As we enter the another exciting season of cricket, here are some thoughts and observations that I'd like to share about training. We want our sessions to be not just productive and safe but also an an environment where player learn to learn. Our goal as coaches is to not just to teach you the skills but great habits that you can take with you beyond just the net sessions.
Any practice session or a game has to start with a warmup and is a non-negotiable part of our academy culture. These are important to get you in the best shape, whether it's for a practice session or a game . A well coordinated, structured and purposeful warmup that ensures dynamic movements of all parts of the body will help prevent injury and allow you to get into the act right away. Remember, your first delivery in the game or even practice isn't a warmup ball. You go in ready!
We are encouraging different people to lead warmup session each time to give everyone an opportunity to take some responsibility and learn some parts of leadership along the way.
And keep in mind that warmups don't have to be a boring chore. Over the years, we have done many different types of dynamic stretches or fun games so we encourage players to to mix them up a bit.
These are a few observations and learnings that will help make your net sessions more productive.
Go in with a purpose. Whether bowling or batting, go in with a purpose for each session. Ask yourself what you want to work on in that session, inform the coach and try to stay focussed on that plan. And at the end of your session, ask yourself how long you managed to stick with the plan. Whether you achieved an improvement or not is less important than developing that habit of a purposeful practice session. Results will come with time. For e.g if you're practicing a slower ball, stay with it for the session. By bowling it a hundred time you'll figure out what grip works for you, what the effective lines and lengths are, what are the best ways to hide the variation, etc. Coaches will help u with suggestions - you have to do it many time to figure out what works for you by doing it many many times
Keep it simple. In one of the sessions, a player told me that he wanted to focus practicing his googly. But my observation was that after every few deliveries, he went back to a leggie to "mix it up" for the batsman. This complicates things because now you're thinking about 2 different things - a skill and a strategy - in the same session and you don't benefit on either. The 'purpose' gets diluted when u complicate things. A simple, purposeful and focussed session will help u perfect one part that can then become part of a perfect whole.
Adjust to the changes. In our academy session, we get batters to play on two very different types of wickets, with a very different pace and bounce. Remind yourself that when going form one wicket to another. And this is just one example of 'change' or 'variation'. A bowler may also switch a net and have to adjust his length. He may bowl to a right hander and then the next ball to a left hander. A batsman might face the quickest bowler on the net and the next one one of a slow pace. Bottom line is that variable situations are a reality of cricket and staying mentally switched on to make an adjustment is a key element of success.
Break it down: During our winter training I often said "well played" or "well done" to a batter or bowler, even when the final result didn't look that great. I often got some questioning looks so let me explain. Every action in cricket is a sum of it parts. If we can identify and break down our learning into a sequence of learning individual parts, learning a specific skill can become a lot easier and less frustrating. Lets look at an example A basic front foot drive looks like one of the easiest things a batter can learn but think of all the things that need to happen to execute it to perfection: You need -- to pick the length -- the right back-lift -- to move your front foot forward -- to transfer your weight to play the ball under your eyes -- the bat swing needs to be such that you can show the full face to the ball And while doing all this, you need to keep a still head. So if even if I don't see a great final result, but I see 2,3 or or 4 of these aspects done well, I'm happy to say "Well played". Why? Because a complex task is broken down into parts and you've done well on 4; now let's see if we can get better at 5 and 6. I find a similar approach to my own practice very helpful in identifying and fixing challenges and I encourage players to follow a similar thinking. For example, if that delivery went wide, think of everything that needs to happen to bowl it, break it down, and you'll figure out, yourself, where it went wrong- Was i focussed during my runup? Was my runup rhythm ok?Leap? Wrist position? Follow through? etc.
There's more to it than: just bowling and batting. Batting and bowling are the only things that go on stats. But often the difference between teams is how well they run between wickets, how well they catch, how players respond to tough situations, etc. You can have a batting unit in both teams that plays all the shots really well. The difference then, might be just how well you find the gaps. Or how well prepared you are for sharp singles. These are all very critical parts of a game. And they can all be practiced, so make them part of your sessions.
Just like warmups, cool-down stretches are equally important a) to prevent injury and b) to allow you to play and practice several times a week, and sometimes on successive days. There are always logistical challenges post-games but it should be an important part of any cricket team or academy culture. And similar to warmups, we will provide opportunity to all players to take the responsibility to run these sessions. Again, the keyword is 'purposeful'.
At QUCA, we're working hard to bring in all aspects of effective sessions in our training environment by constantly learning, not just from experts, but from each other. We're excited about the coming season and look forward to creating the best possible learning environment.