Defensive Cricket: making batters do what’s good for them (or at least try)!!

shankar battingIn general, batters don’t want to block the cricket ball.

To put it mildly, this isn’t the most controversial statement ever made! But, nevertheless, every batter needs to sometimes! And we need to make them see the value of it!

……Not the easiest task! Here’s how I at least attempt it…..

The Problem: “But we need the runs” / “But the ball ______ so much!”

Children aren’t stupid. Deep down, they know their error. But they don’t always want to admit it. More often, they look for excuses (of varying quality).

EXCUSE 1: argue that they couldn’t afford to defend the ball, when they need _ runs per over. They can defend, there just wasn’t time.

EXCUSE 2: argue that the ball jumped up, span miles, stayed way too low. How could they possibly have hit it cleanly?!

As a coach, I can empathize with the first excuse. It at least comes from a point of logic, and can be countered by alternative logic (“you have more time than you think”).

I tend to have very short sympathy with the second excuse. Too often, it is used to mask failure to get forwards, play late enough, or a technical error. From my perspective, unless the batter has done everything right in their power to keep the ball out, and still it finds its way past you, look to YOURSELF, not the CONDITIONS.

The challenge here is:

  • Convince them of the long term picture: that they need to block some, in order to attack “the next one”
  • Convince them that defensive shots aren’t always a negative option!

defensive game

WHAT TO COACH

There are a number of principles you can focus on. The key is to retain clarity. Stick to one or 2 fundamental points. In general – assuming a competent primary school level cricketer – I would begin with these:

  • GET IN LINE – make sure that the ball will hit you if you miss it
    – Avoid pushing away from body
    – Do most work with a confident first stride (avoid shuffling around)
  • HANDS/HEAD OVER THE BALL – there are a number of reasons a batter may “get underneath” the ball
    – Playing too early
    – Swing starting too early
    – “Falling” into shot (head toppling after step)
    – Bottom hand in swing (causing a “shovel” action, instead of a smooth motion)
    – Trying to “hit” ball into ground, instead of using the angle of the bat

**TO STRESS AGAIN, CLARITY IS IMPORTANT. Even if a player may have used a different shot in a match, remind them what they are trying to achieve. Even if a player misses, choose your feedback VERY carefully….are they trying to do the right thing (just executing poorly)? Or was it a genuine lapse of concentration?**

**In this game, I often allow the batter a certain amount of “leaves”….thus minimizing the chance of them being penalized, despite doing nothing majorly wrong**

The defensive match:

Now, a chance to put this skill into a game! I have invented two versions of the defensive game. My aim is to encourage batters to add defensive play into their games….and see run-scoring opportunities in them as well.

defensive match

**It is always useful to have variations of the same game. You can keep things fresh, and cater for different abilities and group sizes**

Before, I wrote about this, in the context of fielding drills.

Summary

No game is perfect. It is easy to spot potential flaws in any drill. Most coaching resources focus on the activity, but the key is not WHAT is done, but HOW it is applied. This is why I have attempted to go beyond the description of these games, and add some of the different inputs.

Many coaches fall down because they believe the drill will simply produce the results. But then, they undermine it with un-targetted, constantly changing feedback.

PICK WHAT YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON

KEEP IT CLEAR

DON’T CONTRADICT YOURSELF!!

It’s difficult, but all you can do is try to instill important aspects of the game in your players.

I would be interested to hear how you encourage some of the more “boring” skills in your coaching. 

 

 

 

Coaching the Mental Game & Self Esteem — working with children

It’s always nice to know that your colleagues share your experiences and struggles! I really admired Andrew’s honesty in his coaching blog, “The Teesra”.
Here, he talks about the process of coaching mental strength in cricketers……..and the importance of being sensitive to each person’s receptiveness to pressure.

It’s a difficult journey, and we all learn more every day about when and how to employ different methods!

The Teesra

Back in the summer, I completed Coaching the Mental Game, the final course in the series led by Paddy Upton, from Deakin University via FutureLearn.

Since then, I have endured an enforced break from coaching, to recover from a keyhole surgery to tidy up some damage to my knee — caused by an inexpert sliding stop in the outfield to save a long chase to retrieve the ball from beyond the boundary…or perhaps it’s just that my knees are getting old…

The time out has given me chance to reflect on the course, and on how it might apply to my own coaching, especially working with children.

Closely related to the discussion around self esteem was a question about how to manage mistakes to build confidence and self esteem.  I wholeheartedly subscribe to the concept of the ‘growth mindset’, but sometimes this can come across as wishful thinking…

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Coaching dilemmas: how do deal with pressure? Part 1 – bowling!

framed image 2Most coaches must find this infuriating. The players in their team who look glorious in training….but for some reason, can’t perform in the matches. 

It happens all the time around club cricket of all levels! On the sidelines: managers of junior teams pulling their hair out, exasperated….wondering why their meticulous plans are thrown out the window, as soon as the boys and girls step onto the field.

However, what a good coach will remember is, it ISN’T THEIR FAULT! It is perfectly natural for young players to feel the pressure of a match situation.

As a coach, it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to prepare players better. How can we make the transition from a training environment to a match environment less stark?

Is it just that they “don’t listen”?

No.

Let’s dismiss one myth straight away. Most often, players don’t fail under pressure because they “aren’t listening” to your coaching. Way more often, it’s the opposite!

If anything, players are more likely to freeze in the big moments because they are listening TOO MUCH! When batting, they may be too obsessed with “moving their feet”, or “playing with a straight bat”. And on top of that, there’s a match situation to dwell on as well!

All of this can mean the most important aspect – ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE BALL – gets lost in the mental fog. And it can paralyze them.

In short, they are thinking. They are just the wrong thoughts!

1 step back, 2 steps forwards

keiran pitchCricket can be humiliating! The game has a special way of making your failures feel intensely public….it feels the whole world is looking at you.

As we know from our own experiences – and it’s good to be up front with your own – some embarrassing moments never quite leave you!!

So this is the big challenge:

  • As coaches, how do we expose young players to these dangers – and the bad feelings associated with them – in training, without demoralizing them?
  • How can we push them, but make them more resilient at the end of the process?

The answer has to be to gently introduce these emotions into training, when the consequences are a bit lower.

The drawbacks: how does this come across to others?

There is no doubt that this approach involves a degree of risk. You can never be 100% sure how a player will respond – behaviorally and psychologically – to the struggle. 

I follow an excellent coaching blog by Andrew Beaven, who is refreshingly honest about how he tries to employ the “growth mindset”….and how easy it can be for coaches to miss the mark slightly with their goals and objectives.

We all have gone in “too hard” at one point or another, and been forced to reign it in a little. The only difference is that, with constant reflection and response, you can minimize the times you do.

I must admit that, when coaching this theme at some clubs/individuals, i wonder, “is this worth the hassle”? Maybe it’s just a case of being brave. Just like anyone, coaches don’t want to be the “bad guy”. But it is our duty to prepare players for pressure….times when the odds are against them.

A small dose of failure should be useful in the long run! Even though you might get it in the ear from a dad or two!!

GAME: The Bowling Pressure Challenge

There are a few games I have employed, to introduce a degree of pressure to everyday actions. 

Sometimes you can have a bit of fun with it too – using games can be helpful in making players laugh off their mistakes and move on! I have had success at times with this team game. As well as simulating the pressure of being watched, we can find out how each player copes with this pressure.

When we know what happens, we can begin to advice ways to control nerves better!

bowling pressure game

How it works

2 TEAMS: of 3-5 players

TEAMS TAKE TURNS: team 1 bowls, team 2 waits at side of pitch

AIM TO BOWL 12 STRAIGHT BALLS IN A ROW

IF ONE WIDE IS BOWLED: the turn ends!

THE TEAMS SWAP: team 2 bowls, and have a chance to beat team 1’s score

THE WINNING TEAM: is the first team to successfully bowl 12 straight balls in a row

Extras

THE DISTRACTION RULE: After 6 straight balls, the waiting team is allowed to distract the bowling team (within reason…set some limits on what they can do!)

HIT THE STUMPS BONUS: 3 points awarded instead of 1

HIT THE BOX: For higher standard players, try marking 3 different boxes on the pitch. Make each one a different color, and shout out one of the colors as the bowler runs in. You can also shout “left-hand” or “right-hand”.

The review: what are the symptoms of pressure?!

By placing your players under the spotlight, you will begin to find out how they react to it!

You will find that the responses to the same pressure come in several forms. In this context – bowling – some of the “symptoms” of pressure are….

  • RUNNING UP SLOWER – very timid approach, with short strides….meaning the bowler loses all momentum
  • RUNNING UP FASTER – due to an adrenaline rush that they aren’t aware of….result can be a rushed and frantic bowling action
  • PAUSING BEFORE BOWLING – under pressure, this kind of bowler lingers on their aim….but loses the “flow” of their action
  • 1 MISTAKE LEADING TO SEVERAL – it can just be a minor error, but can start a “domino effect”
  • OVER-COMPENSATING – 1 short ball leading to a full toss

Finding out the symptoms, gives the player vital knowledge about how to fix their own actions. You can help them gain a better understanding of their games!

 

 

5 principles beginner coaches often forget

The classic cliche of passing a driving license, and ignoring everything you learnt up to that point, holds a grain of truth!

As coaches, we should always remember some fundamental points. Here is a list of 5 principles of coaching, that can often get forgotten over time on the job.

DO LOOK DOWN!!

snasy-practiceWhat applies to heights, doesn’t apply to cricket. Check the feet, then work your way upwards.

If you go the other way round, you are in danger of missing a vital piece of the puzzle.

This principle is equivalent to laying the foundations of a large house. If this first, crucial, building block isn’t in place, every other piece of the structure is vulnerable to move. It would be redundant talking about interior design in the loft, when’s its floor could cave in any second.

EXAMPLE – STUMBLING INTO SHOTS. A common flaw that players have is swinging before they have a stable base. The resulting swing causes a player to topple over.

On the surface, bat-swing or footwork might seem to be the problem. But the underlying cause is SYNCHRONIZING these movements.

Turn back the clock!

As well as the bigger picture, a coach needs to be mindful of the long term picture.

It is very easy to spot immediate, obvious looking flaws. If a bowler’s arm has dropped, anyone can see. If a batter plays with a cross-bat, anybody can tell. However, is this the CAUSE, or just the SYMPTOM?

What seems like an obvious flaw at the point of delivery/contact/miss, may have its roots much earlier….even in the first step of the run-up, or batting stance!

If a player hasn’t followed through (running past the stumps after releasing the ball), you could simply say, “follow through next time ____” (ie/ WHAT to do). But in order to really effect change (ie/ get them following-through consistently in future), you may need to look further back in the action or run-up.

  • LEANING BACK – when a bowler’s head tilts back (bending back, or exaggerated arm movement), it is difficult for them to propel themselves to the target. If you see a player pause before they release the ball, this is the most common reason.
  • LOSING HEIGHT – if a bowler’s upper body falls down, it restricts their ability to drive their legs forward.
  • LEGS KICKING BACK IN RUN-UP – poor running style may make it impossible for a player to get their knees in front of them after bowling.
  • FATIGUE – when a player is tired, they may not physically be able to do what you are asking of them. Be sensitive to signs of tiredness.

Move around

At the level 2, one phrase was hammered home in the practical sessions, probably more than any other….

“When observing, get firm evidence from MULTIPLE ANGLES”

EXAMPLE: BATTING STANCE – Check every player’s stance from the side. This is the only place you can really confirm their weight and balance is correct.

stances

These two stances look remarkably similar from the umpire’s view. However, by viewing from the side, you can tell the distinction between “squatting” and “pressing”.

This small detail makes a big difference – in freedom of movement, and ability to get more weight and power into the ball.

Use catch-phrases, but AVOID cliches

Young players hear, “follow through”, “hit the top of off-stump”, “move your feet” so often, they begin to lose any meaning.

REMEMBER – a phrase only has meaning if:

  • a) IT HAS A CONTEXT – eg/ “move your feet, so you can lean towards the ball”, “hold the bat up, but still have a backswing”, “press forwards, but as the ball is coming, not before“, “get forwards, WHEN the ball is there again” (how many players have you seen who are told to get forward more, then lunge onto the front foot for a bouncer next ball?).
  • b) YOU REMEMBER PHRASES CAN BE MIS-INTERPRETED – for example, telling players to “pick the bat up”, might result in them picking it up way too high, saying “move to the ball” can result in players lunging at the ball.
  • c) YOU ADD THE “WHY” AS WELL AS THE “WHAT” – give them a specific reason that this is the most effective method (over time).

Catch-phrases are NOT COACHING. You have to flesh them out with context and added meaning.

You can even try coming up with your own phrases, “buzzwords” eg/ “move and stay” to symbolize the act of leaning to the ball, but still on contact.

Coach to educate: explain reasons

ANYBODY can make themselves look good in a 1-to-1 session:

  • You can guide a player through every step
  • You can easily instruct them to “do this/don’t do that”, every ball
  • Improvement is likely through repetition alone – they hit LOTS OF SHOTS AND BOWL LOTS OF BALLS

Not everyone can translate those improvements to the field!:

  • Can they solve their own problems and flaws
  • Can they deal with pauses between balls (over intensity of a 1-to-1)
  • Do you encourage them to think for themselves – or is there a dependency between coach and player?

Coaches are educators. Coaching for understanding – even if the process means sacrificing immediate gains – is much better than coaching as an instructor.

“Do you want to know the science behind it”?

(While performing an ultra-slow-motion demo….) “Where does this shot/ball start to go wrong?”

IMG_1221No child likes to hear they should do something just “because”. True, there are some stubborn little ones out there. Your job is to persuade them to do what is good for them, even though they might fight you along the way!

CONSISTENT FEEDBACK – try not to lurch from coaching-point to coaching-point, ball-by-ball! A player needs time to grasp, and make permanent, the themes you are giving them.

USE GADGETS – try videos, apps, science, score-book evidence….anything to convince your player! The pitch map app is a particular favourite of ours!

 

Coaching dilemmas: “fun” V “serious”. How hard do I push a group?

Coaching as a career is not simple! There are many dilemmas you will have to consider. Choices that have no right or wrong answer….even fellow coaches’ opinions may well be split right down the middle! 

Fun V Serious

It doesn’t have to be “either/or”! But we often get stuck in these debates.

Say you have are in charge of a player/group with all the talent in the world. But try as you may, you cannot get them to take things as seriously as you’d like. How can we get them to “push on” with their training, without alienating them from cricket altogether?

Throw in a parent or team manager, who is expecting results, and things get even trickier!

READ THE GROUP! What kind of players do they want to be?

ebAll players deserve some level of ownership over their game. At the end of the day, this is their hobby, and they need to have reasons for playing.

Why do they play the cricket in the first place?

How do they want to express themselves as cricketers? And crucially, how far do they ACTUALLY WANT TO PROGRESS with their cricket. Now, the easy answer to give the coach is – “I want to get better”; “I want to get to a high level”. But is this their primary motivation for playing?

Their answer to this question determines how hard you can push them. Or whether you will need to relax the reins a little. Reading your group is key to getting the most out of them, and keeping them in the game for longer.

What is the “end game”?

 

Build them up over time!

I GUARANTEE that a lot of coaches didn’t agree with this first point. They will argue that your job is to make players better. My question to them is: how do we ultimately achieve this?! 

Just to clarify, “reading your group” DOES NOT mean you give up on developing certain, “less serious” groups. It simply means seeing your role in terms of multiple years, not just week-to-week! In order to get cricketers to fulfill their potential, you’ll need their cooperation. This may you require to meet them half way….for a while!

The more you build a rapport with the player, the more influence you will have. And you may be able to convince them to take their cricket more seriously….or train more earnestly. You can scale up the intensity of certain drills. You can begin the process of MAXIMIZING their potential.

But this is a JOURNEY. And it’s a long one! There is no point in subjecting a player to grueling drills, enforcing a regime on them that will kill their desire to play in the first place. There is no point running serious sessions that make you look good, when the players have actually been going through the motions.

A session is only as good as it is performed. A well thought out drill isn’t an end in itself. Do get the maximum effect, you need a firm understanding of why we are doing it, and acceptance that it is for their own good.

REMEMBER: games can be used for learning too!

Just because a group gets older and better, doesn’t mean you have to leave fun at the door!

Some of the best Winter training sessions I have run are based on the same concepts of the games I use for small children. However, you can make the targets more demanding, adjust the points system, add penalties for lazy play or simply tailor your theme and feedback, to reflect the group’s ability.

I would refer to this as “games within a game”. Having imagination can make the most basic activities relevant for anyone. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best!

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EXAMPLE: Crazy cricket

This is a simple game where the batting team have to hit the ball, and run around cones. The fielding team have to get the ball back to the bowler as fast as possible, and prevent extra runs being score.

Even in this game, you can change the playing conditions to challenge high ability players:

  • Off-side shots only
  • Using a swinging ball – feeder points the seam up and aims to “wobble” the ball either direction
  • Penalties for not being in the correct stance
  • Very fast or spinning deliveries
  • Ball must bounce within a zone – emphasis on controlling the ball into the floor

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Get to know the individuals

Getting the best out of a young player, may involve understanding them as individuals. The same outward behavior (for instance, joking in training) can have multiple different reasons.

What are their sporting and life circumstances?

Swiss U13 caps up 20170423_160615
They are all different!

When we coach groups, there will always be a range of personalities, motives and levels of confidence. If a child reacts adversely to one style, or refuses to fully engage in an activity, why might this be?

A VERY COMMON reason is low self belief. Without admitting it, many young players are self conscious. A small setback – and the embarrassment of their friends seeing it – may hit them very hard.

The player may have many different hobbies and pursuits, cricket being lower down the pecking order. Cricket may be their “pressure release”, from being pushed hard in hockey, or football.

These factors all influence what a player wants to “get out of” training – what makes them “tick”.

 

Be honest (in a harsh way)

If you think a group has real potential, let them know. Stating that you believe in a player can do wonders for their self esteem!

But at the same time, be crystal clear about what needs to happen on the way.

Remind them of their responsibilities….that the coach alone can’t get them to elite level. Most players don’t realize this gradually, but through sudden “epiphany moments”.

A classic example is the player who relies on superior size and strength at junior level….only to be a) caught up in size,  or b) out-thought by their peers (who had to rely on brains instead of brawn) later on in life.

The next stage is critical. How quickly will they realize that the old ways aren’t enough to succeed alone? Will they turn to excuses, or new methods to overcome this setback?

Your responsibility is to point out the facts, and try and guide them to the right process, before it’s too late! This is doubly hard for the children who are succeeding at an early age.

You may have to wait for them to “be ready” to step up the intensity. And the cruel fact is….they may never be ready. All you can do is point out the facts to them….and hope they realize it one day!

 

DON’T ASSUME THEY “DON’T WANT TO BE THERE

If a young player is messing about in training it can be down to a number of factors.

  • FATIGUE – from a long day at school/of work (we rarely get to see them at their best!)
  • LOW SELF ESTEEM – This is a far more common reason for poor behavior than many think. Put simply, it’s easier to play up, and not try to achieve a goal, than take a risk by trying….and possibly coming up short
  • ARROGANCE – they may be good, but they know it!
  • TIME OF DAY/WEEK – some players are morning people, some are not. Some have burnt out by Friday evening, and have reached “saturation point” for knowledge. Take their stresses outside cricket into account.
  • PEER PRESSURE – take one angelic child, and put them in a livelier atmosphere…..the differences in their attitude can be poles apart! When a group mood is traveling in one direction, the majority of children cannot resist it
  • CLASHES IN STYLES – the other authority figures in their lives (teachers/parents/mentors) may have a different approach to you. And this (through no fault of your own) can cause friction.
  • CLASHES IN EXPECTATIONS – between coach, club, parent, and the child themselves! It’s difficult for the coach to juggle these (often wildly varying) demands

……..and maybe they genuinely don’t want to be there! – but your job is to exhaust all other possibilities, until you accept that! An on-the-surface, “I don’t care” attitude, might not be the real truth.

 

Getting the most out of training: players feedback

Player feedback

For some teams, we have created their very own training webpage. They can access it any time they like, for their personal stats, training videos and coach comments.

It is an effective way for them to see:

  • How much they have improved over time
  • Which aspects of their game that needs work
  • Any recurring flaws – mistakes that are cropping up time and time again

It is far more powerful for them to see the evidence for their own eyes, instead of just being told repeatedly.

Earlier, we demonstrated how we could use coaching resources to help address a team issue, and find solutions. Below is an example of how we use several training apps and tools, to help progress an individual player.

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Case study: Bilal

Bilal is one of the talented players from our Wandsworth Borough program. We analized in detail is performance in intra-club matches and nets – in order to give him a sense of what it would take to reach the next level.

The team were playing a series of indoor matches, where we analyzed performances – team and individual.

March 9th 2018

bilal match

Being a senior player, there was an expectation on Bilal to perform, especially with the bat. This came with pressures, but also benefits….some of his teammates were slightly intimidated by him. 

The result – as you can see from the wagon wheel below, Bilal was able to consistently smash the bowlers over their head.

March 19th

bilalFor Match 2 of the series, Bilal was made to work a lot harder for his runs. The bowlers had a better strategy – both changing where the balls pitched (outside the hitting arc), and the angle (away and into the batter). 

The field positions also improved dramatically. This cut off Bilal’s favorite “get off strike” option (push into midwicket).

Despite scoring less runs, Bilal was made to show a greater range of shots, and more discipline. In 22 balls (6 less than last week), he managed to score as many 1s and 2s.

Below you can see the increase in DEFLECTIONS (orange dots)

bilal bat

In this graph you can see that Bilal has a relatively well organized game. It is a good sign when you can see a strong pattern in the data. The green gots are all full or full-ish, spread between middle stump and 4th stump.

Balls between middle and leg stump Bilal has looked to defend (YELLOW dots). Everything else he has attempted to deflect (ORANGE dots) into a gap, using the pace.

There is one big issue, however. RED dots are balls that Bilal has missed or edged. And it was interesting to see that these all had one thing in common – outside off stump, good or short length!

Why was Bilal struggling to take advantage, or effectively deal with, this type of delivery?

 

March 22nd

In between the training matches, we were back to normal training sessions! In these, we were working on flaws highlighted in the matches. 

Bilal has a fantastic attitude to his cricket. Over the weekend he has given some thought as to his weaknesses. During a bowling machine session, he wanted to practice shots outside off-stump. I fed him some balls on a good length, subtely varying the line.

Stage 1: Approach to ball (shot options open)

This session allowed us to zero in on the root cause. We found that:

  • Bilal’s approach to the ball was a little casual
  • His bat face often closed on impact

We were able to spend an hour working on a range of solutions:

  • Precise footwork and head movement
  • Staying higher on contact
  • Using both hands in the shot

Stage 2: Cut Shot

Shot options were another factor. The way Bilal moved, and set up to hit, the ball, he was in no place to play a cut shot.

Adding this shot to his armory would give him a crucial extra scoring option….and stop him getting bogged down by some bad deliveries!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF BILAL’S WINTER PROGRAM

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The “Where is it” game: teaching players to “really” watch the ball.

ebYou may be surprised, but some players aren’t really watching the ball at all!

There is no point teaching technique, if players aren’t moving near the ball in the first place. Judgement of line and length is FUNDAMENTAL to shot selection, and execution.

But too often, this crucial element of batting is missed out completely. 

I invented the, “Where Is It”, game to force young batters to really consider whether they are reading the ball properly. 

How it works:

This game works best in pairs or small groups. You can use the nets, or any indoor space.

  • The feeder (teammates or the coach) throw a series of balls to the batter. Distance of 15-18 yards is best (depending on age and ability).
  • Whether the batter plays, leaves or misses, they must CALL OUT THE LINE of the ball (ie/ which stump the ball was travelling towards).
  • The feeder then decides HOW ACCURATE this prediction was: exactly right, almost right, or way off. They tell the batter where the ball was actually travelling.

where is it game

**DON’T ACCEPT answers such as, “hitting the stumps”, or “off-side”. Ask for an exact guess – “hitting middle-and-leg”, or, “4th stump” (term for one stump wide of the off-side)**

 

Why this is important

The more you examine this aspect of the game, the more patterns and trends will emerge:

  • Do the batters consistently misjudge the line?
  • If they do misjudge the ball, is it in a predictable way?
  • Are they too general in their predictions….a sign of not fully watching the ball?

Some examples include batters who….

THINK THE BALL IS WIDER THAN IT IS – very common with young players. They underestimate how many balls can be reached with a straight bat….instead opting for the cut and pull shot too hastily. You can demonstrate how balls on 4th (or even 5th) stump can be reached, if you move correctly.
**A common technical reason for this is the head position. If a batter’s head is always inside the line of the ball, naturally all deliveries will look wider**

ONLY READ “OFF-SIDE” OR “LEG-SIDE” – but not precisely enough! Basically, as soon as they see width, they go into attack mode. The shot is too general, lacking control….and often turning bad balls into missed opportunities or even wickets!
These players should be encouraged to judge exactly how wide the ball is (ie/ by how many stumps?).

**Shot selection is the key. You can then demonstrate to them how sometimes, they can use the pace of the ball. A deflection can often be a boundary option! A “wide ball = smash” attitude is too basic, and will lead to more missed boundaries and gained** 

CONSISTENTLY THINK THE BALL IS MORE OFF-SIDE OR LEG-SIDE THAN IT IS – for example, they may think that all balls on leg-stump are hitting middle, or off-stump balls are outside the stumps.

**This is often down to how the player is leaning towards the ball. Are they falling to the off or leg-side? Watch their INITIAL movement – from the moment the ball is released**

JUDGE THE BALL RANDOMLY – Look at the stances! Some batters, even at ages they should no better, simply don’t set up for each ball in the same way. Taking a guard in a different position each ball, or an inconsistent stance, will affect your reading of the game.

What hope will they have of picking the right shot consistently, from this start? How can they defend their stumps, if they aren’t covering them in the first place?

**Make sure every batter is standing in the same spot, and in the same way! Don’t feed the ball until they are!! Stance is the foundation everything else is built on, all other advice will be redundant unless this is in place.

Be stubborn and persistent with this. They are NEVER too advanced for the fundamentals!!

A good trick – if you aren’t satisfied with how the batter is setting up, hold onto the ball and wait. Hopefully they will take the hint, and adjust**

 

 

 

Net and Indoor matches: how to get practice to another level

swiss u11It’s the eternal question in all sports coaching. How do we make training more relate-able to a match situation?

The obvious answer: play a training match! Of course, it is important to break up drills with regular game-play. But don’t think that is the end of it. Training games also come with struggles….

  • Deep down, everybody knows that the stakes are lower.

  • Intra-club matches often involve way more chatter, between players on opposite teams.

  • When/how often to intervene – let them make and learn from their own mistakes? or act when you can see the downfall coming?

  • Parental perception – how do you prove to paying customers that you are still doing your job? Dealing with comments such as “my son/daughter didn’t get much coaching this week”.

Simply saying, “treat this like a real match”, only goes so far. You may have to find additional ways to inject intensity, and simulate the pressure of competition.

 

Record some data!

One great way of getting added value from match-play, is to supplement it with data!

KPI’s – tell the group that their performance won’t only be measure in runs, wickets and catches today. Give them an idea of what else you will be recording during the match. An example could be, “dot ball percentage”, “percentage of balls good or full length”, or, “percentage of clean stops/appropriate throws (good decision making)”.

Electronic scoring – for training matches, we use NX Cricket – a scoring app that provides very useful data, in the form of Pdf documents, after a completed match. We use it for the ball-by-ball individual scoring and wagon wheels.

Twenty20 Pitch Map app – this is available from the Apple Store. It records vital data such as where every ball pitches, which balls create chances and wickets, and percentages of balls bowled straight or good length.

Impact point graphic – I invented this tool, to illustrate to batters where their “strong zones” are, and where their “danger zones” are. I record which balls they attack (green), deflect (orange), defend (yellow) and miss/edge (red).

The data highlights a batter’s strengths and weaknesses. You can also tell whether the batters have an “organized” game….for example, do they know where their stumps are? Do they deflect all balls on their hips? Or is their thinking muddled – are they caught in two minds with certain balls?

 

Video the matches

Data is most effective when you look into it. Read not only into the patterns that emerge, but use observation to theorize why these patterns occur. 

Recording your practice matches allows you the chance to look back, and see things from a different perspective. You may end up reinforcing what you coached on the day. You may also begin to reconsider some things….but hindsight allows you that second opportunity! Plus you can focus on one point at a time, something that isn’t always so easy in the middle of a group session.

When you establish a pattern (WHAT goes wrong), you can search for the “root cause” of a problem (or WHY it happens), you can coach HOW to overcome it.

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Case study: “too many dot balls”

In this scenario the batting pair are struggling to score regularly against the opening bowlers. They are often finding bat on ball, but not so many find the gap.

Our job: to find out the flaw, identify its root cause, and propose a solution!

WHAT: batter is not managing to “rotate the strike” often enough.

So, we have identified a problem. While this may be useful to the batter to know (they may not quite realize how much time they eat up between scoring shots), there could be many reasons they struggle to do so. 

– Are they going for the big shots too often? Resulting in 4’s or dots (and nothing in between)?

– Are they failing to line up a particular type of delivery?

– Are they “dead-batting” balls they could actually work into a gap?

– Is calling and running the real issue?

WHY: the player is not moving well enough….therefore is missing balls consistently outside off-stump

This is a good example of data guiding your coaching, in a helpful way. You can now observe for a specific flaw. By analyzing the pitch map data and the impact point diagram, we can see that a specific type of ball is causing problems.

It becomes clear from the impact points (red dots = misses and chances) that balls of good or shorter length outside stump are the ones being missed. The pitch map (white dots = wickets and chances) back this up! Balls pitching outside off-stump are missed regularly.

Now we can return to the batting video, and isolate this flaw. It becomes evident that the batters are regularly far away from the line of the ball as they make contact. As the frustration builds, this compounds….believing that they are not quick enough to move, they begin to “lunge” onto the front foot. The result….even more balls flash past the edge.

I chose a common junior batting flaw here. Players often smash the balls bowled “at them”, but don’t make enough effort at shifting their body closer to wider balls. They miss or miscue balls that – with a little effort – they really should be in control of. Their scoring options are also often limited to one specific place (eg/ a “slap” through the covers).

HOW: read the line of the ball, out of the bowler’s hand. 

We can now work with the player on avoiding “planting” their foot in the same place for every shot. Delay their movement, until they are certain where the ball will pitch. 

For the rest of this training camp, we could customize each player’s training exactly….meaning not a single second was wasted. These two batters had to confront their weaknesses head on, and search for a remedy. The player’s judgement was examined, using 1-to-1 batting sessions, drills based on picking the correct line and length, and match-play (bowling plans aimed at exposing the weakness).

We were also able to probe their mindset. This was especially interesting as we discovered that, despite having a similar flaw, the actual reasons were different:

  • One batter was playing too much to his strengths (off-drives)….so much so that he was trying to move for this shot way too often – even in his stance, he was leaning towards the off-side. This made him miss out on some very bad balls, simply from over-relying on one scoring area.
    SOLUTION – keep options open! We encouraged him to trust some of his other strokes. In the 1-to-1 we made sure his approach to the ball was relative to where the ball was pitching. 

  • The other batter was too eager to move into position early. The result was that he was “pre-empting” the shot. Everything was too rushed!
    SOLUTION – relax! Take time, watch, then move fully to the ball. We tried to keep his adrenaline under control….resisting the impulse to just go at the ball. Not to just step and swing, but ensure he got fully into position before bringing the bat crashing down. 

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Clock cricket – turning nets into a more productive affair

connow battingNets are not always the ideal for developing players. Nevertheless, they have a role in any program….if used appropriately!

Of course, players have to factor in some hard ball training. Nets afford players a chance to achieve this, and engage medium/large in sessions where space is tight. However, anybody who has run – or participated – in nets know the many pitfalls.

  • Bowlers dropping intensity after first 40mins
  • Careless shots – appear good to young batters, but ineffective or fatal in matches
  • Difficult to coach batters, while keeping “flow” of session
  • “Macho bowling” – low/medium pace bowlers believe they are 90mph!
  • Lack of purpose for batters and bowlers, leading to silliness or “switching off”

How can we harness all the positives of nets, while ensuring your time is well spent? The answer: it’s difficult!! But there are ways of injecting purpose and intent, into sessions that are in danger of meandering…

Clocks cricket

This is one example of a “net game”, that motivates young players. I have found this game very effective with certain groups.

There is a competitive element, but also an opportunity to reflect and learn. It is also informative for you, as a coach. It will become clear what each player’s “comfort zone” is, and where they really struggle.

The objective

  • friday nathan
    The more places you can place the ball, the better! But to do this, you have to be looking for different scoring options.

    RANGE OF SCORING – can your players maneuver the cricket ball all around the field? Do they have the breadth of shots to cope with any kind of bowler/angle/attack?

  • BATTING APPROACH – the game compels your batters to think. Are they a “one-trick pony”? Can they adapt their game?
  • GAME INTELLIGENCE – batters and bowlers need to “out-think” each other. If a batter struggles to play certain balls, can they “hide” it? Can the bowler change accordingly, to put pressure on different batters?

How it works

  • Each batter has a set time (15-20mins ideal)
  • Each batter also has a worksheet (filled in by a teammate or the coach). Drawn on sheet is a clock, with numbers 1-12 marked out.
  • “12 o’clock” on the diagram signifies a straight drive – or shot back past the bowler. “3 o’clock” is a shot directly to the right, “9 o’clock” directly to the left, and “6 o’clock” directly backwards.
  • Batter must try to hit the ball to EVERY NUMBER on the clock face.
  • The batter can leave as many balls as they like. The objective is to not only hit the ball to all areas, but wait for the right moment.
clock cricket explanation
In this scenario, the batter has managed to hit the ball to 12 (straight drive), 2 (cover drive), 11 (on drive) and 9 (eg/ pull shot).

Bowling team

  • The bowling team must quickly find out which areas the batter likes to hit the ball (strengths) and also where he/she doesn’t like to play the ball (weaknesses).
  • If the bowlers takes a WICKET, then they can TAKE AWAY one of the batter’s numbers (you can’t take away “6 o’clock”).
  • If the batter misses the ball 3 TIMES, the bowler can TAKE AWAY a number as well (you can’t take away “6 o’clock).
  • If the bowlers bowl 3 wides (or 5 for less experienced groups), the batter can AWARD THEMSELVES ANY NUMBER (probably a spot they don’t like to hit the ball).

The batter wins if….

  • They manage to achieve ALL 12 NUMBERS (therefore have hit the ball to every area of the field), by the end of the net.
  • If they have achieved their goal early, their mission is to SURVIVE TILL THE END OF THE NET. 
  • This changes the game situation, from SCORING to SURVIVAL. The bowlers can be more attacking, and probe for a weakness.

 

MORE ACTIVITIES AND IDEAS CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK! IF YOU HAVE ANY NIFTY GAMES, FEEL FREE TO SHARE THEM TOO!