Former England batsman Graeme Gooch is known for advising players to score “daddy” hundreds: When you get your eye in, take the chance and score very big.
It’s sound advice that as a coach you have no doubt given to players. Yet the way we practice is the opposite of the way we score big runs. It’s no wonder player’s score a pretty 25 and get out to a lazy shot.
In a normal net players bat for 10 minutes, do no running and face a range of bowlers bowling different balls every few seconds. It encourages pretty batting for a short period and slogging at the end.
When a batter makes a big score the routine is totally different.
Overs are bowled, there are long breaks between balls and - even in a one day game - you will be out running in the middle for over 2 hours to get to a hundred.
As a coach you need to find a way to better bridge that gap in the time available.
Never stop working on technique
When it comes to batting, you can’t work on technique enough.
Perfection rarely comes in the middle, but you should be striving to get there in practice. The more you work to develop excellent techniques, the less likely batsmen are to get out. This works because:
- Good technique prevents common faults creeping in
- Good technique develops a player’s internal confidence
- Good technical practice delivers highly specific conditioning to batting
If you can keep your shape after an hour of hitting tennis balls, you are more able to do so in the middle, and you know it.
So work on technique at every training session.
The ideal is 2 hours a week of pure technical work in the off season. You can get away with less during the summer.
However, if you have an hour a week with the club under 15 batsmen maybe you only spend 10 minutes on technical development. The point is, use whatever time you have to get as close to perfection as possible.
Middle practice is a great way to mix up in-season training and helps players get in the rhythm of a match without as much pressure as playing.
It needs to be carefully set up and well organised, but batsmen get longer at the crease while bowlers get to bowl in spells.
The downside is that you need a lot of space.
You can’t do middle practice without a middle on which to practice. If the club groundsman/curator is a little precious you could struggle to even get an old wicket on which to play. Plus, there is no way to do middle practice indoors at winter nets.
If all you have is nets then the last option is perfect.
Change net practice
There is a way to combine net practice with all the good parts of middle practice, and add in some specific conditioning work for batsmen.
It’s called BATEX, and it’s been designed by a cricketer working on his PhD at the University of Western Australia – Laurence Houghton.
BATEX is an audio cue that is designed to develop both fitness and batting rhythms by using running between the wickets in nets. Players use BATEX to get the feel of what it is like to bat for that long period, and score that “daddy” hundred.
It’s simple to use in one-to-one, small groups and even squad training because all you require is a portable CD/MP3 player in your normal net session. It’s flexible enough to be used in a 20 minute session or for over 2 hours if you have the time.
Players listen to the cues, follow the instructions and get better at batting.
BATEX changes training from “having a hit” to making real progress in net sessions.
And right now it’s available on PitchVision Academy with full instructions on how, why and when to use it. You get the BATEX files, a 41 minute audio guide and a 19 page e-manual featuring the science behind BATEX, a full year training programme and instructions on how to customise use to your needs as a coach (or a player).