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My life has revolved around cricket for a number of years now and I’ve recently been reflecting on how grateful I am that it has.

It started in the backyard at a very young age, I remember taping up tennis balls and tugging at my uncle's shirt to start the Christmas Day match from the age of about 6 or 7. I was actually too scared to start club cricket until I was 11 because of the hard ball but never looked back once I did.

My involvement has become deeper over the years. I had a decade playing premier first grade in Brisbane and putting everything I had into playing for QLD.  My whole professional career to date has been in cricket on some level - coaching, working in game development for QLD Cricket and now running and growing the Australian Cricket Institute.

During my reflection, a few things stood out that has had a big impact on my love for the game.  If you’re a parent reading this, here are 4 reasons why you should encourage your child to play or stay in cricket.

RELATIONSHIPS

Without a doubt, the number one way that cricket has positively influenced my life is the people.

I’ve made friends for life and have developed so many amazing relationships that have shaped my life through cricket.

I’ve had coaches and mentors that have instilled beliefs, habits and values in me that have ve made me very confident in who I am.

I’ve made a professional network in cricket that makes me feel like no matter what my situation, I’ll be able to get by.

I’ve got a social network in cricket that makes me feel happy, excited and provides a lot of fun.

Cricket has made me feel emotionally, socially and financially safe.

Out of all the sports I’ve been involved in (granted, none on the level I am with cricket), I can honestly say that cricket is loaded with genuinely good people.

TRAVEL

My first cricket trip was to a QJC U/12 Development Carnival representing the Sunshine Coast in 1997 and it hasn’t stopped since.

I was really shy as a young lad and remember being a bit apprehensive before the carnival but immediately loving it once we got there. Surrounded by 10 other ‘cricket nuffies’ and a couple of coaches I looked up to and talking cricket the whole time.

I love travelling for cricket in any capacity - to compete, work or play.

Since that first trip, I’ve travelled to basically every part of Australia you can think of to either play or work as well as a handful of overseas counties including Sri Lanka, West Indies, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, India and Singapore (plus 10+ European countries while playing in England).

The great thing about cricket is, you don’t have to play for your country to do that.

Being such a global game and community, it opens up so many opportunities to watch cricket, play cricket or work in cricket around the world.

Those are two external factors I’m forever grateful for, the next two great internal characteristics I believe I’ve developed as a result of my involvement in cricket.

PATIENCE

The simple act of waiting for a bat or bowl as a youngster has a tremendous impact on your ability to be patient.

Of course, we all want to be involved in whatever we’re doing (cricket or not) and want our turn NOW, but that’s simply not how life works.

There are so many scenarios in cricket that force you to learn patience (or move on to another sport)…

  • Waiting to bat while your teammate scores a hundred.
  • Not getting a bowl while someone else is bowling the spell of their life.
  • A long hot day in the field.
  • Putting consistent performances on the board and not getting selected in the next grade up.
  • Learning that if you don’t perform you may have to wait for another opportunity.
  • Waiting around during rain delays.

This is something I don’t want to see phased out of the game but I think it has to an extent in more recent years.

Rule changes in junior cricket and the attitude of ‘everyone should get a go’, which I can understand the reasoning behind.

But I still think there’s something to be said for allowing the game to instil patience in players.

Patience is a skill that will have enormous ROI (return on investment) in every area of a players life, now and into the future.

RESILIENCE

Cricket is a harsh game.

If you’re not doing well individually, it can feel like there are 100 better uses of your time.

You get out for a duck and you’re sitting under a porch all day.

You get whacked for 20 off 2 overs and you’re standing out in the sun all day.

Getting dropped, dropping a catch, getting out to lose a game, bowling the last over to lose a game.

It can be rough!

I know it’s not limited to cricket, but I think cricket really highlights tough times because of the lack of opportunity. Most other sports give you an opportunity to make amends pretty quickly.

There’s a reason a lot of people insist cricket is a high percentage ‘mental game’.

Players that work through the tough times come out the other end with a strong sense of resilience which they can apply to other areas of their life (I certainly have anyway).

So there you have it!

Four pretty good reasons to encourage your child to start, or continue playing cricket and I hope they can look back, like me, in 10 or 15 years with the same sense of gratitude.

Our goal at the ACI is to provide players with experiences that foster all of the above (and we've got a heap coming up over summer). >> Check Out What's Coming Up at the ACI

I’d love to hear your experience and any other reasons you’d add to the list!

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co-Founder and Head Coach

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

 

The best time of the cricketing year!

Nearly better than Christmas, or maybe it’s part of Christmas

Choosing a bat can be a daunting and stressful process at times.

Not knowing where to start, who to buy it off, what type to buy and whether to think short or long term.

Below, we’ve gone a little bit deeper into the process to identify 7 steps that will make life easier so you end up with the best possible stick you’ve ever played with!

DISCLAIMER - Said steps are no guarantee to turn you or your child into a batting prodigy

1. Don’t Buy The Brand

A BIG no-no! Most players see the bats of their favourite players and automatically want that. I know it’s hard but really don’t be driven by the brand.

The brand of the bat is definitely not the reason why the best players use them. The players' skill level determines how many runs they make, not the type of bat!

So when making a choice on the type of bat to buy please don’t just pick it because of the pretty stickers! There's a lot more to choosing a bat then the aesthetics (the look), which brings us to the next step....

 

 

 

2. Make Sure The Bat Is Light Enough

There’s nothing worse than going to a session or seeing one of our programs have youngsters being limited in their skills because the bat is simply too heavy.

I’ve seen it so many times!

Young Jimmy, 12 year’s old or Sally just starting out and there is an absolute railway sleeper in their hand.

A simple test would be to have your child be able to hold the bat of choice out straight with their opposite hand for at least 15 seconds without it shaking or having to drop it.

Or alternatively, raise the bat straight out from your side out in front and back down. If they can do this with control and a fully straight arm comfortably 10 times then you are set!

3. Have A Budget Range

This is really important I think!

Either clearly state or outline what range you will be able to choose from.

This can then eliminate certain ranges or types of bat.

Having a price range or setting it before you step into the shop can make sure you pick from a realistic bunch but also lets you stay in your comfortable budget without emotion attached to it.

4. Select A Range Of Bats To Choose From

Once you’ve outlined the weight and price range of the bats, a wise option is to then make sure that you can pick a few of their top bats.

I’d suggest picking 5 bats that you like or would like to choose from. These could be all the same type or a range of different brands within the price range.

REMEMBER each bat can have a significantly different feel based on the shape and weight, so once you have the 5 you like the initial look of, move onto the next step........

5. Choose With Their Eyes Closed

Once the 5 or so bats have been picked out, bring them down off the rack and place them in a group.

Get your child to close their eyes and you or the shop keeper begin the process of elimination.

The reason why we get them to choose with their eyes closed?  Simple!  It’s so they cut out any bias and actually go on the feel and weight distribution of the bat rather than who makes them.

Continue this process until the favourite bat is picked.

6. Don’t Buy For 2 Years Time, Buy For Now

I know this seems like a very hard thing, but honestly, it’s really crucial to players performances.

As mentioned earlier, seeing these youngsters with bats too long or too heavy for them really does make life harder for them.

Their skill decreases, it’s harder for them to perform and play the shots, and their technique suffers as a result.

So I implore you, try not to buy for too far ahead. I know growth spurts are tough and sometimes they shoot up!  But if you do decide to go with a size up, make sure it's a lighter framed bat.

If the issue is budget, then I’d advise to go a slightly cheaper stick and replace it in a years time or whenever.

Don’t skip out on buying something bigger and heavier to suit them for further down the track in a few years.

7. Wear Gloves & Shadow Bat

Something that not many people think about is actually testing and holding the bat out with gloves on.

I’ve seen so many people come into stores to buy bats and they handle and go buy the ‘feel’ of a bat with bare hands!

Make sure they have gloves on to test the pick up of the bat and be sure to play a few shots with the bats too.

Shadow batting will help get the feel of the pick up also and determine how comfortable that particular shape and weight is for them.

Pick-ups can be all sorts of different. If you just go by the look you may get a totally different feeling bat so it’s really important to wave these around and spend a bit of time with them in your hand.

Oh and lastly a sneaky little tip for you.


Some of you may have picked up on me talking about the size of the bat, below is a size chart for you to compare what type of bat!

All in all, choosing a bat may take a little longer this way, but in reality, it’s a process that has great benefits.

Players will feel way more comfortable with their choice, and ultimately will have the correct weight and sized bat in their hand to use it most effectively!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

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