as part of their new Cricket Lab initiative, which will see the NSW lineup work with the university on a number of collaborations, aims to break the barrier of 130 km/h is a realistic goal, not only to break, but also to maintain.
Described as “designed to enhance the potential of female fast bowlers, with the endgame of bowling averaging from 115 km/h to 130 km/h”, it will be “a first research project in the world to provide a formative set of data that predicts the potential and physiological type to increase speed and reduce the risk of injury.”
One of the key figures behind the work is Patrick Farhart, CNSW’s chief of sports science and sports medicine. He says the evidence currently suggests that the gap between male and female fast bowling speeds is wider than other areas of high-performance sports. But he believes that by studying areas such as biomechanics, strength and power of those who operate at a high rate, the key ingredients can be found with specialized training then put in place. There is also a desire to look outside of cricket and find athletes currently in other disciplines who may have the raw traits for the sport.
“There are some bowlers who have come close to that 80mph,” Farhart told ESPNcricinfo. “For me, this is something I think is feasible. Once we are able to profile what the correlations are with high speeds, we can start looking at setting up more individualized and targeted programs to help bowlers increase their speed.” improve.
“It’s very dependent on your action, it’s very specific to a person at this point. Men will tend to generate bowling speed from linear momentum, we think, and we think many women – not all – will generate bowling speed from above body, trunk momentum.
“However, I think we’re seeing changes in the women’s game now, with a lot of girls starting to bowl with techniques that men use and it wasn’t that common 10-12 years ago. Girls generate momentum through run-up speed, a tense front leg, that’s starting now much more to happen.”
“I don’t think we’re far from it” [130kph] looking at the crop of fast bowlers we have in the game,” Campbell said. “We’re already pushing those speeds. It’s always there and you’re trying to get that competitive advantage where you can.”
“I think in the past there’s probably always been a handful of fast bowlers and you don’t always have to run into them,” she said. “I think it’s also very exciting for the game. Their skill is also quite obvious to see, players who can swing the ball and bowl fast bouncers – it’s uncomfortable but it’s exciting to watch. I hope that this is being conveyed to the general public.”
If this new project produces the desired results in the coming years, there will probably be a few more batters jumping around.
Andrew McGlashan is deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo