The ABC of Nets | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

The ABC of Nets

Whether it’s once or twice a week, indoors or outdoors, on turf or synthetic, nets are the bedrock of every cricketer - from local club player to international superstar.

So if cricketers have to go to nets, why not make them work for you?

You can – and it’s as easy as ABC:
A is attitude

As a mate of mine (and a Cricket Australia Level 3 coach) says, you should turn up at nets with purpose, for a purpose. What’s the point in being there if there’s no point in being there?

Have a purpose for making the trip. If you have a purpose, you should have a plan and that way you’ll get more out of your net.

B is for batting and bowling

Batsmen can be their own worst enemies in the nets. Too often there’s a whinge about the deck, the light, the bowling. But how often do we play in perfect conditions?

Next time you march purposefully into the nets try:

  • Setting goals – “I’m not hitting the ball into the nets on the full”, “I’m not going to be bowled today”.
  • Play each delivery with the respect it deserves – Good balls are played defensively, bad balls dispatched
  • Ask someone to watch you bat – What do they see:  strengths and weaknesses?
And bowlers – why not try:

C is for captains and coaches

I think captains and coaches can be the most under-utilized personnel at a net session. Both are invaluable resources – if used correctly.

Captains, when next you go to nets, how about:

  • Be the most enthusiastic participant there. Leading by example will set a great tone for your team and the club.
  • Watch what’s happening in the nets. If you want to know who’ll bat or bowl as though their life depends on it, see how they train.
  • Communicate with other captains, the coach and selectors. If you want the best team, it’s worth knowing what your colleagues are thinking.

And coaches? You are the hub around which everything else happens: not always shouting and clapping hands but maybe quiet and one-on-one but the coach is pivotal in how a net session runs.

Why not:
  • Establish the culture. Nets are a serious place for hard work and development. Socialising starts on the other side of the boundary.
  • Have a plan. What skills do you want developed? What drills will focus on them? What are the Captains complaining about?
  • Work with players to learn their game. By all means, impart the knowledge of skills that you have but out in the middle, the player has to know his own game to deal with what comes his way. Equip him with the tools to be independent and he can adapt to whatever the game throws his way.
It’s all as easy as ABC!

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Nets are an absolute hate of mine because they are not used in the correct way by, I would suggest, most average club cricketers. What happens is that you get people turn up and bowl the ball to try and get the batsman. Now I know thats the general idea BUT how are they improving themselves. In very simple terms they should be aiming for areas to bowl at so that when it comes to a situation in a game they know that they can deliver the ball that theyve been practising i.e. The yorker.

Batsman are the same. When nets are being used incorrectly you have a situation where the batsman might face up 6 bowlers all with different actions and variations. This cannot be good practise.

A re education is needed !

I love nets.

As a spinner I run in and bowl, put the ball on a length with as much spin as I can muster, it turns maybe 1/4 of an inch off the vinyl surface if I'm lucky, and the batsman slog at every single ball, mishit it vertically into the roof of the net and declare "SIX!"

Then when I get to bat, I have one net where the batsmen are having a go at bowling, so I spend half my time picking balls out of the side netting because the ball hasn't reached me, and then move to the other net to face the quick bowlers who have got carried away by how much quicker the nets are than a real pitch, and subsequently don't pitch a single ball in my half of the pitch. To add to the fun, the lights in this net are distinctly underpar, and the pitch looks a little shorter than it should be.

So I cheer myself up by having a big slog at the spinners and declaring "six" after each mishit, who decides he is going to give up spin and bowl bouncers instead like everyone else.

It sets us up perfectly for the season - the bowlers bowl slow longhops that get smacked for 4, and the batsmen get caught slogging at the spinner first ball.

Astute observations AB.

...if somewhat depressing.

I think I'm fortunate enough to have played for a club where the adult players generally take nets quite seriously, which means that as both a bowler and (occasionally) a batsman, it's a session with a bit of purpose and some serious practice; the batsmen are generally keen to play themselves in and get a feel for the ball, whilst the bowlers are looking to put the ball in the right places.

The problem tends to be when some of the youngsters get involved, because they have a short attention span: like AB notes, every ball seems to be "aimed" over deep midwicket and the bowlers either don't practice something consistently or don't have the skills yet to put it into practice, which leads to some less-than-satisfactory practice time.

Not that I would tar all youngsters with the same brush, but often when they get together they're more interested in showing off to one another instead of concentrating on improving their technique.

Ha, I was being somewhat hyperbolic. But I think there are issues there that we have all experienced at one time or another. I think being a spinner in a net that doesn't spin an inch is a particular challenge, especially when faced with an aggressive batsman.

I am all in favour of more targetted net sessions, particularly towards the beginning. I'm experimenting with organising batsmen only nets before Christmas, where we just get 6 batsmen and two bowling machines and work on specific technical things each week. People do seem keen on the idea.

I might organise some bowlers and keepers nets, but I'm not sure it would be met with such a level of enthusiasm.