Running and calling:

Breaking it down

It’s easy to forget how many aspects there are to running and calling. It is natural that these will all be condensed into a single session. However, that doesn’t mean you have to focus on EVERY aspect at once.

  • Running with the bat (two hands)
  • Turning with the bat (down low, one hand, slide in)
  • Calling “yes”, “no” or “wait”
  • Calling for the second run
  • Backing up
  • Always watching the ball

I have found that, in practice,  it pays to gradually become more demanding over time….sticking to one element at a time. Just like batting and bowling, players need a firm grasp of each stage before moving onwards. This requires clarity of thinking, so they can focus. Lurching from coaching point to coaching point gets you nowhere.

Start off with some simple expectations; for example, insist that every pair of batsmen must call every delivery.

Once you are confident that this is happening, add that the correct person must call – most of the time this means the striker in front of square, or the non-striker behind square.

Again, once this is being performed consistently, take the intensity up again! Here, it would be good to expect each player to run and turn correctly, with the bat in the appropriate hand (meaning they don’t have to turn their back on the ball).

Play a game

Calling and running must be learnt in a match situation, and will be enforced in matches….sometimes the hard way!

The cruel truth is that your players may only realize how important this truly is, when they are sitting in the pavilion. 

An effective session may involve you giving each player in the group 2 or 3 opportunities to bat. This affords you the chance to give them out (punishing poor or lazy running and calling), and give them an opportunity to redeem themselves.

Be particularly hard on complacency. After 3 or 4 overs, players overwhelmingly tend to get slack with their calling and running….making assumptions.

I use the phrase, “don’t leave anything to chance”. Under pressure, these assumptions will be their undoing.

 

Using “wait”

A difficult word to add to a young player’s vocabulary is, “wait”. 

We are all aware of the importance of this simple word – confusion….in the form of “yes, no” calls or silence/hesitation….leads to run outs more often than anything else.

Saying “wait” buys you crucial time to consider your options. It keeps both batsmen primed for a running opportunity also, as opposed to switching off, and returning to their end (there’s nothing worse than one player running, while the other is parking at their end).

So, a crucial word, but one that takes a while to ingrain. Be sympathetic with young players, regarding this. First they will forget to say “wait”, then they will start saying it but too late. Eventually, it will click.

Here are a couple of methods for introducing the concept of calling “wait”.

“In the next 10 balls, you have to use “wait” at least 3 times” – accept that this will not automatically happen, and give the players time to adapt. Remember, you do want your players to be making a decision too, not just saying wait by default.

“If you say “yes…no”, or “no, yes”, you are out” – this is a habit that has to be removed as quickly as possible.

Layers

1st over: there must be a call

2nd over: the right person must call each ball

3rd over: add correct running technique (turning with the bat in the right hand)

4th over: expect perfection (or near perfection)

Mini Victories: part 2

Below are some selected positive moments from the last week of coaching. Hearing about each of these (and many more) cheered me up in a difficult week!

No matter whether you are playing senior cricket, or your first ever junior match, well done for trying your best. Enjoy your success!

Congratulations to Harawal Ahmed. His 48 not out helped Mitcham 1st XI to a big win in the Fuller’s League, this Saturday!

A well deserved score, after some early season bad luck! Well done!

***

Congratulations to Ernest Bevin U13s, who played with fantastic unity – and a lot of skill – in Tuesday’s game.

***

Taufeeq Ahmed scored 20 runs and took 2 wickets, for St James CC. Over the winter, he has worked incredibly hard on his confidence with the bat, and strategies with the ball. It’s beginning to pay off!

***

Ewell CC U8s won their first ever game! Everyone involved, from the children to brilliant volunteer coaches, deserves lots of credit!

***

 

How to create successful fielders: it’s more than technique

 Fielding isn’t just a skill. It’s a state of mind.

Despite being no more than a middling standard club cricketer, there is one part of the game in which I have always been able to stand out….fielding!

Through countless of hours of solo practice, and actually enjoying the art, I managed to develop high competence levels in any position – from the covers to short-leg.

Deep consideration of the discipline….how it is taught, how it can be generalised, and where teams go wrong with their approach to fielding….has also given me some insight into coaching fielding.

Is a reason why many teams who pocket every catch in training, can’t replicate it on the field? Despite hours of practicing “soft hands”, why does everybody’s grip seems to tighten under pressure? Players who are very competent at catching, frequently panic, when a crucial wicket depends on it.

Finally, is there anything we can do about it? Below are a few insights, from a lifetime is devotion to fielding, and being driven mad at club training sessions by the same fatal errors.

Why practice does not always make perfect?!

The common reasons for this is as follows:

a) Mis-diagnosing the causes of drops – typically, when a catch is grassed, everybody looks to the player’s hand position. Did they cushion the ball?; were they in the right place; were they together?

However if you look elsewhere, or trace the movements back to the beginning, you will often find the CAUSE of the drop, not just the SYMPTOM.

Start looking at the following instead:

  • Positioning – you can’t cushion the ball if you are too far away from it! Not only getting in the right position, but getting there as early as possible (so you can make small adjustments if the ball swerves).
  • Stability – you are best off looking at the feet first. Did the player steady themselves and have both feet planted? Rate your player’s “composure levels” as they catch.
  • Readiness – again, you’ll have no chance of taking a reflex catch if your hands arent in front of you, and palms facing the batsman. Sounds obvious, but this is commonly forgotten.

b) Judging success in training by the RESULT, forgetting the TECHNIQUE – in short, when a catch comes your way in training, you are more relaxed. The opposite is true when you are under a high ball in a match. 

With the higher stakes, and added pressure, your catching technique is under more scrutiny. Here is where you rely on the instincts and muscle memories from your body.

So where you may not be able to perfectly replicate this pressure….you definitely can take a perfectionist approach to training. Have your players perfectly centred themselves underneath the ball? Are their hands ready WELL IN ADVANCE of the catch? Did they keep the rest of their body perfectly still, or over-react as the ball hit them?

You must focus on the process, not the result! Getting the catches just right, is 100 times more important than doing your drills harder and faster.

In training,you may often find me being more harshly critical of some catches than dropped catches. While this sounds stupid, catching in a casual way in training is worse than no practice at all.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE – players often appear to be “scared of the ball”, when in fact they simply need confidence in their technique. For these players, you need to gently crank up the intensity and difficulty level, allowing them time to be more assured movements. Macho high catches will simply ruin their prospect of ever reaching this point. It’s more than about just “being brave”.

c) Panic – Nothing prepares you for that jolt of surprise and adrenaline, when the ball comes your way all of a sudden! 

In training, our focus is largely on “massed practice”. There is a certain formula to the drills….even if the feeding is random, you “know” the ball will find its way to you soon.

This is a difficult aspect of cricket to coach. The fact is that it takes time; building a mindset here is more important than flawless technique.

  • Good habits – always down and always pointing hands to ball
  • Team ethic – through positive atmosphere, everybody is automatically slightly more confident, alert and ready.
  • Togetherness – the feeling that we all field “as one”, sharing in each other’s good moments, is vital.
  • Sense of control – a player’s “body language” has a significant effect or the performance of every individual….this is hugely under-valued in its importance.

Don’t be that person who ends up diving or sprawling when they don’t need to. Don’t let that ball burst through your hands, because they are snatching at the last moment. Be calm at the right times.

Activities for “match pressure” catching

A favorite drill of mine is the “bowl a team out” slip catching game

Ideal group: 5-8

How it works:

Arrange the field around a batsman. Ideally a keeper, slip(s), gully, point, cover and short-leg. One person in the group is a “feeder”, throwing balls at the batsman who “edges” the ball.

The aim of the game is to take 10 wickets, all by catches….for the least number of runs possible.

This switches the focus from simply catching the ball, to retrieving it as well (I like to call it “finishing the job”). There is now an incentive to stop everything as well as catch. If the ball runs between fielders, or is fumbled, their job is to recover the ball to the feeder as quickly as possible.

Once the group has “bowled out” the imaginary team. They have another go. Their new aim is to get all 10 wickets for less runs.

If you have time for a third attempt, add extra hurdles to make the feat more challenging.

  • Up the pace of the feeds
  • Less “genuine” catching chances – make them wait for the crucial moment
  • More balls into gaps

MAKE THE GROUP WORK FOR THEIR WICKETS.

MAKE SURE THEY ARE ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER, AND LOOKING FORWARDS NOT BACK.

CELEBRATE EACH WICKET! CEMENT THE GOOD MOMENTS IN EVERYONE’S MIND, AND USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CREATE MORE.

Learning from your elders

“I’ve played cricket on every ocean in the World, you know”.

At the Oval last week, small group of boys were crowded around their teacher – transfixed. Hanging on his every word.

The boys were treated to a large selection of stories. Recollections of spontaneous matches at sea whilst in the Navy (once using a stale bread roll as a ball); tales of a helmet-less Viv Richards carving Bob Willis into these very stands….those days thronged with rapturous and good-humored Caribbean fans.

Here was a miracle on display….teenagers sitting attentively and quietly for hours!!

Spending time alongside a cricket veteran had a very positive effect on the boys (ages between 12 and 14). They became more observant, noticing when the team passed landmarks, recognizing bowlers and how far they were into their spell. They began to point out individual styles of batsmen, and recognize finer details (for example how every fielder moves into position every ball….just in case).

What unites all cricket fans?

From these encounters, it becomes clear that certain cricketing stereotypes don’t always ring true:

a) Not every 50+ cricket follower is a stuffy, “back-in-my-day”, “traditionalist”.

b) Players pre-2000 were not all dour, joyless blockers.

c) The 2 generations aren’t THAT different.

No matter how old you are, you still watch cricket to be entertained, and to appreciate excellence. A world class visitor coming in to bat generates a buzz of excitement. And a moment of brilliance merits applause. Consciously or subconsciously, we often place appreciation of brilliance above team loyalty.

It was heartwarming to see a row of year 8 school children standing to applaud an incredible sprawling stop, from Kent’s Charlie Hartley. I do hope that this respect for the opposition will always be a part of cricket.

Do we learn from our elders as much?

It strikes me that this form of learning – one that has underpinned education and personal development throughout civilization – is under-appreciated today. 

This applies on the training pitch and the field of play. For example, as coaches, we are encouraged to keep our sessions moving and dynamic….thus complimenting the modern demand (and short attention span). Development leagues are also preferred over traditional Sunday cricket. There is less opportunity for the older generation to influence the younger.

Was there a value to the older methods, and structures, that we miss out on now?! Sometimes there is nothing better than watching the example set by a veteran player, up close. How do they deal with pressure, or respond to a play-and-miss?

Such opportunities come rarely for today’s young talented players. As a result they often find themselves falling into the same traps, game after game.

The key to success in cricket lies in controlling your impulses as much as using them. Sometimes a measure of success is what you don’t do as opposed to what you do; leaving a ball, in order to hopefully smash the next one; holding your position instead of over-reacting to a sharp catch.

Composure, calmness and patience are still important qualities for a cricketer. ANd essential for a young player to grasp….even in a T20 age!

Arrogance of youth

Modern society tends to assume it has all the answers….

Where everything the modern game stands for is seen in a sympathetic light – ie/ the wild slog is “playing his natural game” – the previous era is constantly presented as backward-looking – playing out a draw is “ruining the game”. The past bears no resemblance, and has no relevance, to the present. In short, we have moved on.

There is a tendency to make fun of the gentleman sitting alone in the stands, meticulously recording every delivery in a homemade score book. The pensioners equipped with grey jacket and pint of real ale.

Cricket is trying its best to leave this “unfashionable” group behind. But is that fair?

The things you could learn from 15 minutes in their company…

Coaching weekend with Twenty20 Community Cricket

Who are we working with?

We have delivered training weekends for many clients. Among them are:

  • swiss u11Switzerland U11s & U13s: since 2013
  • Warsaw Hussars: since 2014
  • Continental Europe Women’s team (2015)
  • Berlin CC
  • THCC Ror-Gelb (Hamburg)
  • Basel Dragons CC
  • Geneva Region Youth Cricket Club

 

How are they run

Typically, our courses run for 6-7 hours on a Saturday and Sunday. In this time, we cover a large range of technical, tactical and mental aspects of cricket. 

One day is usually devoted more to improving skill levels, while the other day allows to switch our focus – to executing these skills, and making clear decisions under the pressure of a match.

Our coaches work alongside parents of the host club. Having support from volunteers helps hugely increase the long term impact of our training. As well as speeding up the session, we can explain our methods and suggest activities for future training sessions.

Video analysis:

We offer the option of a customized, edited video of each of your players.

Not only serving as a visual reminder of what you worked on, the video will include slow motion replays, freeze-frames, and annotations, to reinforce the points you learned….and the improvements you made.

Make sure practice makes PERMANENT, by taking these coaching points with you, long after the course.

CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME EXAMPLES OF OUR VIDEO COACHING

Training aids:

One example is our Pitch Map app, which helps find patterns in your bowling and diagnose flaws in your bowling technique.

This helps a player’s independence hugely. When things begin to go wrong on the field, having knowledge of previous experience to fall back on, can help you fix your flaws yourself.

We include a wealth of additional advice, in our personalized player reports.

CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE OF OUR PLAYER REPORTS

HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE?

EMAIL ROB@TWENTY20COMMUNITYCRICKET.COM

 

CRICKETER’S “ROUGH GUIDE”: Vienna!

Every year, the Touregs Cricket Society bring a team to the Vienna Wintercup!

6 years since we first attended, the friendly atmosphere and wonderful city lifestyle keep drawing us back for more! 

Austria is an attractive destination, cricket or otherwise!! Here are a few insights we’ve picked up from our travels.

The cricket. Where can I play?

Seebarn

Get a village green experience with a difference!

Touring Vienna in the Summer will grant you the chance to venture out of town. Tucked in the heart of the mainly rural Sud-Ostereich province, is the Seebarn Cricket Ground.

This ground sees plenty of action, with a large number of league, cup, friendly and even international matches hosted on the central AstroTurf wicket. Many Vienna based clubs share the facility.

The locals take their cricket seriously, and will offer fierce competition for touring sides. But VCC also are very affable hosts, and will ensure you have an enjoyable experience as well as a hard fought match.

Above all, Seebarn is a beautiful setting to watch cricket. On a pleasant summer’s day, there can be few better places.

Geringergasse: The Vienna Wintercup

An international tournament like no other!

For 30 years, Vienna Cricket Club have reached out to the cricketing world, and hosted a six-a-side indoor competition. This Wintercup has now become a treasured fixture in the European cricket calendar.

The event offers an almost unique gathering of teams from the mainstream world to the very little known outposts.

In recent editions, cricketers from Austria, UK, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Belgium, France and Hungary have represented teams in the Wintercup.

In the hall a competitive spirit dominates, but all rivalries are forgotten at the field. The traditional team dinner on Saturday is a wonderful chance to mingle with cricketers from all backgrounds, learn their stories and make lasting friendships.

You will leave this event with a new found appreciation of the game of cricket, and inspired by the lengths many go to enjoy their favourite pastime.

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIENNA WINTERCUP WEBSITE

The lifestyle: What can I do?

Food and drink

Vienna isn’t short or cosy little pubs, bars and restaurants. With oak panelled walls, traditional dress worn by staff….and the odd low door frame to beware of!….you may well feel as if you’ve walked back in time as you take a seat. And if you order dinner, you won’t be going hungry for the rest of the day!

Salm Brau is just one of many Viennese pubs we have enjoyed. The signature dish here is the Kloster Pfandel, and is well worth trying at least once on your visit! Rich, meaty goulash, stewed together with light dumplings, served in the pan it was baked in. This dish sums up everything that is to like about Austrian food – a delicious, filling feast, perfect for braving the cold weather!

Wienerschnitzel, Schweinbraten and Goulashsuppe are all staples all over town. We recommend a side of one of the many varieties of potato dishes.

**Vegetarian options (excluding desserts) are in a minority, but there is a selection on offer in nearly every restaurant**

Beers to look out for

Ottelkringer

Gosser

Stiegl

Or, try one of the local beers, many of which are brewed on site at places such as Stadtbrauerei. Okay, perhaps the 1.5l steins may have been a little excessive, but we weren’t complaining!

And for dessert….

Sachertorte

Kaiserschmarrn

Apple Strudel

Best places to stay

Regina Hotel

One of many good value hotels right in the heart of Vienna. Recommended if you are a fan of old historical buildings, or scrambled eggs (the extensive breakfast spread goes down a treat)!

Even though access around the city is fantastic, we find the Schottenring is an ideal place to settle. Every major tourist attraction is only 2 or 3 U-Bahn stops away, and the area is awash with nightlife and trendy restaurants!

If you book early, you may get a good deal on the Graben, at the heart of all the tourist action. The magnificent Stefansdomplatz looms over this bustling shopping avenue.

Top sites

Ice skating

The Viennese know how to pass by the chilly months. The Ice Traum skating complex has to be one of the most spectacular anywhere in the world.

There is something to please everyone here – from novice, to expert, or even those who’d just prefer to kick back with a strudel, and watch their mates tumble. 2 massive rinks, a training zone and several winding tracks are available on the ice. Off the ice, you can immerse yourself in the very best of Austrian. Local street food (the crepes are incredible), drink souvenirs and music all around.

Participating is incredibly simple and stress free. Just buy your “Day Pass”, rent your skates, and 5 minutes after arriving you can be on the ice!

A “must do”, if you are in town at the right time!

The “culture vulture”:

You can take in so many iconic building in just a short walk from Stefansdom, through Graben, to the famous Imperial Palace.

The famous square was once home to Mozart, and his living quarters offer an insight to his frivolous lifestyle. There are also world famous art and natural history museums, the Spanish Riding School, and much, much more to take in!

Trams are perfect for sight-seeing. You can hop on and off at will around the Schottenring, with your cheap day ticket.

The “foodie”:

Duck into one of the many “Konditereis”, that pepper the streets of Vienna. Outlets of Strock (practically a Vienna equivalent of Greggs) are unavoidable in the city, and are perfect for grabbing breakfast or a snack to go. As Vienna is a great “walking town”, you might need an energy top up!

For some more upmarket baked goods, pop into Demel, or Hotel Sacher. Demel is particularly intriguing, with a glass-walled kitchen. Watching the chefs create artistic masterpieces is genuinely inspiring – and a fun game to guess what a humble lump of cake is being sculpted into!

You’ll love this place, for the sheer abundance of food on offer! Bratwurst stalls dotted around the streets. Local food is very popular, but for a taste of home, several pubs are to be found in the tourist district. You simply won’t go hungry!

The “late nighter”:

Schottentor is the place for you, a student district of Vienna that is open when other areas have shut down for the night.

 

FUN or SERIOUS…are they so different?: Balancing 2 competing schools of thought?

How do we keep children coming to cricket?

Cricket coaching is often caught between the two extremes: “serious drills” or “fun games”. 

To keep children enthused from week to week, you have to keep activities fun, engaging, dynamic and fast paced. Lots of noise, energy, excitement and variety. 

On the other hand, to keep children enthused from year to year, they have to feel that they are developing, and that cricket could be one of their main sports.

Of course, the more emphasis on specific techniques, the more explanation is needed, and the “drier” your session can be. It is fun to achieve something. It is rewarding to know you have overcome an obstacle. And the morale boost fuels you to take on a greater challenge, next time round.

Children, very justifiably, play sport for enjoyment – to spend time with mates after school, and let off some steam after a long day/week at school. Is a focus on all-action and all-moving games depriving children, of an even greater feeling (of knowing they have mastered a skill)?

In the effort to keep them coming, “next week”, it could be possible that we are simply delaying (and making worse) some harsh realisations:

  • Hard ball cricket is a big step up
  • In “out and you’re out” cricket, you only have one chance
  • You need some specific skills to succeed in a match
  • You need to cope with the pressures of a match

This shock could push children away from the sport. At what point in a player’s development is it worth confronting this.

Is there a “happy medium”?

Tailoring group sessions is fiendishly difficult. How do you cater for the needs of several, varying personalities, with differing motives for playing? When less children are thrown into the mix with some very able cricketers, motivating both parties is doubly challenging. 

I don’t believe that you must settle for one extreme of the other. Just as in the classroom, fun and learning can be complimentary on the field.

The challenge of coaching children of lower abilities or experience, isn’t how to coach a large range of skills. It’s how to coach a large range of activities, based around a single skill. Conversely, the better cricketers need to set higher standards for these basics, and confidence to master more complex skills.

Ways to improve technique during fun games:

Catch phrases – it’s perfectly understandable to want to keep the flow of games, by not stepping in to change grip/stance/swing as much. However, you can reduce your coaching to simple phrases, and repeat them constantly. For example:

“Back and through” (swinging the bat)

“Step and swing” (playing a drive – timing movements)

“Keep going, keep going” (to emphasise forwards momentum in bowling)

“Line up” (batting stance and getting ready)

This small reminder can persuade children to give one aspect of technique a little thought, while not disrupting the game (from constant interventions).

Award imaginary points – eg/ 10 points if you all throw this ball in the correct way. A special bonus if you hit the ball AND stand with the bat properly. The more I’ve coached, the more I’ve realised children don’t keep score….they just enjoy getting points! Hand them out like confetti!!

When rehearsing a particular shot, I’ll often put a single cone down, behind the target area. If players hit this cone, they score a million points. This nearly always focuses the mind on the target.

Team targets – you can change the focus of the group from beating the other team, to improving as a team. Repeating some activities, to see if, as a collective, the group can beat their previous score, time or “world record”.

Many children don’t enjoy the pressure of playing against another team. Taking away the opposition often helps keep them focused on improving, and reduces the embarrassment of failure….or letting the side down. Your team’s success is your success.

Obviously, learning to cope with pressure is an integral part of sport. But, gaining confidence with the movements and techniques of cricket, must come first. Knowing, “I can do this”, makes this pressure much easier to handle.

Make better players team captains (or “assistant coach”) – this can encourage some skilled players some responsibility. They can lead by example, by showing everyone the perfect techniques, and help the lesser players with small bits of advice.

You may be surprised how good children can be at coaching themselves!

This also stresses to the better players that cricket is about the team first! Even the best players need 10 teammates offering support!