If you have cricket training options, which is best?
Most cricket training happens with groups or teams. We get together with our teammates and have a session. There is also the classic "one to one" training, where a coach and player get together for an hour or so to work on something specific. Finally there is the middle ground of small group sessions with two to five players.
With so much flexibility, it's important to know the up and down side of each way of training so you can focus on what is best for you. Let's go through them.
In a group, there is a lot you can get done in a short time with a lot of people. It's no wonder this is the most popular way of training. It's convenient.
It's suitable for very young players learning techniques and older players who want to bat and bowl against each other. I have had sessions with more than 30 players in attendance and been at sessions with only five (less than five and it becomes a small group). With larger numbers of players getting together it's excellent.
It's the only format you can realistically do middle practice. And team fielding practice is a good way to bond players together.
Traditionally, it's also good fun to get together with all your cricket mates for a bit of banter.
Aside from these benefits, there are some down sides.
It's hard to manage well. Players tend to bat for too short a time and bowl for too long. Perhaps the team leg spinner who bats 11 is happy with a few minutes batting and 90 minutes bowling, but the opening batsman who doesn't bowl will feel frustrated. At middle practice, not everyone gets to bat.
It's also difficult to do deliberate practice. Different people have different goals at practice and it's hard to match them up. You can't work on specific techniques or tactics if you are going against the wrong type of player.
One to one nets
The obvious answer to the issues of team practice is a one to one session.
Here you can focus 100% on your aim: Find the right person to train with and you are golden. A good coach can feed balls to you in the right areas, you can bowl at a cone or on PitchVision, or throw at a stump and get instant feedback. You can take your time to discuss things and try things in a safe environment.
In other words, you get a lot more done in a hour one to one than you would in three hours in a squad session.
That's not to say it's all roses.
Apart from the lack of team bonding and banter, your training is detached from the reality of the match. You don't have other people around to put the same pressure on you. The chaotic nature of a cricket game where anything could happen is removed as you hone in on specifics.
If you struggle with decision making and playing under pressure, one to one sessions have limited use to you (unless your coach is very creative and experienced).
Finally, it's a lot harder to set these sessions up. If your team has a coach he will be limited to how many one to one sessions he can run in a week. If demand is high you could miss out. It doesn't scale well.
And just to go back to the point about banter: It is important to train as a team if you want to play as a team. So, one to one training is never the ultimate answer for cricketers.
Small group nets
The middle ground is a small group of between two and five players. Here you get a lot of the benefits of both other types of training without losing much.
At my club, we run five small group sessions. They last an hour and are broken into batsmen and bowlers. The batsmen can work on batting skills against the bowling machine, sidearm, and bowlers (when they are available). The bowlers can do target practice and if the get fed up bowling can have a bat against their mate. I find a bowling batting against a bowler is more likely to "bat properly" (that is to say, play like a match situation rather than trying to smash everything).
This way, you get some of the team bonding of a squad net, but almost as much focus on specifics as a one to one session. The also coach needs to commit far less time (in my case, five hours instead of 20) meanings they are more realistic to put on.
Naturally, this compromise is not perfect. If you want a fully focused session, one to one is the way to go. If you like to interact with the whole team then you need squad nets. For everything else, small groups are a wonderful choice.
If you have a choice of the way you train, there are lot of options. Often the coach defines exactly what you do, but if you can you will benefit from all the different methods:
- Squad nets ideal are for team building, role setting, larger groups, fielding practice and middle practice.
- One to one practice is perfect for working on specific skills with less pressure.
- Small group nets allow greater focus than squad nets and allow some team building and role defining elements.
For me, the "best" solution is a combination of all three, balancing out things depending on what you need to do to improve. Work with your coach or captain to work this out on both an individual and team level.