Can you imagine this at Manchester United's training ground:
Sir Alex Ferguson: "Robin! What are you doing?"
Robin van Persie: "Practicing my free-kicks Boss"
Sir Alex Ferguson: "Are you mad? You know that we don’t allow that! You're only allowed to take free kicks in matches. But make sure you don’t miss."
Of course no football coach (let alone the greatest ever) would stop a player from practicing something so important.
Yet this is precisely what cricket coaches all round the world do on a daily basis with running between the wickets.
Running requires several skills to be developed, all of which are significant in their own right and need to be developed in order to maximise individual and team performance:
a) Judgement of ball pace, direction and angle
b) Spatial awareness
c) Fielder's mobility, pace, throwing accuracy and throwing power
d) Verbal and non-verbal communication
e) Line and speed of running
f) Stopping, turning and restarting technique
To develop these skills, I have encouraged the development of 3 patterns every time that they execute a shot in nets.
We do this even if working 1 to 1 with only the bowling machine or my sidearm delivering the ball.
1. Motor Pattern
Hit and look to run always.
A couple of colleagues of mine are experts in body and mind connections in sport. They have a saying that we need to "move to think". Not only that, they can prove it too.
So, I have taken this on board and we now ask each batter to move after contact to aid their Judgement which informs their decision making.
This comes in the form of a step through after each shot (even defending) and goes all the way through to net sessions where full singles, 2s and 3s are run just as they would in the game.
2. Cognitive Pattern
Now, the players are combining their understanding of where fielders are with the development of their motor patterns post-strike with stunning results.
Decisions are made quicker, the incidence of the players making poor decisions is lessening and the connection between movement and decision making is highly evident in the number of times that "stolen single" is being hit on our match analysis system.
3. Verbal Pattern
Players are encouraged to call with the same tone and volume in nets as they do in matches.
They may feel silly the first time they do it yet as the culture develops, they start of feel the odd one out if they are not calling loudly.
In net sessions with 1 player (1 to 1) we have 60 ball practices.
Every time a batter fails to move post-strike or call effectively the balls remaining total number drops by 10. The session ends at 0 balls irrespective of time left in the session.
In scenarios or nets with 2 batters any failure to move and call means the loss of the strikers wicket.
This increases the chances of the scenario being lost. Scenarios always start with only 3 wickets remaining so the loss of a silly run out through lack of engagement is often fatal.
These consequence sessions train the brain and boy to work optimally on a part of the game that we all do, every time we bat.
Hold the bat the way you get a full powered swing. That is hold the bat either from the bottom of the handle (like Virender Sehwag) or from the top of the handle (like Adam Gilchrist) or anywhere so that you comfortably get a full outstretched swing of the bat.
Take a strong Batting Stance. For aggressive batting, your stance should be strong and composed. A high back lift stance helps in improving your batting reflexes and gives extra power to the shots played.
Get your feet moving while playing hard shots. If you move your feet towards the pitch of the ball you'll be able to transfer the weight of your back leg to the shot you'll play. This adds on as some extra power to your shots and also increases your chances of hitting the ball from the middle of the bat.
Position your head. Head should be in the right position while playing shots. With a steady head you'll have more control on your shots and you'll improve your shot selection and placement.
Finish your shot with a clean follow through. A good shot follow through gives perfect lift to the ball and prevents you from injuries.
Practice a lot! Practicing is the only key to be a successful hard hitting batsman.
Hitting a huge six pumps adrenalin so take a single and get to the other end to control the rush of blood.
Before playing big shots on each delivery defend 4-6 deliveries to get the feel of the pitch and the bounce.
Remember, there are a lot of ways to hit 6's and 4's, not just by slogging. Being an aggressive batsman doesn't mean you have to be strong.
1 Be Psychologically prepared. Cricket, like many other sports is highly reliant on mental attitudes. Being mentally ready includes: getting all your gear ready the night before, and waking up well rested, eating well etc...
2 Have your batting gear ready (have the right size bat, pads that fit etc.)
3 Before the match, get a bowler to bowl to you. Tell him/her to start off at a medium pace, then work his/her way up to a faster pace, until he is bowling as fast as (s)he can.
4 If the option is available, you may want to bat, fifth or sixth, so you'll be more likely to face spinners or medium pacers.
5 Once you are called up to bat, walk out with confidence and looking up towards the pitch. After saying 'well done' to the batsman who got out. Go over to your teammate and ask him how this bowler bowls.
6 Take your stance after checking the fielders positions and setting up your own.
7 when the bowler runs in, keep your head still and focus on the ball (or the hand with the ball in it).
8 As he bowls, don't play to aggressively (unless the situation needs you to hit out or get out).
9 After he bowls, keep your head up, check the pitch for the hardness and get ready to face again, until your comfortable with playing an attacking shot.
Don't think of bouncers as scary or bad, they aren't aiming at the stumps so there is no way that he can get you out easily.
Don't get down when you get out, show good sportsmanship and stay positive. (positive players tend to improve the most, especially at a young age (10 - 18 is considered young)
Don't pay attention to the keeper, if the opportunity arises, you can even sledge against him.
Fast balls at the ribs hurt, but if you do get hit, don't show the bowler. Don't rub it, just keep playing. The bowler gets unnerved by this and thinks that you have a solid batting style.
Train before the season to get a head start on your opposition.
The same thing rarely happens twice, don't get bogged down if you miss a delivery and it just misses the stumps.
Walk around the pitch after every dot ball or so, it gives you a chance to recuperate and relax before the next bowl.
The biggest sledgers in the game are (i no particular order):1) The keeper, 2) The slips, 3) the bowler, 4) the batsmen, 5) the fielders close in (especially the fielders at silly mid on, or silly point etc.)