Photo Credit: Ray Lawrence
Ryan Eagleson, who was appointed as Cricket Ireland’s High Performance Pace Bowling coach in March 2022, can take some of the credit for 23-year-old Josh Little’s development into a high-class quick bowler in both international and T20 franchise cricket.
Eagleson, 48, is a former Irish international with 65 caps between 1995 and 2004 snaring 70 wickets.
He was previously Cricket Ireland’s Performance and Pathway coach at the National Academy, was Little’s coach at the Under-19 World Cups in 2016 and 2018. 16-year-old Little took 11 wickets at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, with three of his wickets coming against an India side containing Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar.
Eagleson is delighted the Dubliner has built upon his youthful promise, becoming a highly-sought after T20 bowler with spells at Manchester Originals in The Men’s Hundred, Pretoria Capitals in the South Africa T20, Multan Sultans in the Pakistan Super League, Dambulla in the Lankan Premier League, and Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League. He said:
“He has that very high-value strength of being a left-arm seamer. He creates different angles, and he has the ability to swing the ball back into the right-hander.
“But he has other qualities. He can go up and down with his pace to deceive batters, and push the batter back with a well-directed short ball.”
Eagleson believes the quickest bowlers share certain technical attributes, but says pace alone is not enough to thrive in international and top-level T20 cricket.
“Top fast bowlers tend to have certain characteristics, like braced front legs and heel strength on front-foot contact, and they often the delay the bowling arm at front-foot contact. But I don’t think pace is everything. While we all want someone to bowl at 90mph+, there are other skill-sets.
“I’m looking for bowlers to know when to take pace off, when to bowl the wide yorker and the straight yorker, and the bouncer. It’s ultimately about learning to read and to keep one step ahead of the batter.”
Eagleson worked with Little, Mark Adair, Craig Young and Barry McCarthy during his stint at the National Academy from 2009, and says Ireland’s current crop of pace bowlers are still keen to learn and develop new skills.
“Sometimes in the senior team there could still be technical things we might need to work on – but at that level it is often more about how we go about things in match situations.”
Eagleson, who as a player had spells at Derbyshire, Essex and Glamorgan, says he works with bowlers to create a gameplan that allows them to adapt to different stages of the match in each format.
“In T20 cricket, for example, it can’t just be defensive. We break the T20 game down to three stages. In the first six overs, we’re working on how to get the batters out. And that won’t necessarily be by bowling at the stumps. It might be by holding a channel on fifth stump, and looking for the batter to nick off, or surprising him with a bouncer.
“We’ll have the middle overs, and then at the death, we’ll work on how to keep the ball out of a batter’s hitting areas, by going wide of the stumps to keep it out of their hitting arc, or by bowling slower balls.”
Eagleson, who holds the prestigious England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Level 4 coaching qualification, is keen the next generation of Ireland pace bowlers can see a clear pathway to the senior team. And he is looking forward to seeing how Leinster Lightning fast bowler Reuben Wilson, who turns 17 in September, fares in next year’s Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
“It’s so important our Under-19 players get the experience of playing the bigger stage and the bigger grounds, against better players on better surfaces. It’s a real test to see how they perform against the world’s best.
“Most of our current best players have played at Under-19 World Cups, and Josh and Harry Tector were lucky enough to play two World Cups, in Bangladesh and New Zealand.
“I think Reuben Wilson of YMCA is likely to be part of the squad for Sri Lanka, and he is certainly one to keep an eye on.”