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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

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

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