The faster you can change direction, the better a player you will be. Running between the wickets, catching and chasing all become easier the more agile you are.
How do you gain that extra gear?
Agility training is actually simpler than you may think. The key to it is to make sure you make time to build agility training into your fitness plan. It's not enough to simply do fielding drills that involve a lot of running. That is a key element but there is more you need to do.
Cricket agility is about progression
There is a critical progression agility training that meshes in with other types of fitness. Athletic development pioneer Vern Gambetta (who has since consulted with the ECB, showing he knows his cricket fitness too) originally developed this progression.
- Basic Coordination. Most people think they have coordination and skip this step. Don't. It's critical to ensure you can balance at the edges of your centre of gravity (both while moving and standing still).
- Basic Strength. A regular trip to the gym to do basic exercises from a standing position that strengthen you legs and core is the place to start. Make sure you include single leg work too. You can also integrate the basic plyometric progression here to develop your elastic strength.
- Maximum Strength. After you have a basic level of strength (say 12-24 weeks) you can shift to heavy compound lifts (squats, deadlifts) in the 1-5 rep range. There is a direct crossover from the increased force you can generate with stronger legs to speed and agility on the cricket pitch.
- Agility Drills. Simple non-cricket drills you can find in the SAQ Cricket book can be started as soon as you have a good base of strength and coordination. As you get fitter and stronger you can move to more complex drills but keep the sessions short and intense (don't increase the time) and always towards the start of a training session.
- Agility Drills with Reactions. When you have good agility within the basic drills, you can add a reactive element. Repeat the drills but add in a reaction element like having to catch a ball. You can also try these drills while tired, say at the end of a training session to more realistically simulate the end of a match. It's vital to be strong, coordinated and well practiced in the drills before attempting this.
- Game Situation Drills. The final step is to incorporate agility training into your fielding and batting drills. Bowlers could practice caught and bowled chances for example. All drills must be as close to a real game situation as possible and at the same speed.
You can see there is some crossover between each progression. For example, basic strength and basic coordination training can be done over the same training period and basic agility drills mesh well with strength training. You can also go back to the more basic work to rotate your training and keep it fresh.
You may also have noticed that the progression works well moving from off season into the summer. The basic stuff can be done in the winter and the drills can get more difficult and specific the closer you get to the start of the season.
How much agility training is right for cricket?
As you are integrating agility into fitness and normal team training sessions it's quite easy to do a lot.
If you are focussing on increasing your agility you would aim to have 2 or 3 sessions a week with some part of your agility progression in it. At other times of the year you would not be doing any specific agility work but still be able to maintain it through strength and coordination work.
Whatever level you can train at, there is a simple way to get more agile by following this progression. Don't leave this important aspect of your training out if you want to get to the top of your game.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008