Sam Lavery has been thinking about a good line and length, and he's not happy with the term. Read on for his solution.
"Just hit good areas".
That's a phrase I hear almost every day as coach. Whether it's bowlers, batsmen or coaches, "good areas" is a term used widely used but often blindly.
When I'm coaching I'm always thinking about clarity of language. "Good areas" is not well defined. It's strange that it is banded around freely and lazily when it is open to interpretation. You might say it's a length that makes the batsman uncertain whether to play a front foot or back foot shot. However, the same length can offer the batter a chance to get under the ball and clear the infield and outfield.
So, a good area isn't a single point on the pitch. It's a phrase not a place, and so it should be defined more clearly every time it's used.
What are the considerations for this?
- The pitch. Hard, soft, wet, dry. Covered in long grass or completely bare. All of these factors will impact on how much it bounces, how fast it is, what movement it offers, and what line and length you bowl.
- The bowler. while Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are clearly two world class bowlers, the good areas they hit are very different due to their height, trajectory, usual shape of delivery and pace.
- The ball. Does it swing, spin or seam? How new or old is it?
- The field. How big are the boundaries, are there any unusual angles that may impact on where you bowl?
- The umpire; much as we like to think that the right decisions are always made, we all know an umpire that gives out an LBW the moment the batter looks to sweep, or the one who keeps his hand firmly by his side. How will that impact your plan for wickets and your areas?
- The batsman. One batsman is six feet plenty, the other is five feet and change. A good length to these guys will differ. Skills and intentions vary drastically from player to player.
I'm sure if you think about it you can come up with even more.
Should we be adding more detail to our planning?
Possibly yes. Should we be considering every potential variable before defining a generic terms use?
Should we scrap the use of generic terms altogether from our language as coaches?
Surely that would be too extreme.
What we could do is develop our awareness of how we use language as coaches. Not every player will interpret what we say the way we intend it. The more clarity we can offer, the greater the amount of player discussion and response we can create. The more discussion and feedback we have from our players, the safer we can be in the knowledge that our players are on the road to becoming excellent players.