How many balls do you have to face to make improvements in your batting?
This question underlies most aspiring cricketer’s practice, although very few actually think about it. Mostly we are concerned with “as much as possible” without applying a method.
Let’s get the thinking done today, so we can get back to practice.
Walk 500 miles
I want to give you a number right away.
We know from both common sense and skill acquisition science that doing something gets you better at that thing. It’s reasonable to assume we can make a noticeable improvement in around 500 balls faced at cricket practice.
If you did something 500 times, you would be disappointed if you had not become reasonable at it. You may not be a master, but you will have confidence that you can play that sweep after 500 goes.
You can track your progress to this goal easily with PitchVision.
With a conservative estimate, a 500 ball practice takes about 10 hours of nets. You could reduce this time significantly if you focus on, say, drop feeds for drives or bowling machine feed for cuts and pulls.
Of course 500 balls, like ten thousand hours, is not a magic bullet. It does give you a better metric to aim for than generally as much as you can find time for.
But, let me explain why that number not as important as we think.
The context issue
The issue with this number raises its head when you think about scoring runs in a match rather than practicing shots.
Hitting a ball off a tee, for example, will get you to 500 drives pretty fast. However, it won’t improve your ability to pick the right ball to drive. So, you have probably not got much better at batting!
You need to practice as close to a game context as possible to improve. And a game context includes:
- Shot Selection
- Tactical Awareness
- Physical Fitness
- Mindset and focus
All of these things are happening at the same time.
We cannot separate them as batsmen because the game of cricket requires them all. Try making serious runs without any one of them. It’s literally impossible.
That means our practice has to reflect reality as close as possible.
You’re much better off facing 500 balls in a middle practice than you are hitting 500 balls from a tee or even a bowling machine. The latter isolates, the former integrates.
The real answer to the question, “How much cricket practice do I need?” is to say “it depends upon the quality”.
That’s what coaches mean when they tell you to train smarter not harder. If you want to - as Graham Gooch says - be a run maker you need to build every part of your game as an integrated whole.
Facing 500 balls in focused middle practice and reflecting as you go takes a lot longer (it might take you 30 middle practice sessions compared to a handful of tee hitting sessions). Yet, the learning opportunities are so much greater you can surely compare the two.
So, to train smart ask yourself three questions.
- Where is my game now?
- Where do I want to be and what skills will get me there?
- How can I make practice as close to real cricket as possible?
Then hit every practice as smart as possible.