England reap benefit of Cooley's training tips

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The Independent Online

Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith turned Barbados into a temple of fast-bowling. Now Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach, is hoping his charges will make it their home for the next 12 days.

Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith turned Barbados into a temple of fast-bowling. Now Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach, is hoping his charges will make it their home for the next 12 days.

Steve Harmison and Simon Jones are not in that league, but with Cooley's guidance they may yet get there. The England duo represent the cutting edge of Michael Vaughan's bowling attack, a unit that is proving mightily effective since Duncan Fletcher brought Cooley on board 10 months ago.

Cooley's appointment came as asurprise to many. "Troy who?" was the question being asked by former players. The Australian's first-class record as a fast-bowler - in 33 games for Tasmania he took only 54 wickets at the cost of 61 runs apiece - was not convincing but Cooley is proving to be a shrewd selection.

After retiring in 1995 the 38-year-old went into coaching. He worked with Dennis Lillee and soon found himself as the fast-bowling coach at the Australian Academy in Adelaide. There he teamed up with Rod Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper. When Marsh was poached by the England and Wales Cricket Board to become the Director of the National Academy he immediately asked Cooley to join him. And from there he has progressed to his current position.

England's bowlers are benefiting from the injury problems Cooley had to cope with during his playing career and what he learned during his time coaching in Australia, when he realised that technique and fitness were the two vital issues for fast bowlers. Cooley believes that by paying attention to those areas England's bowlers will reduce their chances of picking up injuries, which can only be good for England. We have seen what can be achieved when the bowlers are fit.

"We all know fast-bowling is a pretty dangerous task," said Cooley as the England team headed from Trinidad to Barbados. "Whether your technique is spot on or not you are still going to be open to injuries. We try and prevent this by getting the fitness levels up, through giving them specific programmes to suit their bodies and by making sure their technique is as good as we can get it. If you can get this mixture right then you can reduce the injury risks.

"I have tried to help them understand more about their technique so that they can identify problems. The other area I have been hard on is their fitness. When I arrived in England the fitness levels of bowlers were below those I had seen in Australia. Harmison is a prime example. He was getting injured all the time because his fitness and strength levels were down, as was his core stability. Nigel [Stockhill, England's trainer] worked hard with him and he is now reaping the benefits."

Cooley has spent only one summer coaching in England but he is already beginning to understand the problems that English bowlers face. But it is not just in domestic cricket - where each county plays more than 90 days of cricket a season - that English bowlers are being flogged. The international schedule now means the players are playing virtually all year round.

"The amount of cricket English cricketers play does not allow them to do the core work of those in Australia," he said. "In Australia fast bowlers are doing yoga, pilates, and whatever they can do to strengthen the area between their hips and their shoulders so that they can withstand the forces and impacts caused by bowling fast, from Under-15 level. This means that when they reach 20 they have a good base to work from."

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