Friday 3 February 2012

BOWLING : Drills for Spin Bowlers

Bowling from the Delivery Stride Drills

I ask spinners to bowl from a stationary position at the crease which enables the player to isolate a certain part of the action or a part of the technique. So get your bowlers to work from their delivery stride initially and once they can hold the action and the technical enhancements that you majoring on in your coaching.

Things to work on and observe in Delivery Stride Drills

Different alignments of the seam angle against the pitch to produce different spin results (top spin, maximum breaking ball, stock ball, arm ball, doosra)
Up and over shoulder rotation within the bowling action (some bowlers have a tendency to rotate their shoulders in a horizontal axis, this reduces the shape of the ball in flight)
Completion of the bowling action. Ideally, a spin bowler should find that their bowling hand completes the action around the opposite trouser pocket area. This is an indicator that a full and complete bowling arm circle has occurred. Many bowlers have a tendency to cut the bowling circle short and their bowling hand ends up near the bottom of the ribcage. This reduces the dip on the ball and often leads to a loss of control of length.

Appropriate flight. Shane Warne's mentor, Terry Jenner carried a "Spin bowlers kit" around in his bag. One part of that was a simple piece of rope that he would fix across the net and challenge the spin bowler to deliver the ball above the rope yet dip and land within a coned area on a length. If a bowler is rotating the bowling shoulder up and over (rather than round) and completing the bowling action to the opposite trouser pocket then there is a good chance of the ball being flighted from the hand, over the rope and down into the coned area on a length.
For a net session, the cones can be taken away and chalk areas applied to the indoor pitch or matted area to measure the flight of the ball in a net session. A batter can then be introduced to play against the spin bowler delivering from the crease


Once a spin bower has mastered this then a couple of steps are introduced and the results are assessed, if the technique holds up under momentum then the approach can be extended to incorporate a full run up.

Bowling from the Crease or a Couple of Steps in Nets

Just as with the fast bowlers last week, the stationary drill and then a couple of steps progression can be used within nets. The watchword again is to keep an eye on the competitive nature kicking as this can lead to technical breakdown.

The option here is to take the isolating technical focus away and work on delivery of skills (executing variations) or tactics (field setting/angle of delivery/getting batters off strike) or if the bowler is in danger of complete technical breakdown then take him out of the net and back into the drills above.

As preseason progresses, the bowler will be a more compete technical model who can adjust to the competition scenarios that we put in place, the personal battles with the batters and bowl your side to victory on a number of different surface types.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

BATTING : How important is a trigger movement to your batting success?

Almost every first class batsman has a trigger movement of some kind: That shuffle of the feet just before the bowler delivers the ball that gets you into position.  Yet the coaching books are adamant about keeping still.
Who is right?

Should you be using a trigger move?
As with all great cricketing questions the answer is 'it depends'.
Head still, eyes level
Batting, like any ball striking skill, is about being balanced and meeting the ball in perfect coordination with the body's movements. That is what timing is all about.
It all starts as the bowler releases the ball and you have that fraction of a second to decide where the ball is going and what shot you are going to play. This becomes much easier to do if your head is still and your eyes are level.
The ball is already moving, if your head is moving side to side at the same time it takes the brain valuable extra time to predict line and length: Time that can make the difference between sound defence and nicking off first ball.
So it makes perfect sense for coaches to tell you to keep your head still and simply be relaxed and balanced at the crease.
The advantages of trigger movements
To a 10 year old learning to play, keeping still is good advice. It is a fundamental basic of batting that can be confused easily with the complications of triggers.
But there are obvious benefits to a player with the basics down already: Time, rhythm and balance
  • Time. All well executed trigger movement is able to buy you time. You are already halfway to playing a shot before the ball is out of the hand.
  • Rhythm. If you move a little at the right moment your big movement shot becomes easier, almost like you have played a tiny practice shot first to get into the swing of things. Like a metronome ticking back and forth in perfect timing.
  • Balance. A movement pre-delivery can get you onto the balls of your feet with your head over your toes. You are both ready to move but also stable and balanced.
We also know from other sports that a trigger movement helps you focus mentally.
All this is possible without a trigger movement, but is a lot more difficult. The trigger gives you momentum into whatever shot you select.
The problem with trigger movements
Like a lot of newer ideas in cricket, the trigger movement is a misunderstood technique. Yes, it has huge advantages when done correctly but when done wrong you are staring down the barrel of failure.
I think what may happen is that players are influenced by what they see on TV, but attempt to recreate the trigger movements of their heroes without access to high level coaching (or any coaching).
Your setup is crucial and adding or changing a trigger movement out of context can lead to:
  • Loss of rhythm. Moving too early can upset that delicate metronome of rhythm that all good batsmen need.
  • Less time. If you move too late and your head is not still when the ball is delivered it will feel as if the ball is on you much more quickly.
  • Unbalanced. Getting caught off balance when the ball is bowled because you have moved incorrectly will limit your range of shots and timing drastically.
In short, getting a trigger movement right is hard work. When Rob Key adopted one in 2003 he said:
"To get it I had to hit hundreds of balls on freezing mornings at Canterbury three or four times a week on a pretty dodgy surface in an indoor net. I'm a work in progress really, but you have to work hard at something like that because it's not something you can think about when you're batting. It's got to be natural."

Still or moving?

Where does all this leave us?
I think it makes trigger movements a highly personal thing, and not something to be entered into lightly.
First, the basics. No matter what your personal style, to succeed you must have:
  • Head still at the point of delivery
  • Eyes level in your stance and at the point of delivery
If you have not achieved much success with the bat yet my advice is simple: Focus on keeping still for now. It's doubtful the bowling will be of a speed a trigger become more important anyway.
You may have a natural trigger movement. As long as it is not away from the stumps and it gives you confidence then stick with it. If not, focus on keeping still again. Go back to basics.
Most people don't have one naturally and make a conscious decision at some point to adopt one. If you want to do this, remember Rob Key and how much work it took him, a very fine batsman. As long as you are prepared to put in as much work as Rob to do it there are a number of options. Try them out and find a comfortable one, then get to work:
  • Back foot back and across towards off stump, transferring weight back onto the front foot as the ball is bowled.
  • Front foot forward (not across).
  • Widening your stance, back foot back, front foot forward.
  • Taking a pace down the wicket
Generally the back first movements are better for pace and the forward first movements are better for spin. Moving down the wicket is a good strategy to get your feet going but is best avoided every ball, especially when the keeper is standing up.
Bob Woolmer rightly points out the longer you bat in an innings the less you find you need a trigger at all. He also advises that it's impossible to coach as everyone will have something different they find comfortable.
I admit to being sceptical about the need for a trigger at club level at all. Bowlers are not the same standard and the whole thing is prone to going horribly wrong if not taken in context correctly. If you must have one, stick to the basics of being still at the point of delivery. If you are struggling for form look elsewhere to turn it around, a trigger is not the answer.

FITNESS : How to Prevent CRAMPING?

Are you a cramper? If you have ever cramped up on the cricket pitch you know how annoyingly distracting the pain can be from batting, bowling and fielding. From experience I know it can put you off enough to get you out or prevent you from bowling. Science is well aware of the issue. We know that some people are more inclined to exercise related cramps than others. But that is about as far as the facts go. The rest is theory based on incomplete information, despite reams of research. Where does that leave the cricketing cramper? Let's take a look at the ideas and see if we can come up with some simple steps to follow.
What is cramp?
Cramp is the pain you feel when a specific muscle unconsciously contracts. You have no control over when it happens but it always happens during or just after playing cricket (or other exercise). While you are cramping you can barely use that muscle, if at all. Even after the cramp has gone (and sometimes they can last for several minutes) the muscle can feel sore. Some people cramp more than others.

What causes cramp?
Traditionally, cramp has been thought to be caused by loss of salt and/or potassium through sweating. While you do lose electrolytes when you sweat, there is a debate among scientists as to whether this is enough to cause the problem. Nobody knows for sure. There is one other theory. It's a complex one that says the when the nervous system that controls a particular muscle gets tired it also gets confused and contracts more than it should. This second theory explains why cramp is more common in certain muscles. Muscles that span 2 joints spend too much time contracted (for example gripping the bat). They get fatigued which kicks off the reflex of cramping. But again, it's never been proven beyond doubt.

Preventing cramp
Nobody knows enough about cramp to give an absolute answer to preventing them. Here a few things you could try:
  • Drink water at about 500ml per hour.
  • Drink a sports drink at the same rate to replace lost electrolytes.
  • Avoid drinking too much of anything to prevent diluting your electrolyte levels.
  • Eat a banana for the potassium.
  • Stretch every day and certainly after exercise or playing.
Cramp varies from person to person. Some things work for some people and not for others. Experiment with how much you drink (don't overdo it as this can be highly dangerous) and what you eat.