When we see our heroes on the television screen, the likes of Smith, Cummins, Kohli, Williamson and Stokes, we often only see them as decorated members of their national team. It is easy to forget that even these exceptional individuals have had to climb up the rungs of the cricketing ladder, their unique talents perhaps allowing them to skip a few rungs. Every single player at the top level has played junior cricket, representative cricket, grade and first-class before reaching elite status. Having on-field ability is one thing, but being able to successfully integrate into multiple teams and earn the respect of coaches and teammates alike requires a completely different skill set. 

With this in mind, here are some strategies players can use to move up the pecking order and gain maximum reward for the effort they are putting into their game!

 

1. ASK YOUR COACH WHAT STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE TO GET TO THE LEVEL OR POSITION YOU  WANT TO PLAY

Cricket doesn’t always appear, at first glance, as an overly ‘fair’ game. As a batsman, a poor LBW decision or a ball that hits a crack is all that it takes for you to spend the rest of an innings in the sheds. As a bowler, you may have catches dropped off your bowling, or likewise decisions not go your way. 

Similar situations arise in internal club environments when players feel that they may not be receiving just reward from coaches for exceptional performances. This often occurs due to a lack of player/coach dialogue, preventing both parties from understanding each other's viewpoint. As ‘biased’ or ‘illogical’ as a team selection scenario may seem, coaches hold their positions for a reason and their opinions often consider things that you may not have thought of. It is for this reason that developing an honest and direct line of communication with coaches is critical. 

By taking the initiative to seek coach feedback, you demonstrate a commitment to personal growth and humility to value the opinions of others. In return, by asking for help to achieve your goals you should receive clear direction which will guide the way. Coaches come from a position of great experience and expertise and will offer any advice with a player's best interests at heart, so their support is invaluable. 

 

2. SHOW THAT YOU HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE AND TRAIN EFFECTIVELY

Progressing through the cricketing ranks and achieving goals isn’t just about increasing the volume of your training, but also training more efficiently. Once you have identified areas for improvement, either through seeking outside opinion or self-reflection, it is important to train these areas specifically to accelerate the improvement process. 

If a batsman has identified a weakness against the short ball, do they simply spend an extra 20 minutes in the nets at training? No. Rather they should be incorporating drills that focus on the short ball into their regime. To acknowledge and address flaws in this way is key to development as a player. Further, it shows those around you that you are acutely self-aware and committed to improvement. It is the player who has a strong attention for detail in their preparation that gets noticed and ultimately is given the greater opportunity. 

 

3. UNDERSTAND THAT IT TAKES TIME TO MAKE AN IMPACT, DON'T EXPECT RESULTS OR CHANGES STRAIGHT AWAY

Ambition to be the best and progress in cricket can often lead to impatience, however as they say, “patience is a virtue”. 

Whilst players should always aim high and challenge themselves, it is also important to remember that time is necessary to adapt to higher levels of competition and sometimes you need to fail as a part of the improvement process. If you aren’t prepared to achieve your goals over a long period of time, then it is probably worth considering how committed you truly are to those goals. 

Each progression through cricket requires players to start from a new base and build up a separate body of performances in order to then move to the next stage. This is why rather than focusing on one big innings or haul of wickets, players should look to develop consistency of performance that turns heads over time. 

 

4. ALWAYS SHOW WILLINGNESS TO DO WHAT'S BEST FOR THE TEAM, TAKE ON ANY CHALLENGE THAT IS PRESENTED TO YOU!

Even at the top level of cricket, on the international stage, players have set roles. These roles e.g. death bowler and anchor batsmen are designed to take 11 individuals from different cricketing backgrounds and shape them to perform successfully as a team unit. Given this fact, you should be looking to embrace roles given to you at any point in your cricket journey, as experience doing this is beneficial both in the present and future. 

The ability to be unselfish, adapt and put the team first is highly regarded amongst coaches and players alike as these individuals contribute to winning outcomes more often than selfish players who play for their average, no matter how talented they are. A team orientation also builds morale, as it shows respect and acknowledgement towards the teammates you spend all day on the ground with. 

Taking on a variety of unique challenges provides important experience in an array of match situations so that when a narrow opportunity presents itself up the ranks you can be confident that you will adapt seamlessly to the role offered. 

 

In summary, moving up the pecking order requires engagement, persistence and the ability to operate well in a team environment. These are mostly mental skills that can become second nature through repetition and regular reflection. Achieving a dream of playing state, T20 or international cricket, of course, requires technical skill, but it is just as much about personal discipline and embracing whatever cricketing environment you find yourself in at any time. Once you are able to channel a growth mindset, anything is possible!

Guest Author: Josh Nevett

Below, guest blogger and ACI Coach, Josh Nevett gives us his 3 main reasons to seek professional coaching for your child.

Every parent wants the best for their child, and this is no different when it comes to helping them pursue their cricketing dreams! Whilst local club and school cricket can expose young players to highly experienced and skilled coaches, it is very difficult for these coaches to fully invest themselves in individual players in this setting. 

So, where do we turn for that personal touch? The professionals of course! Here are some of the reasons that professional coaching makes for a great addition to the holistic development of a junior cricketer. 

1. SMALLER GROUPS ALLOW FOR PERSONAL, OBJECTIVE FEEDBACK

Every player is unique, and it is pivotal that they are treated as such through targeted analysis and coaching. 

Professional coaches bring a weight of experience and knowledge that allows them to recognise certain characteristics within players that may not be noticed in a local cricket club setting. For example, elements of technique and personality traits can be acknowledged and, therefore, the coach is able to help a player within their own personal nature. As the Australian run-machine, Steve Smith has shown, being unconventional is not something to discourage! 

Rather than pressuring young players into conforming with the batting ‘textbook’, top-level coaches look to harness difference when it can contribute to overall development, shaping juniors into players who are confident in their personal set of skills. After all, new competitions and formats such as the IPL and ‘The Hundred’ have created an environment where the innovators of world cricket are able to thrive and are often the most successful!

Further, feedback from leading coaches always revolves around the goal of developing the best cricketer possible. There is no danger of coaches playing favourites in this setting; each individual is provided with information that has the players best interests at heart.

This is evident in the ACI’s implementation of video analysis into its programs, the camera never lies! How can you best demonstrate to a player the areas of strength or weakness in their game? By allowing them to see it with their own eyes. It is this level of attention to detail that serves as a contributor to efficient coaching sessions and in turn, (the outcome we’re always after) better matchday performance.

2. THERE IS MORE TO CRICKET THAN SKILLS

Whilst cricket can essentially be reduced down to taking wickets and scoring runs, it is an understanding of the complexities of the game that can boost a developing players achievement and enjoyment within the sport to the next level. 

In the setting of club cricket, there is only a relatively small window of time available for teams to train and therefore key aspects of cricket such as tactical awareness, mental preparation and physical conditioning are neglected in favour of net-based skills training. This net training is useful for maximising the volume of practice in a large group, however, it doesn’t prepare players for match scenarios. 

Tactical awareness is about establishing specific plans which can produce desired results on a regular basis. Tactics are needed to provide clear purpose and direction on the field; clarity of the mind is crucial to the execution of fundamental skills such as bowling the desired areas and selecting the appropriate shots to play as a batsman.

Professional coaches are able to prepare players mentally by determining their personal areas of fear, anxiety or stress surrounding the game and providing strategies to combat these inhibiting states. Creating an optimal headspace also involves boosting positive thoughts and emotions, so aspects of mindset such as confidence, achievement and calmness are also explored.

Thirdly, physical conditioning is essential to any successful cricket training regime as the modern player needs to be able to perform at high intensities, recover quickly and prevent injury. Specialised coaches are aware of this and make sure growing athletes are well equipped with fitness programs that are not just effective, but also fun!

From this it is clear that the environment created within a professional coaching setting allows for these not so well covered elements of cricket to be explored and, therefore, young players are able to get the maximum value out of the skills they already have.

3. DEVELOPMENT IS A 24/7 PROCESS

Professional coaches understand this and, therefore, are creative in forming training programs that players can undertake anywhere and at any time. The learning never stops.

This is contrary to the common status quo in local cricket, which is to train for a couple of hours, one night per week leading into matches. Whether its batting drills for the backyard or learning resources that teach key elements of technique and mindset, professional coaches are able to meet the demand of hungry young players who simply can’t get enough of this great game! 

This also ensures that the hard work undertaken during in-person coaching is not lost or forgotten between sessions, fostering a process of continuous growth. A consistent approach allows each session to become a progression on the last which is the ideal environment for improvement to take place and learning to be maximised. 

The ACI also incorporates a strong emphasis on reflection into its programs, encouraging players to look back on their time spent engaged in cricket in all settings to better understand how to get the most out of themselves.  

The culmination of this is young cricketers who are driven, consistent and self-aware, a combination of traits which can be seen in the greats of the modern game.

Registration for the ACI's 2020/21 - Foundation (8 to 10 year-olds), Junior (11 to 14 year-olds), and Youth (15 to 17 year-olds) Academy Programs are now open. For more information please register your interest here

Alex Carey joined us recently as apart of our Junior Cricket Wellbeing and Activity Program and was so forthcoming with information and advice that we thought we'd put it all into a blog for all you budding cricketers out there, both young and old!

AFL VS CRICKET 

Alex is well-positioned as a multi-sport disciplined athlete to talk on the vigours of professional setups and the pressure that comes along with that.  We asked Alex his thoughts on this;

"When playing multiple sports and the commitments that come along with that, communication is key. Know who you trust and utilise that support network. Don’t be pigeonholed, do as much as you can. Don’t put pressure on yourself either. Just enjoy the different aspects of the games and challenge yourself with the differing skills. Sport is awesome and gives you a lot of life values, I still hold my junior days close to my heart and have a lot of fond memories."

Below we go into more detail about his mentality on the different disciplines within cricket.

‘When juggling a lot of commitments, be honest and talk to your coaches and staff members, speak about your situation and know what you're trying to achieve and people will support you wherever you go, always willing to assist.'

 

WICKET-KEEPING MENTALITY

"When keeping you have to be super focused and concentrated.  You also need to have good balance and be relaxed. When missing opportunities, you’ve got to be prepared to put them aside, assess them and move onto the next ball. Hard work and training is key! Glutes need to be super strong, high intensity because you’re squatting so much."

"White ball cricket is a little different compared to red ball.  You don't take as many balls, but when you do it’s usually a chance - so be alert and upbeat and bring the energy to every contest. Work is done in training to sort out performance!"

Alex answers a question to do specifically with keeping to spinners;

"It differs between hard wicket and playing on turf. Be wary of the bounce you’ll need to deal with on synthetic pitches. Stay nice and low, in a strong position and ready for the ball to get up around your ears sometimes. Watch that ball and more often than not you'll be able to take that chance whether it’s a stumping or catch. Turf will spin more, be more variable and stay a bit lower. The main point is being in a great position and set up when the ball is released. You also need to be able to trust your instincts and have your head in line with the ball when it bounces."

'We are human and you are going to feel those emotions of disappointment. Worry about the next opportunity instead. Good players are judged on their learnings from their setbacks. It’s a normal feeling, but try and make sure you don’t make those same mistakes twice. Keep a smile on your face and go around again!'

 

BATTING MENTALITY

Alex discusses his own batting technique:

"I’m still chasing perfection and always developing my batting technique. Don’t change things just to please people and coaches, setbacks will make you a better player and you’ll start to understand who you trust and what works for your game. You always need to be searching to be a better player. Whether it’s mentally or technically you need to be in whatever position is comfortable that helps you get the best out of yourself. Try different things but don’t just do something because someone tells you to or reckons you should. It may be something as simple as changing your stance on the crease, it may be the really little things that help you the most! There’ll always be an element of failure in your batting, even the pros are tinkering with their techniques, so keep working at it!"

Some key points around his mindest when chasing a score whilst batting:

"Don’t be too worried about the outcome. Have the target or chase in mind, but you can only react to what the bowler bowls. Don’t just try and score one side of the field, if you’re in a good frame of mind you’ll be able to utilise your technique to access different parts of the ground. Remember to stay calm throughout. When you’re in a run chase you can get ahead of yourself, you can be rushed and worry about things that are out of your control. Take a deep breath and understand what the bowler is trying to bowl with the field they set.  That should keep you away from those frantic thoughts. It’s a big part of my game to calm my thoughts, not everything will come off, so be it! Calm yourself and trust that you and your batting mate out in the middle will get the job done."

'If it’s technical or something that needs attention, get to training and try and work on it as much as you can.'

 

KEY ADVICE

Alex regularly captains his state and is the vice-captain of Australia's shorter form teams. His take on being a leader on-field;

"Captain while the ball is not being bowled. Meaning - make your decisions, have your fielders in the right place and then switch back onto catching that ball. Simplify it as much as possible and make sure you’ve got a good helper out there, whether it’s a mate or a vice-captain to bounce off of. You need to be able to communicate with a teammate. But when it comes to it, watch the ball and not the field."

Alex continues when asked about on-field banter;

"I don’t bother with chirping too much, I like to focus on taking the ball and doing my job and the rest should sort itself out. The better players normally welcome the challenge so you have to be wary of what you’re saying."

And finally his advice on training;

"You certainly have to train across all three facets of the game. Not just batting and bowling, but fielding is essential too. This will help make you a vital team member and a really valuable asset, to be able to take the ball when needed or step up with the bat when required. I think on a personal note, I give everything I have and never have any regrets. When you leave your day at training just know you’ve done everything you can to achieve what you needed to."

For the full interview head to our Facebook page by clicking here

Alex Carey, the current Australian One-day and T20 vice-captain & wicket-keeper recently joined us for an interview as apart of the ACI's free 4-week Junior Wellbeing & Activity Program.  Below is an overview of the interview along with some questions & answers that some of our lucky members of the program got to ask.

Alex's had an interesting journey thus far, playing both footy and cricket growing up and right through his schooling days until year 12. Once things got serious, he elected to go down an AFL pathway into the national draft. He had to choose one, he definitely loved cricket but couldn't pass up the opportunity to play AFL. This meant no cricket for 2 full seasons, no practice, no skills. After his decision to return to cricket, this meant finding his way back into the South Australian system by making his way through grade cricket at Glenelg. He credits his brother and dad a lot - always being there for him in terms of coaching, participation & moral support. That's where we'll pick up the interview;

‘To be elite at whatever you choose to do in life, you’ve got to work really hard and be passionate. The best normally do the most.’

ACI: Who were your biggest role models growing up?

AC: My father and older brother are certainly my two biggest supporters. Lots of young cricketers have their parents around to be their role models in life and it’s such massive support. In a professional sense, I loved watching Adam Gilchrist play - obviously being a left-hand wicket keeping batter like myself. The way he handled himself on the field, he always had a big smile on his face. Now to have a relationship with him and call him a mate is pretty special. Not only playing-wise but morally to have him as a role model was fantastic to aspire towards. At the end of the day though, family is key!

ACI: Do you think AFL is a good crossover sport for cricket?

AC: Certainly, football and cricket are two awesome sports. Footy keeps you fit, you're outdoors and you have a heap of mates on that team. Basically any sport that involves a ball, hand-eye, and lots of activity are great options to do while you’re not playing cricket.

ACI: Do you have a wicket keeping routine?

AC: Yes and you definitely should have one in between balls, especially if you don’t need to run up to the stumps or be involved in the contest. You should try and switch off as much as you can but my routine is;

  1. Look around the field and the positions.
  2. Mark my spot and scratch where I need to stand.
  3. Crouch into the hands and knees…
  4. Into stance and switch back on.

ACI: How much time do you dedicate to your batting vs your keeping when training?

AC: Personally, keeping is my number one skill so I do some really solid sessions around that. Some days it’s one or the other - I have to be able to trust my preparation for that. The off-season can be a lot about recovery and making sure you’re mentally prepared to go around again. In this time there are probably more opportunities to do longer sessions, get more time into the legs and do some higher volume with my batting prep.

He continues...

‘You need to take ownership of your own game and make sure you have that feeling of achievement when you finish the training session. It can be a juggling act chasing the perfect preparation leading into a game, you need to be fresh but you also need to keep those skills relevant.’

ACI: During the World Cup semi-final, how did you respond to being hit by Jofra Archer?

AC: We were under a fair bit of pressure at the time already, not the ideal situation you want to be in when needing to post a big score. Jofra is an elite bowler and he’s so skilled, I don't know how he does it. I copped that bouncer on the chin and got a few stitches in but was lucky to be batting with Steve Smith at the other end. It was probably more uncomfortable if anything plus I had to hold up the game. As it started going numb and a bit sore, for me personally it was about us posting a score which we could defend. I was so focused on us getting the job done and playing a good innings, I would worry about the repercussions of injury later.

ACI: Who’s the best bowler that you’ve faced?

AC: Rashid Khan is the best I’ve kept to, he’s quite special. He’s also bowled to me and is really tough to pick.

ACI: Your favourite format?

AC: They’re all exciting for different reasons! T20 is certainly a rush, one-dayers are a real test of your skills over time and 4-day cricket is all about patience. I love them all for different reasons!

ACI: Favourite venue to play at?

AC: Adelaide Oval - it’s pretty cool. Otherwise, Lords. Lords is Lords, the history that’s there with the old stands. We won two world cup games there so it’s quite a special place to play! It’s a strange slope, but you’re overawed by the history there.

ACI: Who do you follow in the AFL?

AC: I follow the Adelaide Crows, as well as Dylan Shiel at Essendon and have a soft spot for the giants.

ACI: Do you prefer batting or keeping more?

Depends if I make runs (laughs) however, keeping gives you another chance to be a part of the game!

ACI: What have you been doing cricket wise during isolation? Are you training and still catching balls?

AC: Yep certainly doing lots of running, I really enjoy that. I’ve got some weights out in the backyard to get something through the legs. I’ve got my golf balls for catching as well. I’m also having a hit tomorrow going indoors to keep my skills up. I can’t sit still so I really enjoy trying to stay fit and strong as well as hitting balls - it’s what I love doing. Right now I’m really appreciative of the time I can have with my family.

ACI: Thanks so much for coming on Alex! We really appreciate it and we’ll be supporting you in the Aussie colours when you’re back! 

AC: My absolute pleasure and it’s so great to see these questions coming through and it’s great to have that support!

For the full interview head to our Facebook page by clicking here

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFO ABOUT THE 4-WEEK JUNIOR CRICKET WELLBEING & ACTIVITY PROGRAM - CLICK HERE

Matt Short, the Adelaide Strikers and Victorian Bushrangers young gun was our first live Q&A session special guest to kick off the ACI’s free 4-week Junior Wellbeing & Activity Program.

More than 400 online attendees joined Matt as he discusses early memories of starting out in cricket, his advice on batting and bowling, along with some answers to questions from our attendees.

Below are some edited highlights that were taken from that interview;

ACI: Really appreciate you coming on & joining us Matt, what have you been up to recently?

MS: Keeping pretty busy actually, doing an online University course - Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition), a few other things around the house like painting - got someone else in to do it though, not me (laughs).

 ACI: Where are you from, where’d it all kick-off for you?

MS: I’m a country boy from Ballarat, I started pretty late around 12/13 years of age - I remember my older brother was playing a game and they were short, he had a spare pair of whites, so I filled in.  Didn’t bat or bowl, but took a catch and that was one of my first memories of all the boys getting around me. From there I filled in every week for them and enjoyed playing with my brother.  I played the next 4 years for East Ballarat, got chosen in the rep sides and my performances there led to playing for Victoria in the U/15’s,17’s & 19’s!

 ACI: What’s it like being a younger player trying to fit into that elite environment?

MS: It was really tough being a country boy and not having played too much senior cricket. To come into a locker room with Dave Hussey, Peter Siddle, Chris Rogers & Cam White - I initially felt like I didn’t belong.  So, the first year was massive and took me a while to fit in but you’re always going to be put into uncomfortable situations, the more you’re in them, the better off you’ll be.

 Group Question: Nathan asked who was/is your biggest inspiration?

MS: Family is a big one for me, starting out, playing with my older brother. My dad also, out the back yard being adjudicator for us three boys, I also have a younger brother. And mum, the commitment and sacrifices she made especially being in the country and travelling a lot.

 GQ: A few have asked who’s the fastest bowler you’ve faced, how do you go about it and do you experience fear at all?

MS: Not necessarily, I try to back myself to get into good positions and watch the ball as best as I can!  Quickest bowlers I’ve faced would be Mitchell Starc and Jofra Archer.  Watching them on TV, their strengths, I’m able to prepare somewhat for when I face them. 

 GQ: Hunter asks, do you score from ball 1 in a T20, and what’s your general tactics when batting?

MS: Good question, I’m definitely trying to score first ball, whether it be a boundary or single.  Intensity goes up but it’s all about sticking to your cues.  If the ball is there to hit - hit it!  A lot of risk vs reward but stick to your plans and try not to premeditate, don’t second guess yourself and have the clear mindset to score.

 GQ: You better known as a batter but you do bowl as well, Sam asks what do you focus on when you come into bowl?

MS: I have a couple of cues when I’m at the top of my mark.  The main one being power: when I bowl my bad balls, it’s when I get lazy at the crease - not putting enough effort on the ball or not using my legs enough. So, I’m thinking power, up and over, that fast arm and good follow through!

 GQ: A lot of power-hitting questions, what’s some tips for gaining more power when batting?

MS:  I’m pretty lucky having some big leavers, being tall with long arms!  I’ve worked closely with Brad Hodge at the Vics and his message is always to have a nice stable base, keep your head in line with the ball, hold your shape & stay strong in the shot.

 GQ: An Adelaide Strikers fan asks - Rashid Khan, how do you pick his wrong-un, who is your favourite teammate and who’s the hardest worker?

MS: Rash - he’s pretty interesting, the thing with him is, his leg spinner doesn’t turn that much. So, I feel like he’s not going to beat me on the outside of my bat.  With his wrong-un, I’m only picking him 50% of the time (laughs)!  I try and come down the wicket to him a lot because he’s not going to spin it past my outside edge.  It’ not easy to face him though! A favourite teammate at the Strikers of mine is Liam O’Connor, another leggie from WA. He’s a ripper and one of those blokes you love to have around the change rooms.  Both being from interstate, we stay at the same hotel, we’re with each other every day and night for a couple of months. It’s been great to get to know him.  The hardest worker at the Strikers would have to be Alex Carey I think, not only in the nets but also in the gym - doing extra running etc. must be that footy upbringing. He’d be the first in the nets and the last to leave, always doing that bit extra. That must be his way for making him ready for what’s to come in his career.

 ACI: Your favourite part of being a professional cricketer?

MS: I love that I’m a professional in something that I’ve loved doing from when I was young and get a lot out of seeing my family react to when I’m doing well and also when I’m doing poorly.  They’ve always got my back and to know that I make them proud is something that I love doing!

 ACI: Finally, what tips would you give our youngsters out there to get the most out of this time in isolation?

MS: I know it’s the cricket offseason, but it’s always good to keep the skills up however you can, whether it be getting the tennis racquet out with a tennis ball, taking catches or hitting golf balls against the wall. If you’ve got a backyard big enough, get out there, but basically try and nail the basics so you’re ready to go for pre-season and keep listening to the ACI with all their videos and advice! 

 For the full interview head to our Facebook page by clicking here

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFO ABOUT THE 4-WEEK JUNIOR CRICKET WELLBEING & ACTIVITY PROGRAM - CLICK HERE