The time used between balls by many players is not used very effectively by many players.

Cricketers come to the Australian Cricket Institute with a common problem. “ I get bogged down after a few balls and then play a silly shot and get out” or “ I have trouble bowling the ball where I want to consistently”.

For some, and to the naked eye, that’s a technical deficiency, which most likely is a contributing factor.

However the other side of it that hardly any people explore or consider is what is going on between their ears.

Cricket is a game of stop, start, hit a ball, stop and have some down time then only to be going back to getting ready to hit the ball again.

In this down time, most players use their time negatively or not at all. Your ability to be consistent and achieve the desired outcome over and over again is technical yes, but the time you spend in between balls is just as crucial.

Using this time well can help with staying in the moment. Thinking about what you need to do right now.

Too many players think about what has happened or what is going to happen. e.g. “ What if I play and miss again” or “I just bowled a wide, don’t bowl another!”.

If you can overcome your mind and use this time effectively the benefits are there to see.

Your concentration levels last longer, you make better decisions, you are not affected by the situation of the game as much and as a result you can make clearer decisions.

Below I’ve listed out 5 different things you can implement into your between ball routine that can help you from drifting away and putting pressure on yourself.

1. Positive Self Talk

A very simple one to start off with but sometimes quiet hard to master.

The important think with this is to realise that you are always going to have negative thoughts or reactions when you do something wrong or under pressure.

The important part is trying to wipe that as quickly as possible and turn those thoughts into a positive.

This can be practiced and done on any occurrence.

Instead of thinking “this bowlers too fast here, I don’t want to get hurt!” You could go down the path of “his pace is going to make it easier if I use that to my advantage, wait for the full overmatched ball but the rest I can use the pace and run it down to third man”.

2. Quick And Non Bias Self Review/Reflection

A lot of players spend so much time in between balls sweating about what shot they’ve played.

How many times have you seen a player hit it straight to a fielder and drop their head back in annoyance?

Or keep playing the same shot that they wanted to for the whole time between balls and then face back up?

I’m not saying you can’t practice the shot you wanted to play, but a lot of people spend too much time worrying and sweating on that ball and what they did wrong.

What you can do is really simply review and reflect on your shot and move on to something else as quickly as possible.

It could be as simple as a rating out of 10 and then what you’d do differently.

Short. Sharp. And finally,  wiped clean so you don’t spend the next minutes or balls thinking about it.

 

3. Breathing

This is a relatively simple one.

It’s been proven that when you are under pressure or stress, your heart rate will go up.

The easiest way to lower that is by controlled breathing.

If you can actually focus on your breathing you’ll find that not only will it help you get your breath back and decrease your heart rate, but it will also then take your focus away from the game and other thoughts!

Try in for 5 or 6 and out for 7 or 8.

Allocating some time between balls to do this will help you get your levels back to even and you’ll be able to make better decisions.

4. Anchors to Distract You Away From The Pressure

Many elite players use certain actions or sequences of movements to help them switch off or take themselves away from an uncomfortable environment.

These pressures and distractions can look like the 'yappy' annoying slips cordon, concentrating on certain parts of the environment, scoreboard pressure and of course those negative thoughts we spoke about previously.

By having certain actions that take you outside of the situation, this helps you clear your mind and use that down time in a different way not thinking about those above pressure.

Some of these look like:

  • Walking out to square leg
  • Signing a song between balls
  • Staring out of the field of play and switching off from the contest
  • Watching people out on the boundary or those not involved in the game
  • Undoing gloves

As mentioned these “anchors” or whatever you want to call them, help players take them self outside of the contest and the stresses.

I’m sure you may even do some of these already.

5. Visualisation

Finally another tool you can look to use is visualisation.

This is a very underestimated and yet quite an effective way to help players feel confident and problem solve during their time on the pitch.

The power of visualisation is quite influential.

Visualisation during your innings or while your bowling can help you settle yourself into your role or give you the confidence to replicate during your innings.

Using some of your time in between balls to see yourself playing that correct shot or bowling that ball in the right area.

When visualising, go deep into it. How does it feel, what does it look like, what does your body have to do in order to execute that shot or particular ball.

The more you can replicate how real it is and the exact movements the more realistic it is and will transfer into your mechanics of what you are doing.

It may be you visualising playing the ball confidently, or getting into a powerful and balanced position when playing your shots. Alternatively from the bowling perspective, it may be you coming and bowling a great length ball hitting the batsmen bat high on the splice as they are coming forward.

You can play out any scenario in your head before you’ve done it and it will fill you with the confidence to execute this in real time.

So there you have it, these are some techniques you can implement into the time you spend in between balls.

My advice is not to just copy and do all of them, find a sequence of events that is comfortable to you, but more importantly works.

The whole point of this is to use your time effectively in between balls and take your thoughts away from the negative things and elevate the pressure that players put on themselves.

How you do this is ultimately up to you, these are just some techniques you can implement.

Lastly, this between ball routine has to be repeatable. You cannot achieve consistent results if you continuously randomly do these actions.

It is a method to doing them and there has to be a distinct reason in your routine as to why.

These processes are for you only and as a result can be done however you like in your own way.

Don’t copy Steve Smith or David Warner just because he is a world class player as these will not necessarily work for you.

 

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

 

One thing I’ve noticed in my time developing players is that there are a lot of area’s that get neglected for young cricketers

The most popular answer I get back when asked what do you want to be better at is “To score more runs”.

Pretty simple isn’t it.

But there’s one thing that many players aren’t developing and it’s definitely not to do with hitting a ball…

The biggest influence in batters I find is how well  and how quick they make their decision.

Decision making in batting is crucial, I mean think about it.

Your first thing you have to in order to know where to hit the ball is to know where it’s going to bounce.

Breaking down the skill of batting completely and you actually see there are quiet a few different decisions that have to be made before bat his ball.

 

 

The result is very heavily influenced by how quickly you make these decisions.

Some of these are:

  • The line/length of the ball
  • Is it going to swing/spin in to me or away from me
  • Where are the fielders
  • What sort of shot do I think is relevant at this stage of the game

I’m sure you get the point and can name many more.

My thought behind this is these, like playing the cover drive are a skill. And as a skill, can be improved dramatically.

However this takes time and repetition.

Your ability to make a quicker decision means you have to practice this under duress or look for better ways to pick up cues.

We spend a large amount of time creating decision making elements into our academy activities.

This may be hitting the ball into two different zones, or identifying whether to play or leave the ball, picking up the length of the ball.

The key to this is breaking down the skill and identifying what is most important.

For example leaving a ball. The most important decision is the judging the line of the ball.

From there it’s implementing little tricks or measures you can do in a game to ensure that these decisions become second nature or easier.

With that leaving component, I’d ask the question to players on how can you tell what line the ball has to be before you can leave it. What part of the conditions or elements in a game can you use to make these decisions easier when you are under pressure?

Answer?: It can be as simple as finding a spot on the wicket that lines up with off stump, and anything outside that you can let go earlier in your innings.

If you do this often enough it becomes second nature.

The quicker you can pick up these cues and make a better decision, a domino effect occurs.

In batting if you can pick the length of the ball quickly what happens?

You move forward or back quicker, you know what shot to play because of the length of the ball and you can then play that ball however you want in order to get the best result out of that (a run).

For many players, people don’t pick up these cues quick enough and as a result everything is rushed and you find that you are off balance and you don’t execute your shot/skill to your liking.

PRO TIP: Many players try to pick the length as the ball bounces. Find cues from the bowlers hand to identify if they are going to release it later (shorter) or earlier (fuller). From there you can pick the length much, much earlier.

I’m sure you’ve all seen a test or state cricket player face fast bowling?

It seems that they make facing 140km/h look easier doesn’t it? That’s because they have much more time!

And why’s that do you think?

It’s because they have made their correct decision quicker and are in a better, more balanced position to execute their skill.

Now throw me or you in there and I reckon it would be a different story.

Making better decisions sets a far greater base around batting performance and really does solve a lot of other issue’s that batters are having.

Next time you are working on your batting, see if you can try to set up an environment where your focus is on making these decisions.

1.Coming right forward or right back.

OR

2.Leaving the ball.

OR

3.Hitting a ball into two different area’s.

OR

4.Hitting a ball onto both sides of the wicket.

By starting to experiment around doing these, you can ask yourself a few key questions.

  1. What decisions do I need to make?
  2. How do I make these decisions (what cues in the bowler am I looking for)?
  3. When do I use these skills? (what stage of the game are these types of batting important).

As always this is all about creating an environment to train your brain and make you think about the skills and important area’s needed to execute these parts of your game.

Good luck and let me know what you think

Written By Joel Hamilton - ACI Co Founder 

In my opinion, creating a training environment that is as close as possible to the one we experience out in the middle is a critical contributor to the way a player performs but it’s something that’s largely overlooked.

I think it’s an area that cricket can improve dramatically (and is in the process of doing so), not just at junior level but senior level as well.

I’ve picked out 5 really common training behaviours that we see and I’ll explain why the create bad habits in a players game.

 

 

1. TOO MUCH WORK ON THE BOWLING MACHINE

This is is a big one…

It happens at team/group training sessions as well but I think a big contributor to this one is the huge influx we’ve seen in players just getting one-on-one coaching.

One-on-one’s are great for certain things and in limitation, but I think they’re very limited in the things you can do and they don’t allow a player to learn how to compete (that’s another story though.)

Let’s focus on bowling machines.

Some of the bad habits and negative effects of too much time on a bowling machine are…

  • Moving before the ball is released.

Because you generally know where the ball is going to land you tend to start getting into position before the ball is released. Do this in a game and you’ll get yourself into big trouble.

  • False sense of security.

Because you know where the ball is going to be and you’re moving early, you generally strike the ball well on a machine. This causes a false sense of security because it’s completely different to facing a bowler.

  • Inability to read bowlers cues & slow reaction time.

The above mentioned causes an inability to pick up on bowlers cues - when they’re bowling short, when they’re bowling full, how they’re holding the ball. It also has a negative effect on your reaction time.

All that said, I’m not completely against using machines. They’re great for certain things…

Technical work and getting your shapes right on a certain shot.

But don’t over use them!

PRO TIP: If you’re not facing bowlers, use a side-arm. Far better for your reaction time and ability to pick up cues.

2. BOWLING WITHOUT MEASURING YOUR RUN-UP

I know sometimes circumstances don’t permit, but when possible all bowlers should be bowling off their full run-up - the same run up they use in a game.

Too many bowlers just run in from wherever at training or go off a ‘half run’.

I also believe every single fast bowler should measure their run-up with a tape measure.

How do you expect a stepped out run-up to be the same every single time? It’s simply impossible.

Garden tape measures are 25 bucks. If you want to improve your bowling consistency it’s a no brainer. Get yourself one.

Bowling off an inconsistent run up creates the following habits and problems…

  • Lack of fluency.

There’s just no way you’re going to develop a smooth, fluent and consistent run-up if you’re training and playing with a different run-up all the time.

  • Bowling no-balls.

This one is pretty obvious. Your strides are going to be different, you’re going to be taking off from different positions and that will contribute to the likelihood of you bowling no-balls.

PRO TIP: Buy a garden tape measure from Bunnings, measure your run-up to the millimetre and use it every time you bowl. Your run up will be more fluent, you will bowl less no-balls and it saves time in a match (measure both ends before the game starts).

3. BOWLING WITHOUT STUMPS & UMPIRE

The stumps and umpire act as a visual cue for when to start your take off and delivery stride.

If you don’t have at least stumps and better still an umpire (or something to imitate an umpire) you’re going to develop the bad habit of…

  • Late entry into delivery stride.

This will lead to bowling more no-balls and then feeling like you have to hold back on your run-up in a match.

Have you ever felt like you’re steaming in at training and then feel like you’re bowling at 75% in a match?

PRO TIP: Use anything you can to imitate an umpire - chair, witches hat, agility pole with a hat on it, kit bag…anything is better than nothing!

PRO TIP TWO: If you are bowling noey’s in a game and feel like you have to hold back, ask the umpire to take a couple of steps back, this can help by giving you an earlier cue.

4. BATTING WITH NO FIELDERS

Obviously you can’t have fielders in the nets (if you can have centre wickets jump at it!).

But what’s the next best option?

Use cones, stumps, pool noodles, chairs…whatever you can to imitate fielders in the nets.

Two benefits….

Bowlers are thinking and getting into discussions about their fields (developing tactical & game awareness).

More importantly, it gives you, or the batsman a visual cue on where the fielders are and where the gaps are.

Now you have to actually think about where you’re hitting the ball which is completely different to hitting the ball anywhere.

Too many players hit the ball anywhere and everywhere in the nets without any accountability or thought of where the field is.

That causes an inability to hit gaps.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard…”I feel so good in the nets, why can’t I score runs in the middle.”

That’s why.

At all of our Junior & Elite Youth Academy sessions we get bowlers to set fields with coloured cones in bat v ball sessions (infield and outfield colour).

PRO TIP: At the very least get your bowlers to set their fields verbally when you go in to bat. Then take a mental snap shot.

 

5. BATTING WITHOUT A PLAN OR PURPOSE

A bit of a follow on from #4.

A lot of batsmen walk into the net session with absolutely no plan or purpose around what they want to get out of the net session.

Are you practicing opening the batting?

Are you working on closing out an innings?

Do you want to practice ticking the scoreboard over like the middle overs of a one day game?

Not only your plans but the bowlers plans are going to be vastly different in those situations.

  • Inability to develop plans.

If you go in and just ‘bat’ your ability to develop plans and react/adapt to different situations of the game is not going to be at an elite level.

Go to training with a clear plan on what you want to work on that session.

Make sure you let your bowlers know before or as you’re going into bat so they can also work on their plans. Win win.

  • Lack of competitiveness.

Going in to just ‘bat’ is easy. There’s no pressure, there’s no competition.

Giving yourself scenarios is going to create pressure and teach you how to compete.

We want to develop competitive players.

PRO TIP: Be very clear on your role in the team and work on scenarios that you’re likely to find yourself in on a Saturday to create the “been there, done that” feeling when you go out to bat.

If you’re anything like me, a bowler that bats in the bottom 6, you’ll be practicing going in and doing the top 6’s job fairly regularly.

Haha jokes! Love the top 6 vs bottom 6 banter!

Anyway, I hope that’s helped!

Would love to hear which of those training behaviours you think you can apply to make a difference in your game.

Drop a comment in the box below or flick me an email on nick@australiancricketinstitute.com

Written by: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder & Coach

 

I'm going to speak to you about batting training habits today...

 

Many players have the whole "doing extra's" engraved into them by their coach, captain, or even just someone they look up to.

 

The thought that if I go and hit a heap of balls, that's automatically going to make me better right? WRONG!

 

In particular, i'm speaking about after you’ve had your net session and go down to do those extra’s with your batting partner to get some volume up.

 

The first part of this is to understand that taking your mate into the nets and just getting throws does hold some purpose to a degree, but very little.

 

Aimlessly throwing balls for the sake of it, is not necessarily beneficial and you may find you are working yourself into bad habits.

 

Here at the ACI we've compiled the 5 ways you can improve the quality of your throw downs and batting at training.

 

  1. Always Wear Your Full Batting Kit

Particularly for young developing players, I think it’s extremely important to hit as many balls as you can with your full kit on.

 

Why you ask? How are you going to get used to batting for long periods of time if you don’t wear it for an hour or so at training?

 

Secondly it just makes it second nature and way more comfortable to you when you get used to moving and playing your shots in the gear you wear on the weekend.

 

  1. Set Out (Task) Constraints

Simply means always give yourself a target/ zone/ rule that you have to incorporate to develop a particular part of the game.

 

You might be wanting to work on scoring off spin bowling, well set up some gates or little targets zones (hoops/nets) to give you some options to be able to hit to and score runs.

 

(Download our free batting technique checklist above!)

Or perhaps you want to just develop your defense. How about making a game where you need to hit the ball down to the ground before it hits the side net? Or maybe you get a point for leaving the ball off the stumps or if you play it on the stumps, if you get it wrong the thrower gets a point.

 

As you can see from these examples it creates more purpose within your session and ensures you are receiving knowledge of outcomes, learn the ability to adjust, but also gives you targets to ensure that when you go out in a game you aren't just hitting ball's for the sake of it.

 

It also helps you work your way of doing things out because the way I hit a cover drive is different to the way you do, and different to how David Warner does.

 

The point of this is all about creating an environment where you can measure your success and problem solve in a way that is efficient and effective for you as a player.

 

  1. Don’t Over Complicate Things

This really is just about not trying to do too many things at once. If you are working on a particular aspect or skill within your batting, make sure it’s only one thing.

 

Finding ways to incorporate a decision making element within this throw downs or controlled training environment is also important to make sure that you can develop how adaptable you become.

 

  1. Work Your Routine Into It

Sometimes you find that there is no real thought or process when people are hitting balls.

 

Try to incorporate your routine between balls, and make sure that you take your time and not rush through things while you are doing this.

 

Developing your own process between balls to help you switch on and execute in any situation will also increase your output and quality of your batting while you train.

(Download our free batting technique checklist above!)

  1. Create Game Like Scenarios

This is all about trying to give purpose to your session in a way that replicates a situation you may find yourself in when playing.

 

This may be a target of runs to get e.g. hitting to sweepers and get 30 off 18.

 

Or perhaps it may just be a bowling scenario where you have some scoring zones and you need to create singles off good length balls.

 

Even like we said earlier and purely aiming to defend and not get out for a period of time, you still have some sort of outcome/competition/plan.

 

Whatever it is that you have you are far better off playing under these conditions than just getting your mate to throw you balls for the sake of it.

(Download our free batting technique checklist above!)

 

 

Written by Joel Hamilton (Co founder of ACI)

First of all, let’s establish what a drill is and why they’re an important part of your practice…

*Note* If you’ve read our bowling drills blog you can skip the first two sections.

WHAT IS A DRILL?

A drill is is a means of teaching or training through repeated exercise or repetition of an act.

A drill allows you to highlight a particular skill, decision, movement or mindset and perfect it by doing it over and over again in a controlled environment that gives you measurable feedback.

Among the many practice drills there can be productive repetition or unproductive, even harmful repetition.

Your ability to select the best drills to match your practice goals often determines the success or failure of your practice sessions.

THE VALUE OF DRILLS

Muscle memory is a critical part of achieving any sort of athletic success.

Throwing a ball, bowling it, hitting it, catching it and running properly are all skills that require freedom of movement. To perform these skills successfully, you must be able to react without having to carefully tell each muscle group what to do.

Muscle memory is the result of teaching the muscles how to perform a specific movement or skill and repeating that activity, through the use of controlled drills, until it can be done freely without methodical thought and your reactions become automatic.

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of what drills are, why they’re such a valuable part of your training and how important choosing the right drills is…

Let’s have a look at 3 great drills you can use to improve 3 completely different areas of your batting.

At the ACI, we like to categorise our batting drills into 7 different categories…

Batting Warm Up Drills
Remedial Drills
Decision Making Drills
Defensive Drills
Advanced (or T20 Batting) Drills
Balance Drills
Spin Drills

In this article I’m going to introduce you to a Remedial Drill, Decision Making Drill and an Advanced T20 Drill.

DRILL 1: Top and Bottom Hand Remedial Drill

Purpose

The aim of this drill is to isolate both your top and bottom hand to help you understand the part that each plays when playing a shot and the relationship between the two.

Assuming you’re trying to hit the ball along the ground. Your top hand should be dominant and control your shot while your bottom hand acts as a guide to help you direct where your shot goes and also to introduce power.

Equipment

Basic batting gear, net, balls and a partner/coach.

How To

No doubt you’ve done a basic drop drill before? This is the exact same except you’re only using one hand, either your top or bottom.

Start using your top hand only and and have your partner drop the ball a stride length in front of you. Step to the ball and play a drive using only your top hand. Focus on controlling your bat and keeping your elbow up.

Hit 20 balls with your top hand only.

Now move on to using just your bottom hand. You'll get a good feel of where your hand needs to be positioned to keep the ball along the ground.

Hit 20 balls with tour bottom hand.

Now hit 20 balls with both hands on the bat.

decision-making-drill-pick-the-length

 

DRILL 2: Decision Making Drill - Pick The Length

Purpose

Your ability to make quick decisions is critical as a batsman.

There are so many decisions that need to be made in a split second…

What’s the line of the ball?
What’s the length of the ball?
Should I play the ball?
Should I leave the ball?
Is there any movement?

And on….

This drill helps sharpen your decision making skills by forcing you to make a decision…FAST!

Equipment

Basic batting gear, net, balls, cones and a partner/coach.

How To

Set out 2 lines across the pitch with marker cones.

The two lines should seperate the 3 different lengths. Full, good and short.

The line closest to you separates full and good.

The line furthest from you separates good and short.

Once you’ve set the cones up, have your partner throw from 3/4 pitch and mix up where the ball pitches. Your job is to call the length before it pitches. If you call correctly you get a point, if you call incorrectly you lose a point. If you don’t make a call you lose 2 points…you must make a call!

You can make the drill easier or more difficult by decreasing or increasing the speed of the throw. Also by changing the distance of the thrower.

This drill trains your brain to make quicker decisions.

advanced-t20-drill-12-ball-challenge

 

DRILL 3: Advanced T20 Drill - 12 Ball Challenge

Purpose

This drill allows you to enjoy some freedom and practice the basics of aggressive batting, a stable base and keeping your head still.

It also allows you to practice hitting in different zones.

Equipment

Basic batting gear, net, balls, a partner/coach and this drill is best with a bowling machine, if not a side arm.

How To

Pretty simple! Set the machine up on a length you want to practice hitting and go for broke!

See how many boundaries you can hit in 12 balls, if you’re with a batting partner swap over and see if they can beat you.

Make sure you change the line and length around and practice hitting different balls.

This drill is a little more advanced and best done once you’ve got a sound foundation.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - Australian Cricket Institute Coach

nick fitzpatrick