This is a guest article from Matt Thompson, Cricket Performance Director at Cardiff Metropolitan University. For more of Matt's work, find him on twitter and read his blog.
Picture the scene. It's time for training. You, as a batsman, have your regular opportunity for a constructive practice session with your coach or fellow team mates. Before you put your pads on, consider what does constructive actually mean? What does it look like for you?
Too many times at club, academy and university level, "constructive" takes the form of the batsman playing a glorious array of inappropriate shots without a game context in mind, inevitably squandering their wicket on a host of occasions.
I would be lying if I said I’ve never had one of these before myself as a player!
That is not constructive. So what is? Following on from David's article on having clear goals at open nets, here is one example of what "constructive" looks like.
As many of the best ideas, the following session was stolen from Millfield School's Director of Coaching Mark Garaway. We called it the "Froch vs Groves session" as I first saw it in action last year – the day after Froch shrugged off the threat of Groves for the second time to retain his WBA and IBF boxing titles. Very simply, this is how it goes:
Froch vs Groves Batting Session
- 12 rounds of 6 overs (72 balls)
- Overall winner is first 7 but keep playing to 12 regardless
- Winner of round determined by:
- Shot success
- Perceived person in control (batsman or bowler)
It may be an old cliché but it's true: Every single ball contributes towards the over and the result of the round; as it does in your innings. Many people might not see 6 overs as sufficient preparation for an upcoming game, but surely 72 balls of quality practice is better than 200 without a specific focus?
Finding gaps in your armour
Boxing is arguably as much a psychological game as it is physical. Your body language prior to the fight; your ability to take a punch yet still show your opponent that you can deal with it; your ability to strike a punch of your own with assertiveness and sound technique. All of these things are also under extreme pressure.
We can link all of these to batting. Your body language, the message you portray to the bowler and fielders through your body as you go out to bat is vital. Crucially also, when the bowler lands a punch (i.e. is bowling well and has you in trouble) you have to be able to show that you can deal with it and move on. In the context of this practice session, body language can win or lose you the round regardless of whether you feel like you’ve played well or not. Decision-making inevitably plays a major role as well. Your ability to execute the correct shot, with conviction, confidence and good technique is another important aspect of the batsman’s toolkit.
The great thing about this session is that your team mates – as bowlers – can do something constructive as well. They can work on the exact same things you are. You can engage in a discussion with them and your coach in between rounds (overs) to discuss what happened, and why (and how) you're going to try and improve going into the next.
Put your own spin on it and see how constructive your sessions become. I’ve used Mark's session countless times, and adapted it into a similar context using the TV show 24.
Sessions like this not only help your decision making, they help you find things out about yourself in a competitive situation under pressure. The more you can understand yourself and how you operate under pressure, the better you can deal with the demands of the match.