Are You Batting Like A Blind Poker Player? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Are You Batting Like A Blind Poker Player?

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I am a very part time spinner. Yet I've claimed the wicket of many a first-class batsman in the nets following an ill advised premeditated advance towards one of my oh-so-friendly off breaks. Lets be honest, we haven't just heard about this, we've all been there ourselves.


You've skied the ball into the air, or the bails are off, and despite your best intentions you are trudging back to the pavilion. Even the best are reduced to seeming simply average when they premeditate shots.

It's a little like playing a hand of poker without looking at your cards; you may know the situation of the game, you may even know your opponents mentality and style of play, but playing without looking at the cards is a decision shrouded in doubt.

The most important piece of information is clearly the location of the ball. So if you make the decision of which shot you're going to play before you have any clues as to the location and style of delivery being bowled, your chance of executing the shot is significantly reduced.

So if we shouldn't premeditate, what should we do?

Pre-planned Batting

Pre-planning is a more sensible approach.

For instance, facing up against a quick. Most of us probably pre-plan a number of our shots. Opening the batting, even before the bowler has began his approach we will have probably made a decision that we will or wont hook if we get a short ball coming towards our head. Similarly, we may have already decided whether or not we're going to try and jump on a full swinging ball outside off stump before the opportunity even arises.

So how do you go about installing a greater sense of pre-planning into your innings? It's a case of using the information that is in front of you.

You could be battling through a tough period of play where the priority is survival, or maybe the only option is runs and the next ball has to go to the fence somehow. The situation is the first question to assess.

From then on a string of questions can spin off in a variety of directions, but ultimately they should leave you in a situation where you have an idea of how you may play any particular ball from the oncoming bowler, so if you get a bouncer, a full wide deliver, a length ball on leg stump, you've already made an educated decision as to how you may play it.

So what about that spinner and aimlessly running down the pitch?

After analysing the situation you could make the decision that you're going to wait for the moment when the ball is flighted a fraction more from the bowler's hand before you set off down the pitch. As you advance you may be looking to give yourself a little space because the space is over mid off and extra cover. You may even choose to have a "plan b", so that if you don't quite get to the ball then you're going to adjust and push towards a vacant space in the ring, or even go all out defence and try to smother the ball completely.

Ultimately its a case of having a number of options and fully understanding them. So don't wait until you to get out into the middle, practice it in training, create game situations and see if you can make your pre-planning processes as automatic at your off drive.

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Is this kind of thing under-coached? We are all so focused on technique in practice. Game sense is so crucial because context alters every decision you make as a cricketer. But how do we develop game sense?

I've seen this happening lots of times at my club. Batsmen just don't care how many times they're out in a net session! Even our wicket keeper gets a few wickets on ocassion. (And he won't mind if I say that he is the worst bowler alive)

For most of my school career I've been a number 11 batsman. Now I'm capable of coming in at number 5-8 in school cricket. I made that jump in a matter of one season. How?

Instead of just playing shots and skying balls in the nets I used tactics, or more accurately put, I used a tactic. "Make runs and don't get out" If I fail, I'm going to feel like a failure and probably be miffed about it all day, but to this day I have not failed! And I'm talking about 10 net sessions, each consisting of about 50 balls. I realized that to survive and make occasional runs you have to concentrate, focus, never let your guard down. Quinton de Kock is in great form, 3 hundreds in a row in ODI's for the Proteas, but when he started out he was just another average player. I've noticed only one thing different in the new De Kock, his concentration and handling the pressure in the middle. His partner often has to have a talk with him to calm him down, just to ensure that he keeps his cool and doesn't get out playing an unneccesary shot. I think that the key to batting is to be able to have that talk with yourself in the middle.

Look at the scoreboard, assess the situation, look at the field setting, concentrate hard on the ball, try to judge it's length as soon as possible, you have a millisecond to decide what shot to play, choose the best shot, and nothing can go wrong unless the unexpected happens. That's the only other reason why the best batsmen have gotten out, there are so many variables in cricket that you can never be 100% certain of something. But if your conentration is flawless and are determined, ready for anything that comes your way, confident... You can be 99% sure of anything.

SOMETIMES the bowler has to generate a ball that you just can't play. A "ball of the century"But unfortunately for the bowler, you can generate some batting he can't bowl to, ANYTIME!

Yes, I think it is seriously under-coached. A lot of successful players do it without even realising it, a lot of unsuccessful players don't do it and don't even know they should be.

How do we coach it at club level? I'm not sure. I've tried to put together some advice on how to put together a personal batting plan for the batsmen in our club, but its quite difficult to be too prescriptive because everyone needs to figure out their plan for themselves based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Any ideas DH?

I don't think you can coach it like technique, you have to create an environment for players to suss it out themselves. That means making nets as situational as possible, and having middle practice.