Andrew Strauss reminded today of a brilliant bowling machine drill which we were introduced to by Shiv Chanderpaul.
I'm very particular about how to use bowling machines effectively. They can be great, but I see a lot of monotonous practice which simply repeats a shot over and again with no specific focus. This drill dodges the problems perfectly.
Shiv would set up a machine and put the speed up to 80+ mph. He would adjust it to deliver maximum swinging balls from outside off into middle stump on a perfect length.
Now that's pretty testing, eh?
He would then ask himself to hit the ball around the clock face from 3rd man to straight through to fine leg off this highly challenging ball using his body position and wrists to open up different angles of the clock face:
- Fine of 3rd man
- 3rd Man
- Backward Point/gully
- Extra cover
- Mid off
- Bowler/Bowling machine
- Mid on
- Straight mid wicket
- Mid wicket
- Square leg
- Backward square leg
- Fine leg
- Inside fine leg
Why is this important?
It's an overload drill: If he can find a way of manipulating the 85mph swinging ball to a variety of areas on the cricket field then it's likely that he would be able to cope against slower speeds and less movement in a match situation.
He can also establish which of his manipulation shots is most effective, reliable and useful to him. Thus, eliminating the other shots that he is testing that don't come up to scratch.
Wouldn't it be nice to know which are your top 5 manipulation areas?
It promotes problem solving. So, if you're stuck on the angle of hitting it to extra cover, it encourages you to work out a body position solution that can deal with the task at hand. In this case, the batter may look to start outside the line of leg stump and allow the ball to swing back into the middle of his bat on its way extra cover rather than using the hands only to get the ball to the desired spot.
Ultimately as batters, we have to come up with solutions to many problems and both the actual solution and the process that leads to the solution are valuable things to practice.
Chanderpaul eliminates risk from his game fantastically and fanatically. This is why his Test batting average is so high and why he often ends up holding the West Indies batting line up together in shorter formats.
Chanderpaul doesn't do this by practising safely.
He achieves this by pushing himself to the edge of comfortable so that he confirms which options are best for him and for any given situation or circumstance.
- Slow the pace or lessen the swing initially. Get used to how the body needs to move and adapt in order to come up with solutions.
- Record how many goes it takes for a player to hit all of the targeted angles. When the batter has succeeded, give them another go.
- Once the score has been lowered twice, move on to a slight quicker speed or more swing (maybe a combination of both). Call this Level 2. Better your score twice and then up the Level again.
- If working with a squad then keep a note of the speed and movement in each level. You will have consistency then which promotes competition within the group and lowering your PB.
You can even set up a league table and watch people climb up the Chanderpaul Drill League table.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on.