If I’m being very kind, the standard of midweek league cricket in this part of the world is “mixed”. Despite that, my experience in a recent game showed me that playing bad cricket in poor conditions will help you improve.
It was the first game of the new season; a twenty over slog squeezed in before the sun went down; no umpires, no sightscreens. I was playing for a new team and two guys turned up in shorts and black trainers.
Black trainers are a solid indicator that general standards will be poor.
But it didn’t matter because I still learned some things I could take to more serious matches:
Out-think the batsman in 2 balls
We fielded first and took an early wicket. I wasn’t keeping because the team already had a gloveman (in batting pads obviously). I recognised the new batsman as someone who had netted with my Saturday club team in the winter.
He smashed everything in those nets and I put the call out to our skipper he was a slogger.
The captain pushed a fielder out to deep mid on. I moved to a deep gully.
He biffed the first ball from our slow medium bowler over mid-wicket for a 4.
So the captain indicated to send me out to deep midwicket in a very showy way. The batsman knew I was a reasonable player and watched me trot all the way to the boundary. The field was now:
Next ball he tried to play straight; missed it, and was bowled.
He was totally out-thought by one simple field change.
Free your arms
When we came to chase I had to go in towards the end of the innings and see it through to a relatively easy total. I scored a breezy 22 not out.
During the innings I realised how free I was feeling. Released of the shackles I could play with a clear mind, hit unorthodox shots and enjoy batting without worrying about getting out.
It’s this kind of play that bridges the gap between nets and high-importance games.
We already know you can only get so much from netting. Actually playing a game where the outcome matters – although not that much – helps you improve your experience and calmness at the crease substantially.
You are mentally training yourself without even knowing it.
As a bowler, it’s a simple way to do target practice under pressure.
So if you get the chance to play a knockabout game then take it. It teaches valuable skills and besides it’s great fun.