The ability to manipulate the ball against top class spinners is one of the key differentiators between good and great batters at the highest level.
Typically, this is also one of the last skills that batters develop in their journey from junior novice to the finished adult article.
So how can we fast track the teaching of the decision making, movement skills and shot execution options to players in their formative years?
Here is one method that I have used in recent weeks which has helped a number of players to manipulate the ball better in order to turn over the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking.
In this drill I set up a Merlyn bowling machine (this could be spinning throwdowns instead) to bowl off spin a variation of lengths with the spin rate set up to seven out of 10.
That’s a lot of spin. So this is a “high challenge” drill.
To caveat the challenge, I removed the stumps from the net which meant that both bowled and LBW were taken out of the equation.
The only regulations applied to the game are as follows:
- You must start with your feet either side of the crease line. You can stand anywhere along the crease line (far left, far right or centre) the choice is yours.
- Once the ball is bowled, you can move to anywhere you want. Even running back 3 metres if you are quick enough. There are no stumps to avoid!
- You have to aim to score at 5 or more runs per over. To keep the scoreboard ticking over despite the high level of challenge.
- The field is set on a magnetic whiteboard (this could be a piece of cardboard with a black pen. Mark crosses for fielders). This field set is the batters reference point to establish run scoring opportunities.
- The field is: Slip, Deep Cover, Extra cover, Mid-off, Mid-on, Straight mid-wicket, On-side drive man, Deep Square Leg and 45 degree fielder.
Having no stumps behind the batter provides a sense of freedom. The net result is that the players tend to use the depth of the crease more readily and are more willing to experiment with different lateral starting positions on the crease. This facilitates easier gap access on either side of the wicket and created different boundary scoring options.
Typically, we run four sets of 20 balls using the above method. Then, I place the stumps back in, thus introducing LBW and bowled as methods of dismissal. We keep score for the next 20 balls and see how the players fare.
Some of the initial results have been incredible.
As with most players who enter the “No-Stumps Manipulation Drill”, Josh initially struggled against the significantly spinning ball. He was hit on the pad a lot and ended up being cramped up on the back foot.
After 10 or so balls of round one, Josh started to work out a method and strategy which revolves around adjusting his starting lateral position on the crease and using his sweep rather than drive options.
Josh would have been bowled around his legs once and would have been LBW on another delivery if there had been stumps behind him, but as they weren’t, Josh was prepared to experiment, evaluate and learn.
When we replaced the stumps and ran the final 20 ball challenge, Josh was equipped with a fantastic clip off his hip, a forward defensive shot into cover point for 1, a hard sweep for 4 and a lovely run-sweep which beats both the keeper and the 45 degree legside man.
Josh scored 22 undefeated runs in the final test.
Josh and his mates have shown huge improvement in their sessions this week. Can you imagine how quickly your batters manipulation skills can develop if you did this a few times each month?