We’ve all heard it before, runs are currency. Runs get you picked, score more runs and you will play higher.

The most frustrating aspect of this though is the fact that many players feel like they are hitting the ball really well and then all of a sudden they go out and get that dreaded “start”.

You know what I’m talking about, the 20’s or 30’s. Feeling great and then all of a sudden, boom! Wicket and you're out for another score in the mid 20’s.

This is a common occurrence that I hear on the daily, not just in junior cricket but a lot in senior cricket too. Tying to shake it can become the hardest part of a batters game.

When a player comes to me with this issue, the first thing I say is that it’s not always a technical flaw.

Many player's look at their technical side to find the error which is normal, but in my time as a player and now coach, there are many other contributing factors as to why you have yet again not turned your start into something bigger.

More times than not we use the technical deficiency as the outcome, but you have to look a little further back in the chain sometimes to find out why. Why did you play that particular shot, or what brought you to make that decision which resulted in an error in skill.

Below we take a look at 5 key reasons why you might be missing out on those bigger scores....

1.  Your Limited Ability to Focus Over Long Periods of Time

Some of you may have what we call, the “shiny light syndrome”. I find that many players are only capable of concentrating for a certain amount of time/balls.

After that, they are mentally fatigued and find it hard to make the right decision.

The key to this is to make sure you are using your focus and mental energy in a better way. Your ability to switch off between balls is key here so as that you are not expending so much energy when you don’t need to. Save it for when you have to hit the ball!

Think of your concentration levels as a jug of water, if there is a hole in the bottom that leaks all your concentration and focus out.

If you can plug that hole when you don’t need to expend it, it’s going to last much longer than if you let it all just flow out in one big gush for a certain amount of time. That’s basically what you are doing when most of you bat.

If you are on 100% of the time, all of the time, with so many things happening in your brain you will tend to fade much faster.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Look to develop a between ball routine/process to ensure that you can switch off and on between balls/overs. This allows your focus to be more concise when you are looking to bat as the bowler is coming in and relieves you of the mental stress that you feel in your downtime between balls.

2. You Haven’t Developed Transition Plans for Different Game Phases

This is quite a common one that many batters don’t think they have an issue with. Some players find it tough to move into their next phase of the game.

For example, you spend a lot of time getting in, face a lot of balls and then all of a sudden the pressure to start scoring is put on yourself.  You end up throwing it away to try and go big and hit a boundary to get out of your run of dot balls… Sound familiar?

You need to learn how to transition from each phase of the game so it makes scoring runs much more natural.

If you can develop plans around each stage of the game off the field (early in the innings, middle of the innings, end of the innings), you will be able to execute these much easier when you are out in the middle.

The key to this is to make sure you are able to transition clearly from getting in, to upping your strike rate (run a ball) and then when you are really seeing them well, how to capitalise on that and score greater than a run a ball.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Sit down and identify 3 of your strengths as a batter. These 3 key strengths form the basis of your innings. Early on practice ways of being patient and only scoring in the 2 biggest strength areas. From there start to identify how you can transition and take a few more risks to up your run rate. Your boundary options are your 3 strengths, and then train ways to find singles off other balls.

3. You Have Trouble Reading Different Stages of the Game

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest factors in what leads to you losing your wicket in these scenarios.

If you have trouble identifying the stage that the game is in then your plans will not match these and you will find it builds unnecessary pressure that leads you to making critical errors at important times.

This takes time to learn and making errors and reviewing them afterwards is the traditional way for most people to develop a greater understanding of this.

However, we don’t have that much time! I don’t want the light bulb to turn on all of a sudden when you are 23 and played over 100 senior games. There is a way to fast track this.

We use a little framework called the traffic lights. Red light (defend) , yellow light (contain), Green Light (Attack).

Your game plan (Reason No.2) should be dictated partly by what stage of the game you are in. If you read this wrong then you find that your batting methods can be a catalyst to losing your wicket at the wrong time.

Example -  you're 14 off 50, you start to panic because you’ve been bogged down and need to score quick runs now because you are under 50% strike rate.  The pressure is on for quick boundaries to make up for all the dot balls you've taken. See how it can escalate so quickly?

In that situation being 14 off 50 isn’t the end of the world, it's actually a great platform! But instead of going from Red Light  to Green Light and being ultra attacking, maybe let's look at ways we can slowly build up your strike rate and look to be a little more busy at the crease?

That middle phase is called the Yellow Light; building that solid base and then progressing into slightly more attacking mentality, while still having an understanding that you need to contain and not lose your wicket.

Low risk, high reward shots are key in this stage and it helps you create a slightly more attacking mindset while not throwing the kitchen sink at everything.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Spend time at training batting in these different situations. Put a runs and balls value on them e.g. First 7 minutes no wickets lost for Red Light, Yellow Light might be 10 off 12, with the Green Light being 14 off 12. Have fields set out so you can see where you can score as this brings Reason No.2 into the equation (making sure you have a set plan in place).

4. You Aren't Fit Enough

Some cricketers take fitness for granted. Put simply, being physically fitter will mean you tire less quickly.

How does that affect your batting? Well easy…

The fitter you are the less tired you become over a longer period, which means that your brain also doesn’t become fatigued as quickly.

If your brain isn’t fatigued you have more clarity in decision making and judgement. If you have better clarity and judgement you won’t play that rash shot or chase a wider ball and knick it like you may do if you are starting to feel the signs of mental and physical fatigue.

As I said, many people underestimate this but cricket is a tough game played in the summer in harsh conditions. If you can meet the physical demands of this, it becomes much easier to bat for long periods of time.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Look to invest in a strength and conditioning coach.  Learn how interval training can influence your performance and incorporate this into your batting training. Rather than just standing at the striker's end and lacing balls into the net, actually have intent and run between the wickets. After 10 minutes you will work up your heart rate and find that these areas of your game are more tested because you are having to use them at training now.

5. You Haven’t Batted for Long Enough

One aspect that many don’t think about is that you may not have batted for an extended amount of time before.

If you expect to score 50’s and 100’s you will have to face 100 - 200 balls. If you’ve not scored that amount of runs before then you actually don’t really know what to do and how it feels facing those amounts of balls in one go.

If you only bat for 10 minutes in a net a week, you probably will find it hard to face more than 30 balls consistently on a weekend.

In order to get better at batting for long periods of time, you have to do it more often outside of a game.

10 minutes of nets mean facing maybe 30 balls. If you want those big scores and bat for long periods of time, you have to eventually learn to do that at training as well.

Don’t be happy with just one hit at training for the week. Learn to bat for long periods of time and what comes with that as well. Learn that after batting for 10 minutes your mind starts to wander and you get a little hot and dehydrated. This is where it's good practice to start constructing your innings and use all the tips we've been over in this article.

The reason why you get out in the 20’s is likely because you haven’t trained to bat any longer than 30 or 40 balls.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Bat, bat, and bat some more! Sometimes you might want to find someone to go down the nets with and create an innings. What I mean is actually go down and face 70 balls in a game style situation. Learn to build your innings and bat for long periods of time with the game situations in mind by setting fields etc. If you are out, start again and only take drinks after facing an hour of balls. All of that will help you learn and put into practice all of the 4 reasons before this one.

Naturally, you can’t do this at training every week but even just having a hit outside of your allocated net during training will help.

Hit balls with a purpose if you aren’t a bowler, get to training early and work with a mate. All of these things can help you become better at this.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the issue that players have when they say they are getting starts but not going on with it can come from many different areas of their game.

The question you need to ask yourself is which of these areas is most likely your downfall?

If you can answer that straight away that’s great! If you can’t that's okay as well.  It may take time to tinker with a host of these different areas to make sure that you turn that start into a big score!

The biggest takeaway message here, however, is that scoring big scores takes effort and you cannot just expect them to happen. Work hard and be diligent in your preparation and the rest will take care of itself!

Good Luck!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder and Head Coach

Joel Hamilton

 

Straight up I must confess that I've been a keeper for most of my cricketing career.  So, there's no guessing who I think is the most important player on any cricketing side: the unheralded Wicket-Keeper!

There's a lot of pressure on wicket-keepers nowadays.  To be regarded as one of the best, you not only need to be competent behind the stumps, you need an Adam Gilchrist batting average, a double degree using the DRS, quality banter for the stump mics to pick up on and a unique understanding of where fielders should be situated.

It's safe to say they've got a lot going on, so let’s go over some of the reasons you’d consider taking up wicket-keeping and discuss the major pros and cons.

Why Take It Up:

To answer this question let's take a step back and delve into my past.  Cricket, like so many other sports, played a crucial part in my childhood.  I played many different team sports, always being the vocal one telling players where they should be in a soccer match, setting plays at dummy half in touch footy & rugby league, gesturing like a mad man. You couldn’t keep me out of the game but in the end, I loved watching and playing cricket the most.

So, it’s simple really, I chose wicket-keeping because I always wanted to be in the game. After almost 20 years of doing it, I’m well placed to discuss what I see are the major pros and cons of giving it a go - so let’s have a look;

Pros

Fundamentals: One major pro, especially for a young player taking it on, is it helps you quickly learn the fundamentals of the game (which can be overlooked sometimes). From pitch type, field settings, batter and bowler insights, there’s no coincidence that many wicket-keepers go on to lead their sides. They’re generally a little bit further ahead when it comes to all-round cricketing knowledge.

Decision Making: Most players will be looking to the wicket-keeper to actually make a decision.  You’ll have plenty of say when the captain is looking to set the field, to give input on the type of deck and which bowler will be most useful. Decision making doesn’t come easy to many, worrying about making errors does. Generally, a good keeper has one of the better feels for the game and can sense what’s next and make a move. So, who better to make the decisions!

Understanding Your Game: As a wicket-keeper, most will be quite handy with the bat. Over the years I’ve found that keeping not only helped me understand the overall game better, it also made me a more proficient batter. I found I could read pitches a lot better over the years, especially if I kept first before batting. It certainly helped with my hand-eye as well, balance at the crease and ball watching.

Cons

Battered & Bruised: If you ever had inclinations of wanting to be a hand model, wicket-keeping is not the position for you.  As a keeper, you become pretty used to coming home battered and bruised after a hard day squatting, catching and throwing yourself about. It’s not for everyone but at least I always felt like I’d got a workout that day - there’s plenty of times when as just a batsman, I’d get out cheaply and do nothing in the field and come home fresher than I left.

Field Nous: Amongst other roles, you’ll need to have input into changing the field.  As the keeper, you’re the eyes and ears of the team, which is fine most of the time.  Sometimes when it’s not is when setting the field, in particular, the slips cordon. It’s a delicate balance based on how the pitch is playing, get it wrong and you most certainly will get the blame if one falls short.

All By Yourself: Wicket-keeping can be a bit of a lonesome experience at training most of the times, being a specialised position as it is. You’ll seldom come across quality wicket-keeping coaches at community clubs.  You need to make sure that you’re taking time out to do drills that will help you as well as feedback from other players you trust.

*(Side note - if you live in Brisbane we've got a Wicket-Keeping Masterclass session as a part of our Summer Skill Development Week that we're putting on in the school holidays between 9-13th December - check it out if interested)*

Brisbane SSDW

 

Final Thoughts

There we have it, a quick look at why I think wicket-keeping has always been and continues to be the most important position on a cricket team. Like I said before, it's most certainly not for everyone but personally looking back, I’m glad that I took it up all those years ago, mainly because I would've never made it as a bowler 🙂

As always, we're interested in your feedback and whether it resonates with all the keepers out there. To all the new players taking it up, good luck and remember a good pair of inners (gloves) are your friends!

Author: Ray Britton - ACI Executive 

Ray Britton

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

Mums, sisters, wives, girlfriends…

We all have at least one female in our life that despises cricket and has no idea (and doesn’t intend on learning to either) how it operates.

Here’s are the top 5 questions the ACI team get asked by the woman in their lives…

*Disclaimer: This has been written as some light hearted fun and not intended to offend anyone*

 

1. WHO’S WINNING? (AFTER 30 MINUTES ON DAY ONE, OF A 5 DAY TEST)

“Ahhh…no-one, it’s none fa 15”

No matter how many times you tell them, they don’t seem to understand that cricket is a game in which no-one is ‘winning’ a lot of the time.

2. YOUR MATCH WAS A DRAW? HOW CAN THERE BE NO WINNER?

“What was the score?”

“They got 350 last week and we were 8/270.”

“So how is that a draw.”

”They didn’t bowl us ou…..ah don’t worry about it…”

Granted, this one can be a bit odd for a non-cricket fan but it adds a great dynamic to longer form cricket (as you know).

It’s even harder to explain after 5 days of sitting on the couch watching England vs Australia.

3. DO YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR WHITES SO DIRTY?

Like you had a choice saving four, taking that screamer, saving yourself from getting run out (or digging your knee into the turf sliding for a ball you really didn’t have to).

She seems to think cricket’s a sport where you stand on the spot in the sun and sitting under the patio all day (it is sometimes to be fair).

4. GOOD JOB TODAY! ARE YOU HAPPY? (WHEN SHE CAME TO WATCH AND YOU GOT 0/70)

“You were great today! I was really proud.” She say’s while you’re still fuming at the dinner table.

She was either reading her book all day or really can’t understand that no poles and 7 an over isn’t what we’re after.

At least she put in the effort to come and watch I suppose!

5. IF YOU FINISHED AT 4PM WHY ARE YOU HOME AT 7PM?

This one’s just a biological difference between men and woman, she does not and will not understand the need for ‘team bonding’.

Learn it, accept it and figure out ways to limit the impact of ‘team bonding’.

I’m sure everyone’s used “Nah the umps are making us hang around till 3pm” when you got rained off at 10am. 😉

Have I missed any?

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - 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