I have written several times with my thoughts regards Development Cricket – a term used in this context for the introduction of junior crickets into senior cricket – and it was very much the concept that I had in mind throughout my recent ECB Core Coach course (the old Level Two).
The nets at Edgbaston have been particularly educational as I am often netting next to the First Team who train just before us and often overlap.
There is no soft way to start this post though so I will jump straight in. If you agree you will carry on reading, if you don’t then I wont waste anymore of your time.
Since my return to playing cricket I have been struck equally by how much has changed, and how much has remained the same and nowhere is this better highlighted with the amount of juniors progressing into senior cricket (a change) whilst at the same time this progression been based on the same old bad habits surrounding nets and practice/training (or should that be lack of?).
If you like an analogy it is akin to being taught to drive by an elderly, well-meaning relative, who hasn’t really kept up to date with developments and as a result passes on bad habits.
Still with me?
Ideally for my structure to work selection needs to be at the beginning of the week, or at least before training, and training ideally towards the end of the week.
For sake of demonstration lets assume selection on a Tuesday and training on a Thursday.
In addition to notifying players of their selection I would also identify the planned batting order. Personally I think everyone benefits from knowing in advance their batting position, but with the juniors who often bat and bowl as part of their development it may be that one week they are batting higher up than normal, but bowling less.
The reason for this is that not only can players start to think about this throughout the week, they can also work on it during their net on training night: maybe a lower order batter needs to concentrate more on building an innings or someone is going to be given time lower down to concentrate on pushing the score along. If they have a mentor (which I think all junior players moving into senior cricket should have) they can discuss it with them.
Of course this approach is not unique to batters. Bowlers may be opening for a change, or an opener may be trying out new skills against the middle order.
The process is the same: with advanced notice batters and bowlers can prepare and practice in the nets in advance of the game.
But before we get into the nets how about some fielding practise? Another area that seems stuck in the past. Last season I struggled with the old body so to be fair I was not particularly disappointed not to be running around but given the amount of time the pros spend on fielding practise and how significant dropped catches and misfields are it really is something that players should spend more time on. For most of us it’s the thing we do most in cicket, yet it’s the skill we spend least time developing.
And ….. don’t get me started on the lack of a pre game warm up!
I would adopt the same approach to fielding practise as I would batting a bowling. Half an hour for everyone before going into the nets. Some general skills practise and then some field position specific drills so players again focussed more on the skills they most likely to require on game day.
Post fielding in the nets I would double up batters in the nets, again based on probable match day partnerships: get them used to each others games, have a coach randomly call for a run (1, 2, 3) to improve reactions, speed and awareness of partners capabilities.
Batters to be given game related tasks: top order batters to ‘see off’ their first 2 overs, then push 1s and 2s. Mid order batters maybe focus on some power hitting or nursing the tail enders. Mix it up, keep it fresh, keep it real. Most importantly keep it focussed and purposeful.
Likewise with the bowlers: get them practising constructing an over, bowling to a specific field. Discipline, variety and control.
At the end of training rather than drifting off a quick chat about the game ahead: what do we know about the opposition, the ground, our own recent outings. What can we learn, what can we think about, how are we going to approach the game?
And then we have game day: how about all getting to the ground half an hour early? Some throw downs for the batters, some warm up overs for the bowlers, a few fielding drills for all.
A rather long post I agree and in many ways one that could be condensed into five words: do it like the pros.