Asking Questions: Using Other Peoples Experience to Become a Better Coach
I have been lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time around some incredible people and cricketers over the years. Yet that time would have been wasted if I hadn't learnt the benefit of asking questions.
Questions allowed me to gain and develop my understanding of cricket, coaching and life skills essential for peak performance.
We all have brilliant people around us at our cricket clubs - and in opposition teams - from whom we can gleam information. This helps us either with our own game or for us to help others get the most from their cricket. Here are a few of my favourite questions that led to some really good options that I have since used with numerous cricketers over the years.
To Malcolm Sketchley (1st change bowler for Ventnor CC circa 1989); "Sketch, why do you bowl cross seam deliveries at times during certain spells?"
Answer. "Garas, I bowl cross seam on flat pitches when the ball is not offering any swing. The ball either hits the seam and stands up causing extra bounce or hits the leather and skids through. The ball ends up at the batter at different times off the pitch which disrupts his timing of the ball"
This simple piece of advice was passed on to Stuart Broad when he came into the England set up as a teenager in 2006. Stuart has since mastered the cross seam delivery and uses it fantastically in both subcontinent conditions and on flat pitches.
To another Malcolm, this time Malcolm Marshall in 1993; "Macco, What can fast bowlers do when the ball isn't swinging yet we need to pick up wickets?"
Answer: "I have had success in the past when the ball has stopped swinging by bowling around the wicket to right handed batter and creating an angle across the blade of the bat that allows me to retain my slip fielders and gully in place. The outside edge of the bat is then bought into play"
To Glenn McGrath during his County stint at Worcestershire. "Can you give me an example of your bowling plans to top batters in Test matches?"
Answer: "My plan is as simple as it comes, I aim to hit the pitch on a good length as hard as possible and get the ball to reach the stumps around the top of off stick, if it swings it's a bonus". I then said "and then?" and Glenn repeated......"I aim to hit the pitch on a good length as hard as possible and get the ball to reach the stumps around the top of off stick, if it swings it's a bonus"
I use this story when I see a talented bowler hitting a variety of lengths and as a result lose the ability to build pressure and win the war of patient and attrition.
To Kevin Pietersen: "What enables you to play in the way you do?"
Answer: "I don't fear getting out, it rarely comes into my mind at all. When I walk to the wicket as a number 3 or 4 batter I have a 90% chance of being dismissed. It's going to happen so why should I fear that? It’s all about what I do before I get dismissed so my focus is on having fun and scoring runs!"
Now that simple piece of advice would have helped my batting so much. How many of your players could KP's mantra help?
To Richard Ellison; Australia's tormentor in the 1985 Ashes and now Master of Cricket at Millfield School. "You encourage fast bowlers to bowl bouncers in the 1st few balls of a warm up. What is the theory behind this approach?"
Answer: "Garas, it ensures that a bowler gets through her action and as a result means a full range of movement through the whole bowling system. This fast tracks the loosening up of a bowler and then they can adjust to hit length with a loose body rather than a stiff one"
This is a great tip for bowlers in their initial bowl-throughs before a game. Otis Gibson, the West Indies Coach and ex fast bowler, always bowled a bouncer 1st ball of a spell to help him loosen up as well. In practice, it doesn't matter if the ball bounces 3 times to the MIT man or keeper as it loosens up the bowling system perfectly.
There is no such thing as a stupid question, be brave and ask away!