TOP TIPS FOR CRICKET EXCELLENCE
The batsmen in modern cricket hit the ball with tremendous power and a vast range of strokes with pinpoint precision. All this requires a lot more than just match practice and having a hit in the nets. Cricket Victoria has bowled up these cricket batting tips – see if you’ve got everything covered.
DEVELOPING STRENGTH AND POWER
While you see the odd batsman built like a brick toilet block, many modern players are producing the big hits through the strength and power they can generate through a modest frame. A key to this is dedication to strength and conditioning training.
Developing strength and power might take many years, so be patient. The key is consistency – do your cricket strength training regularly and all year-round, not just in pre-season or in fits and starts.
David Bailey, the strength and conditioning coach for the Victorian Bush rangers, talks about four phases of strength and conditioning for cricket training.
Phase one is an introduction to basic movements. These are bodyweight exercises that incorporate balance, posture and technique. This could include exercises such as:
- one-legged squats (which can be done on a short box)
- push-ups - made more difficult by raising the feet raised and/or having hands on a Fit ball
- pull-ups - with body at an angle and feet on the floor or raised on a Fit ball or box.
Phase two is an introduction to a variety of loaded exercises that are streamlined to a more sport-specific approach. For example, using a cable pulley for a ‘wood-chop’ exercise, which simulates the rotation through the body required in many batting strokes.
Phase three is advanced strength development among key lifts – this involves a greater manipulation of sets, reps and recovery times.
Phase four is about power development and incorporates Olympic, ballistic, plyometric and other training methods. Examples of these movements include:
- Barbell cleans from the floor
- Jump squats
- Medicine ball slams to the side (alternating sides)
- Medicine ball throws from the chest while lying on ground with feet raised (requires a partner or trainer to catch the ball)
- Medicine ball side throws - from a split stance, twist across your body to throw a ball into a wall at your side.
- Explosive rotation training using a power-rope ball (a medicine ball attached to a strong rope).
There is a lot of emphasis on training the core, as much of the power and speed for striking the ball comes from flexion and rotation of the core muscles. You’ll hit many of the muscles in the core when you do exercises for the lower limb muscles (glutes, hamstrings and quads) such as those above.
While the chest and back play a role in power for batting and throwing in the field, the arms are peripheral for cricket – they should get enough strength development from your main upper body exercises.
You’ll see variations in how top players stand, move and hold the bat while they’re at the crease, but there are some common and essential points.
The priority for the grip is that it is comfortable. Your hands may be closer to the top of the handle or closer to the bottom, but they should be close together, with the emphasis on a strong top hand grip.
For your stance, have the feet approximately shoulder-width apart, with your body relatively side-on – you should avoid being too closed off or too open to the bowler when the ball is released. The important thing is to have a stance that allows you to be balanced both prior to the ball being released and at the point of contact with the ball.
Even though your batting stance probably puts your upper body in a slightly bent over position, make sure your eyes are level. The position of your head is vital in maintaining balance at the crease – be sure that your head does not fall towards the offside too much.
Ideally, your bat is lifted up near the back shoulder prior to the ball being released. This is done best when you have a strong top hand grip. Taking the bat back straight (vertical) allows for an uninhibited swing with the full face of the bat or a confident forward defence stroke.
Your stance should see your weight evenly distributed between your feet so it’s equally easy to move onto either the front foot or the back foot. Whether you’re moving onto the front foot or the back to play your shot, it’s important to make an early decision to either attack or defend. Moving forward or back, you need to take the head to the line of the ball – when on the front foot, this is often referred to as “getting your head over the ball”.
When you move your weight onto the front leg, your front leg and pad should not inhibit the back swing. Not only can this rob you of some hitting power, you also set yourself up for LBW dismissals. A decisive move onto the front foot should see you transfer your weight forward through the stroke. A good indication you’ve done this is when your front knee is bent as you hit the ball. When facing spin bowling, use a large first stride, then quick, balanced movements to reach the ball on the full or half-volley to negate spin and bounce.
For back foot play, aim for a smooth transition of weight (rather than jumping) to combat a short-pitched ball that is likely to bounce more. Ideally, maintain a fairly side-on position for all back foot strokes avoiding squaring up to the bowler where possible.
Sometimes you’ll want to play from the crease. This gives you the option to defend a good delivery, but it also puts you in a good position to steer balls into the gaps.
Top players have a knack of putting the ball into the smallest gaps or taking a ball from almost anywhere to strike it into target areas where they can pick up a boundary. Here’s a good simple drill Cricket Victoria recommends to develop these skills – it’s especially a good option for players who may not bowl much.
Operating in pairs, batters take it in turns to strike a nominated number of balls into designated areas that can be indicated by a small gap between two markers. Balls can be hit off a tee, delivered underarm or over arm (including throw downs) or dropped from close range. Batters score a point for each ball that enters a designated scoring zone.
Aim to hit to each target from different positions so that you have to play a range of shots to hit the same target zone.
This drill will help you learn to play strokes implicitly and find a way that works for you to get the ball in the scoring zones.
See more cricket training tips and follow the Victorian Bush rangers at http://www.cricketvictoria.com.au