Becoming the Ranji Trophy’s highest ever run scorer takes relentless patience. You learn to bat the opposition out of the game by waiting and picking off the weak bowling.
Amol Muzumdar, who is in a see-saw competition with Wasim Jaffer to finish with the highest run tally, knows his game in this way. He has a strategy and he sticks to it.
But what if you are just starting out as a batter; how do you learn to play your own way and emulate this success in professional cricket?
One big, and effective, trend in cricket coaching is to use specially designed 'strategy games' to develop specific skills.
These games allow you to effectively focus one part of your game as a player to make fast improvements compared to playing standard matches. In coaching terms we are closing the environment.
Say you are an batter. You have struggled against the new ball recently and want to focus on this area.
Traditionally you may have a net to get back into form. Perhaps you even play some matches to work through your issues. These methods have their place, but they are not specific enough to allow you to work on your weakness against bouncers and the swinging new nut.
So, alongside your coach, opening partner and team opening bowlers you can set up a strategy game instead.
You set up a middle practice designed specifically for the new ball that gives you practice:
- Leaving the ball
- Playing straight
- Avoiding short balls
All other skills are put aside for the duration of the practice. There are a number of ways you can set this up, but one a few of us coaches designed at a recent ECB Coach Development Workshop is as follows:
Strategy Game: Playing the New Ball
You will need:
- 2 Opening batters
- 2 Opening bowlers
- Fielders (6-8 is ideal) and a wicketkeeper
- Practice wicket marked, with stumps
- Several new cricket balls
Setup the game as normal and set your field for opening bowlers with 2 batters padded up. The only difference to a normal field is you place 2 cones at wide mid on and wide mid off, about level with the bowler’s stumps.
The batsmen play as the normally would, aiming to survive and score runs. The bowlers take it in turns to bowl a ball each. After 6 deliveries each the bowlers are changed.
However, the scoring system is set up specifically to test patience rather than other run scoring methods:
- Leave, 2 runs
- Hit the ball, 1 run
- Drive the ball between the cones, 4 runs
- Any other shot, 0 runs
- If you are out, your score is reset.
The aim is for the pair to see how much they can score under this system.
Under this game you have to play with patience and score with straight bat shots to succeed.
This develops your ability to bat for long periods with patience. You will find your method to play with patience develops and you can start looking at those run getting records with real possibility.
Don’t be afraid to adapt the drill to your specific requirements, but give it a try and see how you perform.