How many times have you thought "just watch the ball"?
While it's a useful shorthand for having good eye to hand coordination, the truth is a lot more complex than simply keeping your eye on the ball. Of course, it's not an error to try and watch the ball. It's just that there is also a lot more you can do to get better at hitting, catching and stopping the ball too.
We can make this easy by breaking it down into direct and indirect ways.
Chris Watling has some advice for keeping the pre-game warm ups fun and functional.
How many times have you turned up to play, found your position in the changing room, and then dreaded the thought of another dull warm up?
Perhaps you are not like that, but you can be sure someone in your team is thinking along those lines. And they might well have a point. It is important to keep practice and warm ups varied. Variety is the spice of life. Varied warm ups add spice to your weekend cricket!
Here are some of my thoughts.
Fielding in pairs.
These are common terms in the modern game. The best players playing with the best players in the IPL and the BBL have bought this to the forefront and we see some incredible fielding feats on club and school cricket grounds all across the world.
However, in the Regional T20 Semi Final of the National T20 Tournament the other day, I saw 2 separate collisions as two fielders both hurtled towards the ball with the same intention. To dive and stop the ball!
The commitment was huge and cannot be faulted. Yet, on another day we could have had a much worse outcome. One of the players cracked rib could have been a lot worse and the head injury could have been hideous.
So how can we help boundary riders to perform their skills and stay safe?
How can one man coach a whole club?
This question is one that many a coach has been confronted with over the years. You've just been offered a senior coaching role at a new club. With visions of one-to-one discussions with batters, technical drills for bowlers, ongoing assessments and fitness development programs, your creative brain is firing.
Soon after, reality hits.
You’re coaching all four teams. They all train during the same two hour session once a week. Many will come and go at different times, and of course they all have a world of different issues they want to work on.
Oh, and you're on your own.
No assistant, no helpers, and no parents who you used to call upon when you were working with the juniors.
Don’t despair, there are still a few ways for you to make your sessions productive as long as you and your players can work to some simple guidelines.
Here's a simple, fun drill you can use to help improve your reaction catching in areas like the slips, short leg, gully or even in the ring behind square.
It's named after the comic book superhero, Captain America because someone uses a Katchet as a "shield" to deflect the ball in random positions from one side to another.
There is a world of difference between bowling in practice, and bowling under match pressure. If you are going ot be a good bowler, you need to be able to handle the latter. So, here's a simple drill you can do to add pressure to your net sessions.
Here's the video so you can see it in action:
If you can't view it above, click here.
Even today, where there are a hundred different types of ball, good old-fashioned line and length bowling is an incredibly effective way to bowl: Hit the spot, do a bit off the pitch or in the air, take wickets. Simple.
Yet it's also a world of pain to do consistently.
Sure, you bowl in nets as much as you can. You put up with slogging batsmen and you take time to work on your action.
Then you get out into a game and bowl two four balls every over, wondering where it all went wrong.
What's going on?
It's not the puzzle you think, but it does take some work on your part. It's easy improve your accuracy (and pace at the same time) with a simple process.
Iain Brunnschweiler has a simple drill upgrade for you to get more direct hits.
Matches can be turned when you complete run outs: Direct hits will result in a wicket.
So it is important that you get your throws as close as possible to the stumps as often as possible. The problem is, when doing a throwing at stumps drill, we often simply use a 'hit or miss' outcome to gauge the success of the throw. This can result in a lot more misses than hits, especially in younger players. It's disheartening.
The good news is there is a simple way of setting more of a gauge to help understand progress and guide development.
It's been an exceptional start.
Millfield School started the cricket season this week with two unbeaten Festival wins in the Under 15's and Meyers XI (U18's). We have seen lots of evidence of the winter work paying dividends. A number of players have hit personal best scores or wicket hauls.
However, the rigours of match play exposed a couple of glaring holes in the U15s bowling attack from both a mental and tactical perspective. This forced Steve Wilson (Assistant Coach) and me to think on our feet.
In the first game of the festival, our bowling attack conceded 22 wides in only 50 overs.
In this exclusive video, IPL Talent Scout and Academy coach, Monty Desai has a drill to help young players work on picking length without premeditating.
In the video you will see him work with a player who makes a small technical error, and then corrects it through some focused work.
You can view the video here: