Friday, 13 January 2012

COACHING : 27 Preseason Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Nets That Actually Improve your Cricket

Preseason nets are looming and this year you are determined not to waste them. You want to take every last drop of improvement in time for that first game in the spring. That means this year talking to the coach or captain and getting him to copy some of the practices of successful club, academy and school sides. As you already know, being an amateur player is no longer an excuse for amateur practice. So let’s use some of that determination with these changes to nets:

1.Get the right atmosphere. Senior players, coach and captain need to buy in to using practice as a time to practice at game intensity. Socialise afterwards.
2.Treat every practice like a game. How seriously do you take games? However serious that is, match it in practice. If you never want to drop a catch in a game it’s simple, never drop one in practice and treat it like you dropped the superstar opponent in a crunch fixture.
3.Use what you have. You might not have perfect facilities and training aids. Just use what you can. Fielding practice only needs one ball.
4.Break the preseason into periods. Focus on skill, a fitness base and technique in the early pre-season and game-plans as the spring approaches.
5.Give throwdowns. All batsmen should “warm up” with a few minutes of technical work from gentle throwdowns getting progressively harder. This grooves technique before entering the net.
6.Bowl without batsmen. While that batters bat, the bowlers bowl in an empty net, trying to hit their target line, length and pace/deviation.
7.Divide the nets up. Have a pace net and a spin net. Ideally bowlers bowl in pairs, 6 balls at a time. This keeps balls coming at the batsmen but allows bowlers to work as a pair and get the feel for bowling in overs.
8.Divide the nets up (part 2). As the season approaches, split the nets into different scenarios, such as batting a long innings or hitting out at the death.
9.Bring in the fitness. You can easily incorporate sprints, agility, core work, mobility and basic strength training into nets. Do that thing.
10.Start with fielding. Fielding is the first thing to get dropped, so do it first as a warm up with game intensity and stop dropping catches.
11.Use video. Every net session has a camera now because they are standard on mobile phones. Use it to analyse your technique.
12.Set goals for each session. Theme your sessions around something that gets people thinking rather than going through the motions.
13.Set goals for the preseason. Have an ultimate aim for where you want to be at the end of preseason and work backwards to where you are now. You can do this at team and individual level. It gives you a roadmap.
14.Work on a variation. Every bowler should have at least one variation they can bowl at will. It doesn’t have to be flash. A good yorker is ideal.
15.Stop the wicketkeeper bowling. Even if the ‘keeper is a really good bowler, he should really be working on his wicketkeeping.
16.Stretch. Your warm up has no excuse not to work on the mobility of everyone’s hips, t-spine and ankles. Foam rollers are next on the list.
17.Track your changes. Keep a record of what you have done and how you did it. Track what works and change what doesn’t.
18.Have an extra session. You can always have an extra session. Get together with some cricket tragic mates and keep your game-heads on.
19.Use deliberate practice. It was the buzz word of last year for me. It’s going to be even more important the more we learn about developing skill. Get started using deliberate practice.
20.Get outside as soon as you can (even when it’s cold). Cricket is played outside. As soon as you can bear it go outside and don’t go back in.
21.Learn a new shot. My guess is you need to work on your on-drive.
22.Bring in the kids. Toughen up the next generation by bringing them in to senior practice so they can learn how to play hard, even in practice (but make sure they are safe of course).
23.Play games. Don’t be afraid to ignore the nest altogether and play games. Indoor cricket teaches you a lot if you set it up right. Plus it’s great fun.
24.Work on building trust. Trust is vital to a successful team, and it’s about much more than bonding over a pint. Use nets to build a culture of shared intensity and responsibility. If you are influential (coach, captain, senior player) be fast to reward success as a team.
25.Learn how to run. Sprinting is as technical as a cover drive. While you are not a 100m Olympic contender, you can spend time working on learning how to run faster and get a pay off with less run-outs. Wear pads, it makes a difference.
26.Pile on the pressure. Pressure changes everything, so add some to nets in the latter stages of preseason by setting targets, sledging, and middle practice in good weather. Learn to get out of your own head.
27.Deal with the difficult ones. Not everyone will buy in to a serious training culture. Learn how to deal with resistance in a friendly way.
What changes will you be making this preseason to have a better summer?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

FITNESS : Talent Wins Games, Teams Win Trophies

In cricket there is a reliance on individual performances to win games. But in the long run team strength will prosper over a couple of star players.
Below is an overview of the importance of team culture and how - by focusing as a collective - the team can give them the best chance of success.
The spirit of the team will be the foundation of your team.
During difficult times and during pressure, a team’s spirit can crumble.
Negativity enters the team’s mentality.
But by sticking together you will soon see this negativity disappear.
During a losing streak, it’s easy for the side to lose focus on how to win games, and just try not to lose, (trying to win and trying not to lose are very different things).
How to keep spirit in difficult times
Try briefing and debriefing before and after games together to understand the things that you did right and wrong as a collective.  As a team it is important everybody understands what things need to be worked on and what things can be continued.
Also encourage players taking personal responsibility to train.  You will have a struggled start, but eventually it will become infectious.
This was evident in the 2011 Twenty20 Leicestershire team who, during the pre-season, saw their training budget slashed by the county committee, leaving them with no option but to undergo their own training regime and support each other in this responsibility.
Under this self-responsibility, the level and effectiveness of their training increased as it enabled them to work on personal areas of development.
You can easily do the same with your team.
Yes it takes individual and team respect but get it right and the irradiation of negativity will be found naturally. 

BATTING : Alternative Technique to Combat Swing Bowling

It’s a muggy overcast day and the opening bowler is moving the new ball all over the place; you’re playing the ball as late as you can but are still struggling.
There’s only one thing left to do, and that is charge him!
It's not as crazy as it sounds, read on.
Swing bowling is the downfall of many prolific batsman; and late swing is the most destructive weapon in a bowlers armoury.
Playing in an orthodox way you have no way to counteract the evils of the ball moving late and nicking off. Until you consider moving down the track.
I stumbled upon this technique when watching one of our senior players open the batting in conditions favourable to swing. The theory was that the pace was not an issue, but the lateness of the swing was what was causing him the most problems.
We have already noted that the hardest swing to play is when the delivery begins straight and then moves late; lulling the batsman into playing a false shot. So surely the best way to play late swing is to attempt to eradicate it completely?
He would advance 2 or 3 paces down the wicket and play the ball before the swing had chance to take effect.
This would allow him to play the ball with more confidence whilst allowing him the protection of distance from his stumps with regards to LBW.
Secondly, it also gave the impression to the fielding side that he was being very positive in his mind set and looking to take the attack to the bowler; all from simply trying to eradicate the late swing.
What do you think?
Is this madness or common sense? Leave a comment and let us know.

Confident Batting Starts Long Before you Walk Out to Bat

You’ve scored an unbeaten ton in your last 3 innings.

You’re batting well, you feel good and most importantly, you look good!

You can carry as much form as you like coming into your next game, but unless the opposition study and follow your scorecard closely, they are unlikely to know your recent success.

But, they can sense it.  They know something special is coming out to bat when you walk out. It’s almost an aura.

First impressions count.  You do it yourself to other batsmen.

Think about the “league legend” that everyone knows. We try to judge the mood he is in by his body language.

When he strides out with his bat over his shoulder, almost whistling a happy tune you steel yourself for a lot of leather chasing.

But what if you are not a league legend and you have not come off the back of several big scores. Can you still produce the same aura?


This is why you should begin to bat, before you’ve started your walk out to the middle.

By that I mean be conscious of your actions whilst waiting to bat; you are not invisible to the opposition or your team mates just because you aren’t on the field.

Now, I’m not saying act the big shot, you still have to be comfortable with yourself, but imagine the difference your attitude and manner has on your surrounding team mates and the opposition.

If the opposition see you giving off negativity and doubt they are more than likely to feel confident against you.

In your own style you need to give off a cool, controlled attitude to settle the rest of your team and give the message that the opposition are in for a grind. 

Look to up the tempo by jogging out to the middle playing big shadow shots, sending out a message to the fielding side that they are in the firing line.

Sure, there is an element of “faking it until you make it” but you have to start somewhere. Why wait until you are 120 not out to give it a strut?

Right from the moment you arrive at the ground, be conscious of your visible signs of preparation and the effect they have on others. 

Visible preparation will allow you to embrace the mind-set that you wish to achieve. You actions speak loudly. 

FITNESS : 4 Tactics that Really Work

1. Build a tactical relationship with the keeper
In T20, captains often find themselves on the boundary or in a position that slows field judgement and decision making.
This is where the keeper becomes the key man.
Captains who build a relationship with their keeper, share their views openly and then trust the keeper to put those plans into action create thinking time; that vital commodity of which I mentioned before.
Paul Collingwood developed this with Craig Kieswetter during the victorious 2010 Twenty20 World Cup.  
This allowed ‘Colly’ to chat with bowlers, plan the next over or reflect on what had just happened in the game. England were always creating time and as a result made better decisions under pressure.
So coach your captain and keeper to work as a leadership team.
2. Turn American - Work on your call plays
Part of Somerset's success in the T20 in 2005 was that we had ‘call plays’ for different strategies or set piece moments.
Fielders used to know when the slower ball was coming and shift their position in the field, know when a bouncer was coming which led to a subtle shift in position of our square of the wicket fielders, when to hold the edge of the circle and when to hunt down the ball and stop that single.
Against Gloucestershire in a must-win final group game, Somerset picked up 3 wickets off of slower deliveries because the fielders walked to a different deep fielding position as the bowler was running in and took catches 25 yards from conventional field positioning.
Call plays are a huge part of Rugby and American Football; make them part of your tactical armoury too.
3. Know your home ground history
Make the scorer an integral part of your coaching team
Each ground has a statistical history that tells you how to win games of cricket. Most teams have a scorer, but how many Coaches use the scorer as a member of their support staff?
Important questions that can reveal tactical advantages are:
  • What is the average winning score batting 1st?
  • What score guarantees you a win batting first?
  • How many boundaries are scored per 20 overs?
  • What number of boundaries per innings guarantee me a win?
  • What is the scoring ball% that gives me a 80% chance of winning T20 on my ground?
  • Which bowler types are most effective on my ground?
The list is endless, yet the answers should inform your strategy in selection, deployment of bowlers, batting orders and roles within the team.
After all, you do play half your games at home so it's vital that you know how to win there!
You will be amazed at how confidence rises when your home ground is a fortress. The cricket being played increases in quality and the smell of silverware brings the best out of your cricketers!
4. Use short boundaries and wind assisted hitting
How many times do we watch players getting caught out 5 yards in from the longest boundary or holing out into a game force wind?
Too often if you ask me!
It's vital to play the conditions and to use the elements to your best advantage. In the warm up matches to the 2010 T20 World Cup, I watched Ireland lose to New Zealand by 40 runs.
New Zealand won at a canter by maximising the impact of the elements. Kiwi batters hit as many balls as possible downwind and Daniel Vettori asked his bowlers to ensure that Ireland hit as many balls as possible into the howling wind.
It was basic cricket at its basic best yet ensured a comfortable NZ win against a side that are more than capable of an upset.
Similarly, Somerset played all 4 home group matches in the 2005 T20 Cup On the same pitch with a 60 yard boundary on one side and a 110 yard boundary on the other.
The aim was to hit to the 3 shortest sides of the ground when batting, and make the opposition hit to the long boundary as much as possible when bowling.
Our fastest fielders patrolled the long boundaries and we squeezed the opposition into submission. Ian Blackwell - the competitions highest wicket taker that year - bowled all his home overs from one end into the 110 yard boundary.
Somerset qualified for the quarter-finals based on their home performances and ended up winning the trophy later that summer.
These simple tips can turn games: streetwise winning cricket at its best. 

FIELDING : How to Use a Tennis Ball to Improve Your Catching in 5 Minutes

Tennis balls: bright, light and fluffy; obvious descriptions.
But what is not discussed is how much harder they are to catch than cricket balls when at speed.
Try it.
Cricketers won’t admit this because everyone knows a cricket ball is one of the most dangerous things in the universe, but it’s true!
Because they are so light and have high rebound properties, they take more skill to catch than a heavy and hard cricket ball.
To catch a tennis ball at speed you need to exaggerate all the technical elements used when catching a cricket ball correctly.
I first thought of this drill after seeing Gary Kirsten firing tennis balls at a batsman in the nets using a racket, simply to replicate the speed generated by a fast bowler when the delivery is full.
It got me thinking how using the same method could test and develop your reactions to close and infield catches.
By simply allowing the ball to drop and hitting it on the half volley towards the fielder using a forehand shot, it allows the coach or team mate to quickly develop your ability to react at intercepting the ball.
This is an easy and fun drill to practise; all you need is a tennis ball, a racket and a willing partner.
Dropped catches
What also became clear was that the success in holding the catch was lower than normal.
We dropped more catches with a tennis ball.
This was because the ball rebounds quicker out the hand than a cricket ball.
That’s great because you need to improve their co-ordination in holding the ball as well as your reactions.
For me this drill is a great way to warm up the reactions and eyes on a  cold day, when nobody wants a hard ball flying at their cold hands. 

FIELDING : 5 Mistakes You Never Knew You Were Making In the Field

1.  The reverse long-barrier
Some people do it from bad habit others do it from bad body positioning.
The premise of the long barrier is to build the biggest wall you can to prevent the ball from passing you; so in theory any big shape you can create works.
But the ultimate long-barrier is one that allows the fielder to return the ball as quickly as possible; as most long barriers are performed in the deep where an extra run from a poor return is possible.
It’s level one coaching, but a trick that so many people miss.
Right handers need to have their left knee on the ground in the long-barrier (and vice versa for left handers).
Doing the long-barrier the wrong way around puts the fielder in an unnatural position to throw, giving away another run to a sharp batting pair.
2. Looking in the wrong place
Do you look at the bowler or batsman on delivery of the ball?
Fielders behind square; watch the bowler.
When fielding behind square, the ball comes from the edge for the bat.  So by watching the ball your brain and eyes are able to keep up with the pace of the ball as well as anticipate any edge.
Fielders in front of the square; watch the batsman.
Because the ball is hit in the opposite direction the ball after it’s bowled, the brain and eyes will have to react to a complete change in direction and more difficultly, judge the pace at which the ball is travelling in this opposite direction.
3. Standing in the wrong place
I’ve seen this cardinal sin at first-class level; allowing the batsman to take a quick single to you in the infield, especially if you were told to prevent it.
Don’t assume that every position has a set distance from the bat, this changes with every batsman.
But the distance will also vary with the situation.
In game situations where singles are just as valuable as boundaries the need for preventing these singles are greater.
If boundaries are required, the fielder can afford to press back slightly. The batsman will always be looking to hit the ball hard and the odd stolen single is less important.
4. Holding back an appeal
Always appeal on reaction. Train yourself to appeal on your instant gut reaction.
So many players simply never appeal regardless of their fielding position; it is just their personality not to be loud.
This is especially true of younger players unsure of themselves.
But go for it; if you think it’s out appeal.  Chances are that if you think it is close, the bowler probably thinks it’s closer!
5. Ignoring the non-striker
Just because the batsman has hit the ball and it’s been fielded, doesn’t mean it’s a dot ball.
Most batsman will back up, some more than others.
So why not run him out?
It is not unsportsmanlike to run the non-striker out.  If it was unsportsmanlike, then backing-up would be deemed unsportsmanlike.
Always communicate to your team mate who is covering your potential throw first.
 Do it quietly between overs; or if it is you backing up, use discreet hand signal to the fielders on the other side of the wicket that you are available to back-up the throw.
It’s one of those chances you will only get once.  The batsman will be aware of his overzealous backing-up now and the second chance of a run out will be rare. 

BATTING : Avoid Being Left Behind When Walking In

It’s junior fielding lesson number two: walking in with the bowler.
Unfortunately, you often see a least one fielder in every side who doesn’t do it; and it makes a massive difference.
But you can go one better than walking in; you can trot in.
Walking in keeps momentum going forward.  Move continually towards the ball prevents a quick single or allows you to cut the firmly struck ball off before it is past you.
The positioning of the fielder is always a balance between being close enough to prevent a quick single and far enough to allow the furthest distance to increase reaction time.
But with an increase in speed during the walking in, you are a greater distance from the bat. This creates further reaction distances whilst knowing that you are holding a greater speed to attack.
By trotting in you can afford to be a yard further away from the normal position, but still be able to attack the ball just as quickly due to more momentum.
This deeper position will also play on the batsman’s mind. 
Seeing the fielder setting themselves slightly deeper than normal, it may start to create whispers in his head that a quick single is on the cards; he commits to a fatal quick single.  And with the extra speed you carry into the ball you increase the chances you have of a run out.
You can see some of the best fielders in the world using this technique every ball they witness.
Jonty Rhodes did it and Paul Collingwood still does; do you need any more convincing? 

FIELDING : 2 Simple Ways to Improve your Slip Catching

There are two types of fielders; people who are allowed to field in the slips and those who aren’t.
This is more down to the fielder’s reactions that their ability to catch.
The edge that flies straight into the body is regulation for the slip fielder, but many club and Academy cricketers struggle to react to catches either side of their body simply because of the variation in the pitch.
The more variation in the pitch the greater variation in the carrying edge.
But there are a couple of things you can do to improve your chances of reaching and holding these difficult chances.
Your base position will have a great say in how well you move yourself to take the chance.
Footwork is key, not only with moving yourself to cover ground but simply taking a catch either side of you whilst stationary.
Position your feet to angle inwards slightly, with your weight not only on the balls of your feet but also on the inside.  The angle of your feet will naturally do this for you, but it is important to check.
By doing this you will find it is easier to push off to either side.  Because your feet are pointing inwards, it basically means your legs are pointing the right way to push off with most efficiency.  
Your thigh muscles are some of the strongest in your body, so it is crucial to engage these in order to get your body to move.
Secondly, it is a time old suggestion, but staying low does help improve holding on to the tricky low catches.  After all it is quicker to use your muscles to lift yourself than it is to fall.  But more importantly it is easier to keep sight of a ball that is above your eye-line than it is to follow a ball dipping below.
Try to remember these techniques if you get chance to impress; although I can’t guarantee it will be an instant ticket to be recalled to the slips after you’ve spent all last season at square leg. 

BATTING : How to Choose the Perfect Cricket Bat

A great bat doesn’t make a great batsman.
But it’s the only tool the batsman has, so the correct bat will give you the chance to be as good as you can be. Choosing which bat to buy is a crucial decision.
So how do know what’s right for you?
There are bats worth £500 and there are bats worth £80; both made out of the same stuff.
Is it just a matter of buying the best one that you can afford and hoping?
The beauty about bats is that the one suited to you personally isn’t necessarily the most expensive. It’s the one that feel right to you.
Buy from a shop
And feel is all important.
Nothing quite satisfies going through different bats by hand; feeling how the same model bat and weight can feel so different just from the slightest variation in crafting.
Plus, the weight of the bat isn’t always what it seems. A bat can pick up much lighter than what it is weighed on a set of scales. You can’t know that without actually picking it up.
Some pro bats can lose up to 6 ounces in perceived weight in the pick up when compared to their dead weight, just from the way the bat is crafted.
While there are some great places to buy bats online and you could get lucky, it’s just not the same.
That’s why you have to go to a shop.
Know your style
What you can do online before going to choose your weapon is your research.
Understanding what type of batsman you are will help decide on the style of bat you should purchase: the general rule of thumb depends on your preference to front or back foot strokes.
  • Batsmen who prefer front foot have success with bats with lower middles.
  • Batsman who play more back foot prefer high middles.
The height of the middle is also related to the type of pitches.
Players being bought up on pitches that keep low (like India or Sri Lanka) opt for lower middles, where as higher middles tend are successful on harder bouncier wickets like Australia or South Africa.
Look at the bat
Finally, bats nowadays have several features that may, or may not help you. While this is personal preference, it’s good to know the theory:
  • Scoops: One way of improving the pick up is by a concaving the back of the bat. This method sees the spine of the middle keep its height, but ‘scoops’ away either side. This reduces the amount of wood off centre of the middle, but still keeps the original power directly down the centre of the bat.
  • Blade length: Shorter blades tend to pick up lighter than standard blades due to the middle being placed closer to the batsman’s hands. These are not recommended for batsman of roughly 6ft and taller as this can cause problems when in the stance position. 

BATTING : How to Use Pairing Up to Score More Runs Against Spin

In the last few years modern innovative shots have become far more common.
But without tactics, all those dil-scoops, switch-hits, fine sweeps and charges down the wicket are ineffective.
How many times have you seen a sweep into vacant fine-leg, only then to be stifled by a man moved to short fine leg? The results are nice looking shots, no runs and a build up of pressure on the batter and the team.
How do you help players make it all work together?
At Somerset in 2005 we had that exact problem.
Despite their clear talent, we needed to build some structure and strategy to make each player more effective in limited over and Twenty20 cricket.
We started to work on pairing up.
Pairing up is simply using two shots in combination to control the field and keep the scoring rate up. Brian Lara was exceptional at this.
The net result is that the bowler can’t keep batters quiet and bowls some big scoring balls as a result of frustration and the pressure that you apply on him.
Let’s look at some real world examples.
The sweep and roll pair
Remember our sweep example?
Using pairing up, the first shot is swept into the gap to move a fielder from another position.
Then on the next ball, when there is another gap – say at square leg – the player rolls the ball into the new gap for a low risk single.
The best way to do this is taking a more offside guard; you can then take balls from off stump into that vacant square leg position.
People have asked me “isn’t that risky?” And I reply that if you respect the fundamentals of batting then you reduce the risk factor:
  • Starting in a balanced position
  • Being balanced at contact
  • Hitting the ball late
  • Watching the ball as hard as you can
Ian Bell is a magnificent exponent of this, making it difficult for a spin bowler to build up pressure on him.
The drive boundary and single pair
Kevin Pietersen and MS Dhoni are especially good at taking the pressure out of the game with this pair. They use their feet to clear both men back to the fence and then milk easy singles down the ground.
Lots of players find it easy to ease the ball up and over mid off and mid on from spinners which then causes the captain to put one or two men back.
I’m amazed at how many players can then not hit the ball for an easy one along the ground by beating the bowler on either side.
Does this sound familiar to you?
The trick is first create awareness of the tactic then teach it by bringing use of feet into practice so players get used to meeting the ball on the half volley or full toss.
How to practice paring up
Before you work on the game plan elements, make sure you players are good enough at each shot in the pair.
  • Fine sweep, back foot maneuver to square leg and front foot maneuver to square leg.
  • Lofted on drive, lofted off drive, on drive and off drive.
Use throw downs and under arm feeds to increase player’s flow and efficiency in the movement patterns that you are honing.
In their own time players can also use mirror work and visualisation to further improve body awareness.
Measure and track success by hitting sets of 6 and noting down the success rate.
This will monitor progress, build awareness and provide confidence to players that that their skills are developing.
Then once you feel the players are consistent, you can test it in a match situation.
Play a game in the nets with spinners bowling to an imaginary field.
The batsman’s aim is to make the spinner swap his square leg for short fine leg or vice versa in as short a time as possible and then see how long it takes for him to have to move him back again because of pairing of shots.
Do the same with mid-off and mid on and seeing how many times in a session batters can force a change.
Once the player is confident they can take the tactic into a match, knowing that it works with the evidence to prove it.
Pairing up became an effective tactic for the Somerset players, and it will become one for your team too when you create the right training environment for the batters to work on their game plans. 

COACHING : Team Roles: Cricket Teams are More Than Bowlers and Batsmen

Selection as I see it isn’t just selecting your best eleven players.
If you want the team to play to their full potential selection needs to be specific to roles; and that goes beyond just whether you excel with bat or ball. The best sides are never made up of the best eleven cricketers in the club, but are balanced and split into complimenting formulas. For example - in the professional game - selectors have been known to select a side on the basis:  40% reliable players, 40% players in form and 20% flair players.

This works because breaking their side down into more than just batsman and bowlers allows the players to understand what they need to do when they are in the middle.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>The flair players are there to impact quick and hard; the classic pinch-hitter or nasty fast bowler. The leash is off. They know they will not be admonished for getting out to a loose shot or bowling a half volley when trying to get it to swing.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>The reliable players are there to steady the side and progress the game safely: the opening batsman who sees off the new ball, and the metronomic medium pacer.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>The form players are there to consistently perform and cement the game together.

The flair batsman who scores incredibly quickly and often over a quick period is best used at specific times during an innings so has to “float” through the order. Without a clear role, he will be demotivated by the decision of the captain not to include him in the concrete line up.

But with a clear role, he will feel like he is a vital part of the innings: same situation, different frame. Helping each player to understand what they should bring to the game helps them perform their role in the side. It takes a captain who knows how to communicate and a well-selected team who understand the importance of acting as a team, but by building up the idea that roles go far beyond just batting and bowling the victory is guaranteed.

With the whole side fulfilling their roles well you are - in modern lingo - executing your game plan.

Get more runs and wickets by acting like a tailor

1. Start with a template

The first part is to start with a good basic template. In cricketing terms this falls into:

  • Diet
  • Fitness
  • Training
  • Mental preparation

You might also include recovery.

It doesn't matter what template you pick initially as long as it is something that has been proven to work and you can stick with for 2-4 weeks.

2. Follow the plan for 2-4 weeks

It's important to stick with the plan you choose for at least 2 weeks. Any less than this and it's hard to see any results. You also need to make sure that during this time you don't stray from the plan. If you do then the results will not be correct and you can't properly assess its effectiveness.

3. Check the results

You don't need to do a battery of testing every couple of weeks to see results but you do need something to measure. Steer clear of directly relating runs/wickets to any changes you make as factors out of your control also have an influence on sports performance (such as the form of the opposition or the quality of the wickets).

Instead focus on direct tests:


  • Diet: Amount of weight lost/gained.
  • Fitness: Amount of weight lifted, distance run and speed over 22 yards. Visual evidence (do you look better).
  • Training: Coaches assessment of your technical improvements, your own training journal.
  • Mental preparation: Use a journal to record after a game how confident you felt, how much negative thinking was in your game, how well you concentrated and anything else of importance to your mental game.

Be creative about it and work out some direct measures to properly assess what is working and what is failing. It's certainly worth keeping a training/playing log at all times. This will allow you to go back over the training you did before a good performance. If you see a trend you can stick with it. Your log might include anything worth recording: What you ate, how much you slept, what type of training you did at nets, what fitness work you are doing and even how you feel.

4. Adjust where needed

If everything is going according to plan and you are making progress then carry on doing what you are doing. It's working.

If no positive changes are happening you need to tweak your plan to make it better. If you are trying to lose weight you need to reduce the amount you eat slightly. If you are trying to develop a perfect yorker you need to increase the amount you practice it.

5. Go back to step 2 and continue

As your plan becomes more tailored you can continue through the loop. Keep going back, trying, testing and reviewing. Keep doing this until you reach your goal.

For most people this tailor-like systematic work, test and review plan takes the guesswork out of cricket. Form is no longer something mysterious and fleeting. You can work out what brings you into form and what takes you out of it. That sense of control can only work wonders for your game.


7 Fun Ways to Lose Weight

1. Eat more protein

When you think of losing weight you think of cutting stuff out. That is right but it also makes is psychologically harder to stick to your plan. So instead think of certain foods like sweets and cakes as occasional treats and eat more lean protein.

Protein fills you up more quickly and so overall you will eat less and lose weight.

2. Save your carbs

Some people consider carbs to be evil. While we all probably eat too much sugar and starch, they do have a place.

And again, to keep it simple, that place is after exercising. If you love your pasta, potatoes and chocolate then have it, but make sure you earn it by lifting up heavy stuff before you eat it (and that includes drinks with sugar in).

3. Set a weight lifting target

If there is one secret to exercising for weight loss (there isn’t but let’s pretend) then it’s to train with weights. Most people think it will make you bulky, but if you are overweight it will help you burn fat fast and keep it off.

2-3 sessions a week with resistance will do the job and to keep you motivated to do the work, set yourself targets. For example, if you have never barbell squatted before then try the stronglifts 5x5 programme and see how much weight you can keep adding in the months before you start playing cricket.

A little at a time and it becomes fun, not a chore.

4. Get some support

The science behind losing weight is easy. You burn more than you consume. You win.

What’s difficult is the psychological side. It’s hard to resist the plate of chips (if you have not exercised) and tough to go to the gym after a hard day’s work.

SO make it fun by bringing in a bit of support.

That could be a training buddy or just someone who tuts at you when you get in straight from work instead of going to the gym first. Make yourself accountable to someone (maybe with a training log) and you will be far more likely to enjoy it, even when the going is tough.

5. Add some competition

As cricketers we love the challenge of competition. I have lost count of the number of warm up games of football at my club that have become full-blown grudge matches.

So make your fitness competitive too. You could play a winter sport for the team camaraderie, or you can compete against yourself in the gym. You can do this by keeping track of how far you run or how much weight you lift and trying to beat it week on week.

6. Think about NEPA

Non-Exercise Physical Activity is a bit of a buzz phrase in the fitness industry. It’s overrated on it’s own, but when combined with a solid eating plan and regular strength training it can make a huge difference.

What is it?

It’s all unplanned physical activity you do when you are going about your day: everything from jiggling your leg while you read articles on the web through to walking up stairs instead of taking the lift.

Its low level and you barely notice you are doing it, but you are always conscious of ways to increase it. Walking to work, doing some gardening, shovelling snow, vacuuming the house and so on; the options are endless.

And of course, getting frisky with the one you love really ups the NEPA levels. Now that is fun.

7. Cheat

Noone has the perfect diet and exercise plan. Everyone has moments where they cave in to cake or skip the gym.

That’s fine.

As long as you make eating well and training hard the norm for 90% of the time, the occasional pizza is going to make no difference to the overall result.

That means you can cheat and spoil yourself sometimes.

Not only is that fun, but it helps keep you motivated and sticking to things the other 90% of the time.


5 Myths that Stop You Getting the Runs and Wicket You Deserve

1. You have to be a talented professional to train preseason

Anyone can benefit from preseason training no matter how bad they are. In fact, the worse you are to start with, the more important and effective winter preparation.

Many people say to themselves that they are not good enough to bother. These people would rather fail and have the handy excuse ready; ‘what do you expect? I didn’t prepare.’

That’s fear talking.

They fear that if they failed after taking the winter seriously by training hard they would reveal their true lack of talent.

But the truth is that we always do better if we prepare better. Anything else is just rationalising our fears.

2. The Internationals don’t bother with preseason

Technically, this is true. But it’s not the whole story.

English cricketers rarely have time for an off season of more than a couple of weeks. They go from summer to tour, to another tour, and back to summer. They are playing all year round and have no time for preseason.

But they are surrounded by coaching staff who know how to make the most of limited breaks they have. It’s not as good as being able to focus for four months without a match, but they make it work.

And I guarantee if they had a big block break they would be pushed hard in preseason by those coaches.

So you, with your months of winter nets to get through have no excuses.

3. All that fitness is not relevant to cricket

Doing squats and press ups in the depth of winter seems a long way from bowling and batting. It is no wonder some people still think badly of fitness training.

But a well tuned body is the foundation of good cricket.

Do this right and you will hit harder, bowl faster, last longer before technique fails under fatigue and be less likely to become injured.

Yes, fitness training will never replace a good technique, but it’s not an either-or situation. They complement each other perfectly.

4. It takes a lot of time to do preseason properly

The more you can do the better, but you don’t need to commit your life to preseason training to get an improvement effect.

You can net once or twice a week, hit the gym two or three times and make noticeable improvements over a few months.

Everyone has more time than they think; it’s just a matter of priority. You may have higher priorities than cricket, but you can still make time to improve your skill and fitness in the winter months with careful planning and good knowledge of what works fast.

5. You need to have an expert to guide you through preseason

Most players are not lucky enough to have access to a strength trainer and personalised coaching. If you are in that boat there is still plenty you can do without experts on hand.