Innovation or waste of money: How useful is special training equipment for cricket? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Innovation or waste of money: How useful is special training equipment for cricket?

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Attend any top level cricket match or coaching session these days and you will see all kinds of multi coloured training aids on show.

A brief search online provides even more options for the budding cricketer to improve their game. Some, fankly, are more believable than others. Marketers know we are desperate to get better and want something to help us. If they can convince us something works so we buy it their job is done.

It doesn't actually matter if it works on or not to the unscrupulous ones.

So what training aids should you go for to get the best 'bang for your buck'?

Here is the lowdown on a few options.


Massively popular, cheap as chips and great fun, the Powerball is sold as way to develop power in the shoulders, arms and wrists. Yes, it burns when you use it but does that mean it's making you more powerful? It's something I have been sceptical about before.

My instinct is distrusting of the Powerball claims. Especially as I have found no research to back it up.

You may want to try it for yourself, especially if you feel your grip is your weak point and your budget is limited. Personally, I would spend more time on free bodyweight exercises as the results of those are proven.


The Katchet is a bright orange wedge that you can use for catching practice. It works like a catching cradle. However it's cheaper and more flexible. You can see it in use here:

I love this little plastic device. It's simple, easy to use, portable and gives excellent practice for slip fielders, ring fielders and wicketkeepers. You can even combine it with a bowling machine (legs removed) to fire balls and great pace in random deflections.

If your side needs to hone their close or infield catching (and who doesn't) then it's time to invest in one of these.

Coaching mats

As you can see from the video below, coaching mats are designed to teach batting strokes to children or beginners. As a tool for beginners it works well because you can set it up for any shot and grove your muscle memory with it.

I do have some reservations about it. There is nothing the mat does that a coach with some batting tees, plastic stumps and chalk could recreate for less money. It is also limited to only allowing you to play with a stationary ball. That means as soon as the beginner has got the hang of the shot they move on to a moving ball being fed by a coach. The mat then becomes useless.

That means it's a useful product for complete beginners, but not for anyone who has learned the shots and needs to improve technique.

Heavy balls/ Bat weights

The theory goes that is you use a heavy object to bat or bowl with, you will get stronger. As a result some players attach weights to their bats or use heavier hockey balls to bowl with.

The possible problem with this is that it can mess up your technique as you try to 'heave' the ball or bat rather than using your normal smooth approach: What the sport scientists call neuromuscular adaptation.

Research into it has found little in terms of strength improvements in bowlers using heavy balls so the benefit probably does not outweigh the cost. I'm still open minded as I feel evidence is not conclusive either way.

If you are looking to get stronger, a normal workout would probably be more beneficial, but as an add on to regular training, you could certainly give it a try. The trick I stick to to use balls/bats no more than 20% heavier than you would normally use.

Fusion Skyer

I have saved the best until last. This is an essential bit of kit for any coach or team wanting to improve. Put simply the Skyer is a small cricket bat with a rubber face allowing the ball to spring off it very quickly. The video below shows it in action:

As England assistant coach Mark Garaway says, it's versatile for almost any fielding practice and the added accuracy means you are not wasting time with bad feeds from the coach.

If you could only get one thing from this list, the flexibility of the Skyer makes it the coaching aid to buy. I strongly recommend it.

What are your experiences with coaching aids?

I'm interested in finding out if you have any tips for other readers about the best or worst coaching aids. What is value for money? What is a waste of time? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Not sure how true this is. However, I was on an SAQ course and the trainer was talking about loading and unloading. He used an example of Alan Donald. Apparently one off season he decided to practice with heavier balls to increase his pace, however when he got back to using a standard ball he had infact lost pace. And the reason given was that the body adapted to bowling with a heavier ball and so the movement were slower. The ideal is to unload after using heavy weights. Go from heavy back to normal, or from heavy to lighter to normal, no more than 9 repetitions is about right. I use this technique with weighted wrist bands on my non bowling arm to help develop pulling the arm through, I bowl one over on one over off etc.

Another coaching aid I don't really see the benefit of is the Aggot -

It's supposed to teach you to bowl with the seam upright and make it obvious when you're not doing it. But it being the wrong shape makes me think people will compensate somehow - and so the benefit won't be carried back to the real ball. What's wrong with a half-red half-white ball for letting you see the seam?

I've never used it though, so I could be wrong.

I have used a powerball
and they are great. i found that my forearm is bigger and ive been scoring more runs

The Aggot is a brilliant tool, to be used sparingly during practice. It gives a very clear visual stimulus for the bowler who can feel and importantly, immediately see what is right or wrong with the position of the seam and therefore the wrist when he/she bowls. This is not possible with a half red, half white ball where the ball is nowhere near as clear.
I would recommend it without hesitation as an occasional tool to first of all teach and then to remind bowlers when the ball isn't coming out of the hand as perhaps it used to. This is from beginners to Test Players.

I endorse David's comments about the Katchet (some people have said it is a bit expensive) and the Fusion Skyer. I bought the Skyer last October and it is an excellent training aid.

The other aid I have used is a dog ball thrower. This sends a tennis ball a long way and has excellent hang time - it is also very cheap.

Talking balls I have used the GM Chevron Swing ball. This has helped young bowlers experience the swinging ball and using it for throw downs to batsmen. My son found it useful for the ball swinging in to him when he was having some problems with that type of delivery.

I am a bit of a sucker for gimmicks but the items mentioned above have all been worthwhile. For children (12-14) especially, they love to have something different, and the one they like best is the dog ball thrower, as it sends the ball into orbit!

Great comments everyone. I have been speaking to a few of the people involved in making these items so possibly I'll have nore coming up on them.

hello david

just a few comments from people that are using the coaching mat TESTIMONIALS
01943 864226 07986 234 489
Coventry Sphinx CC were asked by the ECB Coaches Association to evaluate the product. After using them throughout the summer of 2005 they report that their coaches found them “very useful both indoors and outdoors and would recommend them to others”

Darwen CC have been involved in the Chance to Shine pilot scheme launched by the Cricket Foundation in 2005 and have used the coaching mat in delivering coaching sessions. Our coaches have found it really helpful in teaching youngsters the art of batting especially in one to one sessions and found that the youngsters found it easier in both foot and hand coordination Ian Cordingley, Darwen CC Lancs

We used the mats for the first time last night on some new youngsters with quite stunning results, repetition of the shots meant that within 4 or 5 tries the new players were playing shots with the correct technique.
Excellent - now for the first XI!!!!! Simon Lowndes, Denton West CC

"It will significantly reduce the length of time needed too explain the
fundamentals to novice cricketers”
Stan Heaton Chairman of the Lancashire League junior section

"Marvellous, better than a net practice for coaching batting"
Don Wilson, Yorkshire and England and ex head Coach at Lords

"We use the mat as part of our Primary Schools programme and also
extensively at our club. It is an excellent coaching tool"

Neil Edwards, Secretary of the League Cricket Conference

I have just spent this evening with 10-13 year olds teaching them to use their feet to hit the ball down the ground!! This mat really works!! Alan Higson Thurgarton CC

The best thing we have ever bought for our juniors,
Idle CC, Bradford and South Shore CC, Blackpool

Dave cooper

I agree, great for coaches working with young players learning the skills.

I coach at a local club and we bought a katchet and have been a bit disappointed so far. We find the ball doesn't bounce off the katchet as well as it does off a more traditional cradle and also it doesn't work too well as a ramp when on the ground. However, we will persevere with it next season as it may be our technique that needs sharpening up - but it is extraordinarily over-priced for what is essentially a plastic wedge!

As for the Fusion Skyer, I have seen these in action at Edgbaston and very impressive they are too. Perhaps the price (£140) is more reasonable in terms of what you are paying for but it would still be considered a luxury for our club and not something we would commit funds to lightly. There are cheaper versions but I have heard that these are nowhere near as good as the Fusion and not worth the money, how true that is I don't know (the Surridge SS version of the skyer is £80 and the boom bat version is around £30). I will definitely check out a dog ball thrower though - sounds like just the job!

Hello Andy B

I know what you mean about the Katchet. Have you looked at the Katchet website? There are some drills there you can look at. I use it with for wicketkeeper drills and ground fielding.

With dog ball thrower I use tennis balls. Because of the height the ball goes and hang time it is an excellent way for the players to use speed, agility and hand/eye coordination.

Hope this is useful.



I haven't looked at the katchet website but I will do so, tennis balls sound like a good call for the thrower, explaining how one of my u13s got knocked out stone cold due to mis-judging a high catch is not a conversation I relish with one of the parents! Eye-wink

Thanks for the tip


A new gadget to add to this list is the SideArm Club and SideArmPro:

Championed by Graham Gooch no less (and I have watched the England guys using it in the nets at Edgbaston). We bought a Pro for our club and I have been very impressed with it. You can generate considerable pace, bounce, swing and spin with much greater consistency.

There are caveats though - an early version broke easily (replaced FoC and they have now changed the plastic they use apparentlyand the new one does seem sturdier). You also do need to practise with it as your early attempts will see your cricket ball firing over the top of the nets or dug in far too short - there is definitely a knack to it.

It certainly represents a step up for our u15 squad all of whom described it as quicker than most of the bowling they face on a regular basis and in that sense it helps sharpen their reflexes and develop their technique.

Definitely recommended.

It really is a point that needs to be discussed that is the effectiveness of special training equipments used in cricket training. Many such automated as well as other equipments have taken cricket practicing to advanced levels but their effectiveness needs to be checked often. Windows 10 preview