I don’t think there is enough emphasis put on how important it is to look after the cricket ball when you're in the field.

Who likes fielding in the sun all day?

Not me!

So why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to give yourself and your team the best chance of knocking the batting team over?

Yet it amazes me how many teams put little to no effort into keeping the ball in good condition.

It should be spoken about, there should be a plan around it and coaches should be educating players on how to care for a ball ethically and within the rules.

Think of it from a batsman’s point of view - how hard is it when the ball is nipping and swinging around all day compared to when the ball is knackered after 5 overs.

Here’s 5 tips for keeping the ball in good condition so it swings for longer...

1. Don’t Overload it With Moisture

A common myth we hear all the time is to ‘load it up Sheryl!’ (sweat, saliva, sunscreen...you name it).

You want to keep the ball as dry as possible for as long as possible to keep is swinging conventionally.

Yes you need to put some moisture on the ball to buff out scuffs but use as little as possible and get it off quickly.

PRO TIP - If you have players that sweat a lot in your team, ban them from touching it. If they’re bowling, give it to them as late as possible.

2. Appoint a ‘Ball Shining Skipper’

Everyone on the team should be aware of what’s required to keep the ball in good nick and be on board with doing so.

But…

You need to have a ‘Ball Shining Skipper’

Here’s a few requirements of a good skipper…

  • They don’t bowl, or don’t bowl much
  • They’re not the actual skipper
  • They don’t sweat too much
  • They field somewhere near the bowler
  • They know what they’re doing when it comes to shining the ball

Their job is simple…

  1. Pour their heart and soul into keeping the ball shiny (they should be almost as tired as the bowlers at the end of the day).
  2. Rouse on teammate who are not shining the ball or doing anything to ruin the ball. Become an absolute ball Nazi

Get the ball to the ‘Ball Shining Skipper’ as quickly as you can in the field to give them as much time as possible with it.

3. Get Heat into the Shiny Side

This one is probably debatable, I don’t know if there’s any science behind it.

But I have found that getting the shiny side really hot just before you bowl makes it swing more.

This means the ball skipper needs to rub it as hard and fast as they can on their thing before getting it to the bowler.

Give it a go and let me know if you reckon it swings more when the shiny side is hot.

4. Keep it Off The Ground

This seems pretty obvious but it had to be said.

I see so many players bounce it into the keeper or the ball hit the ground on the way back to the bowler.

The more it hits the ground the quicker it’s going to deteriorate.

Once you appoint a ball skip they’ll be all over this though, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

5. Look After The Seam

This one tends to take care of itself if you do all of the above well.

You can’t pick the seam but you can look after it - fix it up with your finger if it starts to peel apart.

Keep moisture off it so it doesn’t soften.

Keep the ball off the ground so it stays hard.

The seam acts as a rudder for swing so keep it in good condition and standing tall.

Hopefully that gives you a little blueprint to take back to your team and keep the ball moving around all day!

Let me know if you have any other tips I haven’t mentioned - nick@australiancricketinstitute.com

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - Co-Founder & Coach at Australian Cricket Institute 

A really common question we get asked is…”What can I do at home to improve my batting.”

With the Christmas break just around the corner (or already underway for some players) we thought it’d be a great time to put together our top 8 things you can do at home to improve your batting.

Bat Tapping

Bat tapping drills are a great way to improve your hand eye coordination and also your control of the bat.

Make sure you have both hands on the handle, we often see players have one hand on the handle and one on the blade.

You can start really simple and scale it up to your ability.

A really common question we get asked is…”What can I do at home to improve my batting.”

Simple - As many taps in a row on the face of the bat.

Hard - Around the world.

Here’s a list of bat tapping drills you can do >> Download Bat Tapping Drills

Visualisation

Find a quiet place, close your eyes and picture yourself in different situations.

Scoring a hundred, getting through a tough patch of bowling, getting the best batsman out…

Try to make it feel as real as possible, what does it look, feel, sound like? What are you feeling?

Science has proven that the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real memory and a made up one so by visualising yourself doing well in certain scenarios - next time you’re actually in the situation you’ll feel like you’ve ‘been there, done that’.

If you want to learn more about visualisation, download: The Power Of Visualisation 

Back Yard Cricket

Get stuck in to some unstructured back yard cricket!

Tape up a tennis ball, put some rough on the pitch, play on grass so it turns.

Back yard cricket is a great way to develop certain skills while having fun.

Not enough back yard cricket happening around Aus!

Hand Eye Coordination Drills

Grab a couple of balls (tennis, bouncy, golf) and do some hand eye/focus drills.

There are a heap of little drills you can do so I’m not going to go through them all but here’s a couple…

  • Bouncing each ball on the ground alternately with one hand while walking.
  • Bounce the balls on a wall and catch alternately
  • Bounce the balls on a single focus point on the ground 

I’m sure you can use your imagination and come up with some challenging hand eye drills. 

They’re also a great warm up for batsmen.

Watch Cricket

How easy!

But when you watch cricket this summer, actively watch it.

Think “what would I do in that situation?”

“Why did they do that?”

Learn from the best players in the world, watch their technique, watch how they warm up, watch their game plans.

You can learn so much from them! That is why we developed the ACI Online Academy, so young players can learn from professional coaches and players.

You can check it out and grab a free 30 day trial here

Shadow Batting

Go through your range of shots with some shadow batting.

Either do it in front of a mirror or get someone to film you and check out your technique.

Great way to get visual feedback and also develop muscle memory.

Develop Batting Plans

You should have a clear batting plan for every type off bowler you might face.

Spend some time developing your plans and putting them down on paper.

One of the sessions we do with our academy players is getting them to draw a field and draw in their Go Zones (strengths, low risk shots) and No Go Zones (weaknesses, high risk shots) for every type of bowler.

Think about which way the ball is swinging/spinning, is it bouncing, what shots do the bowlers want you to play?

Strengthen Your Forearms

Strengthening any part of your body is going to help but there are some more important areas for batsmen and your forearms his one of them!

A simple exercise you can do to strengthen them is…

  • Lay a towel flat on the ground
  • Put your palms down on the end of the towel 
  • Keeping your palms on the ground, scrunch the towel towards you using only your fingers
  • Scrunch the whole towel then repeat!

Get stuck in and improve your batting over the break!

Authors: Nick Fitzpatrick & Joel Hamilton

We see it all the time… 

So many players that are down on confidence and really struggle with their game and results. 

A common theme when we speak to parents or coaches of players in our programs about young players performing is “they just seem much more confident”. 

Having confidence and riding that wave of good feelings makes your cricket so much more enjoyable but also makes you feel 10 feet tall! 

Being able to be free of the shackles and score with ease, have no pressure on yourself to perform and really feeling like you can do no wrong. 

We’ve identified some very similar mistakes that we find a lot of players are making that affect their levels of confidence and in turn, their performances. 

  1. Fear of failure 

This is a massive one. 

So many players openly speak about the fear of failure and not wanting to disappoint their team mates, parents, coaches and themselves. 

Having this fear of failure can really hold players back and mess with their confidence levels. 

So how do we change this you may ask? 

It’s about switching your mindset around. Creating a positive training environment, and also just relaxing and understanding that failure is the most important aspect of learning and improving. 

In our programs we really promote the opportunity to learn and take the game on. Making mistakes is fine and as long as you have the correct review process in place to identify how you can change these mistakes. 

My advice if you are feeling like this is a common occurrence for you? 

Identify the situations that really put you under pressure. Take note of these and maybe write down when these happen and a response that can be positive.

This ensures that you are able to identify these feelings when they happen and take the appropriate course of action. 

Secondly, trying to create a thought process or environment that enables you to make mistakes and know that these are natural. No one is PERFECT! The best player’s in the world still fail. 

It’s about identifying these mistakes and finding ways to work on them and make plans to not do it again.

2.Not taking time to understand your game 

So many players find they lose their confidence due to not performing, and when I ask and delve a little bit deeper, it’s really quiet evident that they don’t really have a good understanding around their game and their strengths. 

It’s so important to create plans around your game and identify your areas of strengths. 

If you have this understanding you’ll find that you will be far more calm and confident when you are put into situations. 

Think about it, when you are under pressure there are so many things going on in your head. 

Add into that your need to then make quick decisions on the field. 

If players don’t have a true understanding of their game, they will continue to make these mistakes, and continue to feel the pressure. 

My advice if you are feeling like this area of your game is contributing to a lack of confidence? 

Spend time to sit down and speak to your coach/parent’s/mentors and identify your strengths of your game. 

From there you can start to develop a sound game plan on how to approach the game. Knowing your strong areas you can capitalise on loose deliveries, how to get off strike if you feel you are clogging up dot balls for longer periods of time. 

Having this clearer understanding of your strengths and your game plan enables you to reduce the stress in these situations, but also find an easy way out of that particular part of the game.

 3.Spending too much time in the past/future 

This may sound a little unusual, but what I mean by this is spending too much time thinking about what has happened previously, or what is going to happen. 

For example thinking about the team you are playing on a Saturday and being too caught up repeating the last few times you played them and gotten out cheaply,.

Or it may be going through the team list and seeing big names of players that you think are way too good for you. 

Maybe it’s thinking too far ahead. Playing and missing a few in a row while batting and thinking your definitely going to get out! 

Not enough time is spent having people be aware of being in the moment.

These past and future thoughts slowly compound and really start to place a lot of pressure on players and they find that this is a key reason to why they lose confidence throughout times of the season. 

How do I change this mindset for the better? 

If you feel this impacts you during a game, it’s really about trying to create your own in between ball routine or process. 

Using your time more effectively in between balls to distract you away from these negative thoughts that can influence your thinking and confidence so much. 

This may look like positive self talk, controlled breathing, anchors that take you through a host of steps to ensure you are staying present in the moment and not letting your mind wander to far ahead of behind (just to name a few). 

If you find that these thoughts affect you after games and throughout the week, it could be really important to start to review your sessions/games after they happen. 

By reviewing your performance it enables you to identify the areas you may not have done well (and areas you have also done well) and quickly move on from it.

4.Your preparation leading into a game. 

I know many players who find this is a driving factor to their comfort levels and confidence. 

Whether it’s the amount of time they’ve spent (or not spent) training and preparing to perform leading into the weekend, or having things completely out of your control such as missing a session due to the weather.

Your preparation is key to how you are feeling coming into a game. It’s so important to you to have that thought and feeling that “i’ve done enough”. 

If you haven’t it really can be an inhibiting factor to your performance and how you feel. 

If this is a familiar feeling how do I change this? 

Having these feelings is very much in your control. You are wholeheartedly responsible for your actions and these actions dictate your thoughts and feelings. 

If you somehow miss sessions for once, maybe positive self talk or even just understanding that one session isn’t going to effect how you play (just make sure you don’t use this and it becomes a habit for laziness!). 

Know that you can say yes/no to anything and try to avoid distractions in the lead up to the game ahead. 

If you do miss a session, think of ways you can make up for it. Training too wet to bat or bowl maybe? But you can definitely still use that time to review your batting or bowling plans, speak to your coach about your role or even go off and do some physical work to get some sort of benefit for the session. 

All in all, confidence is about feeling comfortable. The more comfortable and prepared you are, the more likely you are going to succeed!

Written By Joel Hamilton - Co Founder

There are many parts of the game that young players take time to develop.

Most of the time these area’s are developed and honed over years of making mistakes and re learning or planning to get the desired result they want.

These could be developing batting plans, honing your bowling skills, or developing the mental side of the game.

Another crucial one that we see many players take time to develop is their ability to set fields and plans around their bowling.

It’s a critical part of the game, especially in white ball limited overs cricket, which is a big chunk of the cricket that is played through youth levels and lower levels of senior cricket.

So sitting back lets see what effect having the wrong plan could have on your bowling and team performance.

Easy Runs - Batters having less pressure to score can ultimately effect how many runs you will have to chase. As simple as taking 1 run an over extra can lead to chasing an extra 50 runs.

No reward for effort - Missed opportunities by having fielders in the wrong places!

Pressure Release - Not creating pressure on the batsmen and making it hard for them.

Conflict - The result of the above area’s for you can then potentially cause conflict within the team and harm the direction and cohesion that the team has in that particular game.

I know from my perspective playing as an adult, many still don’t get it right all the time. I’m sure you’ve even seen it at the top level on tv!

So in order to help you find this task a little easier we’ve put together a simple 4 question process to practice at training and to use in games to make sure your fields are set much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(In our academies our players are heavily involved in developing plans for their fields to batters)

 

1.What Ball Am I Trying To Bowl

The crucial aspect of this is actually think about what the best ball is going to be in this situation.


This may be your stock ball, a Yorker, bouncer, slower ball or whatever it is, but the key is actually taking the time to think about what the best ball you need to bowl at this time.

Too many times have we seen or spoken to players about what they are trying to bowl and many of the times they don’t think of anything!


Have a clear plan in your head for each ball to be able to identify what you need to do from there.

PRO TIP: It doesn’t have to always change, nominating the ball you want to bowl before each delivery is just an awareness thing also. It makes sure you completely are planned and prepared to execute.

Once done this, onto the next question..

2. If I Execute That Ball, What Shot Is The Batter Most Likely To Play?

This is more about the line and length you are looking to bowl.

Having a clear and set thought in terms of what shot you are trying to get the batter to play really helps with you visualising and understanding the type of ball you are going to bowl.

Cool? Ok next one..

3. If I Execute And The Batter Plays The Shot I Want, Where Am I Going To Get A Wicket?

Think about the sort of catchers you need to implement in this part.

For example if you are bowling out swingers and you are looking to get the batter to drive the ball straight down the ground, you are most likely going to get Knicks behind the stumps.

This doesn’t mean you have 3 fielders at mid off because you are trying to get them to play a shot there.

The higher probability is going to be that you will get the ball caught behind more than caught at mid off.

To do this effectively you really need to know where your type of bowling most likely gets wickets. See below for a rough guide.

Type of delivery.

Swing The Ball Away From Batter - Most likely caught on the off side. Look to bring catchers behind the wicket.

Swing The Ball In To The Batter - Most likely bowled and LBW’s or caught in front of the wicket.

Spin The Ball Away From The Batter- Batter most likely will hit the ball on the offside.

Spin The Ball In To The Batter - Batter most likely hit the ball on to the leg side.

PRO TIP: Of course you have to take into fact if the ball is swinging/spinning at all, and also the stage of the game you are in. Will you have as many of these fielders/catchers in place later in the innings of one day cricket etc.

4. What Field Setting Can I Use To Encourage A High Risk Shot

This goes hand in hand with no. 3

Try to create some sort of field placing to make sure that the batter has some sort of risk attached to hit that particular gap.

This may look like an area that can contribute or enhance your skillset and your strengths as a bowler.

Or alternatively try to get the batter hitting into an area that they may have as a weekness.

For example:

Your Strengths- Having no cover with a new ball bowling big out swingers. This encourages the batter to drive.

As a bowler bowling good lengths swinging it away, it’s going to be very tough to score and may encourage them to play into your strengths.

Batters Weakness - The batter may be really strong on the leg side, so as a result bowlers may plug a lot of gaps on the off and bowl tight lines.

From the batters perspective now that means they may have to take more high risks and play across the line to score in the middle overs of the innings.

As you can see from here, if you can look to put these 4 questions into process while you are bowling, it will make setting fields much easier.

The final piece to the puzzle is as a coach or captain, we should be able to see what field you have set and know automatically what type of ball you are bowling and the line and length of it.

Some may say this is being predictable, but from a bowlers perspective it doesn’t matter.

Building pressure is going to get you more wickets, not having sneaky little field placings that the batter didn’t know about.

It’s still hard to score off good balls, being predictable doesn’t mean they can still execute the shot better than you.

That’s the key issue, nailing your ball and having the fields to benefit from them.

Enjoy and good luck!

Written By Joel Hamilton ACI Co Founder

Being able to execute a bouncer is a crucial skill for fast bowlers. What does a good bouncer do?

It can intimidate the batsmen, it can push the batsmen back on their feet, it can take wickets, it can set up a batsman.

All of these are true but the simple fact is, that being able to bowl a good bouncer makes you a better fast bowler.

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Simple keys to bowling a better bouncer...

  • Don’t try and bowl it too fast. Use your same action speed and tempo but release the ball later. You must have a good bowling technique to bowl a good bouncer.
  • Keep your run up the same speed - maybe a touch faster for some.
  • Remember to take your momentum towards your target, run up, jump, follow through. You want to bowl your bouncer straight at the batsman – not wide.

Now I know what some of you young players are thinking; “I’m too slow to bowl a bouncer,” “I’m not tall enough to bowl a bouncer.” These are true for some young players but it is important to still understand the concept of a bouncer and work towards bowling one as you grow older and stronger.

For those players who believe they're too small or too slow, here are some things you can do while you're waiting to develop!

  • Bowl a bouncer anyway. Practice it. This will help you understand the feeling of letting the ball go later. It can also be very beneficial for your bowling action.
  • Bowl bouncers in the backyard. This will help you understand the way it can intimidate and push back a batsman, making a full pitched ball more dangerous.
  • WATCH CRICKET! Watching cricket is extremely beneficial for young players. Watch the best bowlers bowl bouncers.

Some of you are starting to grow up bigger and stronger and you are noticing your bowling pace has increased and you are more confident executing a bouncer. GREAT NEWS!

Yes, it can be the age that the bigger you are the faster you bowl and the scarier you are but not always. For the smaller players at this stage – Don’t give up! You can bowl a bouncer and you can be a world class fast bowler even if you aren’t 6 foot 5…… remember Dale Steyn?

For the tall members of this development stage.

  • Bowl your bouncer but don’t overdo it just because you’re bigger than everyone else.
  • Remember good skills such as consistent areas and swing bowling are going to get you more wickets than your bouncer so they need to be prioritised.
  • Don’t neglect your field placings. If you're comfortable bowling bouncers make sure your field is set in place. This could mean fielders in catching positions or defending boundaries.

For all the smaller fast bowlers at this development stage.

  • Good consistent line and length is going to get you further than a bowler who sprays it everywhere but can bowl a good bouncer!
  • Keep practicing your bouncer – You’re going to grow soon! when you get bigger and stronger you will have the foundation.

For those who are further on in their physical and cricket development, these are some things you can think about.

  • Using your bouncer more against opposition batsman who can’t play it well. Attacking their weakness is a great wicket taking option.
  • Using your bouncer less to opposition batsman who play it very well and like it. Don’t give them their scoring shot, ask them to score in other ways.
  • Field placements are KEY when bowling a bouncer. Think about where your field needs to be when executing your bouncer. Both attacking fields and defensive fields or a mixture.

Good luck! Remember everyone can bowl a bouncer.

Get in and have a go.

Author - James Bazley: ACI Coach