The time used between balls by many players is not used very effectively by many players.

Cricketers come to the Australian Cricket Institute with a common problem. “ I get bogged down after a few balls and then play a silly shot and get out” or “ I have trouble bowling the ball where I want to consistently”.

For some, and to the naked eye, that’s a technical deficiency, which most likely is a contributing factor.

However the other side of it that hardly any people explore or consider is what is going on between their ears.

Cricket is a game of stop, start, hit a ball, stop and have some down time then only to be going back to getting ready to hit the ball again.

In this down time, most players use their time negatively or not at all. Your ability to be consistent and achieve the desired outcome over and over again is technical yes, but the time you spend in between balls is just as crucial.

Using this time well can help with staying in the moment. Thinking about what you need to do right now.

Too many players think about what has happened or what is going to happen. e.g. “ What if I play and miss again” or “I just bowled a wide, don’t bowl another!”.

If you can overcome your mind and use this time effectively the benefits are there to see.

Your concentration levels last longer, you make better decisions, you are not affected by the situation of the game as much and as a result you can make clearer decisions.

Below I’ve listed out 5 different things you can implement into your between ball routine that can help you from drifting away and putting pressure on yourself.

1. Positive Self Talk

A very simple one to start off with but sometimes quiet hard to master.

The important think with this is to realise that you are always going to have negative thoughts or reactions when you do something wrong or under pressure.

The important part is trying to wipe that as quickly as possible and turn those thoughts into a positive.

This can be practiced and done on any occurrence.

Instead of thinking “this bowlers too fast here, I don’t want to get hurt!” You could go down the path of “his pace is going to make it easier if I use that to my advantage, wait for the full overmatched ball but the rest I can use the pace and run it down to third man”.

2. Quick And Non Bias Self Review/Reflection

A lot of players spend so much time in between balls sweating about what shot they’ve played.

How many times have you seen a player hit it straight to a fielder and drop their head back in annoyance?

Or keep playing the same shot that they wanted to for the whole time between balls and then face back up?

I’m not saying you can’t practice the shot you wanted to play, but a lot of people spend too much time worrying and sweating on that ball and what they did wrong.

What you can do is really simply review and reflect on your shot and move on to something else as quickly as possible.

It could be as simple as a rating out of 10 and then what you’d do differently.

Short. Sharp. And finally,  wiped clean so you don’t spend the next minutes or balls thinking about it.

 

3. Breathing

This is a relatively simple one.

It’s been proven that when you are under pressure or stress, your heart rate will go up.

The easiest way to lower that is by controlled breathing.

If you can actually focus on your breathing you’ll find that not only will it help you get your breath back and decrease your heart rate, but it will also then take your focus away from the game and other thoughts!

Try in for 5 or 6 and out for 7 or 8.

Allocating some time between balls to do this will help you get your levels back to even and you’ll be able to make better decisions.

4. Anchors to Distract You Away From The Pressure

Many elite players use certain actions or sequences of movements to help them switch off or take themselves away from an uncomfortable environment.

These pressures and distractions can look like the 'yappy' annoying slips cordon, concentrating on certain parts of the environment, scoreboard pressure and of course those negative thoughts we spoke about previously.

By having certain actions that take you outside of the situation, this helps you clear your mind and use that down time in a different way not thinking about those above pressure.

Some of these look like:

  • Walking out to square leg
  • Signing a song between balls
  • Staring out of the field of play and switching off from the contest
  • Watching people out on the boundary or those not involved in the game
  • Undoing gloves

As mentioned these “anchors” or whatever you want to call them, help players take them self outside of the contest and the stresses.

I’m sure you may even do some of these already.

5. Visualisation

Finally another tool you can look to use is visualisation.

This is a very underestimated and yet quite an effective way to help players feel confident and problem solve during their time on the pitch.

The power of visualisation is quite influential.

Visualisation during your innings or while your bowling can help you settle yourself into your role or give you the confidence to replicate during your innings.

Using some of your time in between balls to see yourself playing that correct shot or bowling that ball in the right area.

When visualising, go deep into it. How does it feel, what does it look like, what does your body have to do in order to execute that shot or particular ball.

The more you can replicate how real it is and the exact movements the more realistic it is and will transfer into your mechanics of what you are doing.

It may be you visualising playing the ball confidently, or getting into a powerful and balanced position when playing your shots. Alternatively from the bowling perspective, it may be you coming and bowling a great length ball hitting the batsmen bat high on the splice as they are coming forward.

You can play out any scenario in your head before you’ve done it and it will fill you with the confidence to execute this in real time.

So there you have it, these are some techniques you can implement into the time you spend in between balls.

My advice is not to just copy and do all of them, find a sequence of events that is comfortable to you, but more importantly works.

The whole point of this is to use your time effectively in between balls and take your thoughts away from the negative things and elevate the pressure that players put on themselves.

How you do this is ultimately up to you, these are just some techniques you can implement.

Lastly, this between ball routine has to be repeatable. You cannot achieve consistent results if you continuously randomly do these actions.

It is a method to doing them and there has to be a distinct reason in your routine as to why.

These processes are for you only and as a result can be done however you like in your own way.

Don’t copy Steve Smith or David Warner just because he is a world class player as these will not necessarily work for you.

 

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

 

I want to address something that I’m sure is common in every sport but in this case, I’ll talk about its presence in cricket.

It’s the habit of ‘chasing the next shiny object’ (I reckon everyone suffers from it in some area of their life).

What I mean by ‘chasing the next shiny object’ is always wanting to do something new and different.

Getting bored with doing what’s required to get better and what’s required to succeed.

Yes, it’s part of human nature to want to do new and exciting things but as an athlete you need to get comfortable with repetition and doing the ‘boring’ things.

It kind of frustrates me when I hear players, or parents of players say, “Is this session going to be different?”

Yes, us and other coaches are always looking for better ways to improve a player’s game but at the end of the day cricket involves a limited number of skills and you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.

Success often lies in simplicity.

Just because you play a perfect cover drive doesn’t mean you never have to practice the cover drive again.

Just because you bowl a great out swinger doesn’t mean to never have to practice bowling an out swinger on the top of off stump again.

Just because you’re involved in a discussion about batting or bowling plans doesn’t mean you never have to speak or think about plans again.

 

REPETITION

Cricket, or becoming better at any skill for that matter, is about repetition.

Repeatedly executing the skill so that it becomes autonomous and part of your muscle memory.

You might have heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

“To master a skill, you must practice it for ten thousand hours.”

I’m not sure that’s entirely correct or hard and fast because there are so many variables, like how quickly you learn and the quality of your environment and training

But I do know that to get really good at something and execute it consistently at a high level, you need to practice it a lot and practice it well.

So, unless you can hit a cone with a straight drive 20 times in a row from 15 meters away, don’t tell me you’re ‘bored of hitting underarms.”

Or unless you can rip the 20cm x 20cm target off the top of off stump 36 times in a row, don’t tell me you’re bored of target bowling.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a young player or someone coaching/parenting a young player.

Understand that becoming a quality cricketer is a process and it takes time.

You don’t need to be able to execute every skill and know everything there is to know about the game in your first few years playing.

QUALITY

Like I said, I think you can accelerate that 10,000 hour process by making sure you’re training with quality and in a quality environment...

  • Train with a clear purpose.
  • Surround yourself with other driven players and good training partners.
  • Make sure YOU are a good training partner - by that I mean become a good underarm thrower, side arm thrower, machine operator, catch hitter etc.
  • Make training challenging (balance it with repetition.)
  • Set yourself outcome-based targets.
  • Try to simulate a match environment where possible.

5,000 hours in an environment like that will get you a lot further than 10,000 poor training hours…

Guaranteed.

If you'd like to train with the ACI this year >> Click Here

 

EXPERIENCE BRINGS NEW PERCEPTION

I’ve played over 15 years of senior cricket at a decent level and I can’t tell you how many out swingers I’ve bowled at a target at the top of off stump, how many underarms I’ve hit at the back net or how many times I’ve talked about my bowling plans in the first 10 overs of a game.

One thing I can promise you is that each year of experience you get under your belt will bring a new perception on all of those things we do over and over again.

The conversations and training doesn’t change, the way you perceive them does.

The conversation I had about bowling plans when I was 15 was a completely different one than the one I had when I was 22 or 27.

You learn things, you understand things in a different light and you apply all of that previous experience you have to the next out swing drill you do or batting plans conversation you have to make them better than the last.

Please don’t be a serial shiny object chaser.

Get comfortable with repetition.

Get comfortable with doing the ‘boring’ things.

Don’t be in a rush.

Respect the process.

If you think the ACI can help you do that (and I've got no doubt we can) >> Learn how you can train with us.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick

ACI Co Founder and Coach

 

Having played, worked and coached in an elite and sub-elite cricket environment for over 15 years, I’ve noticed some common differences in the habits and behavioural traits between players that make it to the top and players that don’t.

Here’s my top 7 signs that a player might be destined for higher honours….

  1. They’ve got a growth mindset and are constantly searching for ways to get better.

There are plenty of players who are happy with where they’re at, and that’s fine.

But elite players seem to never stop.

They’re always seeking out ways they can get better.

They never think “I’ve made it”. They always see room for improvement.

It’s a fine line because you don’t want to be too hard on yourself and you want to celebrate your progression and success, but as soon as you think “I’ve made it” you lose that edge of having a growth mindset.

  1. They welcome constructive feedback & criticism and take it well.

It’s not easy to accept anything but positive feedback.

The natural reaction to any type of criticism is to get defensive. I still battle with this myself…

I’m sure everyone does.

I think this one ties in with the above, having a growth mindset.

Cricketers need to become great at filtering. You’re going to get hundreds of different ideas coming at you from all different angles. I always encourage players to take it all in. Never dismiss someone who’s trying to help, but you need to become very good at filtering out what doesn’t work for you and applying what does.

Learn How Your Child Can Train With The ACI This Season

  1.  They don’t compare themselves to others and take full responsibility for their actions.

Cricket’s a really unique sport where it almost feels like you’re competing against teammates on occasions, and you need to get past that feeling as soon as you can.

I’ll put my hand up and admit that as a younger player I sometimes had thoughts like…”I hope he gets out so I can get a bat.” or “I hope he bowls badly so he doesn’t get a 5fa and I keep my spot.”

I reckon you’d be lying if you said not one thought like that has crossed your mind ever.

Elite players seem to take complete ownership of their actions and the cards they’re dealt.

If they don’t get a bat because they’re down the order, it’s because they haven’t prepared well enough and haven’t scored enough runs.

If the other opening bowler gets 5fa and they get 0. They celebrate their teammates success and review what they could have done better.

If they miss out on a selection…

They get better. Not bitter.

 

  1. They’re autonomous.

No matter what environment you’re in. School, university, work, sport…

If you’re not autonomous you’re going to be resigned to mediocracy.

Players with that ‘edge’ don’t wait for the coach to tell them what to do. They’re really clear about what they need to work on and they get stuck in.

Learn How Your Child Can Train With The ACI This Season

  1. They’re self motivated and consistently do the hard/boring things when no one is watching.

This is a big one.

It’s really, really easy to put in 100% when you’re in a team environment and when your coach is watching your moves.

That’s when 99% do and 1% don’t.

What’s not easy to do is consistently make good decisions when absolutely no one is watching.

That’s when 99% won’t and 1% will.

That’s when it’s easy to say “I don’t feel like going for a hit today”

Or to hit the snooze button at 6am when you’d planned to get up and do some sprint training.

That’s when it’s easy to say “I’ll have that second piece of mud cake.”

I really want to challenge every young player to be conscious of every decision you make. Because consistently making good decisions and choices can snowball into extraordinary results.

  1. They have a competitive instinct and drive to win.

Competition is healthy. Competition is good and competition drives you to get better.

At the end of the day, every Saturday morning when we get out of bed during summer, we’re all visualising a win.

Again, it’s a fine line. You don't want to encourage the ‘win at all costs attitude’ but you do want to encourage a competitive environment.

The players in our programs that really stand out are the ones that…

If you ask them to count how many times they hit the target they can tell you and exact amount at the end of the session.

If you ask them to count how many time they hit the ball through a gate they will.

If you ask them to count how many runs they get and ho many times they get out during a net session they do.

They have a healthy appetite for competition.

 

  1. They seek out environments that will be positive for their development and quality mentors.

Elite players put themselves in environments that are both positive & challenging.

They seek out experienced coaches and mentors.

They realise that not being in an environment like that will hold back their development.

That’s the type of environment that the ACI makes available to every player with the drive and commitment to become the best they can be.

Learn How Your Child Can Train With The ACI This Season

Authors: Nick Fitzpatrick & Joel Hamilton

ACI Co Founders and Coaches.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

“My child gets extremely nervous before he/she bats or bowls.”

“My child doesn’t have any confidence in their own ability.”

“My child takes failure really badly and gets very down on him/herself.”

“My child thinks really negatively.”

“My child put’s so much pressure on him/herself before a game.”

Let me assure you, you're not alone!

THE COMMON STRUGGLE

I’ve literally spoken to and had in depth conversations on the phone with over 250 parents in the last 35 days.

Parents wanting to know more about our programs and how the ACI operates, as well as to help me gain an understanding of exactly what their child is looking to improve by joining the ACI team.

In the process, I’ve gained a deep understanding of the current landscape in junior cricket.

Obviously each conversation has it’s own twists and goes off in it’s own direction, but I can tell you there’s an overwhelmingly common theme…

The one thing that comes up in nearly every conversation, the one thing that MOST parents say their child is struggling with and wants to improve?

The mental side of the game.

And my first question is…

How do we expect young players to know how to control their thoughts and emotions? Where do they learn how important the thoughts in their head are?

IS CRICKET MORE MENTAL OR MORE TECHNICAL

Cricket’s a funny game…

Unlike soccer, footy and rugby which are all fast paced, quite instinctive and don’t allow for much time spent thinking.

Cricket allows you to spend a lot of time inside you own head.

Waiting to bat or bowl, or even in between balls you have a set amount of time to think.

Yet we spend next to no time teaching junior players mental skills and how to use that time positively.

There’s always been the age old debate, how much of cricket is mental and how much is technical?

My personal belief is that it depends on the player and their skill level.

This might seem obvious but…

The better a player’s skills and technique are, the more I think it becomes mental.

The worse a players skills and technique are the more they need to focus on that.

But I think at a base level, all players need to be taught the basic mental skills.

I've always been a big believer in the mental side of the game, but after working under David Reid (Head Coach of Northcote CC in Melbourne) last season, I've gained an even greater understanding of it.

TWO TRUTHS ALL PLAYERS MUST BELIEVE

Here’s two truths that players need to believe before they can improve their mental game.

1. The thought’s inside your head have a direct impact on the way your body behaves and the way you execute your skills.

I want you to do a little exercise…

Think of a time where you were really upset, scared or worried about something.

Think about what thoughts were consuming you, how you felt, what effect it had on your body language, voice, mood, tone, attitude, energy and as a result how you acted and behaved that day.

My guess is it effected all of them and not in a positive way?

Now think of a time when you were really confident, positive, happy or excited about.

How did those thoughts and emotions effect the way you felt, sounded, looked and acted that day?

Positively right?

And it’s the exact same on the cricket field.

Now to my second point...

2. You are 100% in control of the thoughts inside your head.

Inside the ACI players only private Facebook group we run new challenges every week over the winter to introduce players to new and positive habits.

One of the challenges a few weeks ago was for players to write down every day, 3 things they were grateful for as soon as they woke up and 2 wins they had during the day before they went to bed.

The core lesson in that challenge?

You are 100% in control of what goes on inside your head.

I know I do, and most players and parents that participated in the challenge found it really easy to be intentional about what they were thinking about.

Once they believe those two truths, then it’s about working out exactly what techniques work best for them to allow them to control the thoughts in their head and exactly what thoughts have a positive effect on their game rather than a negative effect.

Now can you see how a simple shift in focus can have a domino like effect on your game?

Some of the tools that we teach players in our programs to help control their thoughts and emotions are…

  • Journaling - Helps players become aware of their thoughts and emotions and also to understand what thought processes work for them.
  • Positive Self Talk - Developing a set of phrases that get them switched on, focused and confident. Then learning to be aware of negative thoughts and replace them with their new power phrases.
  • Clear Plans - Helping them develop clear plans around their strengths.
  • Visualisation - Creates familiarity with feelings of success.
  • Breathing - Helps clear the mind and centre your thoughts.

CONFIDENCE

Every single player would love more of it.

Confidence is something I think most players believe is out of their control and comes and goes as it pleases.

Yes you can be training the house down, doing everything right and just not get the results on the field.

Of course that’s going to sap your confidence.

But I think in the majority of cases a players confidence can be directly traced back to how well they’ve prepared.

And what sets really good players apart is their ability to review their performance, reset whether good or bad, and start with a clean slate of confidence.

They then go about preparing for their next performance and doing everything they can and need to, to be 100% confident in their own ability the next time they take the field.

Most of the time a player lacks confidence on match day, it’s because they know within themselves that they haven’t done everything they could have done to perform at 100%

So next time your child seems like they’re lacking confidence, help them understand it’s completely in their control.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder and Coach

First of all, let’s establish what a drill is and why they’re an important part of your practice…

*Note* If you’ve read our batting drills blog you can skip the first two sections

WHAT IS A DRILL?

A drill is is a means of teaching or training through repeated exercise or repetition of an act.

A drill allows you to highlight a particular skill, decision, movement or mindset and perfect it by doing it over and over again in a controlled environment that gives you measurable feedback.

Among the many practice drills there can be productive repetition or unproductive, even harmful repetition.

Your ability to select the best drills to match your practice goals often determines the success or failure of your practice sessions.

THE VALUE OF DRILLS

Muscle memory is a critical part of achieving any sort of athletic success.

Throwing a ball, bowling it, hitting it, catching it and running properly are all skills that require freedom of movement. To perform these skills successfully, you must be able to react without having to carefully tell each muscle group what to do.

Muscle memory is the result of teaching the muscles how to perform a specific movement or skill and repeating that activity, through the use of controlled drills, until it can be done freely without methodical thought and your reactions become automatic.

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of what drills are, why they’re such a valuable part of your training and how important choosing the right drills is…

Let’s have a look at 3 great drills you can use to improve 3 completely different areas of your batting.

At the ACI, we like to categorise our bowling drills into 5 different categories…

Bowling Prehab Drills
Remedial Drills
Execution Drills
Training Challenges
Swing Drills

In this article we’re going to introduce you to a Prehab Drill, Execution Drill and a Swing Drill.

DRILL 1: Prehab Drill - Med Ball Slams

Purpose

Med Ball slams have now become a staple part of any elite teams training program. They’re great to use in preseason as a progressive exercise that help strengthen your core and stabilising muscles and therefore reduce your risk of injury. They’re also great in season to use before training or a game as part of your warm up routine.

Equipment

You’ll need a medicine ball (weight will depend on your age/strength, see below for quick guide) and it’s also best performed with a partner.

10-12: 1kg
12-14: 2kg
14-17: 3kg
17+: 3-4kg

How To

This particular drill is performed as a routine or series of progressions.

Note for all slams: Whenever I talk about throwing the ball into the ground, it’s important to use your torso and core to generate the power, not just your arms. Try to keep your arms straight and not generate all the power using your arms.

1. Warm Up Med Ball Slam

Stand shoulder width apart holding the med ball above your head with straight arm. Twisting your torso, throw the ball into the ground on your left side, catch the ball on the bounce and repeat on the right side. Move from side to side for 30-60 seconds.

2. Double Leg Med Ball Slam

Stand shoulder width apart with you hands above your head. This time have your partner stand about 1m in front of you with the med ball. Have your partner throw the ball at your hands (which are stretched above your head). The ball should be still on the way up and with a bit of force behind it when it hits your hands. The aim here is for you to have to activate your muscles to stop the ball.

Once you’ve caught the ball, stopped it, balanced and activated your core, throw it into the ground in between you and your partner, trying to bounce the ball to them.

Repeat x 6

3. Single Leg Med Ball Slam - Back Leg

This time you’re going to repeat #2 but with only your back foot on the ground.

It’s important that in the single leg slams you align your foot the same as you land when you’re bowling, so for me it’s about 45% and also keep your other foot off the ground the whole time, even after you’ve thrown the ball. Hop around if you need to when you catch and throw the ball. Always make sure your balanced before throwing. This is all a part of what helps strengthen your stabilising muscles.

4. Single Leg Med Ball Slam - Front Foot

Repeat number 3 but with your front foot only on the ground.

DRILL 2: Execution Drill - The Yorker

Purpose

Execution drills work by taking away other distractions and allowing you to focus on one thing, executing that particular skill.

In this case it’s the yorker and different variations of the yorker.

Equipment

You’ll just need an empty net, stumps, ball and 3 targets (I like to use a shoe)

How To

Set up 3 targets just in front of the popping crease, around where you’d bowl a yorker. 1 cone outside off for a right hander, 1 cone outside off for a left hander and I like to use a shoe for the straight one to simulate a batsman's feet.

Remember: It’s important to practice bowling to left and right handers in all execution drills.

Bowl sets of 6 and see how many you can get to hit the target or get close. Make sure you call which one you’re going for before every ball, otherwise it doesn’t count.

It’s a good drill to do with a partner or group to create a bit of competition.

DRILL 3: Swing Drill - Swing Around The Stump

Purpose

This drill works by giving you a measurable target and result of whether you’re swinging the ball. It helps you understand where you need to start the ball to get the ball in a good area when it’s swinging.

Equipment

You’ll just need an empty net, stumps, single stump, new ball (or ball that swings).

How To

Set up the single stump about 5-6m in front of the stumps.

Note: Below set up instructions are for right hand bowler.

For Out Swinger: Set up the single stump on about 5th-6th stump line.
For In Swinger: Set up the single stump on about 4th-off stump line.

Your goal is to swing the ball around the stump.

If you’re bowling out swing you’ll be trying to pass the right side of the stump and hit or just miss off stump.

If you’re bowling in swing you’ll be trying to pass the left side of the stump and hit off stump.

For more on swing bowling visit our Swing Bowling Tips Article

If you would like our free fast bowling technique checklist, click the image below to download.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - Australian Cricket Institute Coach