"Watch the ball closely!"
How many times have you - and I - uttered those immortal words?
It is great information.
For some of our cricketers; but not all of them.
Research has show that it's about a 50/50 split. Many batsmen will benefit from looking hard at the ball and picking out details (the seam for example); a narrow focus. But at least half will be better with a softer focus on the ball, allowing it to come into their vision rather than forcing themselves to focus hard; a peripheral focus.
How do you determine which category each player is in?
Listen to your batters when they have played well against spin and you will either hear them say either:
"I really watched the ball closely today and could see which way it was spinning from the seam rotations."
"I picked his googly well today as he did something different with his wrist at the bottom of his bowling circle."
Someone who benefits from a narrow focus will say the former. Or something very similar at least.
Someone with a preference for peripheral vision will say the latter.
We all have a preference for one over the other. Using the correct focus makes your batsmen more balanced and more likely to make quicker and better decisions.
The problem comes with a lack of correct visual preference. The narrow focus player gets distracted by things other than the finer details, or broader vision person tries to focus in hard on the seam.
The quick test above is a good start to finding out which focus is best, but here are some more detailed tests you can ask players to complete:
- Experiment between the two kinds of focus. Have a net against bowlers where you only do one and the next net do the opposite style of focus.
- Rate your movement efficiency for each session
- Rate your decision making effectiveness for each session
- Speak with the bowlers and get their views on performance in these two parameters
- If you are being objective and you have been consistent with keeping you focus the same for each ball then there will be a clear winner.
Better still, have each player bat for 30 balls in each visual style and log the player's assessment of each shot against the movement efficiency and decision making effectiveness.
I'm sure this challenges the approach that you have used in the past. I know it has with me. I learned why my words and practices worked for one person and didn't for another.
Start applying it like I did and become a better coach.