To move or to keep still, that is the question.
Almost every first class batsman has a trigger movement of some kind: That shuffle of the feet just before the bowler delivers the ball that gets you into position. Yet the coaching books are adamant about keeping still.
Who is right?
Should you be using a trigger move?
As with all great cricketing questions the answer is 'it depends'.
Head still, eyes level
Batting, like any ball striking skill, is about being balanced and meeting the ball in perfect coordination with the body's movements. That is what timing is all about.
It all starts as the bowler releases the ball and you have that fraction of a second to decide where the ball is going and what shot you are going to play. This becomes much easier to do if your head is still and your eyes are level.
The ball is already moving, if your head is moving side to side at the same time it takes the brain valuable extra time to predict line and length: Time that can make the difference between sound defence and nicking off first ball.
So it makes perfect sense for coaches to tell you to keep your head still and simply be relaxed and balanced at the crease.
The advantages of trigger movements
To a 10 year old learning to play, keeping still is good advice. It is a fundamental basic of batting that can be confused easily with the complications of triggers.
But there are obvious benefits to a player with the basics down already: Time, rhythm and balance
- Time. All well executed trigger movement is able to buy you time. You are already halfway to playing a shot before the ball is out of the hand.
- Rhythm. If you move a little at the right moment your big movement shot becomes easier, almost like you have played a tiny practice shot first to get into the swing of things. Like a metronome ticking back and forth in perfect timing.
- Balance. A movement pre-delivery can get you onto the balls of your feet with your head over your toes. You are both ready to move but also stable and balanced.
We also know from other sports that a trigger movement helps you focus mentally.
All this is possible without a trigger movement, but is a lot more difficult. The trigger gives you momentum into whatever shot you select.
The problem with trigger movements
Like a lot of newer ideas in cricket, the trigger movement is a misunderstood technique. Yes, it has huge advantages when done correctly but when done wrong you are staring down the barrel of failure.
I think what may happen is that players are influenced by what they see on TV, but attempt to recreate the trigger movements of their heroes without access to high level coaching (or any coaching).
Your setup is crucial and adding or changing a trigger movement out of context can lead to:
- Loss of rhythm. Moving too early can upset that delicate metronome of rhythm that all good batsmen need.
- Less time. If you move too late and your head is not still when the ball is delivered it will feel as if the ball is on you much more quickly.
- Unbalanced. Getting caught off balance when the ball is bowled because you have moved incorrectly will limit your range of shots and timing drastically.
In short, getting a trigger movement right is hard work. When Rob Key adopted one in 2003 he said:
"To get it I had to hit hundreds of balls on freezing mornings at Canterbury three or four times a week on a pretty dodgy surface in an indoor net. I'm a work in progress really, but you have to work hard at something like that because it's not something you can think about when you're batting. It's got to be natural."
Still or moving?
Where does all this leave us?
I think it makes trigger movements a highly personal thing, and not something to be entered into lightly.
First, the basics. No matter what your personal style, to succeed you must have:
- Head still at the point of delivery
- Eyes level in your stance and at the point of delivery
If you have not achieved much success with the bat yet my advice is simple: Focus on keeping still for now. It's doubtful the bowling will be of a speed a trigger become more important anyway.
You may have a natural trigger movement. As long as it is not away from the stumps and it gives you confidence then stick with it. If not, focus on keeping still again. Go back to basics.
Most people don't have one naturally and make a conscious decision at some point to adopt one. If you want to do this, remember Rob Key and how much work it took him, a very fine batsman. As long as you are prepared to put in as much work as Rob to do it there are a number of options. Try them out and find a comfortable one, then get to work:
- Back foot back and across towards off stump, transferring weight back onto the front foot as the ball is bowled.
- Front foot forward (not across).
- Widening your stance, back foot back, front foot forward.
- Taking a pace down the wicket
Generally the back first movements are better for pace and the forward first movements are better for spin. Moving down the wicket is a good strategy to get your feet going but is best avoided every ball, especially when the keeper is standing up.
Bob Woolmer rightly points out the longer you bat in an innings the less you find you need a trigger at all. He also advises that it's impossible to coach as everyone will have something different they find comfortable.
I admit to being sceptical about the need for a trigger at club level at all. Bowlers are not the same standard and the whole thing is prone to going horribly wrong if not taken in context correctly. If you must have one, stick to the basics of being still at the point of delivery. If you are struggling for form look elsewhere to turn it around, a trigger is not the answer.
What are your experiences with trigger movements?
Photo credit: pj_in_oz