The bowlers usually have the upper hand with a new ball and fresh legs. That means you, more than any other position, need to have your wits about you.
Opening is a specialist position. By that I mean it takes more practice to get right. The more you do it the better you get at it. However, there are certain traits a good opener has (or is able to develop).
- An adaptable technique. Although you should have lots of shots, playing straight is most important early on. You should have the ability to switch gears from disciplined defence to attack depending on the conditions, match situation and bowling.
- A good judge of the off stump. Knowing when to play and when to leave is a great skill for the opener, even in Twenty20 conditions.
- Patience. There will be times when the bowlers make you play and miss. However, the bad ball will come. The ability to stay focused on the next ball will see you through the tough periods all openers experience.
This is often what coaches mean when they talk about 'seeing off' the opening bowlers. I don't like the phrase though. It puts openers into a defensive mindset. Opening the innings is about having a sound defence and being ready to attack.
Once you have assessed that conditions have are in your favour you can start to think more aggressively. This may be a couple of hours in, or right from the first ball. However, even in this 'mode' you need to keep a tight defence as a good ball is never far away.
There is not much an opener can do differently from any other batsman to prepare. The principles of deliberate practice apply just as much with any position in the batting order.
That said, you will want to focus on two areas in particular:
- Middle practice. Practicing against fresh bowlers with a new ball in simulated match conditions will teach you how to adapt to the mental and tactical side of opening. When you have had a middle practice sit down with your coach and opening partner (and possible the number 3) and discuss how it went, what your tactics were and whether they worked or not.
- Technical development. While you want as many shots as possible, the main areas to work on are the straight shots and judging whether to play or leave. This can't be done in standard nets as the bowling is not accurate enough so grab an empty net with your opening partner and give each other some accurate throw downs instead.
I would also strongly recommend learning how to rotate the strike by taking cheeky singles and turning ones into twos.
An opener needs to be a positive player with the ability to leave attack behind for a while if you are up against a good opening bowling attack. Practice with this in mind and you will not go far wrong.
If you want to learn everything there is to know about batting technique, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.