Will playing attacking cricket get you better results than playing the percentage game?
You can have both.
Fast bowling, big spinning and hard hitting are fun, but cricket is a subtle game. Even Twenty20 has nuances. The best brand of aggressive cricket you can play is the selective type. Aggression is a mindset, not an on/off switch.
It's important to know what it means to be aggressive in your cricket. Saying you will play aggressively is a good soundbite but is it always practical and how do you apply the theory?
1. Find your freedom
Look at one of the finest positive cricketers of modern times: Viv Richards. He played with an uncluttered mind. He looked to score quickly. When he saw the chance he took it. He was a genius with the bat, but his mindset is exactly what you need to copy if you are to become more positive in your game.
Try to bowl fast, try to spin the ball as far as possible and look to hit the ball as much as the game situation allows. In short, learn how to stay relaxed and confident under pressure by doing what you know works. This will give you the freedom to play positively.
2. Select your spot
Imagine one of the least aggressive match situations: Playing out for a draw. There is no benefit to aggressive play in that situation surely?
As many Test match commentators tell us, it's often fatal to try and defend everything instead of scoring at your normal rate. Your play could easily start to feel unnatural to you and you end up losing your wicket. You can even be aggressive in defence.
Aggression is not a choice between slog/play properly. It's a continuum where you can select any spot between the two depending how you want to play. It's very rare you will find yourself at either end of the spectrum.
The answer is to assess the situation and be as positive as you can be given the circumstances. That may mean learning how to work the ball into the gaps while batting or learn some variations when the ball is not doing what you want it to. There is always something else to try.
3. Practice aggression
It's not uncommon to go into the nets on practice day and slog from the first ball. As you have gathered, this is just one very limited form of aggressive batting. There are several more effective methods.
Practice games are far and away the best way to practice an aggressive philosophy. You can set a match situation (end of innings, middle overs, opening few overs) and a target for runs or wickets. Make it challenging and you will be teaching yourself to play positive.
You can also work on skills that allow you to play more aggressively. Seamers can groove their actions to get every ounce of pace, spinners can learn how to accurately bowl variations (like googlies, arm balls or extra flight) and batsman can develop new shots.
4. Sledge (with caution)
Sledging, rightly or wrongly, is linked to aggressive cricket. There is no reason why it should be but used carefully it can be very effective.
The key is to pick your moment. Some players respond to comments by improving their play, especially if they are feeling confident. The right thing said at the right time can undermine a player's confidence though. As a game of confidence this can make all the difference and even influence the rest of the team. You know you are on top when a side are quiet in the field for example.
I'm not suggesting you take the negative side of sledging too far here. The key, like all aggressive cricket, is to be positive in your intent. Just swearing at someone is not as effective anyway. Be precise and original.
5. Get stronger and faster
Imagine a player had a choice to workout and eat healthy or not. If he did put in the time in the gym he would be lean, strong and athletic. If he didn't he would be overweight.
The former choice can allow him to take more quick singles, bowl faster and hit harder in all situations. Not bad for a couple of visits to the gym a week.
Despite the incredible weight of evidence in favour of this, some people still fear strength and speed training. They are worried it will somehow upset their delicate cricket skills. This is a shame for them, but a boon to you.
You can use their fear to take yourself ahead of the pack and become the most positive, attacking cricketer you know.
Combine your new found physical attributes with a strong mental approach and you will be streets ahead.
Photo credit: andrewhall