Last night, the team I coach ran an experimental practice drill to improve game sense and raise the intensity of net practice. Here's how it went.
The drill is called "Battlezone". It's been around for a few years but we have never tried it before. It's a variation on middle practice that adds intensity and focuses on fielding skills and batsman running skills.
The drill is set up like this:
- On a middle wicket, set out a net that is strung 30 yards out, going all the way around the 30 yard circle. This is the "battle zone". If there is not suitable netting available then use cones.
- Have plenty of balls available.
- Two batsmen, two bowlers, a keeper and three fielders take part in the drill. It lasts for 4-8 overs per batting pair.
- The batsmen attempt to score as many runs as possible while the bowlers bowl and the fielders field.
- The batsman bat "normally" (they can hit boundaries) but are encouraged to focus on hitting the ball on the ground and rotating the strike rather than big hitting.
- The bowlers and fielders attempt to bowl dots. Bowlers bowl in pairs in overs. When not bowling the other bowler fields at mid off.
- If the ball goes out of the zone, grab another ball and continue. Collect the balls up only at the end of the drill.
If that is not clear, there is more about battle zone cricket here. And a video here.
Here are my reflections on the drill.
Positive battle zone cricket
- The small-sided focus allowed players to know exactly what they were working on rather than just hitting balls.
- The open nature got players out of the net mentality of not picking gaps or running runs. Players were developing skills outside of a net situation.
- It was more realistic than nets, but also fast-moving enough to stop players feeling like were wasting training time.
Negative battle zone cricket
- As more players arrived and joined in, intensity dropped. It may be that this is a short drill that only lasts a few overs before reverting to more traditional training.
- Some batsmen chose to try and smash the ball, especially later when the bowling and fielding lost intensity.
- Set up and take down was very time consuming. I would probably go with only cones for faster set up and have someone collect balls, possibly those waiting to bat.
- Too many people fielding also make it hard to rotate the strike, which was the point.
Overall I would call it a success as it got the team out of nets. To make it even better I would suggest small groups of about equal skill, a shorter session and an better opportunity for reflection after the session to make sure players were focused on developing skills.
The biggest point for the coach is that it's OK to try new things. They will not always work perfectly, but just getting us to do something different is a vital part of continuing development, especially with older players.