This year I am coaching a group of talented 11 year old players. The kind of guys who one day hope to play professional cricket over 4 or 5 days.
Bur right now they are 11 years old and have only played 20 overs. This season they have had to jump up to playing 40 over games as well.
It's a big jump in required levels of stamina and concentration. One similar to players entering the professional game going from one day to multi-day cricket.
So how do you prepare your body and mind for this unique cricketing challenge?
1. Get in the right frame
One of the most important characteristics of a successful player is the ability to relish a challenge.
These are the players who naturally see the score at 36-4 and consider it a chance to play a game-rescuing innings. They are also the guys, even at age 11, who see the last 15 overs fielding in a 40 over match on a sunny day as a time when the opposition are tired and likely to get themselves out.
It's all about frame of mind.
It's rare that a player is unable to continue in a longer match. You might think you are on your last legs, but there is always more if you know how to draw it out.
So when you start thinking "I can't go on" or "When will this be over?", take a moment, switch your focus onto something positive like "this is when they are more tired than me" or "when can I see my chance to win this match?" and use the opportunity to make yourself a star.
2. Recognise your limits
I mentioned just now that you can push yourself harder than you realise, but you must also be careful how hard you push.
Energy levels are difficult to self-monitor so it's best to have a number of external strategies built in to keep yourself fresh:
- Drinks breaks at suitable intervals
- Playing 12 or 13 player games (swapping fielders)
- Finding times to rest during the match
Resting during games is very individual, from learning how to switch off between overs when you are bowling, to sleeping in the dressing room before you bat. You need to establish a routine that works for your individual makeup.
As your body and mind gets used to the longer format you will find your reliance on this tricks reduces.
3. Have a recovery plan
When it comes to the day after a long match (or even between days on multi-day games), you will be sore and tired. You can leave your body to recover by itself, or you can plan some things to speed up the process.
Professional players get very scientific with ice-baths, compression garments and massages. There is no reason for you not to try these things too, but realistically you probably don't need to go that far (especially younger players).
However, some simple recovery tricks you can use that work are:
You don't need a complex plan, but a simple approach will make all the difference.
4. Practice longer
It's very hard to reflect a game length in practice, but you can increase the amount of time you practice to make it easier on game day.
This means making practice more realistic.
So if you are a bowler, you bowl in overs, resting between each one like you would in a match (you can use the rest time for injury prevention)
If you bat, stay away from the 5 minute slog-fest of a usual net and use BATEX to improve your stamina in scoring a hundred.
This kind of training improves skill and fitness in a highly specific way. So while more traditional fitness work is also needed, if you want to get up to speed with your stamina, long practices are where you need to focus.
At the end of it all, the best way to get used to playing longer games is to play longer games. Using these tricks to help you along will speed up the process. And that is true for anyone from age 10 starting 40 overs, to age 25 starting 4-day cricket.