Paceman's Pacemaker - The shoulder - I
One of the golden rules of cricket is that a player
with a weak or inefficient shoulder can never be a
consistent performer. This certainly applies to
fast bowlers. A paceman's career 'revolves', quite
literally, on the 360-degree movement of his
The complex shoulder joint is assembled of bone
soft tissue and joint functions that play in
complete harmony thousands of times per day.
Everything from batting, bowling, throwing to
simply reaching forward to avoid getting run-out,
all depend upon a synchronized, rhythmic motion of
these multiple components.
Javagal Srinath - was afflicted by a shoulder problem in his prime.
ANATOMY OF THE SHOULDER
The shoulder mainly consists of four joints. Try to
feel them on your own body to understand them
1- GLENOHUMERAL JOINT (ball and socket joint): It
is the joint between the glenoid part of scapula
(the socket) and the head of the hmeus bone (the
2- STERNOCLAVICULAR JOINT: It is the joint between
the sternum and collar bone. It is the only bony
connection that the shoulder has with the main
3- ACCROMIOCLAVICULAR JOINT: It is the part of the
scapula or shoulder blade.
4- SCAPULOTHORACIC JOINT: It is the false joint
between the scapula and ribs.
What are the problems that a fast bowler is likely
He feels a pinch in the shoulder while releasing
the ball. He feels a pinch when his hand moves
upwards and above 90 degrees. His non-bowling arm
irritates him while bowling. He has problems making
flat throws from the outfield. Long-distance
throwing is akin to taking a giant leap for him.
He faces these problems because of a shortcoming in
any one of the five main attributes that are
essential for bowling fast:
1- BOWLING TECHNIQUE.
3- CORE STABILITY.
4- ROTATOR CUFF CONTROL.
5- GENERAL STRENGTH
These five elements work in coordination. They give
speed to a Brett Lee or a Shoaib Akhtar, accuracy
to a Glenn McGrath and the swinging propensity to a
Wasim Akram. Two basic requirements for a fast
bowler is 'balance' and 'control' of the bowling
shoulder. This in turn depends on core stability,
flexibility and the rotator cuff control of the
joint. The 'long head of bicep' tendon that runs
over the front of the joint, lends the rotator-cuff
A fast bowler who wants to bowl 15-20 overs a day
needs to work hard on his scapular muscles. This
process is termed as scapular stabilizing. He will
also need to possess endurance and a lot of
strength. Thus, he will have to work on not only
the scapular stabilizer muscles or the glenohueral
muscles, but also muscles like the deltoid
latissmus dorsi pectoralis major and mainly the
rotator-cuff muscles, which will help him gain
inner core-stability of the shoulder. This will
enable him to acquire proper balance and control. A
fast bowler endowed with balance and control will
find it relatively easier to achieve and maintain a
high level of performance.
A deficit in balance or control can cause soft
tissue injury, which leads to degenerative changes
and can be disastrous to one's career. Our very own
Javagal Srinath was at the peak of his career in
1997 when he lost six precious months due to an
injury of this nature. The injury could and should
have been detected earlier as it was a minor
imbalance in the rotator-cuff muscle in the initial
stages, which worsened as he kept bowling and
throwing from the deep. That is why it is said that
a stitch in time saves nine. He would not have lost
six months of his career had an experienced
physiotherapist screened and tested him in the
initial stages. He had to drop out of the tour of
the Caribbean, where Venkatesh Prasad and Abey
Kuruvilla bowled very well. India lost that series
0-1. Who knows what might have happened had Srinath,
then in his prime, been available?