The words ‘cricket is a funny game’ will be uttered with hilarity and despair across summer parks and fields every Saturday. At the elite level, the game can take five days without deciding a winner. Yet, it’s at the local level that you find its most comical moments. Whether it be a partner giving you a call of ‘Yes, No… Sorry’, toiling away all afternoon for the reward of dropped catches, overthrows and dodgy decisions or the opposition’s volunteer burning the sausage rolls at afternoon tea… cricket makes us laugh and cry.
While cricket has undeniably humorous moments, there is nothing more absurd than the way players train to play it. Simply, there is no other game in the world where the practice is so different from how the game is played.
“Everything about net practice in our game is so false and fake to what you actually come across in a game”. – Ricky Ponting, former Australian Test Captain.
Top players have access to turf wickets allowing them to train in similar conditions to what they play in, but when you compare this to the weekly training at your local amateur cricket club, you see how farcical it is to the game that is being prepared to play.
Batsmen have an 8-minute hit in the dark, facing balls that no longer resemble leather. A few balls they will go out slogging, the ‘good shots’ get hit to where fielders would be, and there is definitely no running between the wickets. And this is supposed to prepare them for a 3-hour innings on Saturday? Seeing off the new ball and making sure there are wickets in hand at tea.
The quick bowlers are no better, deciding that sending down bouncers from 4 yards closer is the best way to prepare for the slow-medium dribble they dish out come the weekend – knowing full well it will only get dispatched over mid-wicket time and time again. When they finally decide to pitch it up (after the two minutes rest between balls), the snick behind is greeted with the celebratory “GOT HIM, YES!”. When in reality, the keeper and first slip have probably just had their crack at the mannequin challenge and let it sail straight through them – four more into the book.
Fielding training is where you can really find a laugh. Get down to your local club side when someone decides the ‘grippers’ drill is a good idea. The thrower generally can’t hit a barn door, and when they do get it right – the batter decides to give it his best Virender Sehwag and uppercuts over everyone and into the car park. It only goes from bad to worse when someone yells the never to be spoken words “five more and we are done”, which only drops the success rate of catches from 30% to 10% and getting everyone in more trouble with their partners at home.
These problems are not new observations, coaches and players have known and acknowledged them for decades. Simply, the conventional cricket practice is just the most convenient way to get in volume. Training is largely about ‘feeling good’ – a false ego boost of confidence going into a game. In reality, the best performing cricketers aren’t more talented, they just make fewer mistakes, but the ability to reduce your errors is seldom trained as most coaches are restricted by the responsibility of getting 30 people a hit in 90 minutes, with their only real input calling out ‘last six’.
The governing body Cricket Coaches Australia have published campaigns to address these challenges, promoting that the modern best practice is to move away from the nets and incorporating game sense activities into training. Yet a lack of facilities, difficult to manage numbers, and a reluctance to move away from the status quo has resulted in little change.
England developed their solution years ago– sack training and just play more games instead. The English cricket season is full of mid-week and Sunday cricket, reducing the need for training. The Cricket Mentoring post ‘Let the batters bat’ makes an insightful comparison of the benefits between these two differing approaches.
However, it appears that mid-week games are not either popular or viable in Australia. So what is the solution?
Over the coming weeks, we will publish specific posts on what is wrong with conventional cricket training in the areas of batting, bowling, and fielding; presenting ideas, drills and games to make cricket training more match specific, enjoyable and productive.
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