The season is fast approaching.
Winter practices can sometimes be a little bit safe. You aren’t always penalised for mistakes as you are in game context. Cricket matches are ruthless, so to prepare the players for the realities of success and failure within a game, I challenged the Millfield Cricket Coaching Team to come up with a ruthless net practice and for it to have a catchy title.
The coaches’ discussion
Dan Helesfay, our fast bowling coach, came up with the first idea “bowl a wide and go home”. Brilliantly catchy, easy to picture, very ruthless but obviously, only geared around the bowlers.
It got us thinking though.
After a few more innovative ideas, we stumbled upon a session which we will repeat again in three weeks. Its very tough, incredibly ruthless, puts players under pressure and was a lot of fun as well!
Welcome to the Hunger Games!
Whilst the players were undertaking their warm up with our Athletic Development Coach, Ty Chegwidden, I asked them to come up with the best fielders in their living memory in each multi-day or Test Match fielding position. It was a good task which gets the brain engaged as well as linking into the session that they were about to start.
World Leading Fielding Team
- Keeper: Chris Read
- Mid On: AB de Villiers
- 1st Slip: Mark Waugh
- Square Leg: Paul Collingwood
- 2nd Slip: Jacques Kallis
- Short Leg: Temba Bavuma
- Gully: Matthew Hayden
- Deep Square: Alan Donald
- Point: Jonty Rhodes
- Fine Leg: Brett Lee
- Cover: Gary Pratt – (I enjoyed that one)
- Third Man: Stuart Broad
- Mid Off: James Anderson
I then told the group that the fielding unit they had listed were part of our session tonight.
The bowlers had a combination of any nine fielders (and Read behind the sticks) at their disposal at any given time. They needed to set that world leading team field on the whiteboard when they bowled and then deliver their skills.
The batters needed to be aware than any half chance was tonight, always out!
The rules and regulations of the “hunger games”:
- Batsmen shall l be eliminated from the net when they had offered an opportunity for dismissal – they would then be asked to bowl
- Bowlers will be eliminated from the net when they had delivered a combination of two wide or no balls (this was to increase pressure on discipline).
- When the second “extra” ball occurs then the bowler pads up and waits for their chance to bat.
- The cricketer is expelled from the training environment (wait outside) when they have been eliminated from both batting and bowling disciplines
- We would reconvene at 18:55 at the end of the session for group review and then have an individual review during the next 1:1 session with their respective coach.
- The World Leading Fielding team DO NOT miss half chances.
- The winner is the last person standing, just as in the film “The Hunger Games”
As you can imagine, once the Hunger Games regulations were up, the atmosphere changed.
Players went into their quiet modes, batters started to stretch, bowlers started to do their specific bowling warm ups with more precision than normal, the tension could be cut with a knife.
Pure focus and concentration on each face and within each participants body.
Bruno’s Hunger Games story:
Bruno was the first to leave the training environment.
He had not bought his batting kit so could not bat and bowled 2 no balls, the second of which came after 7 minutes 14 seconds of the session.
Bruno later reported that he had become very tense in his body and very quick in his thoughts and movements as soon as the reality of the Hunger Games had hit him. Bruno has since started to pressurise himself in practice more and more by setting goals and is now practicing some breathing drills to help control his nerves and anxiety when the pressure mounts.
He also does now not forget his batting kit!
Another seven players were eliminated from the Hunger Games by the time we got to our 1855 group review and reflection. The times (min:sec) are listed below.
- Player 2: 10:18 (Spinning all rounder)
- Player 3: 11:52 (Fast bowling all rounder)
- Player 4: 19:03 (Off spinning Top order batter)
- Player 5: 19:40 (Opening Bowler/Lower order)
- Player 6: 27:04 (Keeper/Batter/Offspinner)
- Player 7: 35:21 (Opening Bowler/Lower order)
All the players felt under pressure. They felt that they would be accountable for any error they made, just as in a match.
They all felt as if their anxiety levels rose. Some reported that they found a way to cope with this feeling and others said that they never recovered at all.
- We discussed slowing yourself down, both mentally and physically.
- Using your breathing to create calm from within.
- Narrow down your options to one or two scoring options or deliveries types that you will focus on until the feeling of anxiety subsides.
Each player then worked on these strategies in their subsequent 1:1 sessions with their specific coaches.
Congratulations to Tom Bevan and Tom Diamond (Dan Helesfay’s pick in the pre-Hunger Games betting) for surviving Millfield Cricket’s first ever Hunger Games net. See the pair below in a montage that features one of the players leaving the training environment after being eliminated and my pick of Brad Currie, packing his kit after elimination.
It’s a top session, fun, highly competitive and exposed some gaps in players understanding of managing themselves to perform under pressure. As a result, we are now incorporating some relevant and specific mental skills training into our 1:1 sessions with the players.
The next Hunger Games is only a week away.
Who will prevail?