We coaches are generally very good at developing one part of batting:'shot execution'. That is the mechanics of each shot. But this is the last phase in a series of three.
Before you can play a shot you need to pick up the visual cues and decide on the shot. These are the missing phases for many of us.
So how do we go about developing the first two phases?
Here are a few options that you may already be using or may feature in your future practice around the 1st Phase:
Picking up visual cues
This is such a crucial phase as it provides the batter with key information that leads to decision making and ultimately, the execution of the shot.
A friend of mine states that,
"the best players in any sport are those who have high levels of anticipation. They make excellent decisions and appear to have more time than others to execute their skill".
He is spot on in my view. He goes on to say that the reason is they pick up visual cues (in their own way). This leads them to anticipate the to information quicker: The location of the incoming serve, the run of the striker, or in our case, the slight change in bowling action or shift of seam angle at point of release.
In batting, people will have different visual preferences for picking up early visual cues.
One of our Pitchvision Academy coaches would pick Dilhara Fernando's split finger slower ball by the way his fingers sat on the seam from 40 yards. This is a pinpoint, fine detail preference for vision.
Whilst his teammate found that approach impossible and relied more on his preference for noticing Fernando's more vertical bowling arm in his bound. This was broader focus - picking up limb differences - to anticipate ball type.
Each approach worked for that particular individual. They were anticipating in their own ways.
Where does that leave you as a coach?
Simple, get batters to try both: The pinpoint focus on seam or fingers and broader focus on the bowler's action. Have them establish which one is their preference.
Visual cue drills
Either way, if you want to develop the first two phases better, you need to adapt your training. Here are some ideas.
Replicating the bowling action
The most effective way is to bowl, it's as simple as that. But what if you have no top pace bowlers around?
Bowl off 18 yards!
Even this short, washed up wicket keeper has a cheeky bumper off 18.
Bowling with a side-arm
Get good at this. Learning to throw is with a side-arm is one thing, yet bowling is even better for the batter in terms of visual cue skills.
The "pin-point" guys will pick up seam detail, The bowling action replication will be great for the "broader focus" players who will pick up cues from the bowler.
It's not 100% perfect training but, it's another step up from throw-downs.
Occluded vision testing
In this age of iPads and cameras we can develop our own visual cue applications with inexpensive apps and existing coaching footage.
- Video a bowler from the front so that their whole bowling action is filling the screen at point of release.
- Ask the bowler to deliver 10 balls, which include at least 2 of each bowling variation that she uses.
- Make note of which ball correlates to which delivery type
- Edit a reel that pauses the bowler at point of release for a second, then goes to a black screen for 15 seconds and then show the ball being delivered.
- Ask the player to write down the anticipated ball type gained from the cues on offer.
- Make note of the score for that person; tell the person their score out of 10 at the end of the test.
- Retest at a future point and compare scores.
- Players will quickly improve as build on their visual preference.
- When this occurs, get the batter to watch each ball in real time until ball release (no pause) and pick each delivery type.
- Encourage the batter to do this whilst mimicking the movement pattern (i.e. batting) that she would use against each ball (forward/back/what shot).
Paul Collingwood used to do this with the front on footage that we collected of opposition bowlers and ultimately, this is the process those expensive systems such as Pro-batter use.
Over a 12-month period, you could create 4 or more bowling feels (spin, pace, left arm, right arm) which would give you a lifetimes worth of vital drills.
Let me know how you get on.