Lockie Ferguson and his elder brother, Mitch, grew up playing cricket together. Long before the younger one turned heads, it was Mitch who bowled at good pace as a teenager at the Auckland Grammar School — the ground that had the first glimpse of greats such as Martin and Jeff Crowe.
Mitch had to walk away from the game due to a spinal condition but Lockie borrowed his speed to become a lethal quick for the Black Caps.
All his plans went awry last November when he suffered a partial stress fracture to his lumbar spine. He was out of action for four months before appearing in the T20I against Bangladesh at home this week. The World Cup 2019 star is also set to breathe fire in the Indian Premier League come April and he owes a lot to Machineroad — a fast bowling app developed by the two brothers five months ago to check speed, length and workload at the training among other things.
In a chat with Sportstar, the Fergusons highlighted their new baby, which is the secret behind Lockie’s perfect yorkers. You just need a smartphone and a tripod to record your training sessions for real time feedback. It helps train the bowlers more effectively through videos in sync with analytics.
“If you want to be a good yorker bowler you have to use the app. It’s quite obvious, isn’t it? (laughs)
“I do use it and it is important to know that. In cricket, you can turn up for a net session and see how you fare trying to bowl 12 yorkers. You may feel you have nailed most of them but in reality, you probably may have hit half of them. The app can tell you if you missed most of them. I used it during the IPL. I love bowling yorkers and getting guys out with those fantastic bails and stumps lighting up like fireworks,” said Lockie, who picked up six wickets in five outings for KKR last season.
Mitch Ferguson monitors a bowler using the Machineroad app at a nets session. – Machineroad
How it works
While turning up for the nets, one has to place the phone on a stand behind the umpire and record. The data has to be stored in the player profile in the app. Then, the performance can be analysed for review.
“The HawkEye that you see in broadcasting is something we are trying to deliver through the device. It is a fairly similar experience. We capture the bounce points and the trajectory lines along with a heat map. This is a platform which will help you scan yourself a bit more effectively.
“What we are trying to do here is provide a bit of a platform to get insights on how you are performing as a bowler. We hope to see undiscovered talent who can progress to the international stage of cricket,” said Mitch.
Lockie also clarified that one can set a score to assess their performance besides calculating the percentage of length points. “Did you have 60 per cent good length, did you hit yorkers 20 per cent or 80 per cent? You can also give yourself a score, okay I was good today, I was bad but why? And that’s how a learning process works. The loop becomes a lot shorter.”
Lengths and ball-tracking
Machineroad has a ball-tracking option to gauge the artistry of swing bowlers. “We have a tracking line so you can see which ball is swinging more, out swing or in swing. You will also get a percentage of your good length at the end of the session. In Test cricket, you try to bowl 90 per cent of good length deliveries,” reasoned Lockie.
A bowler has to constantly adjust in different conditions. The lengths keep changing and the speeds vary. Lockie worked on his strengths to return a better bowler from the nets.
“It swings in New Zealand and England. In India, it turns. It is hard to compare Virat Kohli playing in New Zealand to him playing in India. He has to change his technique and game plan, and that’s why he is so good. I did a similar thing in my career. I started out scouting every opposition and saw Kohli playing 360 degrees. I wouldn’t know where I would bowl because I had seen videos and seen how good he is. So I went to focus on my own personal game. What do I do well? What is my best ball and what can I add to my bowling. Once I know I would do those things well, I will adjust those with the players depending on who they are.”
Discovering new talent
The brothers used the app with the Parnell Plums women’s cricket team in Auckland where Maddy Curran clocked at 110kmph, as detected by Machineroad. She got a call-up from the Northern Districts to train at their academy after the Fergusons shared the news on Instagram.
So all you need to do is download the app, record your bowling session and let the Fergusons coach you silently.