Picture the scene: We had a brilliant centre wicket practice the other day ahead of a Regional T20 finals day. I was keen to take full advantage of the time that we had available to us ahead of the big day.
That morning, I had a number of emails about various school events in what is always an incredibly busy last week of term. The upshot? Where we once had 15 players; we now had 10.
And it got worse. Both keepers were at school play rehearsal. The forecast said that rain was due at 1700; our practice was due to start at 1545. My best laid plans for a middle practice were in tatters.
What can we do to make this session as good as could be?
The first thing I did was contact 4 lads from the B team who have put in some serious work this year culminating in excellent summer term performances. The players jumped at the chance to come and practice with the A team. All 4 boys did brilliantly with the ball and in the field. I decided to keep wicket in the practice.
That;s the practical stuff but I was in desperate need of inspiration!
The first ball was edged to third man. As Kabir picked up the ball and started to unwind his throwing action back into me I took a quick glance at the bowlers end. The bowler was standing still after following through and off to the side of the pitch, the stumps were empty and no one had moved a muscle.
I caught the ball in one glove, transferred it to my throwing hand and hurled the ball past the bowlers end stumps for 4 overthrows.
We now had a session theme!
World-class out cricket principles
We stopped and chatted for a few minutes introducing or reconnecting with a few concepts:
- What is my role in the field?
- Who do you really want at the bowlers end trying to take a ½ volley out of a foot-mark to complete a run out of the opposition’s best batter?
- Bowlers end “keepers” – Could we have 3 players in the team who make this part of their skill development?
- Who gets to the bowlers stumps when the ball goes offside?
- Who gets to the bowlers stumps when the ball goes legside?
- What distance should you back up away from the stumps in different conditions?
- How much distance should you put between “backer upper 1” and “backer upper 2”
- When should we throw at the stumps? When should we hit an incoming “keeper” in the chest?
- What depths should we be fielding and in what circumstances?
- Is it only the captain who can change the field or make comment about your depth or angle?
- Can the Deep cover and Deep Square leg be like a football “sweeper” using his eyes and communication skills to organise the “formation” that sits in front of them?
- What is the role of Deep cover when the ball is hit to deep square leg?
During the session, we had many more pauses for discussion. After each conversation it appeared that the players understanding and expectations of their different roles had improved. We were throwing for runs outs (direct and into the chest of the “keepers”) on every ball. This led to 3 direct hit run outs and 2 “assists” in the session.
People were backing up everywhere. The ball was fizzing around the field in between deliveries; players were laughing and joking, yet performing their skills to an incredible level.
A friend once told me “all chaos situations create opportunity”. Monday's middle practice definitely supported his view.