Bob Woolmer's "No Feet" Batting Drill | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Bob Woolmer's "No Feet" Batting Drill

One of Bob Woolmer's batting drills was the one-legged drive which I featured right at the start of the Coaching to Win series.

This gem of a drill helps players who lead their forward movement to the ball with their heads. (Not your Pietersen, Amla or Gayle who lead with their feet but more like the Bell, Ponting and Strauss).

Bob would ask the batter to not move their feet, yet wait for the fuller ball to bounce and move their head towards the line of the ball.

What does this drill develop?


Late contact

Because the batter can't step forward into the ball, the more advanced head position encourages the player to let the ball come all the way up to him before making contact.

We now know that any player who leads with his head needs to make later contacts in order to control the ball and gain maximal power in his shots.

This drill encourages late contact. So if you have a player who tends to hit the ball too early then this one for them.

Tracking the ball into contact

7 out of 8 batting dismissals occur through error in visual perception. The batter is:

  • not focusing on the ball optimally
  • has not been able to watch the ball into contact effectively
  • struggled to access the ball with their most preferred motion tracking eye

Guys like Bell and Strauss need to track the ball into contact by playing with their heads down. Coaches will notice that the top of the helmet rather than the grill will be most prevalent when the ball is struck crisply.

This allows the batter to track the ball all the way into contact. If the head doesn't lead and doesn't nod the ball into contact their their field of vision will be looking above the height of the incoming ball. If you can't track the ball in its last couple of yards then effectively, we are playing blind.

Increased timing

Players will report that they are surprised how much power they can generate considering their lack of foot movement.

By letting the ball reach them, many players will be able to use the pace of the ball, are able to meet the ball with a square bat face and as a result they will feel the the sensation of timing.

Drill progression

After a while, the batter will have mastered the techniques of:

  • an exaggerated head lead
  • -nodding the head into contact
  • -making late contact.

These are all good things for players that lead their forward movement with their head.

The drill progression is to retain these elements of technique and then add in foot movement.

Ensure that the player understands that the foot is only there to stop them from losing balance rather than to reach the place on the pitch where the ball bounces.

The final result

  • Increased timing
  • Increased control of the contact zone
  • Increased timing
  • Repeatable performance

Give it a go in throw down sessions, using bobble feeds and as part of your bowling machine practices.

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If you can't track the ball in its last couple of yards then effectively, we are playing blind.

I have a discussion point/question.

What is human reaction time? 0.1s optimistically? What distance does this correspond to for fast bowlers? A quarter of the length of the pitch?

Tracking the ball over the last quarter of its journey gives us important information for subsequent shots, but in terms of helping us make contact with this particular delivery, the information comes too late to be acted on.

In advanced baseball hitting, I was coached that you either hit the ball or you watch the ball all the way: you can't do both at once. The pitches you watch give you information that you then use to hit subsequent pitches. I use the same concept when coaching cricket batsmen, does anyone else do this?


does sangakkara lead with his head or feet?

Interesting point you made. I have grown up listening to watch the ball till the end. Interestingly I found it very difficult to watch the ball till the end. I used to watch the ball half way and predict the length and respond with a shot according to my prediction. The days my prediction came true i did well and the days my prediction was wrong i would be back in the pavilion. This prediction is called anticipation in sports terms. Anticipation comes with experience. All the net sessions under the hot sun was to train your subconscious mind which in turn would help me in responding to the information provided by watching/ tracking the ball.
Now that I have become a coach I advocate Tracking the ball into and out of the bat . This has helped the players to play the ball late. I did try Timothy Gallwey`s pitch and hit principle. That is when I got the feed back from the players that they were very defensive. They could block the ball but playing a shot to a ball bowled at pace was an issue.

Now i can connect to your term that you either hit the ball or you watch the ball all the way . There fore the term WATCH THE BALL sounds better than TRACK THE BALL . When you watch you collect all the information and respond favorable without pre-conceived notion. By Tracking the ball you spent that extra time to gather information which reduces your reaction time (when the ball is travelling quicker than the optimal speed an individual can handle).

I think it is impossible to watch the ball right on to your bat. I also think it is not necessary because if you watch the ball out of the bowler`s fingers after about a couple of meters you will gain enough info as to the line and length. You will then focus on the spot on the pitch where the ball will land and then all you need to do is see the ball leave the bat.

Keep thinking that. Maybe you'll face a decent spinner one day, you'll see the ball out of the fingers, decide which shot to play, only to have him drift it past your outside / inside edge. Or maybe you'll realize that when facing reverse swing your doomed unless you can watch the ball till the last millisecond.

It's not only necessary to watch the ball onto the bat, but very difficult as well. Let someone flick you a few carrom balls with a table tennis ball over a short distance and try to connect one out of a thousand without watching the ball all the way. Against a bowler with no late lateral movement it's not so risky, but you can't face swing or a good spinner by just looking at the release. Unless you can identify which way it will swing / drift, how much, and how fast in a millisecond. Spinners have dip too, if you only look at a few meters of the ball's flight path you'll move forwards to the delivery and have it dip and get big on you, instead of waiting, watching, and playing back.

I think I need to clarify what I wrote earlier. After you have watched the ball out of the fingers and continue to watch until you see where it lands on the pitch you obviously have to watch it for until as long as you can TILL THE LAST possible MILLISECOND, but my point is that you cannot see it hit your sweet spot or blade, that is not possible but as the author suggested the top of the helmet rather than the grill will be most prevalent when the ball is struck crisply, you will need to track the ball for as long as possible then see it leave your bat. However, I really cannot see how anyone can actually see the ball hit the blade especially since it is facing away from you, one would have to lean a far way over and angle his head to look backwards. I certainly agree with the previous comment to watch the ball until the last possible millisecond as well as everything else he said but watching the ball hit the bat.

That's understandable, but there are players, even at international level, who watch the ball hit the bat. Not with every stroke, but when they play a hook shot for example. The toe of their bat is facing towards the bowler when it connects with the ball, and they have to watch the ball hit the bat so that they can react fast enough if it doesn't hit the bat. There was a great photo of Jacques Kallis hooking the ball in one of Bob Woolmer's books and he was looking at the ball, which had just hit the bat. Sweep shots are another shot type where it is a bit easier to do this, so you can get back in your crease fast enough if you know you haven't hit it. It isn't entirely necessary, but a good "safety measure" if you can call it that.

Yes certainly I will agree with you there that with cross bat shots it is easier and a player can watch the ball right on to the bat. However I still think it is not possible with the vertical bat shots. Watching the ball for as long as possible and then seeing it leave the bat will be sufficient I feel for the vertical bat shots.

Of course, I think that vertical bat shots don't require it. I'm no expert, but the whole idea of trying to do that sounds ridiculous. Watching the ball for as long as possible is fine in vertical bat shots, but right onto the bat?

if a batsman can watch the ball leave the bat that proves that he has watched it intently on to the bat. i agree in vertical bat shots you cannot watch it hitting the surface of the blade,that is impossible. just concentrate even while playing the shot that should be enough.

Guys always try to play the shot at the last help a lot.thanks

Always try to play the ball as late as possible.Thanks

Always spend time on the nets.practise a will help you.thanks