Fast bowlers are warned to limit overs

The results of a survey looking into the welfare of cricketers in Australia has revealed that fast bowlers significantly increase their chances of injury when they bowl more than 20 to 30 overs a week.

The results of a survey looking into the welfare of cricketers in Australia has revealed that fast bowlers significantly increase their chances of injury when they bowl more than 20 to 30 overs a week.

The report, which looked at Australian Test, one-day and first-class matches between 1998 and 2003, said that on average one in every six fast bowlers would be out through injury at any given time. It also found out that they were twice as likely as other members of their team to pick up an injury.

A statement from Cricket Australia, the game's governing body in Australia, said: "The research determined that strike bowlers significantly increased their risk of injury when their weekly bowling tally strays above 20 to 30 overs. Should a bowler bowl above this threshold, they are well advised to adjust their training schedule accordingly so the stresses and strains of fast bowling are allowed to recover."

This news would come as little surprise to any cricketer who has attempted to bowl fast for a living. Running in hard and propelling a leather ball down a pitch at 85mph is physically demanding. Fast bowlers are aware of the risks and accept injury as an occupational hazard.

The concern, however, is that the safety threshold has been set at such a low level. Twenty overs would only be considered a reasonable day's work to a seasoned bowler. He would expect to bowl somewhere in the region of 40 to 50 overs during the five days of a Test match.

It is unlikely that the findings of Cricket Australia will shock England's selectors either. David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, will take comfort from the fact that his panel are not the only ones to have problems but these statistics highlight why something needs to be done about the volume of international cricket being played.

During the last 14 months South Africa have been the only side who have consistently fielded the same fast bowlers. Australia have had to do without the services of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie during their recent Test series against India, who were themselves deprived of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.

England, however, seem to have been the worst hit. During this period they have been forced to select 16 different fast bowlers in 17 Test matches. Stephen Harmison has been their fittest bowler but the Durham paceman has only played in 11 matches.

Former fast bowlers, who used to bowl 1,000 overs each summer and never gripe, will pour scorn on this study. They will again call the modern cricketer soft and pampered. But, judging by the way most of them hobble around cricket grounds now and ask for help walking up stairs, they too may have benefited from their workload being monitored when they played.

The findings, however, will change little. Staging international matches generates money and each cricket board wants as much of it as they can get their hands on. The only way out would be to set limits on the amount of games a cricketer can play in a calendar year.

The England and Wales Cricket Board could then agree to play in as many back-to-back Test matches or one-day internationals - which are a ridiculous demand on a player - as they like. They would, however, for example, have to accept that Michael Vaughan is only available for 15 Test matches and 30 one-day internationals.

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