At training it’s easy to “just bowl” for long periods. This is useful for batsmen, but not good for you as a bowler.
For bowlers at cricket nets, it’s crucial that you self-manage and not bowl for the sake of bowling. This might mean working together within a small group in the session or even having periods of different (or even zero) activity. As long as it is serving the interests of your bowling.
So, here are some ways to combat that tendency to bowl for hours, reduce your chance of injury and give you a better chance of improving your skills.
Strength and conditioning
Use any of these drills at practice to improve bowling pace and reduce injury risk without changing action.
- Foam rolling
- Medicine ball partner throws or single person slams
- Standing long jump and high jump
- Squats and lunges
- Push ups and rows (with dumbbell)
- Band shoulder exercises
- Run up speed/distance sprints
- Dynamic stretches
These can be done in a circuit (one set of each exercise for 30 seconds, stretch for 30 seconds) to improve leg, core and shoulder strength alongside stamina. You can count how many rounds you do to track fitness improvements.
The can also be done in “downtime” between drills that are lower in activity (such as when bowling in overs in nets).
You can also work on pace improvements with overweight/underweight ball bowling (not at a batsman).
It’s hard to alter bowling action in nets. However, you can reinforce good habits with technical drills. You do not need to alter technique to benefit from improvements in pace and accuracy associated with these drills.
These drills are low physical effort, but are useful for downtime moments.
- Run up into bound: run through cones.
- Take off: jump over cones.
- Tent peg 1: Back foot contact (static and dynamic).
- Tent peg 2: Front foot contact (static and dynamic).
- Tent peg 3: Release (static and dynamic).
- Tent peg 4: Follow-through
- Band-resisted bowling
If working in pairs on groups, you can video actions to further discuss and analyse areas for improvements. Don’t be afraid to stop activity if it is to discuss and review things.
This set of drills are designed to directly improve skills rather than technique (mainly accuracy). They are best done without a batsman.
- Target bowling at cones or on PitchVision. Track outcomes.
- Experimental bowling: working on something that is not currently a skill such as an in-swinger or yorker.
- Caught and bowled: bowl and take a catch.
- Spinners and keepers: bowl at a target and have keepers nicking to each other.
Advanced net bowling drills
These are games that you can play in nets to work on your “combat” skills, batter vs. bowler. As much as the situation allows, bowl in overs. If you find you have to wait to bowl, remember there are other drills available. Or you can use the time to video others and review performances.
- Agree a match scenario with the batsman and take each other on in nets. Winner has a forfeit!
- Middle practice with set scenario (no net).
- Battle zone cricket
Possible scenarios are: batsman trying to survive and thrive, middle over strike rotation and death overs. Come up with whatever points system or game motivates you to work on that skill and get to work.
In net situations, it’s important not to fall into the habit of “just bowling”. Keep the number of balls you bowl to the number you need to bowl to make an improvement.
Then go into battle with a clear goal in mind.
Review and Analysis
Training downtime between drills is also a great time to do a “review drill”. Either self-analysis or with the coach or another bowler. You can use video footage taken in the session or just discuss it with an aware observer. You can put it in writing or just talk.
- Ask what happened (both helpful and hurtful to your game).
- Think of reasons why it happened.
- Plan what you will do next time to develop further.
This can be completed in five minutes, during the session or right after it.
You might look at a strength and decide to improve it further, or look at a weakness that you can iron out or hide. The point is, you are identifying something specific that you can go to work with.
Summary: Growth mindset
Naturally, you will also want to join in with the batting and fielding work that is going on. This is also fine.
There are many options for useful an enjoyable things to do at nets. It’s your responsibility to have a growth mindset when you walk in the door. Use the drills instead of defaulting to “having a net”.
The former is harder and takes more brain effort.
It will result in much better results to your cricket, and more satisfying training sessions. And that, after all, is why we come to training in the first place!