Hilfenhaus's slump is just a technical hitch
Change of technique ... Ben Hilfenhaus bowling this year. Photo: Lee Griffith
FORMER national pace bowling coach Craig McDermott believes embattled speedster Ben Hilfenhaus has enough time to repair the technical deficiencies in his action to retain his place in the Australian XI for the second Test.
McDermott instantly recognised Hilfenhaus's lower arm action after watching replays of only a few balls from the Tasmanian at the Gabba, but has backed his former protege to rediscover his form before Thursday's start.
Hilfenhaus has a confidential checklist of key indicators alerting him to any faults in his actions that he will be examining with Australia's fast bowling coach Ali de Winter.
McDermott and his successor, de Winter, then with Tasmania, were responsible for correcting Hilfenhaus's action last year, which transformed him from the innocuous trundler during the 2010-11 Ashes to the lethal swingman who destroyed India's fabled batting line-up.
''From the first innings and the second innings his arm is definitely lower [than against India],'' McDermott said.
''The ball seems to be sliding in rather than shaping away. A number of other people have talked to me about it as well but I just wanted to see the footage myself first to make sure it was correct.''
It's a flaw that has been detected by several fast-bowling gurus around the country.
Fortunately for Hilfenhaus, who is under pressure from Mitchell Starc for his place in the team, correcting it would not be overly complicated, McDermott said, as long he was aware of the problem.
''He's got to get his arm up higher, he's got to get back to doing the simple things he did last year,'' McDermott said.
''I'm sure 'Hilf' will be working on that and trying to get his arm path back higher and getting the ball through to the keeper rather than the ball starting on off stump and sliding into middle.
''Watching him over by over [last year], if we saw anything like that we were communicating it with him straight away.''
The difference in Hilfenhaus's release point at the Gabba compared to last summer is only a matter of centimetres but it has had a profound effect on his performance.
The 29-year-old's pace was noticeably down in Brisbane, although so were several other quicks from both teams, but he also struggled to find the late swing that alarms high-class batsmen.
McDermott and former Test swingman Damien Fleming believe the alignment of Hilfenhaus's feet could be contributing to his woes.
Biomechanically, it was difficult for Hilfenhaus to avoid bowling with a round arm if his front foot was pointing towards leg slip and fine leg rather than off stump, McDermott said.
''We worked very hard on that last year so he wasn't too closed off or too close to the stumps so he could get over that front leg,'' said McDermott, who quit the national team this year to set up PACE Bowling Australia, which runs private clinics around the country aimed at youngsters.
''We changed that in the Melbourne Test match last year, and it worked a treat.''
Fleming said a low action would also lessen the threat of Hilfenhaus's bouncer as he would not be able to lift the ball high enough for batsmen to lose control of any pull or hook shot.
While McDermott does not believe Hilfenhaus's recent schedule, that was dominated by Twenty20, should have affected his rhythm, Fleming said the different tactics required in the limited-overs formats was bound to have some effect on his technique.
''When you're playing so much it's easy to get into bad habits, you might be just falling one per cent a day but over 10 days that's 10 per cent and you're in a bit of trouble,'' Fleming said.
''I don't think it was dramatically different but there were signs he wasn't zipping through like last year wasn't there?''