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.
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.