Your club games and the World Cup have plenty in common.
Having pride in your cricket means raising your standards as high as you can whatever level you are at. Here are 6 innovations that you can bring to your level even without the talent and time that the top players have:
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- Fielding is vital. All World Cup teams drilled like mad almost every day. The influence of baseball is growing. Teams now practice getting the ball back to the keeper quickly every ball, focus on backing up a shy at the stumps rather than not throwing and double teaming to get throws in from the deep or from one set of stumps to the other. How much quality, intense and realistic practice does your club do?
- Anyone can win. It's been a World Cup of shocks. Ireland and Bangladesh have beaten much better sides through their professional attitudes. They ignored reputations and concentrated on playing the best they could. To me this shows that you always have a chance in any cricket game. Simply keeping that attitude and sticking to your strengths is enough to win more than you might think.
- Wicketkeepers are critical. Keepers are more attacking than ever. They stand up to the stumps to all but the fastest bowlers and are seen as the centre of the action in the field like never before. A good keeper can keep a side alive in the field just through chatter and getting every ball returned to them effectively. Make sure they practice their skills hard.
- Be innovative. Michael Vaughan has been criticised for being too correct and not knowing how to work the ball around. That's a vital skill if you want to set targets in club cricket too. Innovation doesn't always mean crazy shots like the reverse sweep (which is rarely needed in club cricket anyway), but it does mean being able to push and run, manipulate the field and play big shots at the right time. If you are not working on these things in practice you are losing out.
- Never underestimate fitness. The West Indies is generally a hot and tiring place to play, even for super fit professionals. England in April may not quite be the same, but the fitter you are the better you play. Ask the tired looking Irish players during the latter stages of the Super 8 section (and they had been training as a professional team for months). The take away message is that you should never waste a chance to improve your cricket fitness.
- Stay fuelled. I know this from personal experience as well as from seeing a lot of World Cup cricket. If you are not fuelling up with carbs and protein before/after the match and enough cricket sports drink during the match you are reducing your immediate performance and increasing the time you need to recover. In early summer this is even more important while your body adjusts back to the strains of long afternoons running around in the field.
- Enjoy life. I never met Bob Woolmer, but I suspect he enjoyed his life as much as he could. Sometimes it's important to remember that cricket isn't the most important thing in the world, and Bob's death during the World Cup does just that. No doubt he would tell us to enjoy every game as much as possible within that context.