Short Cricket coaching!
Coaching Cricket: An approach to Juniors.
by David John Carter
Copyright David Carter April 1996.
Second Edition July 1997
May be copied as long as it is kept in its entirety and not edited.
Table of Contents
Technique V Basics. 1
Running between the wickets. 6
Keeping Wickets. 13
Trouble shooting. 14
A few years ago, when I was involved with Junior cricket, I realised that there are simply not enough experienced coaches around to help all our young players develop their abilities. Often the vital jobs of coach, manager, supervisor, scorer and umpire fall upon the shoulders of the willing few. Sometimes the person filling all of these positions is an eager and good hearted parent with little or no experience in the game. In the 80’s I was given the opportunity to coach an Under-12 years side at a state carnival and felt that I had something to offer them. I had at that time been playing the game for many years and had clear ideas of what was important in the game. I never-the-less felt I could use all the help I could get and vainly looked for a book that would make my job easier. Many were too vague and some were far too complicated; all seemed to lack many of the little “tricks of the trade” that come from years of playing the game. I vowed then to some day produce a cricketing manual that would fill this perceived void and help out the novice coach.
This small offering is the result of that vow. It is not designed as a definitive book on the subject of cricket coaching, but is an attempt to give relatively inexperienced coaches the confidence to help a player. It should be used as a supplement to those manuals that explain the techniques in detail, but which may not help with the trickier points. To this end, I have included a “trouble shooting” section which is designed to iron out any small problems that the cricketer is having with a particular stroke or ball.
I have used male pronouns in this manual but I am aware of the growing number of female cricketers and the impressive strength of their competition. The methods used here are valid regardless of gender; it was simply easier for me to write it this way.
Technique V Basics.
Before getting under way though, I want to explain two commonly misunderstood concepts; Technique and Basics. A coach may not recognise the importance of separating these terms and could easily dismiss them as unimportant. Understanding them though, can sometimes be the difference between success and failure for a player.
Technique is the method used to play a particular stroke, bowl a certain delivery and field, catch or throw a ball. It is the aspect that needs to be practiced in the nets. Technique is developed by long hours of practice and fine tuning to master a batting stroke, etc. It should be so developed in the practice sessions that it occurs without conscious thought, eventually becoming automatic. Many coaching manuals detail these techniques, which can be modified by the player of course, and they must be mastered if the player is to succeed.
Basics are those things which, like the mortar in a brick wall, hold everything together. The Basics are the aspects of the game that the player has to actually think about, those things which cannot be placed on automatic. An example of a batting basic is “watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand”. A batsman doesn’t have time to think about technique in a game, but he must watch the ball. In each section of this manual I will make a point of differentiating the techniques from the basics.
All players, irrespective of age or ability, must practice technique, but in a game they must simply DO the basics. Just think of the possible disasters that await the batsman who thinks about technique as the ball comes down the pitch. By the time he’s thought about where his foot should be, his stumps are flattened.
Perhaps this notion might just emphasise the importance of practice sessions. What are you actually trying to achieve when you go to practice? Well the answer to that question might now be a little more obvious than a few minutes ago: You are trying to make your techniques automatic, so that you can trust them in a game and devote your entire concentration to the basics.
I hope I have made my point, I believe it is a vital one. Many cricketers have no idea why they go to practice, they swing the bat wildly in the nets or consistently bowl no balls, bouncers and wides or jog around the paddock getting fit; well practice has a purpose and that purpose must be recognised and the opportunities should not be wasted.
In the developing years of a cricketer’s life it is vital to keep this aspect of the game simple.
The player’s first coaching sessions should see him learning the forward defence and the backward defence. If the person has been playing for a while and has not learned these, stop everything and teach them immediately.
He should be taught, not by having him face a bowler, but instead by the coach standing on the pitch 10 to 15 meters in front of the bat and throwing the ball onto an appropriate length.
The batsman should stand in a comfortable position, feet about shoulder width apart and parallel to the batting crease with knees slightly bent. He should be side-on and looking at the coach along his left shoulder, with his eyes level.
The grip of the bat should be comfortable, but should be neither too high nor too low on the handle. The hands should be together with little or no gap between them. The grip should be firm but not tight.
The player should lift the bat up, straight back over the top of middle stump, before the coach throws the ball.
The purpose of taking guard is to give the batsman an idea of where his stumps are in relation to the ball. This is vital when considering the choice of strokes. For instance, on a difficult wicket, he can more easily decide whether he needs to play at a dangerous ball or ignore it.
The three most commonly used guards are:
Middle stump: A line between the middle stump at the bowler’s end and the middle stump at the
Two legs: Middle stump at the bowler’s end to a position half way between the middle and leg
stump at the batsman’s end.
Leg stump: Middle stump at the bowler’s end to leg stump at the batsman’s end.
The batsman should choose a guard to suit himself and become familiar with it.
For the forward defence, the ball should land about 60cm (2 feet) in front of the batsman, in line with the off stump. The batsman should be taught to try to stand on the ball as it lands and to have his front elbow bent and pointing at the coach.
The bent elbow causes the bat’s face to angle downwards and keeps the ball on the ground.
His weight must be on his front leg, which is bent, and he should be balanced.
He is not to push the bat through in front of his leg, but should try to stop the ball dead where it lands. With this shot the boy should keep his bat very close to his front pad so that the ball cannot pass between bat and pad. If the stroke is being played properly you will notice that his head is directly over the ball at the point of impact with the bat.
For the backward defence, the ball should land about two meters (6 feet) in front of the batsman, again in line with the off stump. The boy should move his back leg across toward off stump and stand upright with his weight on his back leg.
Again his front elbow should be bent and pointing down the pitch, his head should be directly in line with the ball at the point of impact.
Throw the ball sufficiently hard to cause it to rise just above waist height. The right palm (for a right-handed batsman) will come away slightly from the bat handle and a firm left wrist will cause the ball to drop just in front of the boy’s feet.
The bat, which should be angled back because of the bent front elbow, should finish just outside and close to the right hip.
These two defensive strokes are the foundations for all other strokes in the game and must be learned first and developed perfectly. ( Get a coaching manual or book with pictures so that you can be sure that the stroke is being played correctly ).
This may take hours and many hundreds of balls, but the time taken will be well worth the effort. Never underestimate the value of this practice and remember that the boys themselves can take over the responsibilities of coach. Teach them how and where to throw the ball and supervise them until you can confidently leave them to practice together.
Only after the batsman has mastered these strokes should you attempt to develop others. An 11 year old boy, unless he is a naturally gifted player needs only to be able to play two or three attacking strokes. Don’t try to teach him too much, it is better that he masters two strokes than half-masters six.
The three strokes that I would recommend at this point would be the Off Drive, the On Drive and the Cover Drive; all on the front foot. I say this because they can be good scoring strokes, they follow on from the forward defence and most youngsters, when bowling, are coached to keep the ball up to the batsman.
Emphasis should be placed on watching the ball, footwork, position of head and timing. If the ball is being hit in the air, read the section on trouble shooting.
I would never teach a boy of this age the cut, pull or hook shots. It is far better that the batsman has total control of the backward defence than risk injury through a badly played hook or pull. As for the cut, I believe the young cricketer should be learning the importance of getting his head down the line of the ball; something that cannot be done with a cut shot. (Unless off the front foot).
The drives should be practiced in the same manner as the forward defence. The difference being the direction and length of the ball.
The drives are played to balls that land (pitch) in a spot that is easy for the batsman to reach with his front foot. This may be 20 or 30 cm closer to the batsman than for the forward defence. The front foot should face in the direction in which the ball is to be hit.
The Off Drive.
The off drive is played to a ball pitched on or just outside the off stump and is hit through mid off or extra cover.
The front foot moves across and is placed almost on the spot where the ball lands, slightly inside the line of flight of the ball.
The weight must be on the front foot and it is important to remain fairly upright; the front leg must be slightly bent. The bat swings through, hitting the ball very close to the front pad and follows through up over the left shoulder.
The batsman’s head should be directly over the ball at the point of contact and his front foot should be pointing to mid off. The front shoulder and arm should pull the bat through and the ball should be kept on the ground.
The Cover Drive.
To my mind this stroke is the most satisfying and effective stroke in the game. It is played to a ball bowled wide of the off stump and pitched up as with the off drive. It is hit in the area between point and cover.
The front foot moves across the pitch to the off side, again landing just inside the line of flight of the ball. The weight is on the front foot and the shot is also played from a fairly upright position with the front leg bent at the knee. The bat is pulled through with the top hand and arm, this is not a wristy shot, and continues through in an arc over the left shoulder.
The On Drive.
This stroke is played to a ball bowled in line with the leg stump or slightly outside it. It is hit through the area between mid on and mid wicket. It can be very effective when used against an in-swing bowler. As with all front foot drives, the ball must be pitched up to the batsman, who must move his front foot out to meet it.
With this stroke, the foot must land close to, but slightly outside the line of flight of the ball. The bat should come from the line of about second slip and be brought through in a smooth arc close to the pad and up over the left shoulder.
Again the weight should be on the front foot and the stroke is played from a fairly upright position. The head should be directly over the ball at the point of impact and the front foot should be pointing in the direction in which the ball is to travel.
The Basics of batting..
1. Watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand.
2. Get your head down the line of the ball early.
Running between the wickets.
The sets of stumps at either end of the pitch are called the wickets. Running between these wickets describes the action of scoring runs which are not boundaries. These are singles, two’s, etc.
These runs, which may not look as spectacular as fours and sixes, are vital and must be taken at every opportunity. In this section I am going to discuss calling, turning, backing up and grounding the bat.
There are three calls made by the batsman to indicate to his partner whether a run should or shouldn’t be taken.
These are YES, NO or WAIT.
Call YES if there is no doubt about the run. The ball is clear of any fielder.
Call NO if a fieldsman is rounding up the ball and there is a danger of a run out.
Call WAIT if the ball is going near a fieldsman but there is a possibility that he may not be able to get to it before it passes him.
The call of WAIT is followed by YES or NO depending on the circumstances.
The generally accepted rule is that the striker calls for balls hit in front of the wicket and the non-striker calls for balls hit behind or square of the wicket at the batsman’s end. Of course if either batsman sees a danger he should call NO.
The call should be loud and early. If a mistake is made in calling, remedy it quickly. Give your partner as much time as possible to recover his ground.
When running between the wickets, both batsmen should be watching the fieldsman when turning for the next run. To do this the batsman should hold the bat in the hand which allows him to be facing the fieldsman.
The batsman at the non strikers end should be a couple of paces down the pitch before the striker has played his stroke.
The entails watching the ball leave the bowler’s hand and then moving out of the crease. Be very sure that the bowler has released the ball before moving. The bowler can legitimately run out a batsman who is backing up before the ball is delivered.
Be careful also of the ball that is hit back along the pitch. If this ball hits the bowler or a fieldsman and deflects onto the stumps with the non striker out of his crease, he will be run out.
Grounding the bat.
The batsman should place the toe of the bat on the ground a meter or so before reaching the crease. He can then slide it along the ground in front of him. This is especially important in situations where a return by the fieldsman could result in a run out.
ALWAYS WARM UP AND STRETCH BEFORE BOWLING.
It is not within the scope of this manual to detail all types of bowling, many other books are available for this purpose. Here I simply wish to mention some vital points.
Line and Length.
Many times, I am sure, a coach has told a player to bowl line and length without really explaining those terms. I too have been guilty of this in the past with some rather amusing results.
Well let me rectify that now.
It is a fact of cricket that no matter what type of bowler is operating, if he bowls wide of the stumps it becomes relatively easy for a batsman to score off his bowling or simply ignore the ball. As a bowler, we don’t want to make it easy for a batsman, so we must try to limit the number of scoring strokes that he can play but at the same time force him to play the ball.
A medium pace bowler does this by bowling at off stump or just fractionally outside it. A leg spin bowler may bowl on leg or middle stump so as to have the ball finish on or just outside off stump.
An off break bowler may bowl a little wide of off stump and have the ball spin in towards the stumps.
This, of course, should not be taken to mean that every ball should be bowled in the same spot, but is simply to give an idea of what line is all about. Every time that a batsman has to play a stroke to defend his stumps, is a time that he may miss or miss-hit the ball and be dismissed.
Thus good line means bowling the ball so that the batsman has to play a stroke at it and this often means that the ball will end up around the off stump. The batsman has to play at the ball or risk being bowled.
When we talk about the length of a ball, we mean the distance along the pitch where the ball lands.
If the ball is too short, the batsman can usually go onto the back foot and play it comfortably.
If the ball is over pitched, that is it lands too close to the batsman, he can often go onto the front foot and hit it easily.
The purpose of a good length ball is to make it as difficult as possible for the batsman to score off the ball. It may also deceive him into thinking that the ball is over pitched. He goes forward to play his stroke, the ball lands a little shorter than he expects and he can’t quite reach it.
In these circumstances, if the ball moves in the air or off the pitch, it can often hit the edge of the bat and be caught by the wicket keeper or slips fieldsman. If the ball stays straight and the batsman goes through with his stroke, the ball may be hit in the air to mid off, the covers or even the bowler.
This good length varies with each batsman because of height and technique, but is usually in front of the batsman and just short of a position that he can comfortably reach when on the front foot.
In the nets.
In order to find this good length, the bowler can ask his team mates, when they are batting in the nets, to stretch forward as in the forward defence. He should then try to bowl the ball at a spot about 30 cm (1 foot or more) in front of where their foot landed.
The coach should pick a spot on the pitch where he wishes the bowlers to land the ball and mark it, if possible, with chalk. When running in to bowl, the bowlers should concentrate on that spot.
This will take a lot of practice and if the bowler finds that the batsman can go onto the back foot to play the stroke, he will have to pitch the ball up a little closer to him. If the batsman is going onto the front foot and hitting the ball easily then the ball has to be bowled a little shorter.
Good line and length bowling limits the number of places that a batsman can hit the ball. This makes field placement much easier and can lead to a frustrated batsman being dismissed playing a bad stroke.
Being able to vary this line and length is also important and will be discussed later.
Some Fundamentals of Bowling.
Different bowling styles require different grips but it should be understood early that the ball is held in the fingers, not the palm of the hand. (Unless attempting to bowl a slower ball as discussed later).
Shine on the ball.
One side of the ball should be kept shiny by rubbing it against the trousers. A little bit of oil from the forehead will help with this but no other substance should be used.
The other side of the ball should be allowed to scuff up and wear away normally. This effect, shiny on one side and rough on the other, helps the bowler to swing the ball through the air.
Team bowlers should agree on the side they wish to shine and all work hard to keep it in good condition.
The seam, where the two halves of the casing join, should be held upright for the best swing and cut off the pitch.
Whether the bowler faces the seam to first slip, fine leg or the stumps, he should strive to keep it upright. This of course, is not possible if he is cutting his fingers across the seam as he may do at times.
Medium Pace Bowling.
The most valuable ball that a medium pace bowler can have in his armoury is the out-swinger or away-swinger. This is a ball which swings away from the right-handed batsman towards the slips.
The seam should be facing straight down the pitch or towards first slip. The shiny side of the ball should be facing to the leg side. The arm should be reaching high in the air and the bowler should attempt to get as close to the stumps at the bowlers end as possible.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the angle of the seam and note the effects under different weather conditions. Some days the ball will swing the opposite way and certainly the amount of swing will vary from day to day. Sometimes a slightly round arm action may be needed to get the swing, but this usually creates a ball that swings from the bowling arm and is not as effective as late swing.
The line of the ball is dependant on the amount of swing. If the bowler is getting a lot of swing and is able to control it, he may aim at leg stump. With a small amount of swing the ball should be aimed at middle or off stump.
This ball swings in the air from the off side into the right-handed batsman.
It is held with the first and second fingers at either side of the seam and the thumb on the seam at the bottom of the ball. The seam is pointed at the stumps or to about fine leg.
The shiny side of the ball should be facing to the off side. Again it is important to keep the seam upright.
Good control of this ball is vital, the bowler must maintain a very good line or the in swinger can be easy pickings for the batsman.
The line for the in swinger is also dependent on the amount of swing. It should start outside off stump and angle into off or middle stump.
Spin bowling can be very effective against young batsmen who may have little idea of playing spin with safety. Control of line and length is a vitally important aspect that requires much practice.
Off-spin. (Off break).
When a right-handed bowler bowls to a right-handed batsman and spins the ball from the off side into the batsman, he is bowling off spin. The ball is spun from the left to the right using the first finger and wrist flick. The seam should be angled to fine leg or directly across the pitch, parallel to the batting crease.
The ball should be pitched up to the batsman enticing him to come forward. A short pitched off break is a gift to a batsman.
Leg-spin. (Leg break).
When a right-handed bowler bowls to a right-handed batsman and spins the ball from the leg side toward the slips, he is bowling leg spin.
The ball is held by the thumb and first three fingers. The first and second fingers are placed across the seam at the top of the ball, the thumb also is placed across the seam. The third finger, running along the seam, is the predominant finger and this, with a sharp wrist flick, spins the seam right to left. The ball comes out of the back of the hand between the second and third fingers.
The seam may be angled to second slip or gully. As with the off break ball, it should be pitched up to the batsman.
Both the off break and leg break bowler should practice varying the flight of the ball. He must be able to loop the ball high in the air to land it accurately on the pitch. He must also be able to bowl a lower trajectory ball with accuracy.
He must be able to vary his pace without losing control and, most importantly, he must be able to bowl with very accurate length.
A spinner can win many matches for a team, he doesn’t even require great skill in the younger years, so don’t shy away from using him and certainly encourage him to develop his skills.
The bowler should have his technique developed before he tries too much.
Smooth run up, sideways action, left arm high, front foot in the correct place, front leg straight, high bowling arm and correct follow through are important aspects of bowling. A bowler should read everything he can find on the subject of technique and then experiment to find what is right for him. Every cricketer is an individual and is to be encouraged to develop his own style, within reason. Poor technique, if not remedied, will be a major disadvantage in later years though.
At the Practice Nets.
Keep bowling that one delivery over and over again. This will take a lot of discipline and may become boring. Still, to perfect a delivery one must work hard on the techniques until they are mastered. When a bowler is in control of a delivery, he can then move on to develop another.
When bowling a particular ball, watch where the batsmen tend to hit it. In a game you may save a lot of runs and take some wickets by placing fieldsmen in those positions.
To belabour the point I was making earlier about techniques and practice in the nets, a coach may often see a bowler delivering no-balls in the nets. When approached, the player will perhaps say “I don’t bowl them in a match so what does it matter?”
Well this simply tells you that he has no idea why he is practicing. The advice that comes out of this is that there is no point in mastering a good length in practice if the fellow bowls from a different position in a game. Why is he practicing something that he doesn’t do in a match? Watch these things and try to get the player thinking about the practice session.
The Stock Ball.
A bowler should develop a ball which will be the one he delivers most often. Usually one which is just short of a driveable length and pitched on the line which makes the batsman play at it.
Once he has this delivery under control he may then vary the pace at which the ball is delivered - a bit faster or slower than normal - attempting to cause the batsman to miss-time the stroke. He may also vary the length and line of the ball.
Variation of line and length.
This can be valuable in unsettling a batsman or in the best instance causing a false stroke. It shouldn’t be overdone and can be as simple as bowling three balls short of a good length and then a fourth one pitched up to yorker length. This may find the batsman going onto the back foot, anticipating a fourth short ball, and being bowled or LBW.
A more subtle example is to bowl two balls which the batsman is able to drive easily and then a third ball on the same line but just a little shorter. The batsman may play for a third drive and find himself not close enough to the ball.
Another tactic is to bowl a tight line on off-stump for a number of balls and then push one wider of off-stump. The batsman may, without noticing, place his foot down the line of off-stump and edge the wider ball to slip or keeper.
Variation of pace.
Medium and fast bowlers absolutely must develop this aspect of their craft. Bowling to a batsman in full swing, one who has picked the pace of the ball off the pitch, can be a devastating feeling. The best answer to this free flowing attack is to vary the pace of the ball and over the years bowlers have developed many different ways to do this.
During my playing days I found two methods to be most successful for me and neither of them entailed slowing the speed of the arm. Firstly, the ball can be delivered as an off-break, that is using the right index finger to cut across the seam and impart sideways spin. This can be quite effective against the slogger. The method I found to be better against an accomplished batsman was to deliver the ball from between the 2nd and 3rd fingers. Normally the first and second fingers run beside the seam, but when the second and third fingers are used, the grip becomes altered and the ball comes out of the hand more slowly. There is no need to change any other aspect of your bowling action.
Some bowlers slow the arm speed, some hold the ball very loosely and yet others place the ball back into the palm of the hand to alter their pace. It is my consideration that you should use whatever works for you, however any obvious changes of technique will be quickly noticed by the better batsmen so you should try to be subtle.
Note: Use the variation sparingly.
The Basics of Bowling.
Don’t try too much. HAVE A STOCK BALL AND VARY IT OCCASIONALLY.
Decide what you are going to bowl before you start your run up. You may have to change this plan on short notice if the batsman decides to do something unusual, but you need to have an idea of what you are trying to achieve to begin with.
Concentrate on the spot on the pitch where you want the ball to land.
Each player on the field must be aware of his responsibilities. His job is three-fold; stopping the ball, returning the ball to the wicket keeper and taking catches. All fielding positions have special requirements, but all require good concentration and anticipation.
These positions are very demanding on young players and I believe the more mature in the team should fill them.
First slip should stand slightly behind the wicket keeper and a good two meters to the side of that position. He should be crouched low with his weight evenly balanced on both feet. His fingers should be facing down to the ground and his hands relaxed.
He should watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand and not take his eyes off it as it travels down the pitch to the batsman.
Second slip should stand about level with the wicket keeper and should be wide of first slip to the degree that, when they hold out their arms, their fingers do NOT touch.
Second slip and any further slip fieldsman (including Gully) usually do not watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand, but most concentrate on the edge of the bat. This is a matter of preference but the majority watch the bat.
The fieldsmen in the Covers, mid-off, mid-on and mid wicket should mark the spot where the captain has asked them to field.
They should then walk back four or five meters in line with that spot and the batsman. As the bowler begins his run up they should begin to walk and arrive at the spot as the ball reaches the batsman.
This ensures that they are not flat footed when a stroke is played.
They should be watching the batsman and be prepared to move to either side if he plays an attacking stroke.
If the batsman plays a defensive stroke, the fieldsman should move forward quickly to cut off any single.
Outfielders should walk in toward the striker as the bowler begins his run up and should be on the move as the batsman plays his shot.
He should watch the batsman and attempt to anticipate the stroke that is about to be played.
When fielding, the player should attempt to get his body behind the ball and never take his eyes off it. If the ball makes it through his fingers and the player is in the correct position it will be stopped by his body.
If the fieldsman is on the run to the ball he should attempt to pick it up beside his foot. If he then miss-fields, it will hit his shoe and go no further.
Whether fielding or taking a catch, the player must relax his hands and let the ball come to him. He should not have stiff fingers nor should he snatch at the ball.
When picking up the ball, the fieldsman’s eyes should be directly over the ball when possible.
Returning the ball to the wicket keeper should be done with a side on action. The right-handed fieldsman should point his left arm in the direction in which he wishes to throw the ball. The ball should be held with the fingers across the seam which will negate any swing and make control easier.
The Basics of fielding.
Watch the batsman as the bowler is approaching.
Watch the ball as it is coming to you.
The wicket keeper’s job is one of the most important and demanding on the cricket field. He must concentrate on every ball and a good keeper can lift the standard of play in the field.
He should have a comfortable and balanced stance with knees bent so that he can easily transfer his weight to either foot. The weight should be on the balls of the feet, not the heels.
He should be in a position where he can see the bowler in his run up and be able to see the ball as it is delivered. Concentration on watching the ball from the bowler’s hand is vital.
The tips of the fingers should never be facing forward at the approaching ball. They should face the ground, point upwards or sideways when taking the ball.
To fast or medium paced bowlers he should be standing in a position which will allow him to take the ball just below waist level. Since the position of the slips fieldsmen is determined by where he is standing, it is very important that he sums up the pace of the bowler and that of the pitch after only a few balls. He must position himself for those variables.
He should allow the ball to come to his gloves and not snatch at the ball and he should be ready to move quickly either to the leg or off side to gather a wayward delivery or to take a catch.
Keeping to Spin Bowling.
Keeping to spin bowlers is the most difficult task of the keeper. As well as safely gloving the ball, he must be alert to any stumping possibility.
When practicing he should take every opportunity to keep to a spinner whether a batsman is present or not. He must practice his footwork, anticipation, smooth glovework and stumping technique. A tennis ball can be used in the nets to practice taking a rising ball when standing up close to the stumps.
Keeper and bowler relationship.
The wicket keeper should develop a good understanding with the bowlers and should know their stock ball.
There is no reason why the bowler can’t signal to him (secretly) what type of ball he is going to bowl.
If the bowler is going to bowl a slower ball, the keeper can move up a couple of paces closer to the stumps. If a faster ball is planned he can step back and so not be caught off guard.
If a batsman is standing outside the crease, the bowler might indicate that he is going to bowl the ball wide of leg stump. If the keeper is waiting there for it and the batsman misses the ball, there may be a chance for a stumping. A quick scratch of the right ear might be all that is needed to indicate this ball.
In the nets, the coach should mark a spot on the pitch where he is going to land the ball and then attempt to throw to that spot each time.
1. Forward Defence.
a. Ball popping in air.
This is usually caused by the batsman not placing his foot close enough to where the ball is landing.
He may be going only ¾ of the way forward which will cause him to push his bat forward to meet the ball. This straightens his front arm and at the point of contact with the ball, you may see that his bat is perpendicular or the blade actually in front of his hands. Assuming that the ball is landing in the correct place (60 cm or so in front of him), insist that he tries to stand on the ball. Remember that his weight must be on the front foot, his head must be over the ball at the point of contact and his front elbow must be bent and pointing at the coach.
b. Ball missed or hitting edge of bat.
This is usually caused by the batsman pushing his front foot forward, straight down the pitch instead of across to the ball. He may be going forward the correct distance but, because he is moving down the line of middle stump and the ball is on off stump, his head will not be in line with the ball. Look for a gap between bat and front pad as the batsman chases the ball in an attempt to hit it. Instil in every player the importance of getting his head down the line of the ball. A batsman will never have complete control of a stroke until he does this. Have him try to stand on the ball as it lands. There is also the possibility that the bat is being taken back to second slip or wider, instead of straight back over the top of the stumps, during the backlift.
c. Ball going under bat.
This is usually caused by the batsman being too upright or stiff. The forward defence is a crouching stroke with the front leg and bat moving together. The other possibility is that the batsman is lifting the backlift too high or worse, too late. A short backlift before the ball is thrown is the correct method for a forward defence.
d. Ball hitting pad or bat hitting pad.
Here the cause is probably over stepping. The batsman has moved his front leg across too far and is outside the line of the ball. Ensure that he is watching the ball out of the coach’s hand and not taking his eyes off it. Also make sure that his eyes are level and that he is side on to the coach. Have him step to your mark a few times without you throwing the ball.
1. The front elbow must be bent and pointing forward.
2. The head must be directly over the ball at the point of contact.
3. The bottom hand should only be used to guide the bat. There should be no power in the shot.
If you are having trouble landing the ball on the marked spot, he should move forward and, if it is wide, allow it to pass without attempting to hit it.
With the forward defence do not throw the ball hard. It is far better to lob the ball onto the spot that you have marked. Do not spin the ball and you will have greater control if you hold the ball across the seam.
2. Backward Defence.
a. Ball popping in air.
This is caused by pushing the bat at the oncoming ball which has the effect of straightening the front arm. Ensure that the batsman’s front elbow is bent and pointing high and that his weight is almost entirely on the back foot. For the ball that gets up to chest height, he may have to rise up on his toes. He should wait for the ball to come onto the bat. His head should be in line with and directly above the ball The top wrist should be firm and the bottom hand should keep the bat straight and not push in any way.
b. Ball missed or hitting edge of bat.
Most likely, in this situation you will find that the batsman is taking his back foot across to the leg stump. This has the effect of pulling his head away from the line of the ball which is on off stump.
Because his head is not in line with the ball it is far more difficult for him to judge the stroke and get the middle of the bat onto the ball. Mark a spot on the pitch which is 10 cm (6 inches) in front of the stumps and half way between middle and off stump. This is where his back foot should finish with his toes facing in the direction of cover. Get him to move to that position a few times without you throwing the ball. Then, after every ball you throw, get him to compare the position of his foot with the mark. Remind him that he must get his head down the line of flight of the ball. Of course if the ball is wide he should either move further across to get in line with it or let it pass without offering a shot.
c. Ball hitting inside edge of bat.
This can also be caused by the batsman taking his back foot across to leg stump and should be remedied as in B. above. Sometimes though, this is caused by the batsman having his front elbow pointing to mid wicket or even square leg, instead of straight up. Keep an eye out for this and correct it quickly for it can be a difficult habit to eliminate. You will notice that the bottom of the bat is pointing to the off side and the bat itself is not perpendicular...Straighten it up.
With the backward defence you will have to throw the ball a little harder and shorter than with the forward defence. The plan is to get the ball to bounce up just above waist height; so you will have to experiment to find the correct length and pace for each boy’s height. As with the forward defence you should not throw the ball too hard. We are trying to develop confidence and correctness, not a fear of being hit. Reinforce the fact that he is to watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand. Watch for a tendency to square up when playing this stroke. Cricket is a side on game and this is a side on shot. Of course some squaring up must occur because of the movement across the stumps but it should be minimal.
3. The Drives.
a. Hitting the ball into the air when on the front foot.
Many books and coaches will tell you that this is caused by using too much power in the bottom hand.
This is true, but why does it happen? Well usually because the batsman hasn’t shifted his weight onto the front foot! The problem arises when the batsman doesn’t get his foot to the pitch of the ball. Being short of the target, he must push the bat in front of his body to hit the ball and this causes his undoing.
The solution is to get to the pitch of the ball and play the stroke with the body weight being pulled forward by the front shoulder.
b. Ball hitting the edge of the bat.
A bowler delivering away swingers or leg cutters is attempting to have the batsman caught in the slips off the edge of the bat. Sometimes they succeed because they bowl a very good delivery, but often they succeed because the batsman’s technique is faulty. It is up to the batsman and coach to eliminate the false strokes and make the bowler work hard for his wicket. The batsman’s head is not down the line of the ball. This error is caused, in the main, by placing the front foot straight down the pitch and playing with the bat away from the body. Or in the case of a short ball, placing the back foot to leg stump.
The distance that the head is away from the line of the ball need not be large for this to occur, but the further away it is, the greater the chance of getting an edge. Failure to judge the length of the ball can also lead to this mistake and the batsman must learn which ball to hit and which to leave alone.
To the batsman:
With much practice these strokes will begin to come naturally. If you really desire to play the game well, don’t give up because it is taking weeks to perfect a shot. Keep at it, when the ability to play a stroke comes to you, the satisfaction will make the effort well worth while.
A coach will find it difficult to help a bowler unless he follows a sensible routine. The mechanical aspects of bowling can be summarised as follows:
Grip of the ball; run-up; front foot; back foot; front arm; bowling arm; head; aim; follow through. After checking the grip of the ball have the bowler run in and deliver a dozen balls. Each time watch just one aspect and make some quick notes on a pad.
Beginning with the simplest aspect to correct, have him work on that until it is natural to him, then take up the next item and so on.
a. Bowling short.
Ensure that the bowler is looking at the spot on the pitch where he wants the ball to land. Some bowlers look at their feet or the bowling crease and some even look into the air. If they start early enough, by looking at the right spot they will soon have greater control. The bowler may be holding the ball too far back in his hand or too tightly and therefore holding on to it for too long. Also, the bowler may not realise that he is bowling short and may need a mark to aim at until he gets his rhythm.
b. Over pitching.
As with bowling short, the bowler may not be looking at the spot on the pitch at which to aim. He may be gripping the ball too loosely and therefore the ball will be leaving his hand too soon. It is better to be over pitching than being too short, but it can be a little frustrating having every ball smashed to the boundary because it is a full toss. Mark the pitch on a good length and get him to aim at it.
c. Ball not swinging.
There are a number of technique reasons for this occurring, but assuming the bowler’s body technique is correct, there are three other possibilities. Firstly the seam of the ball may not be upright. If the seam wobbles as it travels through the air, the ball will be unable to swing. Secondly, the ball needs to be given time to swing and if the bowler is pitching too short it will never get a chance to do so. Thirdly, if the ball is old or if one side is not shiny it will not swing. Impress on the whole team the importance of keeping the ball in good condition.
d. Ball not spinning.
Assuming that the grip is fine, this will occur if the wrist is not twisted correctly. Have the bowler practice twisting his wrist in the manner of opening a door. He should do this with and without a ball, being careful not to strain his wrist. Sometimes if the ball is too new, the bowler will be unable to grip it well enough to impart spin with his fingers. Spinning is a combination of finger and wrist movement which takes practice. The spin bowler should be attempting to spin the ball every time he bowls. It is a lot of fun to bamboozle a batsman and the spinner should read everything he can get his hands on.
To be successful, a team must be made up of individuals who understand their roles and responsibilities and who carry them out. This, along with complete support for other team members, creates a disciplined team. The team requirements must come before, but compliment, the individual’s needs. For instance if you have a situation where quick runs are needed to win a match, but the game is drawn because a batsman played defensively to protect his average, then there is a breakdown of discipline within the team. This is one of the more difficult problems that a coach will face.
Individual discipline, on the other hand, comes down to applying the basics. It is not uncommon to find a batsman who looks good in the nets but cannot score runs in a game. What we have here is a classic example of not applying the basics.
A coach must take the time to find out what the boy is thinking about when he is batting, then find out if the boy knows what he is supposed to be thinking about. Be particularly watchful for the boy who simply states the basics parrot fashion. He must not only know what he should be doing but he must also understand it and be able to apply it.
Often when young batsmen go to the crease they think of everything but the basics. They must put out of their mind thoughts such as “Boy this bowler is fast.” or “I’m hopeless against spin.” or “I hope I score some runs today because dad is watching.”.
They must think only of the basics:
1. Watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand. (The number one, all time, most important factor).
2. Get your head down the line of the ball.
3. Play in the arc between mid on and mid off until you are seeing the ball well. (15-20 runs).
When fielding, expect the ball to come to you, watch the batsman and when the ball is hit, watch it closely. When bowling, look at the spot on the pitch where you want the ball to land and know what type of ball you are going to bowl before you begin your run up.
This is what discipline is all about. Stick to the basics and do not allow your mind to wander onto other things.
It is vital that a team goes into a game with some plan for that game.
The fielding side.
Basically only three situations exist for a fielding side during a game. Their goal might be to dismiss the batting side, restrict its scoring or to do both. As a match progresses the tactics may have to vary between these three; the tactic chosen being dependant on how the game is leaning.
In a situation where runs are of little consequence, but it is necessary to take wickets to win a game, then an attacking field is called for. The bowlers would experiment; changing line and length, varying pace and angle of the deliveries, generally hoping that the batsman will make a mistake.
With his faster bowlers, a captain may set a field which would have men in catching positions and others in positions which stop the batsman scoring from his favourite shot. Most batsmen get a little frustrated when they are not able to score and will play strokes which are out of character.
One tactic which can be used successfully is to set an off side field with the bowler aiming on or outside off stump. A large gap is left on the on side, inviting batsmen to play across the line of the ball. This can lead to a batsmen getting an edge to the fielders or being bowled. The effectiveness of this tactic is dependant on the relative abilities of the batsman and bowler.
A bowler can even toss in some “bad” balls; full tosses, half volleys or long hops in an attempt to “sucker” the batsman into playing a rash stroke.
Varying the angle at which the ball is bowled can result in a dismissal. The bowler can achieve this by bowling close to the stumps, then from wide near the return crease or he might bowl a few from around the wicket.
A spin bowler must be prepared to give the ball plenty of flight (or loop through the air) and not be afraid of being hit for four. He should set a few of his fieldsmen to stop singles and others to take catches.
Basically the bowler should give a batsman balls that he can attempt to hit, mixed in with balls directed at off stump. He must keep the batsman guessing, tie him down and force him into error.
In a situation where it is of greatest importance to keep the batting side from scoring, accuracy of bowling it all important. This sort of situation may occur during a limited overs match or if it is important to draw a match for season points.
The quicker bowlers must bowl a tight line and length. By that I mean the ball should be directed at off stump and land just short of a good driving length. This will force the batsman to hit the ball straight and in the arc between mid on and mid off.
Fielders are placed at deepish mid on and mid off to intercept this shot and others are placed at extra cover and mid wicket. Two others would field in positions which would stop the single at close cover and on the leg side. Square leg, short third man and gully would stop the edged shot.
The spin bowlers would not give the ball too much flight, but would push the ball through on a low trajectory. The fielders would be set in positions similar to those for the quicker bowlers, with a slight strengthening on the side to which the ball is spinning.
All bowlers must concentrate on keeping the batsman from scoring and should not bowl any loose balls from which the batsman might score easily. They must fix their eye on the spot on the pitch to which they wish to bowl and concentrate on putting the ball there.
If the batsmen are dominating the bowling it will be found that variation of pace is the most effective weapon.
Naturally the fieldsmen must back up the bowler, expect the ball to come to them and not allow runs to be scored because of miss fielding. Good fast returns to the wicket keeper will give any batsmen second thoughts about taking any risky singles.
In a situation where runs and wickets are both equally important, the tactics of the game will vary with its tempo. If the batsmen are getting on top of the attack, a more defensive and frustrating field would be set. This to slow the scoring and force the batsman into a rash stroke.
Where the bowlers are getting wickets, a more attacking field would be set and batsmen’s weaknesses would be exploited. All the time keeping run saving fieldsmen in place.
Bowlers must keep in mind that they should be attempting to force a batsman to play at the ball, either to protect their stumps or to play an attacking stroke.
The batting side.
Each batsman must know what is expected of him before he goes in to bat.
With the ball swinging, cutting and bouncing as it does early in an innings, the opening batsmen have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders. They have the job of taking the shine off the ball and softening it up for later batsmen.
As well, they must also keep the score moving. These two batsmen must have patience, skill at running between the wickets and an ability to choose which ball to hit. Ideally they should not be totally defensive batsmen but should have some attacking strokes so as to score boundaries from the loose deliveries. A left and right-handed opening combination can be very effective. This combination forces the bowlers to change their line and length and can lead to many loose deliveries.
If the bowling is tight the batsmen should always be looking for singles. Good calling and quick running will ensure that the score increases as the ball ages.
The number three batsman should be the most capable in the team. He should be able to assume the role of opener if an early wicket falls or keep the pressure on the bowlers if the openers get off to a good start.
The batsmen who follow should play their natural games, playing each ball on its merits. They should punish the loose ball and have respect for the good ball.
When a wicket falls it is important that the incoming batsman takes time to settle in and he should be looking to give the strike to the batsman who has been at the crease for a while. The latter should control the strike and give the new batsman time to become accustomed to the light and pace of the pitch. He should not change his style a great deal with the exception of removing any reckless strokes. The loss of two wickets in a row can be devastating.
Batsmen should work together. Look for singles, call well and note any weak or strong fieldsmen.
As a batsman, one should always be aiming to have dominance over the bowler. This does not mean hitting every ball to the boundary, but it does mean punishing any loose ball. It follows then that the more loose balls a batsman receives the greater the chance of dominating the bowler. If the batsman allows the bowler to dominate him, he will not receive loose balls.
He must attempt to “Hit the bowler off a length”, which is to say, he must have the bowler wondering where to bowl the ball.
The batsman might do this by taking his stance at different points on the pitch. He may occasionally take his guard half a meter in front of the batting crease. This would have the effect of making the ball, which would normally be a good length, into a half volley. He would be always looking for singles so that the bowler wasn’t able to get into a rhythm to one batsman. He would attempt to push balls into the gaps or, if the fieldsmen are close, hit over the top of them into the outfield. He would never allow a loose ball to pass by without being punished unless he is out of position to play a safe stroke.
Disclaimer: The user of this manual does so knowing that it contains information thought by some authorities to be radical. The Author accepts no liability and cannot be held responsible for any outcome that may be considered harmful through the use of the techniques herein.
David Carter 1997
Göteborg Cricket Club