Commonly, we rely on the idea that by going in, “just batting” and walking out a few minutes later we will have found form and timing and will be a step closer to our best.
This is magical thinking.
Form, skill and timing do not arrive because you wish hard enough when padded up surrounded by netting. You might as well try to cast a batting improvement spell while you are at it. Both are equally effective.
While there is some psychological benefit to nets like this (some people see reduced anxiousness, improved confidence and a better feeling of team unity), we can do better.
So step into my office and let’s talk.
Magic nets drill
In this drill, you have a net as normal but you take it a step forward.
Bat in the nets against bowlers for a set time, as is the traditional set up, but have a whiteboard or iPad at the ready.
Against your name on the board there are three columns:
“Out” is marked any time you are clearly out: Bowled, caught and bowled and LBW if there is an umpire/coach or PitchVision there to give a neutral decision.
It’s not counted as out if you think you might have been stumped, hit the ball to cover, or even nicked to slip. In other words, it has to be provable out.
“Chance” means any debatable way you might have been out: If you nick it, hit it in the air, run down the wicket and miss it or are hit on the pads but there is noone neutral to act as umpire.
Some chances will be almost certainly out, some chances will be almost certainly not out. However, we can’t prove it. Even a nick to the keeper is dropped sometimes, right?
The point is, you gave a chance, no matter how small. So record it.
“Nailed it” is when you hit one right out of the screws. You could not have played the shot better. This is your judgement as batsman.
Get the bowler or coach to note down each one as it happens.
At the end of the net you have a score. You can instantly see how well or poorly you did in the session.
You might be tempted to have a big swing at one and you hit it well but it goes up in the air. The bowler says “that’s out”, you say “that’s six”. In fact, it’s a chance because, although it might well have gone for six, it might have also been caught.
Racks up the need for discipline doesn’t it?
(And if you feel like hitting sixes is your job in the team then read on until the end to find out how to customise the drill for your needs).
Are you a risk taker who ends up nailing more but having more chances given, or are you looking to minimise risk?
You can adjust the way you bat to work on the score you prefer.
You don’t have to think about it for long, but you will arrive at the next net ready to try and beat your last score.
You can also adapt the drill for different types of play.
If you want to improve strike rotation, lay down cones marking 1–3 drop and run zones. Every time you drop the ball into the zone, you record a “nailed it”.
If you want to improve hitting over the top, or six hitting, set a zone with cones that mark a safe area that does not count as a “chance” when hit in the air.
If you are working on a specific shot - for example driving in the V early on - you can give yourself a target zone and a no score zone (say, through square leg). If you drive through the zone you get a “nailed it” if you play across yourself and hit it square into the leg side you record a “chance”.
By the way, if you want to add video and ball tracking you can also use PitchVision to track the scores. The system has buttons you can tap after each delivery to mark the outcome. That means you can save time adding up your scores as well as see how you did against different types of bowlers and lines and lengths.
But whatever you use, customise the drill to your style of play and get recording.
Over time you will see a marked improvement in your chosen style of play. Essentially, You have turned nets into a game where you are trying to beat your high score!
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