Adaptability is a tough skill to coach. Here's a simple way to change nets to coach your players to become adaptable to different conditions.
The example is from a great practice at Millfield School the other day. It started as a "monitoring and self reflection" net. Each player would write their intention on a white board before they started then evaluate how they performed (out of 10) at the end of the session.
So each player came in, wrote their intentions on the board, they were clear, concise and personal. From this info, the coaches were able to put similar intentions together in competition with each other.
Let's follow a competitive pairing through their 25 minute session:
One lad wanted to practice his power hitting and ramp shot at the end of the innings. Another wanted to work on his slower ball and yorker options: The perfect competitive match.
Assistant Coach, Steve Wilson added some brilliant spice to the otherwise basic practice.
Wils decided that one of the net surfaces would be the bare sports hall floor (fast & skiddy). Net two was a normal cricket mat.
Net 3 which was another normal mat, but this time Steve turned the mat upside down to reveal the black, rubber underside. This sub-surface was really grippy.
The ball would stick in the pitch and accentuate any spin or cut that was applied to the ball by the bowler's fingers. The pitch would also bounce more steeply.
Each batter and bowler would compete against each other for 10 balls on each surface. A field was set on the iPad and the players would compete on each surface against their whiteboard intentions.
The learning from the session was significant.
Each surface offered the bowler and batter a different challenge.
Fast net challenge
Net One (fast and skiddy) meant that slower balls were less likely to grip on the surface. The batter could use the length of the ball to execute his power hitting technique with relative ease. The pace of the ball off of the surface mean that the batter had options that could access boundaries all around the ground.
Almost 360 degrees.
The bowler worked this out after a couple of balls. He then aimed six of the 10 balls into yorker length. Some were into the stumps, some outside off stump. This bought the ramp shot into play, yet limited the angles that the batter could strike the ball.
The bowler changed his field according to the line of the ball that he bowled.
The batter got one ramp shot away for 4 when fine leg was up, yet struggled to get anything more than a single off the other attempted yorkers. There was one bouncer (with fine leg back) which went through to the keeper and the rest were slower balls that scored between none and two.
Standard net challenge
In the "normal" net, there were attempted yorkers, no bouncers, six slower ball options and one fast length ball that went the distance!
The fielders were set slightly straighter. I could see the sense in the bowers decision making. There would have been at least 2 catching opportunities in 10 balls as a result of softer surface and excellent slower ball options.
Upturned net challenge
Meanwhile on the upside-down mat net, the batter was ready. He set himself for the slower ball anticipating that most balls on the slowest surface would be bowled with pace off rather than pace on.
He stood deep in the crease and picked the ball up either side of square leg with pull shots and power hits.
The bowler was forced to go to yorkers on a surface that lent itself more to cutters and slower balls. This was a result of the batters proactive game plan. When the bowler over pitched it went for six!
It was great viewing. Even better in review.
It is so vital to be able to think clearly and play appropriately on different surfaces.
Adaptability is king!
Surfaces are different from ground to ground and day to day. Some pitches are different pace from one end to the other on the same day. The ability to adjust and flex are vital commodities in the modern game.
Can you design a practice as good as Steve Wilson's to help develop fast thinking and adaptable cricketers?
Let me know.