In this new series on coaching Twenty20 cricket, I reveal the successful concepts that I have used with numerous teams over the years; from Internationals to club level.
Part one is all about batting. Here are my 8 tips to pass on to your batting unit.
1. Stop breather balls
You only have 120 balls so use them all.
You have to have intent and that means having zero “breather balls”. A breather ball is one where the batter does not pressurise the bowler:
- Leaving a ball
- Playing a solid defensive shot rather than “defending and looking to run”
- Being happy at just making good contact rather than focussing on finding the gap
Breather balls occur most often in the 1st few deliveries of a batters innings, after a boundary has been struck, or when a batter is fatigued and isn’t concentrating on the next ball appropriately.
To reduce breather balls as a coach, make a note of their occurrence and feedback to your batters and see that the number drop from 10-20 (in a 120 ball innings) to 0-5 very quickly. Then note the impact upon your run rate per over.
2. Run hard
Push fielders hard all the time; create mistakes; apply pressure constantly and generate panic in the fielding and bowling side.
Good running between the wickets is a simple concept, often forgotten.
3. Create scoring areas
Graeme Smith is a phenomenal on-side player, yet in T20 he worked very hard on hitting seam bowlers through the off side.
He did this by moving outside leg stump to open the offside area up for drives off both back and front foot in the early parts of the innings.
This gave him opportunity to use the pace of the new ball and then forced the bowlers into an adjustment of line back towards the stumps and into his natural strength: boundaries then flowed on both sides of the ground.
Despite planning by the opposition, Graeme used his knowledge and understanding of his game to great effect at Somerset in 2005 when he scored 380 runs at 38 and a strike rate of 146.
Make sure each of your batters has his or her area to score.
4. Stretch the spinners
Good players aim to hit straight and hard against spin in the early stages of a bowlers spell.
This stretches the game down the ground and as a result drags the field straighter, opening up greater run scoring options square of the wicket as the innings progresses.
Hit the deep men hard along the ground and force mistakes.
5. Hit for distance
When you go to hit over the top or to aim for the boundary ensure that you hit for distance not height.
Coach players to stay down on the shot, use all of the body (like a golfer on the tee with his 1 wood) and the body shape of the shot will influence the trajectory.
It sounds basic, yet it works. Height may look good; but 6-hitting is a distance game.
6. Think bird’s eye view
If you were a bird looking down on a T20 Field you would see lots of dots on a pitch (fielders) and huge expanses of open land.
Batters can’t see those huge open areas because they are viewing it from the ground eyes as opposed to the birds eye. They feel hemmed in at times by fielders, can’t see how they are going to thread the ball through a gap to get a boundary or to pick up an easy 2.
So coach players to switch focus and visualise the field from 100 meters above the ground.
How much easier is it to picture potential scoring areas and link that image to the shots that you have as a batter if your view of the ground is through the eyes of a bird?
7. Put new bowlers under pressure
This is well talked about in all levels of cricket yet often poorly executed. The key is to apply your best shots to the bowlers first few deliveries.
See who the pressure is on then!
It is only when Batters look to improvise away from their practiced strengths that a new bowler gains the initiative (and often their wicket).
8. Stay in the here and now
The game moves fast in T20 and often batting sides become distracted with their position in the game and start to project forward saying “if we keep going like this we will get 220” only to find themselves 100-8 four overs later.
It’s important to keep talking, yet to keep the focus on here and now. Stay in the moment as those moments - if approached right - will add up to reach a total or result that you desire.
Paul Azinger (USA Ryder Cup winning captain 2008) asked his players to keep their focus by asking themselves “What is important now!”
I think it is a great mental cue to keep players in the present.
9. What can you add?
This is not an exhaustive list, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts and approaches that have led to T20 batting glory in your coaching.