Whatever your opinion is on the subject (and both sides of the argument have been exhausted), backing-up is a subject worth raising for coaches.
Backing up, calling and running and vital aspects of batting. What’s the point in being good at batting, if you can’t convert your shots into runs?
But backing up (and running in general) is often reduced to an after-thought within another session. Can we coach it more than by just saying, “remember to back up”?
In short, is there more nuance to add to the art of running and calling?
GIVE CALLING/RUNNING A COACHING SESSION OF ITS OWN!
Batters get out because they play bad shots, or have weaknesses. But what makes these more likely?
The answer is simple : building frustration.
Pressure builds on any batter, if they get bogged down. The ability to spot a quick single is a vital “pressure release”.
Confused calling, however, is a massive “pressure compounder”. How many times have you seen a player find a gap, but – due to hesitation or caution – not score a run? What should be a positive moment (the batter is in good touch) is flipped into a negative.
Backing up and running players to realize how easy these pinched singles can be. It keeps them less tense, and improves their body language. It fully deserves its own session.
Having a running and calling session allows your players to give this vital aspect of the game their full attention. It needs attention to detail….difficult when you are pre-occupied with the mechanics of batting as well!
You can also go into the detail that it deserves. What is a good technique for backing-up (there is one)! There are a few myths to dispel, about what is “good” practice….
Backing up is NOT….
- Running down the pitch
Instead of edging down the pitch, some players are guilty of simply charging forwards. This is a problem for two reasons. First, they are unable to turn around if needed. Second, the body language this sends to the striker is, “run”. When there is no turning back,
- Walking down the pitch
An improvement on running down the pitch….but with this body position, the non-striker is still very slow to turn around. This could be costly.
Body position – as a non-striker, having feet “side-on” allows the non-striker to react quickly in BOTH directions.
Bent legs – if the non-striker isn’t “ready” to run, it doesn’t matter how far down the pitch they are….any advantage is simply lost. Slightly bent legs allow a “spring” into action. Accelaration is actually far more important than top speed.
Calling is NOT….
- Saying, “yes” or “no” immediately
Many batter mistake positive calling, for calling as soon as they hit the ball. Think about what decisions like these must be based on – very little. Are your players calling based on how well they have struck the ball? What if the shot goes straight to a close fielder?
The best calls are within 1 second. Just as any judgement of a ball or catch, a split second of judgement is worth it, to make every movement decisive.
- Just, “yes”, or “no”
“WAIT”. It’s one of the most important words in cricket!! Encourage your batters to use this word as much as possible when calling.
Saying “wait”, means that your batting partner will (hopefully) stay more alert to the situation….poised for action, but not having switched off (back on heels, or even worse, having turned around back towards their crease).
- Saying, “yes” as often as possible
Can it be “positive calling” if a batter turns down a run? Absolutely! Cricket is not hit-and-run.
Trust – in any batting partnership (ESPECIALLY JUNIORS) the “senior partner” can often dominate the “junior partner”. Make sure any batter is empowered to “take responsibility”. This isn’t just a case of telling the junior partner to “speak up”. Make sure the senior partner is aware of their effect.
Clarity – one loud call of “YEEES!!”, is much better than, “yes yes yes yes”. One sounds concise and loud. The other sounds panicked and will be quieter.
Calling and backing-up/running are interlinked. Good callers tend to have a more dynamic body language. When players are unsure, or don’t trust each other, this can lead to more negative approaches (eg/ sitting on heels, or not backing up the required distance).
“Process” over “result”:
Calling has a system of rules. we have a protocol for a reason. Why does the non-striker tend to call for shots behind the wicket? Why do we advise saying, “yes”, instead of “run”?
These rules need stating. And it’s important you pick up on them….BUT….it is easy to slip into negative language: “that was wrong”, “why didn’t you….”.
This is a very common coaching struggle. A critical approach can lead to:
- OVER-COMPENSATING – if you are too severe criticising a bad call, it is very likely that you will see the OPPOSITE of that call next ball.
- OVER-CAUTION – players can very quickly take the “easy” option. Avoid getting out, by just saying “no”. This is as bad as hit-and-run.
- “YOU DECIDE” – a stalemate….where both players are locked in a stare. A sign that the player doesn’t feel confident enough to make their own decisions.
Feedback on running and calling often lacks nuance. Too black and white. Either “EXCELLENT” OR “WRONG”.
REMEMBER, players can make a “good” call for the wrong reasons. Here, make sure you are consistent. Praise the positives (eg/ quick running), but point out the negatives (“whose call was that?).
REMEMBER, players can make a “bad” call for the right reasons. Here, it is your job to empathise (“I see what you were thinking”) and still add the criticism (“I can see what you were thinking, BUT….).
Running and calling game:
Coaching running and calling is a balancing act. How do we add enough INCENTIVE to reward positive running, while keeping the right amount of DETERENCE to stop it becoming “hit and run”?
I use this points system for matches. The aim: to reward GOOD CALLING, but only for the RIGHT REASONS. This version was invented for indoor cricket.
CALL CORRECTLY = 1 run
RUN = 1 run
WICKET = -3 runs
**NO BOUNDARIES POSSIBLE IN THE MATCH**
Advanced level (or 2nd stage of the game):
BAD CALL = -1 run
USING “WAIT” = +1 run