It’s a heartbreaking moment as a batsman. The bowler serves up a half-volley, the ball pings from the middle of the bat.
The ‘keeper probably compounds your pain with a quick “you missed out there, I thought that was a gimmie” perhaps you let the frustration get to you and end up playing an injudicious shot (let’s be honest, we all have had an ugly heave under pressure), miss it and get out.
All because you hit the fielder and not the gap.
The limitations of technique
In the old days the solution would be clear; get in the nets and tighten up your technique. When the bad ball comes you will put it away. A coach stands at the back of the net telling you to keep your elbow up and play in the proper way
But modern coaching thinking says something different; that traditional technically correct shots are too limiting. It’s now all about being effective rather than using the copybook. Technique limits you to one way of playing.
So coaches develop coaching drills that push technique aside in the aim to develop players with a different mentality. Outcome is more important than process. In other words, look to hit the gaps in any way that works. Who cares what it looks like?
An example of such a drill is this one.
Sold as a drill for young players to learn how to hit the gaps instead of the fielders it sounds like a cracking idea. A good coach will make the right technical corrections along the way and the player gets more adapt at outcome-based thinking.
The problem with outcomes
Outcome based training is a sensible approach. As the cliché goes; it doesn’t matter how, only how many.
Drills that focus on outcome are an essential tool in any practice toolbox.
But focusing on outcome at the expense of technique is just as bad a mistake.
Take the drill above where you have a cone at square leg.
The get the ball through those cones you have to hit across the line with less than the full face of the bat. There is no way to hit it otherwise.
It’s easy with a tennis ball and a bobble feed. In a match a player with an excellent eye and timing may get away with this, especially if the bowling is poor. A lesser player will get bowled or LBW when he or she misses the ball playing with a face half its normal size.
On the other hand, the textbook recommends that you on drive that ball through mid on with a full face of the bat. If it is wide enough down the leg side you can flick it through midwicket safely. The arc is much wider and the risk much lower.
The drill reinforces bad technique in the blind effort to make outcome the only thing that matters. But good outcomes come from batting with a technique that gets you the most runs at the lowest risk for the type of game you are playing.
Which is best?
The solution is to practice both outcome and process.
Do your technical drills and get as perfect as you can. This will give you a solid base of high percentage shots to work from.
At the same time, put yourself to the test at hitting gaps by trying to hit balls through cones as the drill above suggests, but do it in a more specific way.
For example, feed the ball (with a tennis ball, cricket ball or bowling machine) outside the off stump and just set up off side cones. Hit the ball to each cone in turn, making sure your bat is pointing as a checked drive towards the cone you have hit the ball. The widest cone should be roughly at cover’s left hand.
Do the same for the on side with the widest cone at midwicket’s right hand.
You can then learn how to hit the ball in these areas with a full face, rather than swinging across it.
For more tips and drills on scoring effectively with low risk, check out Gary Palmer on PitchVision Academy. Gary has over 20 years coaching experience and has helped many young players to success in cricket.