Despite being a team game, the business end of a cricket match is one on one. This solo battle of wills is one of the greatest challenges of cricket. Think Donald against Atherton and you get the idea.
How do you overcome your foe?
Reading the signs
Batsmen are constantly trying to get into a rhythm of timing while it's the bowlers job to prevent or upset that timing. If either player knows what his opponent is trying to do, they have the advantage in the battle.
It's part of the reason that good batsmen are better 'readers' of bowlers. They have an almost uncanny sense of the length before the bowler has even released the ball, giving them more time to play the shot. Similarly, the bowler who has a sense of what the batsman is about to do can counter their tactic.
This is not some mystical power though.
It's well documented in sport science research that better batsman are better at picking up line and length early. Researcher Tim Noakes found that expert batsmen are 10-12% faster at this. They can subconsciously read the tiny telltale changes in the bowler's action. They are also more experienced at reading game situations and know when a certain ball is more likely.
Bowlers also tell of getting a feel for when a batsman is about to play a big shot. Perhaps a couple of maidens have played out and the batters grip tightens or they are twitchier between balls.
It's so subtle that it would be impossible to make a list of things to look out for. Even the players don't quite know how they do it. It's something that comes with hours of playing, practicing, watching many different players and building up a subconscious database of experience. Some examples are:
- Changes in run up speed
- Position of the front shoulder
- Position of the wrist
- Point of release
But learning how to spot that takes time. To become a master may take 10,000 hours of practice, which is about 10 years doing nothing but play cricket.
While you can start now, understanding some of the tactics you and your opponent can use will give you a shortcut.
Coming up in the next part I'll go over some of these tactics. Click here to go to part two now.
Image credit: HNM_1977