How to avoid becoming a cricket robot | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to avoid becoming a cricket robot

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Is it possible to forget about playing cricket?

Our sport relies heavily on technique. It's possible to spend hours working out which tiny aspect or another will correct errors. The holy grail of runs and wickets, some can imagine, is just a technical tweak away.

But is it?

Are we in danger of going too far down the technical route and forgetting how to play?

Cricket is also a game that requires rhythm and flowing movement. Many first class players in recent times have been accused of becoming 'robotic'. Too reliant on their coaches' aims to produce technical perfection, they have become lesser players because their natural instincts have been over-coached out of them.

That doesn't sound much like play to me.

In Greg Chappell's coaching book he lists 24 great cricketers who learned the game in an unstructured play-like way: Names that include himself, Don Bradman, Fred Trueman and Bishen Bedi.

These names learned to enjoy playing cricket by picking up a bat and a ball and playing games in the street, park or on the beach. They learned what worked and what didn't work for them. They saw the greats of their childhood play and picked up tips. They moved and played in an unstructured way.

They had fun and didn't worry about technique.

You could argue that these greats were natural cricketers who didn't need much coaching. You could also argue that perhaps they made the most of their talent because they didn't get much coaching in the first place.

Free play

In many ways, miCricketCoach is just as guilty of this. I started this site as a way of focusing on the details. I analyse the difference between this method and that in the effort to bring you the most cutting edge reliable information. Sometimes I forget that it is supposed to be fun too.

Sometimes it's better to leave the coaching aids and training plans behind. It's good for any age player to just play: Experiment and push the limits of what you can do. You can fail safe in the knowledge that failing is part of learning.

There is room for everyone to have both structured and unstructured training. A good coach can make sure that coaching sessions have drilling, competing and playing.

To just be structured when you train leads to robotic, over-technical players who think technique is everything.

To bring in a bit of play reminds us to relax and stop thinking about it so much.

Some free play methods

So how do you integrate free play into your training? The joy of this is that it doesn't really matter, as long as you are safe you can do anything. Here are some examples of things I have tried (or want to try):

  • Grab an old bat and anything for a ball, gather up some friends/family and go have in impromptu game somewhere: Park, beach, street or aircraft carrier.
  • Cover a tennis ball in masking tape, take a bat to a tennis, squash or basketball court and learn the fun of tape ball.
  • When doing batting or bowling drills, focus on hitting targets rather than what is the correct technique
  • Take your team to a different location to train and do something unexpected like a workout using the park children's play equipment (making sure there are no children around first of course).
  • Play a practice match in your training sessions instead of having a net, but play with a soft ball and make it a 5 over slog.

Let your imagination run wild and move, have fun and relax. No robots allowed.

Image credit: Niyantha

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Great article David.

The great Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas said years ago "I would like to thank my father for all the coaching he never gave me".

I am currently taking my level 3. I am in a dilemma. Should children just be left to get on with it. When I played as a 12 to 16 year old we had some stumps painted on some wood (so they were portable), an old bat and one of those reinforced plastic balls that eventually broke like an easter egg. We finally moved up to some old pads that the local cricket club didn't want. We certainly never had gloves. I think I had 3 sessions where I have been coached when I was about 17 years old. Could I have been better had I been coached? Who knows but I loved the summer when we dug all the gear out of the shed and played on the common (the pitch was a mine field) but it did wonders for your reflexes!

If you look at football there is far too much coaching at young ages. Let them play and enjoy it. I read the other day that some football academies start with 6 year olds. Then when they get to 11 or 12 they are told they are not good enough and released. Yesterdays article in the Daily Telegraph was about tennis and all the problems they have with pushy parents who want their child to win at all costs and the pressure they put them under. A minority of coaches also behave in this way.

I have also heard that some useful young cricketers have been coached at academies and have lost their ability to hit the ball for fear of getting out. Why do people coach this out of them!?

I would be interested for other peoples opinions.

Keep up the good work


Great Article! Laughing out loud
But how would you know if you're being over-coached? And what do you think you should do if you're being over-coached?


yes, just look at the modern English, NZ and Australian players, they are all robotic and over coached batters, except for a ponting or hayden. Coaching is just a business and a lot of failed cricketers and some good ones are certified coaches. National cricket academies, pace academies etc are just hogwash. the boys are dead bored with all sorts of silly programming schedules, needless 'fitness' work with so many exercises, it is interfering with the development of instinctive cricket. The English team look very "fit" but batting is so robotic and stilted. They are getting hammered in India.

Greg Chappell is right about it in his book but what he and frazer practice in the Rajasthan coaching academy is a different story. The programming is exhausting and the boys are pissed off. Coaching is now just a way to create new programs to sell and make money. Gymanstics etc. are a waste of time.

Modern cricket does not need supreme athleticism, it is a myth. Offseason conditioning work is necessary but essentially you get game fit playing the game. Better fielding sides only win games if their batting and bowling in that order is up to scratch. And fielding is the easiest skill to develop.

Exactly, if all the coaches are coaching the same batting technique, isn't it going to be more obvious to the bowlers how to get each batsman out if they are all virtually the same.

That's why you see the Jayasuriya's, Hayden's etc hitting the ball in unusual places, as they HAVEN'T been overcoached.

I wouldn't call Kevin Pietersen robotic and stilted. Good comments and some interesting views.

Shaaz, do you feel you are playing your natural game? Do you just play sometimes and forget the theories?

Yes I do play my 'natural' game. As a batsman, even in the nets, I never think about the theories. I just try to solve problems by experimenting and trying something different while batting, but when it comes to bowling - I don't know what exactly is natural.

I now regret that I had posted that comment - because trying what my coach told me actually gave me outstanding results! Laughing out loud

And on the comments about coaching - I think cricket is almost completely mental. What you tell yourself is always the key - I now a player who has the WORST technique I've ever seen, but has one of the best averages! Most of the time, your see the negative thoughts that haunt you as 'reality'.
Once when I was having bad time as a bowler, someone pointed out technical errors in my bowling and told me that I was going to suffer if I didn't correct them. And in the next few matches I played, I was having very little success as a bowler, and the I kept noticing that my bad performance was the result of my technical imperfections.
So yesterday when the captain asked me to bowl the next over, I realized I was already picturing myself making excuses for bad bowling! I caught these thoughts red-handed, relaxed, and started picturing my best ever performances, and I was bowling my best ever balls every ball!! I'll write about it in my next week's diary entry. Laughing out loud


I don't think you can be over coached, I think its the batsmens mindset in the middle thinking about their technique more than the job of scoring runs at task.