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 

 

Every parent wants their child to perform in the sport they love, so they can enjoy it, develop confidence and improve their self worth.

Doing well rubs off on other areas of their life as well.

It’s a fine line, you don’t want to get too pushy or involved because that can have the opposite effect.

Here are three things you can do without being overbearing…

1. ENSURE THEY’RE IN A GOOD MENTAL SPACE

A rough week at school, some bad news, a fight with a sibling or friend…

Whatever it is, cricketers need to go to sleep the night before and wake up the morning of a game in a good mental space.

The importance of the mental side of the game in cricket is becoming more and more prevalent and more time is being invested into developing that skill in an athlete.

As a parent you can help shift their mindset when you detect something is off, here’s a couple of simple ideas…

TALK IT OUT

Talk out their issues with them, some kids don’t like sharing and discussing so you need to do it in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way.

Getting it off their chest can make a big difference and help them let it go.

Go one step further and see if you can help them find a lesson in it that they can be grateful for.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Get them to write down three things they’re grateful for in their life and then visualise each one vividly for 60 seconds.

Gratitude is proven to actually change the physiology of your brain, i.e. the way in which we function.

Do this right before bed the night before a game and I promise you they’ll wake up in a much better frame of mind having gone to sleep with those thoughts of gratitude at the front of their mind.

DO SOMETHING FUN

Sometimes their negative mindset can be self prescribed by nerves and anxiety about cricket.

Take them out to do something fun that they enjoy the night before a game and get their mind off cricket.

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2. LET THEM KNOW THERE’S NO PRESSURE FROM YOUR END

A lot of parents will never understand how much pressure their child puts on themselves because they want to impress you! Even if you don’t put pressure on them.

You can help with that.

If you are someone that occasionally pulls yourself up after making a pressure loaded comment, make a conscious effort to refrain from them.

Things like “It’s a big game tomorrow”, “You need some runs tomorrow”, “Don’t make the same mistake as last week.” These terms have absolutely no benefit, kids already put enough pressure on themselves without having Mum or Dad add to it.

If you’re someone that doesn’t do that but your child is still visibly affected by nerves and anxiety, let them know that you’re not going to think any more or less of them because they get 100 or a duck.

Have discussions with them and explain there are a lot bigger issues in the world than failing at cricket to help them gain perspective.

Perspective can be a great cure for performance anxiety.

 

3. HELP THEM BE FULLY ENERGISED

Their physical condition plays a vital role in the way they perform and I’m not talking about fitness (that’s important too but not a job for the night before).

Three things that you can help control to make sure they’re ready to go are;

1. SLEEP

Make sure they get enough sleep the night before a game.

If you do take them out, make sure you’re home early enough for them to de-combust and get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

If you’ve got people over, make sure their environment is conducive for sleeping and not too noisy or light.

Sleep has a massive impact on the way your brain operates. Not enough sleep will leave them foggy and making slow decisions. Not what you want on a cricket field.

2.   NUTRITION

I’m not going to go into an in depth nutrition lesson because it’s not my field of expertise.

But I do know that eating correctly plays a vital role in your child’s energy levels.

Make sure they’re eating well the week of, night before and morning of a game.

3.   HYDRATION

A lot of young players leave this too late and start trying to hydrate when it’s too late.

Hydration starts the day before a game. Make sure they’re getting drinking plenty of water the day before and the morning of the game.

Dehydration effects every cell in our body, including our brain.

If you’re a parent who wants to play an active role in preparing your child to perform, that’s a really good platform to start with.

Thanks for reading, I hope you got value out of it and if there’s anything you’ve found works really well with your child I’d love to hear. Shoot me an email at [email protected]

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Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder & Coach