In part 1 we looked at the mental and nutritional parts of your match day. Today we get to the nuts and bolts of how to warm up, including the best drills for your needs.
Warming up: Preparing the body and mind together
After getting your routine in order and eating right, it’s finally time to start your final countdown to the match. The qualifying laps of cricket.
That begins with the general part of your warm up, which is a warm up for both body and mind.
Traditionally a warm up is used in sport to get your heart rate up to game level. This works well in team games like football where you know you will be running around for a set time period.
This is fine if you are fielding, opening the bowling or batting. But what if you are a bowler whose side are batting first?
The warm up is still crucial to your preparation because it’s more than just getting your muscles warm. It’s also about getting your game head on. That is to say, you are psychologically prepared for the match, even if you have nothing to do immediately at the start of play.
So how does a good warm-up ramp up the body and mind?
The outmoded approach is to slog round the oval a couple of times and do a couple of static stretches; it doesn’t take an expert to realise that this is hardly perfect preparation for running a quick single or throwing down the stumps.
A more progressive approach is to think about the way you are going to move during the game and get those muscles warm, stretched and ready to fire.
These are split into:
- Mobility drills: dynamic movements that stretch the muscles to improve the mobility around your ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder.
- Activation drills: movements that ‘wake up’ muscles by moving them in ways they are going to move when you are playing. The important ones are glutes (for running), core anti-rotation and the trapezius, serratus anterior, rotator cuff and rhomboid muscles involved in shoulder movements (for bowling, batting and throwing).
Some movements combine the drills to get a bit of both.
You can get examples of mobility and activation drills in this article and this one. There are literally hundreds more movements. You can get an in-depth look at it in this product.
There is no need to do all of them, just a few to make sure your body is ready at a physical level.
Some coaches still advocate a ‘general’ warm up before these drills; 5-10 minutes of general activity that gets the blood pumping. Personally I’m not a fan because it’s hard to control how to do this. For example, a game of football or touch rugby can quickly get competitive juices flowing and everyone is gassed before movement preparation has even begun.
These drills would be enough before moving to the last part of the warm up.
However, to really ramp up the intensity you could finish this section with some sprint drills. This makes sense because if you sprint during a game to chase a ball you want to have at least practiced it a couple of times. 4-6 10m sprints with about a minute’s rest should do it.Make it competitive to really get people sprinting hard.
Blow away the technical cobwebs
Now you get more cricket-skill specific.
This part can be done a number of ways but as a coach I like to split it up like this:
- General fielding skills work. Fielding drills that cover; one hand pickup and underarm, chasing, throwing, high and flat catching. As much as possible do this as a team. Keep them short and sharp to avoid boredom and fatigue.
- Batsman’s throwdowns/nets. The batsmen can then move to having throwdowns or a full net if time permits. Pair up non-batters with top order players as batting buddies. It’s important to avoid confusing yourself with technical adjustments. Save that for practice sessions and work within your limits for this match.
- Bowlers target practice and close catchers. Bowlers who want to get loose should mark out a pitch and bowl at a marker on the ground as a target. At the same time, the specialist close catchers can do their work (there is rarely a clash). Again, avoid any technical stuff; stick to ‘just bowling’ or ‘just catching’ and save the error correction for practice.
- Team game. Finish with a team based fielding drill that is high energy and gets everyone involved. This is a great example so is this.
The order is not fixed, but finishing on the high of a team game is a good way to get the energy up before individuals vanish off to have some final reflections before the game starts.
Wicketkeeper’s can be tricky as they need at least 1 person to help with drills if not 2. Plus the keeper is usually required by the bowlers who are doing target practice and the fielders during drills. One solution is for the keeper to do his drills with his batting buddy. Otherwise he may just have to bite the bullet and come out 5 minutes early to get through his warm ups first.
Take a moment to reflect
Finally you head back to the mental side before play starts.
You will already know what the team is doing, and what your role is. Reflect on this as much as you need to. For example if you are about to open the batting, take some time aside to visualise your innings and calm yourself down. Opening bowlers on the other hand might try hyping themselves up to get more pace.
For some people, finishing with a general positive statement helps keep them in the right frame of mind.
And then you will be physically and mentally ready for play to begin: A finely tuned F1 car on the grid and ready to go racing.
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