The best time of the cricketing year!

Nearly better than Christmas, or maybe it’s part of Christmas

Choosing a bat can be a daunting and stressful process at times.

Not knowing where to start, who to buy it off, what type to buy and whether to think short or long term.

Below, we’ve gone a little bit deeper into the process to identify 7 steps that will make life easier so you end up with the best possible stick you’ve ever played with!

DISCLAIMER - Said steps are no guarantee to turn you or your child into a batting prodigy

1. Don’t Buy The Brand

A BIG no-no! Most players see the bats of their favourite players and automatically want that. I know it’s hard but really don’t be driven by the brand.

The brand of the bat is definitely not the reason why the best players use them. The players' skill level determines how many runs they make, not the type of bat!

So when making a choice on the type of bat to buy please don’t just pick it because of the pretty stickers! There's a lot more to choosing a bat then the aesthetics (the look), which brings us to the next step....

 

 

 

2. Make Sure The Bat Is Light Enough

There’s nothing worse than going to a session or seeing one of our programs have youngsters being limited in their skills because the bat is simply too heavy.

I’ve seen it so many times!

Young Jimmy, 12 year’s old or Sally just starting out and there is an absolute railway sleeper in their hand.

A simple test would be to have your child be able to hold the bat of choice out straight with their opposite hand for at least 15 seconds without it shaking or having to drop it.

Or alternatively, raise the bat straight out from your side out in front and back down. If they can do this with control and a fully straight arm comfortably 10 times then you are set!

3. Have A Budget Range

This is really important I think!

Either clearly state or outline what range you will be able to choose from.

This can then eliminate certain ranges or types of bat.

Having a price range or setting it before you step into the shop can make sure you pick from a realistic bunch but also lets you stay in your comfortable budget without emotion attached to it.

4. Select A Range Of Bats To Choose From

Once you’ve outlined the weight and price range of the bats, a wise option is to then make sure that you can pick a few of their top bats.

I’d suggest picking 5 bats that you like or would like to choose from. These could be all the same type or a range of different brands within the price range.

REMEMBER each bat can have a significantly different feel based on the shape and weight, so once you have the 5 you like the initial look of, move onto the next step........

5. Choose With Their Eyes Closed

Once the 5 or so bats have been picked out, bring them down off the rack and place them in a group.

Get your child to close their eyes and you or the shop keeper begin the process of elimination.

The reason why we get them to choose with their eyes closed?  Simple!  It’s so they cut out any bias and actually go on the feel and weight distribution of the bat rather than who makes them.

Continue this process until the favourite bat is picked.

6. Don’t Buy For 2 Years Time, Buy For Now

I know this seems like a very hard thing, but honestly, it’s really crucial to players performances.

As mentioned earlier, seeing these youngsters with bats too long or too heavy for them really does make life harder for them.

Their skill decreases, it’s harder for them to perform and play the shots, and their technique suffers as a result.

So I implore you, try not to buy for too far ahead. I know growth spurts are tough and sometimes they shoot up!  But if you do decide to go with a size up, make sure it's a lighter framed bat.

If the issue is budget, then I’d advise to go a slightly cheaper stick and replace it in a years time or whenever.

Don’t skip out on buying something bigger and heavier to suit them for further down the track in a few years.

7. Wear Gloves & Shadow Bat

Something that not many people think about is actually testing and holding the bat out with gloves on.

I’ve seen so many people come into stores to buy bats and they handle and go buy the ‘feel’ of a bat with bare hands!

Make sure they have gloves on to test the pick up of the bat and be sure to play a few shots with the bats too.

Shadow batting will help get the feel of the pick up also and determine how comfortable that particular shape and weight is for them.

Pick-ups can be all sorts of different. If you just go by the look you may get a totally different feeling bat so it’s really important to wave these around and spend a bit of time with them in your hand.

Oh and lastly a sneaky little tip for you.


Some of you may have picked up on me talking about the size of the bat, below is a size chart for you to compare what type of bat!

All in all, choosing a bat may take a little longer this way, but in reality, it’s a process that has great benefits.

Players will feel way more comfortable with their choice, and ultimately will have the correct weight and sized bat in their hand to use it most effectively!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

A part of my role with the Australian Cricket Institute is to help design the most ideal training environment to encourage our player’s personal growth and development; as well as skill acquisition with the bat, ball, in the field and in the mind! It’s been a pleasure working across many Melbourne metro academy pre-seasons this winter. It’s wonderful to see our players learning how to give their best, I’m certainly still learning many lessons on the way! 

So let's have a chat about that;

Coach Learnings

One key take out I carry with myself throughout my coaching and mentoring, as well as my own personal training, preparation and attitude in life are that we must make mistakes in our training in order to develop.

Too often, we get caught up in perfecting the art, nailing each shot out of the middle of the bat or presenting the perfect seam each delivery as a couple of examples. Ever felt the frustration when it's ‘just not your day’ with the bat or ball?

This is such an innate part of our game, that we get hung up on far too often rather than embracing it. 

 

Mistakes Happen

Making a mistake is a vital progression in learning as a cricketer and growing as an individual. Recently, a young academy member, a talented pace bowler, came across this situation during pre-season.

He couldn’t land his stock ball and was being hit all over the park in a scenario net session. He wasn't used to this, he seemed quite bemused with what was happening. Yet after his self-identification of the issue and discussion with a coach to devise his own plan, he had a clear vision in his mind of what he needed to do to rectify the situation.

This gave him his best opportunity to put in practice and execute on skills our academies have been teaching.  The end result was that he was able to develop his own understanding of the task at hand even when confronted with an uncomfortable situation. 

 

It's Up To You!

Coaches can’t be out there in the middle with their players. I would prefer to see our players have difficulty grasping some concepts and help them by exploring their own capabilities within, rather than offering them a shortcut or an easier option.

The thought process a youngster goes through identifying when something is wrong and finding his or her own mechanism to be able to solve this is a key indicator for progress in cricket training and personal development.

That same young fast bowler then knows how to tackle similar issues head-on and won’t be making recurring mistakes or form bad habits with his training. 

Let's Break Down the Process

For common issues faced on the cricket field, the process we teach our players enables them to handle the pressures themselves! 

  1. Identify the Mistake (self) 
  2. Plan of Attack (discussion with the coach, ask questions) 
  3. Execution of Skill (do your best!) 
  4. Review (seek advice and be honest) 

Without noticing our mistakes, our training has limited structure and finding the next facet of your game to work on can be difficult.

Ask yourself if you’re really getting better, or are you just randomly hitting and bowling balls? Review every session you do, however simple, to guide the next step on your journey. 

Australian Cricket Institute coaches ask ‘why’ or ‘how would you?” and prompt our players to access their own skillset to overcome a challenge. This promotes a neutral environment where mistakes are encouraged.

We compete in various scenarios to discover the mental tools we need, so competition isn’t as daunting out on the field as it would seem. 

 

What Are You Waiting For?

My advice? Make mistakes! See what sticks, do your best to throw yourself in tough situations where you need to problem-solve.

I can assure you, constant growth in this area along with your developing skill set as a young cricketer will take you to the next level, much more effectively than being told what to do will.

We’ve talked the talk, now let’s walk the walk! See you out on the park this summer.

If you'd like to check out what we've got coming up at the ACI visit >> Upcoming Events & Programs

Author: Seb Contos - ACI Coach & Clinics Coordinator 

 

We all love watching cricket right?

Some like watching all forms, some like watching certain forms over others.

Most people view watching cricket as a form of entertainment in their down time, but what if we could turn watching cricket into a valuable learning tool to improve our own cricket?

Well, maybe you can…

I think the first port of call is to actually be present and conscious of what you’re watching. That means your focus and attention needs to be on that and nothing else (the same as when you want to learn or get better at anything).

Here’s five ways you can improve your own game by watching cricket (live or on TV).

1. PREDICT WHAT THE CAPTAIN WILL DO

A great way to learn is to put yourself in the shoes of the best.

What would Paine do? What would Williamson do? What would Kohli do? What would Root do?

When you’re watching cricket see if you can predict what bowler the captain will bring on, when they will bring them on, when they’ll make a change, when they’ll declare, when they’ll go from pace to spin or vice versa.

You’ll get instant feedback on wether you’re thinking the same as them and start to absorb their way of thinking.

Also ask yourself why you think they did or didn’t do it.

You can even turn this into a little game and write your predictions down and keep score. Challenge a mate or family member to play along with you.

2. PREDICT WHAT THE BATSMEN/BOWLERS WILL DO

Watch the batters and bowlers in action closely.

See If you can pick up on their strengths and plans and then predict what they’re going to do next over or even next ball.

Predict what type of ball the bowler will bowl or what shot the batsman will play.

This can be a bit easier in shorter form cricket when there’s a bit more action and plans can change quickly.

It’s doable in test cricket - plans just tend to go for longer periods.

Doing this will make you much more aware and you’ll be learning how elite players go about it.

Again you can turn this into a little competition.

 

3. TAKE NOTICE OF AND REVIEW PLANS

Every time a bowler finishes a spell or a batter gets out, see if you can summarise their plan and review whether it worked or not.

It doesn’t have to be a novel, an example would be something like this;

“David Warner’s plan was to pounce on width outside off and shorter balls. He looked hesitant to drive unless the ball was very full and was looking to score when the bowler erred in length or got too straight. He was leaving as many balls as possible in the corridor. The plan was working well, he was scoring freely but lost his wicket when he went away form his plan and tried to drive a ball that wasn’t quite there.”

You can do the same for bowlers based on their lengths, lines and field settings.

We've got some great resources and training videos in our online academy - another great way to improve your game without going to the nets. You can learn more about it and grab a free trial by clicking the image below.

 

 

4. LOOK AT FIELDS AND ASK WHY?

It can be a bit harder on TV because you can’t see the full picture sometimes but do your best. It’s a good exercise for when you’re watching live.

Analyse every single field that is set at the start of the over and ask why?

Why is there a fielder there? Why have they not got a fielder there? Where are they looking to exploit this batter?

Consistently doing this is going to train your brain to be able to problem solve and develop plans out in the middle.

5. TAKE NOTES

Whenever you’re doing the above four, take notes!

Two reasons…

  • The act of writing something down with pen and paper has been proven to increase retention. Meaning you’re going to learn and remember more.
  • If you do it for a whole summer you’re going to have an awesome little playbook of lessons and learnings from elite players - gold!

All pretty simple stuff but the purpose behind all five activities is to increase your engagement and awareness of what’s going on. The simple act of that alone will improve your game.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder & Coach

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