Understanding Cricket Bowling Actions: The Ultimate Guide

Bowling in cricket is a mix of a lot of mechanics and techniques. These include the run up, the action, the jump, the release and the follow through and a bowler needs to get everything on point to become super successful. And your cricket bowling action is one of the most important aspects. Atleast once in our lifetime, we all have tried to copy the style of our favourite bowlers. Be it Dale Steyn’s load up action, Shoaib Akhtar’s fierce and superfast style or James Anderson’s beautiful technique. But have you ever wondered why different bowlers have different techniques and how it affects your bowling style? While it could seem like replicating someone's delivery motion is as easy as watching a lot of videos and practising a lot, there are intangibles to every bowler that require careful consideration. Sometimes a specific bowler has physical advantages that completely separate their motion.

The ZAP Athlete performs his bowling action before delivering a ball

In this chapter of learn with ZAP, let’s learn about the different cricket bowling actions and techniques and how you can develop a good one for yourself.

What is a cricket bowling action?

Cricket bowling action, in simple terms, are the set of motions that you do before delivering the ball to the batsmen. A good motion can help you generate the pace, the swing or the spin that you need to dismiss the batsmen. This motion should be in sync with what you want to achieve as a bowler. For example, Shane Warne’s technique depends upon extracting massive turns from the tracks. And he developed his style based upon that. But, at the same time, a bad action can lead to injuries, and also make it difficult for bowlers to deliver balls accurately. 

Cricket Bowling Action Mechanics:

Spin and Fast bowling action:

Many people asks “bowling kaise kare (How to bowl perfectly)”. Its simple, any bowling technique comprises of the following parts. The grip, the run up, the delivery stride or jump, action release and follow through. 

The Grip is the way a bowler holds the leather ball, and both the spinners and fast bowlers have different grips. 

The run up helps you gain momentum for adding pace to your deliveries. Spinners depend more upon the turn and bounce, so they don’t go for a longer run up for speed. While for fast bowlers, long and efficient run up can really add to their prowess. 

The jump or the delivery stride right before reaching the crease is where you convert your potential energy from the momentum to kinetic energy while releasing the ball. 

The final phase of the run up involves the motion of the hands or the action. The motion of your hands puts you in a position to deliver the ball. And the final part, the release point and the follow through. The release is when the bowler lets go of the ball and the follow through is how you continue your action and give it a smooth end, rather than just stopping. 

Credit: Wikimedia Images

How to increase bowling speed

Increasing pace in your deliveries involves refining the all above elements of the action and optimizing body mechanics. Focus on a strong front arm, efficient follow-through, and utilization of the core muscles to generate additional pace. These elements, combined together, can add extra zap to your deliveries.

Fast bowling release point:

The release is the point at which the bowler lets go of the ball. Your release depends on what grip you’ve chosen before the run up. As a spinner, if you have taken up a googly’s grip, you need to set your release so that you bowl the perfect googly. At the same time as a pacer, if you’re going for a knuckleball variation, then the release should be suited to deceive the batsmen. The release point also depends upon the type of delivery. If you're going for a bouncer, the release will be a tad bit late than when you bowl a bouncer. 

Cricket Bowling Action Types:

Different bowlers have different styles, the one that suits them the most. These various styles can be classified as the following:

Side on bowling action:

Side on technique refers to having a lateral approach to the crease. Your shoulder faces the batsmen in a side on motion. The majority of coaches will tell bowlers to release the ball from this stance. This approach give enhances your ability to generate out swing and seam movement. Matthew Hoggard, Brett Lee, and Glenn McGrath are three examples of side-on approach.

Glenn McGrath bowling with the side on bowling action in an ODI for Australia

Credit: Sport360

Front on bowling action

The front on style features a direct approach to the crease, with the bowler's front chest facing towards the batsman. This gives bowlers more control over length and accuracy. Makhaya Ntini of South Africa, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff from England had such an open chest approach.

Andrew Flintoff bowling with the front on bowling action in a test match for england

Credit: Sport360

Round arm bowling

Round arm action is very close to an underarm style, mainly used by spinners. The point of release gets so low that there’s minimal bounce on the ball which makes it super difficult for batsmen to hit them. Kedar Jadhav was India’s trump card in ODIs to get wicket, because he used his round arm style and picked up some crucial wickets. 

Credit: Circle of Cricket

Here are Bowling Actions to Study and use for your style:

Best Bowling Actions:

Brett Lee bowling action:

Credit: Sportsandarchitectureblog

You may have tried Binga’s action at least once while playing cricket. If you did, you were on the right path, because Lee’s style is one of most perfect ones. Brett had one of the most rhythmic run ups with a proper cyclic movement of feet. His jump was a combination of a high jump and a forward jump that gave him the extra burst of pace and bounce. With high non bowling arm falling down, he drove his bowling arm quickly towards the batsmen that gave him lightning speed. This resulted in him having an average delivery speed of about 150 kmph. 

Dale Steyn bowling action:

Credit: Sportstar - The Hindu

Dale Steyn is one of the most lethal fast bowlers of all time. He has a seamless run up that ensure there’s no breakage of momentum. His simple and traditional load up action combined with the his dynamic approach to the crease and seamless transfer of energy into the delivery stride allowed him to consistently trouble batsmen.

Mohammad Hasnain bowling action:

The Pakistani bowler, at a very young age has shown superb technical qualities for a fast bowler. His fast arm speed and quick release make him a bowler to watch out for in the future.

Shoaib Akhtar bowling action:

Shoaib Akhtar, also nicknamed as the Rawalpindi Express is the bowler who delivered the fastest ball in cricket history. His unique sling arm style and the explosive follow through is what gave him his raw pace. 

Zaheer Khan bowling action:

Credit: Rediff

The left armer, Zaheer Khan can be considered to be one of India’s best ever fast bowlers. He had a smooth run up, and a traditional load up technique combined with his ability to swing the ball in both directions with his wrist made him so successful. 

Mitchell Starc bowling action:

Credit: ICC

Mitchell Starc is one of the tallest bowlers in the world and he does use it to his advantage to the fullest. He has a smooth run up and a high arm action that helps him get the raw bounce, pace and a late reverse swing, making him one of the best bowlers in all formats

Jofra Archer bowling action

Credit: The Guardian

Jofra Archer is one of the most exciting young talents. He has a simple style, but still can generate extreme pace. This comes from the way he hits his front foot on the ground after during his final stride and use all of his body to generate pace. Though this has worked for him, it is not the most efficient. He has been plagued with injuries all along his career. 

Wasim Akram bowling action:

Credit: Hindustan Times

A magician with the ball, Wasim Akram was a master at swinging the ball. His wrist position, seam orientation, and variations in pace revolutionized swing bowling.

Kapil dev bowling action

Credit: Twitter

Kapil Dev had a tall, lanky build and a fluid, rhythmic motion. His long run-up gave him speed, and his high arm delivery and solid wrist position gave him swing. He had even mastered the skill of delivering the yorker.

Irfan Pathan bowling action:

Irfan Pathan's style combined seam movement with the ability to swing the ball. His front on approach and wrist position allowed him to extract both conventional and reverse swing.

Some weird bowling actions:

Lasith Malinga Bowling Action:

Credit: Sportskeeda

Every gully cricketer’s favourite style, Lasith Malinga’s action is what all of us have imitated. He had a proper sling shot style that helped him nail those yorkers. His ability to bowl slower balls and yorkers made him a death over specialist in ODIs and T20s. 

Jasprit Bumrah bowling action:

Although unconventional, Jasprit Bumrah's action has been super successful. His sling arm motion and an unorthodox action tricks the batsman and has been one of the major the reasons for his success. 

Sunil Narine bowling action:

Credit: The Hans India

Sunil narine has been one of the best spin bowlers of the modern generation. Being a off spinner, he had all the variations an off spinner could and that helped him dominate batsmen. Though there was a problem, his main hand had a slight bent, more than the limit according to ICC rules which meant he had to change his action to fit the regulations. 

Muttiah Muralitharan bowling action:

Credit: ESPN Cricinfo

The bowler with the most wickets in cricket history, Muralitharan had to go through a lot of scrutiny because his delivery style. Muttiah Muralitharan's style sparked debates due to his distinctive wrist position. Murali supposedly bowled with a bent arm, where his elbow flexed more than the limit. It was later shown through biomechanical examinations that Murali had a congenitally bent arm and was allowed to continue with his technique, which later made him the greatest bowler of all time. 

Matheesha Pathirana bowling action

Like Lasith Malinga, Matheesha Pathirana bowls in a unique low and slinging motion. The style helped Malinga nail down yorkers with pinpoint accuracy, and Pathirana has demonstrated a similar level of accuracy thus far in his young career.

Naseem Shah bowling action

Naseem Shah's technique, despite his young age, displays maturity and promise. His natural, whippy, high-arm approach and smooth release, that generated easy pace hold great potential for the future.

Other Bowling Styles:

Shivam Mavi bowling action:

Shivam Mavi is a young and upcoming fast bowlers who has shown unbelievable potential. His style showcases dynamic energy and potential. His ability to generate bounce and movement is his trademark at such a young age. 

Mark Wood bowling action:

Mark Wood takes a jump and performs hi bowling action before delivering a ball

Credit: SportsAdda

Mark wood and contemporary pacing go hand in hand. His super fast run up, high and explosive jump and the high arm style helps him bowl north of 150 kmph consistently. His style has the true essence of fast, lethal test match bowling. 

Illegal Bowling Actions:

Chucking in cricket:

A lot of young bowlers, when they come to a cricket academy suffer with one problem and that is chucking. Though they are able to generate immense pace through their action, but the way they do it is not valid. In cricket, the term "chucking" refers to an improper bowling motion that happens when a bowler throws the ball rather than bowls. If the bowler's elbow bends more than 15 degrees as he or she completes the delivery, that bowler is regarded as chucking. Additionally, according to the rules of the game, the ball can only be given velocity via shoulder rotation.

Credit: The Express Tribune

International cricket players Harbhajan Singh, Muthiah Muralitharan, Sunil Narine and Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar have all been accused of throwing the ball.


Q - What are some exercises to increase speed and pace in bowling?

Increasing speed requires a combination of strength training, agility drills, and technique refinement. Plyometrics and resistance exercises are particularly helpful.

Q - Are there any penalties for bowlers with illegal actions?

Yes, players with illegal actions may face suspensions and corrective measures.

Q - Can a bowler change their bowling action over time?

Yes, bowlers often make changes to the motion of their hands to improve performance or recover from injuries.

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