This summer at Millfield School we ran an experiment in improving the power hitting of the 1st XI players.
It was a new concept to us, and I wanted to see how well it would work. Here is what we did; and what we found out on the way.
We introduced “Back-loading” and played around with shifting weight in the set up as a batter waits for the bowler to release the ball.
Think less about cricket and more about baseball where the position provides a strong, athletic position to hit the ball.
WHen you back-load you alter your setup position so your weight moves onto the back leg in preparation for the ball being bowled. This is different than waiting with equal weight distribution as a batter would do in normal circumstances like multi-day Cricket and most balls of a 50 and 20 over game.
But cricket is not baseball, so how did we adapt it?
Cricketising the back-load
We experimented with a number of loading options and ultimately the players established that they could effectively 'cut and paste' the baseball batters bottom half on to their own cricket batting in the set-up.
Here the body weight is loaded onto the back leg ready to launch forward and the front foot is largely un-weighted in the set-up.
From this position, the aim is to move forward into the ball.
The easiest balls to hit were the low full toss to the ball bouncing up into the top of the bails. You can strike the ball in an arc anywhere between mid-off and square-Leg.
In our experiment, the ball would disappear to various parts of this arc. Direction was determined by the height and line of the ball at ball contact:
- Outside off stump at mid stump height - either a full toss or bouncing - would fly over mid-off
- Outside off stump at waist to chest height ball would be hit between mid-wicket and square leg.
- Low, straight full tosses would be dragged wide of mid-on and go a long, long way
After striking the ball, the players weight ended up fully on the front foot irrespective of pace or height of the delivery at contact.
Stride length was the only varying factor in the bottom half mechanics of the sequence with the stride being shorter on bouncers and short balls.
The swing path of the bat using the back-load went from low to high, from outside the line of the body (offside) to high and fully extended above your eyes on the on-side. Sometimes the batter would end up with only the top hand on the bat at full extension after making contact with the ball with both hands on the bat. This showed a full Swing through the ball.
Players found that they could shift their swing path if a bowler sent the ball outside off-stump. The batter would swing more conventionally through the ball, aiming through the Off-side.
We had significant numbers of off-Side boundaries from back-loading. Don’t feel that this is only an On-side way of playing. It’s a power resource you can use to hit both sides of the wicket.
Counteracting the short ball
The obvious thought was that - unlike baseball - a bowler can deliver a much shorter ball to prevent the swing. So, then we experimented by delivering random, shorter balls to counteract the back-load concept.
However, the batters committed forward, established a base earlier with a shorter stride and pulled the ball off of the front foot, Ricky Ponting style.
The result was the ball going way in-front of square and flying over the boundary.
Developing the technique
A couple of the players became so good at this that they used it as a resource that they could deploy at any time of the innings, not just in the last overs of the innings.
An example of this came in the National Schools 1st XI T20 Final. The 16 year-old opening batter felt that the opposition opening bowler was really nervous, so chose to back-load the 2nd ball of the game. It sailed 85 metres into the trees and the marker for the rest of the game was set down.
Have a go using the batting hitting drills I presented previously, combine great drills with innovative technique and watch your power hitting take off!