What is a sidearm specialist and why have England hired one for the Cricket World Cup?

England have stepped up their preparations for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India by hiring sidearm specialist Saurabh Ambatkar to travel with the team throughout the six-week tournament. Ambatkar, who has previously worked with the Kolkata Knight Riders, will be tasked with helping England’s batsmen prepare for the lengthy list of left-arm seam bowlers they are likely to face at the World Cup.

It is an appointment that England feel will increase their chances of going all the way during the 13th edition of the Cricket World Cup. 

England are tipped to defend the Cricket World Cup 

At just 7/2 in the latest cricket ICC World Cup winner odds and as the defending champions, there is an argument to be made that England are already well set to win cricket’s greatest prize. However, the one weakness this team does have is facing left-arm quicks.

During the 2019 World Cup alone, England’s batsmen succumbed to left-arm fast bowlers on 20 different occasions – the most of any nation at the tournament.

Remarkably, nine of those 20 dismissals were recorded in one match when Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc ran riot during a 64-run pool win for Australia at Lord’s.

For whatever reason, England’s dominant battling line-up becomes incredibly brittle when a left-arm speedster is running in. Essentially, this is why England have recruited Ambatkar in a bid to ward off any batting collapses during the World Cup. So, what exactly does a sidearm specialist do?

The role of a sidearm specialist 

A sidearm specialist operates what can be best described as a ball thrower that one would use when walking their dog in the park. Only in this instance, they are throwing balls for the benefit of batsmen rather than man’s best friend.

With this device, sidearm specialists are able to generate significant ball speed from a standing start. Furthermore, a sidearm thrower is able to provide improved accuracy during net sessions which allows batters to work on any technique issues that they may be struggling with. 

In England’s case, Ambatkar’s left-arm side specialist skills will be used to help the top order become accustomed to the unique angles that a left-arm fast bowler generates. While England do have left-arm seamers in Sam Curran, Reece Topley, and David Willey to help their batsmen prepare, the benefit of using a side-arm specialist is that the workload of these bowlers during training can be managed responsibly. 

Ordinarily, Ambatkar is able to work for two and a half hours during net sessions without stopping given that there is no run-up required with a sidearm thrower. To that end, Ambatkar’s appointment will not only benefit the team’s batsmen but also assist England’s bowlers in the searing Indian heat. 

An excellent appointment at the right time

Whichever way you look at it, enlisting Ambatkar’s sought-after expertise during the 2023 World Cup is likely to give the whole team a boost. Indeed, with an extensive understanding of local conditions and the necessary training drills to help England guard against their kryptonite of left-arm seam bowling, Ambatkar could prove to be the country’s secret weapon during the 2023 World Cup.