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.
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.
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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