My life has revolved around cricket for a number of years now and I’ve recently been reflecting on how grateful I am that it has.

It started in the backyard at a very young age, I remember taping up tennis balls and tugging at my uncle's shirt to start the Christmas Day match from the age of about 6 or 7. I was actually too scared to start club cricket until I was 11 because of the hard ball but never looked back once I did.

My involvement has become deeper over the years. I had a decade playing premier first grade in Brisbane and putting everything I had into playing for QLD.  My whole professional career to date has been in cricket on some level - coaching, working in game development for QLD Cricket and now running and growing the Australian Cricket Institute.

During my reflection, a few things stood out that has had a big impact on my love for the game.  If you’re a parent reading this, here are 4 reasons why you should encourage your child to play or stay in cricket.

RELATIONSHIPS

Without a doubt, the number one way that cricket has positively influenced my life is the people.

I’ve made friends for life and have developed so many amazing relationships that have shaped my life through cricket.

I’ve had coaches and mentors that have instilled beliefs, habits and values in me that have ve made me very confident in who I am.

I’ve made a professional network in cricket that makes me feel like no matter what my situation, I’ll be able to get by.

I’ve got a social network in cricket that makes me feel happy, excited and provides a lot of fun.

Cricket has made me feel emotionally, socially and financially safe.

Out of all the sports I’ve been involved in (granted, none on the level I am with cricket), I can honestly say that cricket is loaded with genuinely good people.

TRAVEL

My first cricket trip was to a QJC U/12 Development Carnival representing the Sunshine Coast in 1997 and it hasn’t stopped since.

I was really shy as a young lad and remember being a bit apprehensive before the carnival but immediately loving it once we got there. Surrounded by 10 other ‘cricket nuffies’ and a couple of coaches I looked up to and talking cricket the whole time.

I love travelling for cricket in any capacity - to compete, work or play.

Since that first trip, I’ve travelled to basically every part of Australia you can think of to either play or work as well as a handful of overseas counties including Sri Lanka, West Indies, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, India and Singapore (plus 10+ European countries while playing in England).

The great thing about cricket is, you don’t have to play for your country to do that.

Being such a global game and community, it opens up so many opportunities to watch cricket, play cricket or work in cricket around the world.

Those are two external factors I’m forever grateful for, the next two great internal characteristics I believe I’ve developed as a result of my involvement in cricket.

PATIENCE

The simple act of waiting for a bat or bowl as a youngster has a tremendous impact on your ability to be patient.

Of course, we all want to be involved in whatever we’re doing (cricket or not) and want our turn NOW, but that’s simply not how life works.

There are so many scenarios in cricket that force you to learn patience (or move on to another sport)…

  • Waiting to bat while your teammate scores a hundred.
  • Not getting a bowl while someone else is bowling the spell of their life.
  • A long hot day in the field.
  • Putting consistent performances on the board and not getting selected in the next grade up.
  • Learning that if you don’t perform you may have to wait for another opportunity.
  • Waiting around during rain delays.

This is something I don’t want to see phased out of the game but I think it has to an extent in more recent years.

Rule changes in junior cricket and the attitude of ‘everyone should get a go’, which I can understand the reasoning behind.

But I still think there’s something to be said for allowing the game to instil patience in players.

Patience is a skill that will have enormous ROI (return on investment) in every area of a players life, now and into the future.

RESILIENCE

Cricket is a harsh game.

If you’re not doing well individually, it can feel like there are 100 better uses of your time.

You get out for a duck and you’re sitting under a porch all day.

You get whacked for 20 off 2 overs and you’re standing out in the sun all day.

Getting dropped, dropping a catch, getting out to lose a game, bowling the last over to lose a game.

It can be rough!

I know it’s not limited to cricket, but I think cricket really highlights tough times because of the lack of opportunity. Most other sports give you an opportunity to make amends pretty quickly.

There’s a reason a lot of people insist cricket is a high percentage ‘mental game’.

Players that work through the tough times come out the other end with a strong sense of resilience which they can apply to other areas of their life (I certainly have anyway).

So there you have it!

Four pretty good reasons to encourage your child to start, or continue playing cricket and I hope they can look back, like me, in 10 or 15 years with the same sense of gratitude.

Our goal at the ACI is to provide players with experiences that foster all of the above (and we've got a heap coming up over summer). >> Check Out What's Coming Up at the ACI

I’d love to hear your experience and any other reasons you’d add to the list!

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co-Founder and Head Coach

It’s quite a common occurrence…

We have so many players in our Academy Programs that come to us and tell us that they struggle to bowl and restrict their opposition in the dying overs.

“They just got away from me”, or “no matter what and where I bowled they just seemed to hit boundaries off me!”.

Bowling at the death is a very, very different skill set to bowling earlier in the innings.

The earlier many players can understand that they need to bowl differently in different stages of the game, the better off they will be.

The better and more effective you become at it, you will be the star of the side and someone that your captain will throw the ball to, over and over again.

With that said, I’ve compiled 5 reasons many bowlers struggle to bowl at the death and a framework to help you become the death bowling legend you hope to be!

1. You Don't Have A Set Plan Before You Bowl

A very common one, where bowlers become flustered and often find that they lack the necessary clarity under the pump in the heat of the situation.

A simple way you can avoid this is to take some time to think about what your plans will be before you start your spell.

This may be before the game or during the overs preceding to make sure that you have some idea of what and where you are going to bowl.

The other reason for having a plan before you start bowling is it gives you the confidence to execute. You feel better prepared and more confident to tackle the batters movements.

This plan is very dependant on who is batting, the dimensions of the field, your strengths as a bowler, and the state of the game.

HOWEVER! If you can take the time to actually sit back and spend a few overs to think about what plan you are going to start your spell with you are going to be much better off!

2. Your Field Doesn’t Match Your Plan

Obviously this comes from a lack of clarity.

Meaning, you need to understand the ball you are trying to execute first, so you can set your field accordingly.

Many players set their field and just leave it through the over/s. This is probably the worst thing to do while bowling at the end.

Remember your aim in these final overs is to reduce as many runs as possible and build pressure to force the batter to make the mistake.

From a batter's point of view, they want boundaries and or twos/three’s. If you can starve them of that and take one a ball or dots then you will build pressure naturally which will hopefully bring wickets.

To do this you need to plug the holes in the field where boundaries may occur from the types of line and length you may bowl.

Think of it this way…

If you are bowling full and straight, where are the areas you're likely to get hit?

Answer: most likely straight back past you right? Or at the very least, in front of square. Setting your field to bowling full and straight at the death with 4 or 5 fielders covering - deep cover, normal cover, long-off, long-on, deep mid-wicket and mid-wicket etc. gives the batter a 1 or maybe 2 if they get it into the gap.

Now try thinking about bowling a bit shorter... Most of your fielders will be behind square or just in front on the leg side.

Why? Because if you execute they are certainly not going to be able to drive the ball so you are potentially (or more likely) taking the boundary option away from them.

Again think about what ball you are trying to bowl, what is the most likely shot they are going to have to play.

If you have your fielders there defending boundaries they are going to have to take higher risks, aren’t they?

3. You Haven’t Trained To Execute Bowling At The Death

A lot of the times many players find that they haven’t practised bowling under pressure.

Not confused with being tired, more so when batters are in that mindset to look to score quickly and are batting overly aggressive.

A really key ingredient to you improving your death bowling is to actually put yourself in that situation as much as you can.

This is where you learn from mistakes, whether that be field settings, types of balls to bowl or even just how to execute the types of deliveries.

Bowling in blocks of 6 to try and hit a shoe or cones away from batters is also something that will help you progress with your death bowling.

Allocate some time (12 or 18 balls) to just try and nail yorkers, slower balls etc. during your net session so you can become accustomed to it.

? *PRO-TIP*  ?

Don’t always just blatantly practice the one ball over and over again. Once you feel confident bowling yorkers or slower balls try to mix it up and execute it first go.

After all, you don’t normally get 2 chances to bowl them in a game.

You will get much better if you can nail your change-up or yorkers first go.  Keep practising because it will take time to develop this skill.

4. You Are Too Predictable (No Plan B)

Being adaptable is the key to performing well in this period of the game.

You need to have the ability to shift your plan or fields/lengths dependant on what the batter comes back with.

This may be based on two batting styles the current batters have. You may need to set a certain field or bowl a certain way to one batter, but totally different to the other.

You see a lot of players set in their ways and end up making the shift a little too late.

1, 2 boundaries later and then the change is made. If you find at this stage of the game that what you are doing isn’t working then you have to change it up.

This doesn’t have to be for the whole spell though, a simple change in pace or length can be something that gets you back and helps build pressure.

? *PRO-TIP* ?

Each ball is a contest in this stage. If you have to change your field for one ball to match the delivery you are bowling do it!

It’s one thing for the batter to know what may be coming, but it’s another for them to execute and hit it clean enough.

5. Lack Of Communication With Skipper

This is crucial during the final overs.

You need to make sure you are clear on what your plan is, based on what the captain wants or needs you to do.

It’s crucial to stay on the same page or at least understand clearly what needs to be done.

I suggest asking 3 simple questions during your conversation;

  1. What is our aim for this over? - It may be to get the set batter off strike, or to get them to hit to the longer boundary etc.
  2. How do we go about doing this? - Is there any changes to the field needed or my bowling plan. Communicate what you were planning to bowl.
  3. Agree on a plan of action. Re-iterate what it is you are going to do to make sure that the captain understands your intentions and the plan that you’ve both just agreed upon.

This is something that doesn’t happen with everyone but I have personally found this very beneficial.

It allows you to have common ground with the captain, come to a solution together and communicate the final plan so there is no confusion between bowler and captain.

If there is an uncertain feeling or anyone is unsure they can re-iterate and confirm what is happening.

So there you have it, a fairly simple yet effective framework for bowlers to make sure they are bowling their best, come the end of the innings.

Learning these skills are crucial and will definitely help you go a long way to improving your death bowling!

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

Cricket is a team game.

Yes, ultimately it is largely down to individual performances that cause the result of a match, however at the end of the day you are working with others to achieve an end result.

One thing that we find continually is neglected these days is the importance of playing a role within a team.

Players at a young age are quick to think of themselves before the need of the team.

This is human nature, so when we are in a position to do so, it comes down to awareness of this role and the importance it has on the team.

Becoming a better team mate is something that everyone can do. No one’s perfect!

The idea behind this is to ensure that your members feel safe and confident to do what is needed of them.

We’ve identified 4 key traits that players need to identify and implement to become a better team mate.

 

1.Celebrating Successes

Although a broad topic, really the name suggests it all.

Great players and team members always ensured that team or other individual successes were celebrated.

By going out of your way to ensure your team mate is known of their great performance, this helps continue tight team camaraderie and a heightened level of confidence with players in your team.

Also the reality of it is, that in this lovely game of cricket, you will not always succeed or perform to yours or the needs of the team.

2. Create Unity

Really good players and team members have the ability to bring groups of people together.

This can be done in many ways on the cricket field.

A simple one is to ensure that when you are batting, all your team members sit close together and cheer on the runs and performances of the current batters.

There is nothing worse than when you are out in the middle against 11 other players to turn around and see that half your team are on their phones or no where to be seen.

Having this close unity as a group and sticking together will help players while under pressure out on the field as they will feel much more confident that they have the teams support.

3.  A desire to help your team mates.

Having a desire to go out of your way compared to doing the bare minimum is a massive trait that many players take for granted.

Examples of these are going to get the hat of the bowler from fine leg and giving it to the umpire.


Or it could be to ensure that you regularly run water out to the set batters to help relay messages.

Harnessing this desire to do what ever it takes for your team mates to feel comfortable and confident at the crease is the key to being a good team mate.

4. Be Respectful

This has obviously many sub categories and I’m sure you can name a few.

All it comes down to is making sure you show great respect to not only the opposition but also your team mates as well.

Things like making a scene when going out (throwing your bat or hitting the dressing room chairs etc) are all not on.

Personally I think this is a selfish act. Who knows how this effects your team mates out in the middle or even the next ones in.

They may be totally switched on to their preparation, but now after witnessing the tantrum or having to duck for cover as hurricane sooky pants came in because they missed a straight one, may not be the ideal preparation and eventually serves as a distraction.

 

Overall I think the major message in this is to make sure you are aware of the team and their needs.

Having that mentality will ensure that you are able to do whatever it takes to keep the momentum going.

Because yes, cricket is largely based on individual performances back to back, but I don’t think many people realise that your performance isn’t just limited to when you have a ball or bat in hand.

Your job isn’t done when you stop scoring runs or bowling balls.

Your job is still to make sure that the other person who’s taken over has everything the need to make sure they can perform at the same level you wish to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written By: Joel Hamilton (Co Founder and Head Coach)