Scoring a hundred in Twenty20 is a rare skill. So how did Ajinkya Rahane - the latest ton-up hero of the IPL - practice to make sure he could nail three figures in 60 balls in Bangalore?
The truth is that there is no magic to practice for any format.
If you do it right and you do it enough you will improve. Your tactical approach may adjust to the game length but your basic style and technique doesn’t change much. That understanding of mastering the basic is why Rahane is a success in all formats in Indian domestic cricket.
And one very simple way to make the most of practice is to use throwdowns.
Rahane uses throwdowns extensively, and it’s not just a matter of convenience. The throwdown is a perfect combination of bowling machine and bowler while taking away the bad elements of both.
Bowling machines, while accurate, give no clues to where the ball is going (like bowlers do in their action and release point). Meanwhile bowlers don’t allow you to practice specific shots due to the variations in line and length.
Throwdowns allow you to see the release point (even with a Sidearm) like a bowler, but have accuracy that is much closer to a bowling machine.
Of course, there is still a place for machines and bowlers, but incorporating more throwdowns at the expense of other methods is a practice method that will help you gain success.
How to organise throwdowns
You don’t need much for a good throwdown session. Combine some balls and a batting buddy with a clear goal of what you want to get from the session is enough.
And that goal is the important part. If you want to practice your on drive, make sure you are getting leg stump half volleys. The natural variation of the thrower means she will occasionally get it wrong, but even that is good because you are on your toes to be reacting.
On the other hand if you are doing tactical practice (for example with BATEX) then the throwdown partner has more variation available to her. If she gets good with a Sidearm she can even give you spin and swing deliveries.
Get creative in group net situations and make the most of the resources you have available. You might need to use tennis balls on the outfield for technical throwdowns - there is no shame it that even at the highest level - or you can allocate a throwdown net if you can occupy the bowlers in the remaining nets.
For me throwdowns are an underrated element in the success of players like Rahane. Of course you need talent, hard work, luck and more to hit an IPL hundred, but the simple secret to starting on the road to becoming a classy cricketer is doing the basics to perfection every time. Throwdown gives you the best chance.