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-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.