Adapting cricket drills: Improving skill practice | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Adapting cricket drills: Improving skill practice

This article is part of a series designed to show you how to adapt cricket drills for your needs. To see the full list of articles in this series click here.

Drills that are designed to groove skills already learned rather than teach from scratch are the focus of this article.

Here we are going to assume that a player can perform the skill and have a feel for it, they just want to get better at it.

So we are moving on from the total beginner to someone who is at least intermediate and may indeed have a lot of experience and success under their belt.

However, no matter who the player is, the principles remain the same.

Feel the groove

Practicing a skill is different from learning it initially because you already have the muscle memory; you just need to make slight adjustments to iron out technical errors.

Coaches know this as grooving.

Grooving is effective and powerful at correcting errors. So when you are adapting drills with the aim of grooving technique you can do a number of things:

Overload the memory

When I was learning to drive a car, one of the skills required was to be able to reverse round a corner without hitting the kerb. I was getting pretty cocky at doing it when my instructor took me to the steepest hill he could find with a corner on it.

I was shocked. Surely no examiner in his or her right mind would make the manoeuvre so hard? Why was he doing it?

“If you can reverse round here, everything in the test will seem easy.” He told me.

And that principle works for cricket too.

Take the on drive. It requires you to stay in a balanced position so you can leave room to swing the bat towards mid on. A common error is to plant the front leg and close the way off. It’s a tough habit to get out of.

But if you open up your stance so much you are standing facing the bowler (like Shiv Chanderpaul) you Have to stay open and you can swing the bat freely.

A couple of goes with the ridiculous stance and suddenly you get it.

When you go back to your normal stance, staying open seems easy.

Bowling can also use the technique. Ian Pont suggests the bowler, in his or her delivery stride, tries to ‘touch the sightscreens’ at each end of the ground to get that feel of a full muscle stretch.

Of course, you would never do that in a match, but you don’t need to. You just need to make what you normally do feel easy: Like reversing round a corner on a steep slope.

Decrease the stability

This is really just another way of overloading muscle memory, but there are so many variations you can come up with its worth keeping separate.

With each of these ideas, the better you get at doing the skill in an unstable environment, the better you get when you go back to the reality of stability:

  • Reduce the base of support: Perform drills on one leg rather than 2 because it requires greater balance.
  • Use an unstable surface: You have seen the stability discs and balls on sale to coaches? These are designed to add instability to drills. The main benefit is around the core so avoid lower body drills (like playing shots with your foot on a disc) and stick to things you can do to increase instability at the top half.
  • Switch hands: If you really want to be humbled, try batting or bowling with your weaker hand. Most people look utterly foolish. Not only does it make the correct hand seem much easier it also reminds you what it’s like to be a beginner.
Be dynamic

While there is a place for increased static positions in learners (like bowling from the set position) or those with serious flaws, the general rule is simple:

The more dynamic the movement the harder and more realistic it makes the drill.

That means coming in off your full run, or batting from your normal stance against a moving ball.

Of course for grooving drills you don’t need any extra pressure of thinking tactically, so:

  • Bowlers should perform dynamic drills without a batsman
  • Batsman should perform dynamic drills against a bowling machine or throwdowns

In the next part we show you how to maintain skill under pressure situations using carefully controlled drills. Click here to get the newsletter and stay up to date. 

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All your coaching methods are designed at coaching robots that is why England have no produced a single batsman since Dave gower with any flair .Not one Enlish batsman has scored 30 test hundreds and the last one to average 50 was Ken Barrington. Your last bowler to take 300 Test wickets was Bob Willis. Surely a coching system should be designed to create player withh flair and to have some who achieve greatness. It is no wondwer that you require players from other countries to shore up your system

I guess we all have different theories. I don't coach elite level players so I wouldn't be able to comment with any expertise on what you say. I'd love to hear more about your views and experiences. We are a place for discussion, not dogma. Fancy doing an article for us on your view on how to coach cricketers?

I too would love to hear more from shaps. Personally, I believe England are doing really well on the international arena but it would be helpful to hear otherwise.

I would like to know how shaps feels he/she can improve the coaching methods; he/she is obviously an expert on the matter and probably a highly credited coach. Perhaps we can all learn a lot from an article.

I would also like to know which country he/she is from and, as their international team must be doing a lot better than England, we could probably learn a lot from analysing their achievements and coaching styles.

I would also like to know why history is so important to shaps.

I must admit I'm not quite sure how the points raised prove anything. I would say less than 50 men in HISTORY average over 50 in Test cricket. There are even less with over 300 wickets or 30 hundreds.

But even taking from this small sample, how do these stats measure flair? Gavaskar, Boycott and Dravid are great players with high averages and loads of centuries but not noted for their flair. In fact I would say those three are about as "robotic" as they get. They are just just really really good at it.

Plus of course, it take time for a system to produce cricketers who have scored that many hundreds or wickets. To criticise a system that has been used for less than 20 years is not giving it a chance anyway. So the whole point seems moot to me.

Well, the game is a totally different animal these days and the aim is to stop the opposition batsmen from scoring centuries [so I thought (!)]. To me, too many centuries mean an imbalance of skill. Seeing your guys scoring single or double centuries is fun for a while but it soon wears off... if you are a lover of the game and not of just winning that is.

I thought I saw quite a bit of flair in England's performance over the past few days; especially Flinn's most lavish wide Laughing out loud. Flair does not have anything to do with winning or scoring centuries!

On the other matter, I guess shaps' own country is not so multi cultural as England and are not so tolerant and welcoming to those who wish to join. Not being English myself, I appreciate the country's ability to accept others and adopting them as their own. It's capacity to envelop those returning to the land of their ancestors is probably not shared with other countries, who perhaps hold an eternal grudge... such a shame for them but I guess shaps comments come, possibly, out of a different culture.

i agree with liz i am from india and i also train here the main difference between the young cricketers in india and england what i feel is that indians rather do "it" in a more boring way as it seems to you as we can train the same shot for hours and in abroad they try to do everything in less time

Coaching is obviously necessary, but too often a coach effects to greater change in a player, destroying their natural technique; the technique that carried them to elite level. Alistair Cook had a nightmare summer after overhauling his technique, but as soon as he changed it back he scored a century, and has only continued to do so. Jimmy Anderson had his action changed by Troy Cooley, and suffered a drastic decline in form and confidence, but now he has reverted back he is the worlds no. 3 bowler. Pietersen is also a similar case. There a lot of coaches these days, and possibly they try justify their position by effecting to drastic a change, when only subtle ones are required.

Absolutely varun. As anybody who has followed me will know, I completely encourage flair and, perhaps a little unorthodoxicity [as long as it is safe]; it is what makes the game interesting. They will also know how much I hate clones. However, flair is nothing if you do not have good, solid skill and technique. To this end, David's drills and coaching tips are essential and as a great coach himself, he knows what he is doing.

However, we only progress by having open minds and if shaps knows better, we are waiting and ready to learn.

Too true anon. The number of times I have heard, "[This player] is great! I don't know how he does it but I'm sure I can improve on it". Sad

As long as the action is safe... if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it Laughing out loud.

Don't forget that I am talking about coaching players at club and school level. Not obviously brilliant cricketers playing at international level. Those at club level often have severe flaws technically, in their mental game or in their fitness levels that drilling has been PROVEN to fix. In that respect, these drills are not a matter of opinion, but one of fact.

I will of course bow to others when it comes to coaching elite international players. There is some crossover of course, but these guys have very different needs.