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

Adapting cricket drills: Improving skill under pressure

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.

Every team has a net player. Perhaps it’s even you.

The net batsman creams everything around like everyone is bowling pies. The net bowler is capable of, at will, bowling a series of testing out-swingers followed by an in-swinging toe crusher.

These are experienced players who have good enough techniques to do well in practice.

Put them in a real match and they go to pieces.

The difference is pressure.

Walking the plank

Pressure changes everything. It’s the difference between walking along a plank of wood that is a foot off the ground and one that is 100 feet off the ground. It’s the same skill but the latter seems a heck of a lot harder.

The solution is simple; add more pressure to your practice sessions by adapting your drills.

If you were playing the plank of wood game you wouldn’t work on your technique for walking over the plank, you would make the plank slightly higher. Once you were confident you would go higher again. Before you know it you are walking confidently over 50 feet. And once you can do 50 feet you can do 100 feet no hassle.

So how do you ‘make the plank higher’ in your cricket drills?

1. Forget about technique

When you are looking to increase pressure during drills you must forget about technique because you can’t learn or groove skills under pressure.

The goal of the drill becomes about putting already learned skills under as much pressure as possible. That means ignoring technical errors (we all have them).

But these drills are not for beginners. If the player is technically so poor he or she can’t do the drill then you need to take the pressure away and chain or drill him to get standards up, the reintroduce the pressure.

2. Put something on the outcome

Pressure is the sense that an outcome is more important than normal. Stress comes when you feel your skills are not up to the level to deal with that importance.

In other words, to have a confident swagger you need to know for sure you can perform under pressure.

One simple way to do this is to add importance to a simple outcome.

Say you want bowlers to improve their accuracy.

Under a no-pressure situation you would have them bowl in an empty net at a target (say PitchVision or just some cones/chalk), carefully watching where they pitch the ball.

You can add pressure to this easily by saying it’s a shoot out competition. Each bowler gets 5 balls. Hit the target and you get a point. Miss the target and you don’t get a point. Most points wins. If it’s a draw you take it to “sudden death”.

Suddenly a simple target drill has become a serious competition between the bowling unit and no bowler wants to lose (no matter how laid back he pretends he is).

You can do the same with batting and fielding. A great fielding pressure game is simply hitting up catches to players in turn. Every catch sees the player through to the next round. If you drop it you are out and a failure scorned by the team and forced to do menial jobs. The winner is, of course, hailed as a hero.

3. Create match scenarios

A more complex way of putting something on the outcome is to play match scenarios; setting up realistic situations in practice that reflects what happens in a game.

The simplest example of this is during nets when a batsman’s time is almost up. The coach or captain will shout “You need 18 runs from the last 6 balls” (or similar). The batman slogs it while the bowlers complain that it was never a boundary.

That’s OK, it works (especially for the bowlers) to rack up pressure.

But we can do even better than that, and you can see some more examples of middle practice games by reading this article.

4. Learn your ‘pressure response’

So far we have looked at practical ways to add pressure to drills. But just adding pressure isn’t enough; you need to think about how you are dealing with it too.

So when you are drilling to deal with pressure, take time before and/or after each session to talk through how players responded to that pressure.

There are only 2 negative responses:

You think you are going to fail putting doubt in your mind.

You physically respond to the pressure (sweating, heart rate, etc), which puts you off.

There are techniques for dealing with both of these responses in the online coaching course “How to use mental training to boost your game”.

Learning these techniques will allow you to apply them when the pressure is on. Practice is the perfect place to try them out.

In the last few parts we will examine some ways to improve fitness through cricket drills, starting with stronger, injury resistant bones, muscles and ligaments. Get the free newsletter to stay up to date.

image credit: Kiran Raja Bahadur SRK

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