We all love watching cricket right?

Some like watching all forms, some like watching certain forms over others.

Most people view watching cricket as a form of entertainment in their down time, but what if we could turn watching cricket into a valuable learning tool to improve our own cricket?

Well, maybe you can…

I think the first port of call is to actually be present and conscious of what you’re watching. That means your focus and attention needs to be on that and nothing else (the same as when you want to learn or get better at anything).

Here’s five ways you can improve your own game by watching cricket (live or on TV).

1. PREDICT WHAT THE CAPTAIN WILL DO

A great way to learn is to put yourself in the shoes of the best.

What would Paine do? What would Williamson do? What would Kohli do? What would Root do?

When you’re watching cricket see if you can predict what bowler the captain will bring on, when they will bring them on, when they’ll make a change, when they’ll declare, when they’ll go from pace to spin or vice versa.

You’ll get instant feedback on wether you’re thinking the same as them and start to absorb their way of thinking.

Also ask yourself why you think they did or didn’t do it.

You can even turn this into a little game and write your predictions down and keep score. Challenge a mate or family member to play along with you.

2. PREDICT WHAT THE BATSMEN/BOWLERS WILL DO

Watch the batters and bowlers in action closely.

See If you can pick up on their strengths and plans and then predict what they’re going to do next over or even next ball.

Predict what type of ball the bowler will bowl or what shot the batsman will play.

This can be a bit easier in shorter form cricket when there’s a bit more action and plans can change quickly.

It’s doable in test cricket - plans just tend to go for longer periods.

Doing this will make you much more aware and you’ll be learning how elite players go about it.

Again you can turn this into a little competition.

 

3. TAKE NOTICE OF AND REVIEW PLANS

Every time a bowler finishes a spell or a batter gets out, see if you can summarise their plan and review whether it worked or not.

It doesn’t have to be a novel, an example would be something like this;

“David Warner’s plan was to pounce on width outside off and shorter balls. He looked hesitant to drive unless the ball was very full and was looking to score when the bowler erred in length or got too straight. He was leaving as many balls as possible in the corridor. The plan was working well, he was scoring freely but lost his wicket when he went away form his plan and tried to drive a ball that wasn’t quite there.”

You can do the same for bowlers based on their lengths, lines and field settings.

We've got some great resources and training videos in our online academy - another great way to improve your game without going to the nets. You can learn more about it and grab a free trial by clicking the image below.

 

 

4. LOOK AT FIELDS AND ASK WHY?

It can be a bit harder on TV because you can’t see the full picture sometimes but do your best. It’s a good exercise for when you’re watching live.

Analyse every single field that is set at the start of the over and ask why?

Why is there a fielder there? Why have they not got a fielder there? Where are they looking to exploit this batter?

Consistently doing this is going to train your brain to be able to problem solve and develop plans out in the middle.

5. TAKE NOTES

Whenever you’re doing the above four, take notes!

Two reasons…

  • The act of writing something down with pen and paper has been proven to increase retention. Meaning you’re going to learn and remember more.
  • If you do it for a whole summer you’re going to have an awesome little playbook of lessons and learnings from elite players - gold!

All pretty simple stuff but the purpose behind all five activities is to increase your engagement and awareness of what’s going on. The simple act of that alone will improve your game.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder & Coach

In my opinion, creating a training environment that is as close as possible to the one we experience out in the middle is a critical contributor to the way a player performs but it’s something that’s largely overlooked.

I think it’s an area that cricket can improve dramatically (and is in the process of doing so), not just at junior level but senior level as well.

I’ve picked out 5 really common training behaviours that we see and I’ll explain why the create bad habits in a players game.

 

 

1. TOO MUCH WORK ON THE BOWLING MACHINE

This is is a big one…

It happens at team/group training sessions as well but I think a big contributor to this one is the huge influx we’ve seen in players just getting one-on-one coaching.

One-on-one’s are great for certain things and in limitation, but I think they’re very limited in the things you can do and they don’t allow a player to learn how to compete (that’s another story though.)

Let’s focus on bowling machines.

Some of the bad habits and negative effects of too much time on a bowling machine are…

  • Moving before the ball is released.

Because you generally know where the ball is going to land you tend to start getting into position before the ball is released. Do this in a game and you’ll get yourself into big trouble.

  • False sense of security.

Because you know where the ball is going to be and you’re moving early, you generally strike the ball well on a machine. This causes a false sense of security because it’s completely different to facing a bowler.

  • Inability to read bowlers cues & slow reaction time.

The above mentioned causes an inability to pick up on bowlers cues - when they’re bowling short, when they’re bowling full, how they’re holding the ball. It also has a negative effect on your reaction time.

All that said, I’m not completely against using machines. They’re great for certain things…

Technical work and getting your shapes right on a certain shot.

But don’t over use them!

PRO TIP: If you’re not facing bowlers, use a side-arm. Far better for your reaction time and ability to pick up cues.

2. BOWLING WITHOUT MEASURING YOUR RUN-UP

I know sometimes circumstances don’t permit, but when possible all bowlers should be bowling off their full run-up - the same run up they use in a game.

Too many bowlers just run in from wherever at training or go off a ‘half run’.

I also believe every single fast bowler should measure their run-up with a tape measure.

How do you expect a stepped out run-up to be the same every single time? It’s simply impossible.

Garden tape measures are 25 bucks. If you want to improve your bowling consistency it’s a no brainer. Get yourself one.

Bowling off an inconsistent run up creates the following habits and problems…

  • Lack of fluency.

There’s just no way you’re going to develop a smooth, fluent and consistent run-up if you’re training and playing with a different run-up all the time.

  • Bowling no-balls.

This one is pretty obvious. Your strides are going to be different, you’re going to be taking off from different positions and that will contribute to the likelihood of you bowling no-balls.

PRO TIP: Buy a garden tape measure from Bunnings, measure your run-up to the millimetre and use it every time you bowl. Your run up will be more fluent, you will bowl less no-balls and it saves time in a match (measure both ends before the game starts).

3. BOWLING WITHOUT STUMPS & UMPIRE

The stumps and umpire act as a visual cue for when to start your take off and delivery stride.

If you don’t have at least stumps and better still an umpire (or something to imitate an umpire) you’re going to develop the bad habit of…

  • Late entry into delivery stride.

This will lead to bowling more no-balls and then feeling like you have to hold back on your run-up in a match.

Have you ever felt like you’re steaming in at training and then feel like you’re bowling at 75% in a match?

PRO TIP: Use anything you can to imitate an umpire - chair, witches hat, agility pole with a hat on it, kit bag…anything is better than nothing!

PRO TIP TWO: If you are bowling noey’s in a game and feel like you have to hold back, ask the umpire to take a couple of steps back, this can help by giving you an earlier cue.

4. BATTING WITH NO FIELDERS

Obviously you can’t have fielders in the nets (if you can have centre wickets jump at it!).

But what’s the next best option?

Use cones, stumps, pool noodles, chairs…whatever you can to imitate fielders in the nets.

Two benefits….

Bowlers are thinking and getting into discussions about their fields (developing tactical & game awareness).

More importantly, it gives you, or the batsman a visual cue on where the fielders are and where the gaps are.

Now you have to actually think about where you’re hitting the ball which is completely different to hitting the ball anywhere.

Too many players hit the ball anywhere and everywhere in the nets without any accountability or thought of where the field is.

That causes an inability to hit gaps.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard…”I feel so good in the nets, why can’t I score runs in the middle.”

That’s why.

At all of our Junior & Elite Youth Academy sessions we get bowlers to set fields with coloured cones in bat v ball sessions (infield and outfield colour).

PRO TIP: At the very least get your bowlers to set their fields verbally when you go in to bat. Then take a mental snap shot.

 

5. BATTING WITHOUT A PLAN OR PURPOSE

A bit of a follow on from #4.

A lot of batsmen walk into the net session with absolutely no plan or purpose around what they want to get out of the net session.

Are you practicing opening the batting?

Are you working on closing out an innings?

Do you want to practice ticking the scoreboard over like the middle overs of a one day game?

Not only your plans but the bowlers plans are going to be vastly different in those situations.

  • Inability to develop plans.

If you go in and just ‘bat’ your ability to develop plans and react/adapt to different situations of the game is not going to be at an elite level.

Go to training with a clear plan on what you want to work on that session.

Make sure you let your bowlers know before or as you’re going into bat so they can also work on their plans. Win win.

  • Lack of competitiveness.

Going in to just ‘bat’ is easy. There’s no pressure, there’s no competition.

Giving yourself scenarios is going to create pressure and teach you how to compete.

We want to develop competitive players.

PRO TIP: Be very clear on your role in the team and work on scenarios that you’re likely to find yourself in on a Saturday to create the “been there, done that” feeling when you go out to bat.

If you’re anything like me, a bowler that bats in the bottom 6, you’ll be practicing going in and doing the top 6’s job fairly regularly.

Haha jokes! Love the top 6 vs bottom 6 banter!

Anyway, I hope that’s helped!

Would love to hear which of those training behaviours you think you can apply to make a difference in your game.

Drop a comment in the box below or flick me an email on [email protected]

Written by: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder & Coach

 

Knowing all the skills of the game is important, though it's understanding when and how to use them that is crucial to peak or maximum performance.

A lot of time in junior development is spent on implementing and refining the technical and skill aspects of the game, which are obviously core components in playing cricket.  But, if you were to do up a chart, pie graph, map or otherwise it becomes apparent that there are significant other elements that are important in becoming the best player they can.  These complimentary elements or skills are often hugely neglected in favour of skill and technical development.

Think of it this way…

Most domestic clubs train twice a week for up to 1.5 hours, with the majority of that time spent on batting and bowling in the nets with a little bit of fielding. Of that time spent in the nets, how often do we mimic real-life, game situations?

As a coach most of the time (junior and beginner age groups excepted) you have no control over what the player does on the field.

Can you stand next to little Johnny when the team is batting and needs 8 an over and tell him where to hit each ball?

Stand next to Sally when she is about to bowl her over and tell her where to bowl each ball in a tight finish to a game? No.

We need to make sure that kids are getting these learning outcomes from the get go.

Our role is to make sure that the environment we create allows the children learn from their successes and mistakes while giving vital input and asking questions so they are able to take in this information and digest it, but also self experiment and discover what works for them.

Here at the ACI we have come up with a checklist of the 5 most important area’s/changes that you can make to your game to ensure that you or your athletes can take the next step to unlocking a greater knowledge of their game, and how to be successful in any situation the game throws at them.

 

  1. Understand the Stage of the game you are in

At any Stage in cricket there's three stages each team can be in. Attack, Contain or Defend.Alternatively, call it Red light, Yellow Light, Green Light or Stage 1, 2, or 3..

 

(stages of play guide)

 

It is important to make sure you and your team mates/ children can identify where they're at in their game. Are you 3/12 batting and looking to score at 8 an over...? (probably not) or are you bowling and the team is 0/40 off 3?

Having an understanding of what stage the game is in will help you dictate the tempo of the game and will get you out of tough positions, or alternatively know when the best time is to take the game on and finish it off.

 

  1. Developing Clear Plans

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a player will help you develop game plans for all types of bowlers/batters and/or scenarios.
This ensures that when you are in a high pressure situation during a game, you already understand what you are trying to do/achieve and this makes you much more confident in your abilities and your ability to execute a clear plan.

In all ACI programs, we spend a lot of time on this aspect of the Tactical Awareness concept.

 

  1. Learning from your mistakes

An extremely important aspect. Every time you don’t succeed, make a mistake or don’t win a game/situation it is a great learning opportunity.

 

Consider what you did well, what you may have struggled with and identify areas in the game/performance that made the outcome what it was and find ways to rectify this so that the same mistakes and result do not happen again.

 

A great way to do this is self-reflection. Next time the situation or game doesn’t go so well ask yourself this..

“What did I do well?

What area did I struggle with and why?

What could I do differently next time?

How can I train to rectify this?”

 

Having this continual self-reflection gives you the ability to dissect things that you did and didn’t do well. Identify areas or situations/decisions that give you success, but also identify areas of weakness.
Continual self-reflection gives you the ability to then plan your training focuses going forward.  Rectifying any problem area’s in your game, but also identifying areas of strength and working both to continue your progression and ensure your consistency and performance continues to excel.

 

  1. Training with a purpose to make games easier

Ever heard the expression “Train Hard – Play Easy”?

 

The best way to continually improve your game awareness and develop your own strengths is to put yourself into situations through your training over a range of match style simulations and scenarios.

 

Too many players coast through a net or training session… Have no real purpose or goal they want to get out of their session. For example, batting in the easy net all the time, or bowling with a new ball every session for the whole season.

 

Ways to improve your skillset is to vary it throughout your training and create different challenges or competitions to simulate certain game scenarios.
Struggling to bowl at the death? Set your field, bowl with an old ball and do a 3-minute cardio exercise going in with some fatigue to see how you react and execute under some pressure and tired legs…

 

Or perhaps you may struggle to accumulate and score in the middle overs of the game? Set yourself a target for 3 overs to go at 7 an over. Have the bowlers set their fields, and play out this challenge. You are never going to really emulate the pressure of a game situation with everything on the line, but the closer you can relate your training to match-like scenarios the better.

 

The only way you will learn the craft is by doing it, self-reflecting (win or loss) and continuing to adjust accordingly.

 

 

  1. Follow in the path of those who have done it before.

Having mentors who have gone through it all before gives a great insight into their preparation and handling of certain situations or scenarios. Picking their brain, asking questions, hitting balls with them or even just playing on the same field all have something unique to offer.

 

Our junior academy programs give all members access to highly skilled coaches, mentors and industry experts who have all been involved in the game for many years and are accustomed to best practices and have the experience to take their game to the next level.

 

Surrounding yourself with people of knowledge and power entrust you with the necessary skills to create a smarter, more consistent, higher performing cricketer. Remember, skill only gets you so far, it’s knowing how to use these skills in the right time and correct stage of the game that will make you more successful.

 

All the best!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co Founder and Coach