Get nervous before you bat?
Most players experience nerves before they go out to bat – they just need to be controlled. The following steps will help you keep your nerves in check and use them positively when you play.
First things first – go for a jog or have a practice hit before the game starts, either will make you feel more ready to perform. If you know you’re going to be batting, have a gameplan – an idea of how you’re going to play but don’t play your innings before you go out to bat.
If you’re next in, watch the game but not TOO closely – just because the batter in is playing and missing it doesn’t mean that you will. If there’s a fast bowler on, see if you can sit behind him, the ball always seems much quicker sideways on.
Nerves are greatest at the start of your innings so keep things nice and simple. Be prepared to play yourself in and get used to the conditions and remember that you’ll feel a lot better having got off the mark, so look for a single as your first objective.
Finally, always visualise succeeding. Remember past performances when you have played well – you’ve done it before so you can do it again. Good luck!
For junior cricketers learning the skills of batting, the best type of practice is for someone to ‘feed’ balls of any type for them to hit. However many parents or helpers will often throw balls overarm to small children, causing the ball to bounce up around the childs waist, forcing them to play the pull shot which is the stroke most junior players find the easiest to play anyway. To help them learn to hit the ball with a vertical bat, throw UNDERARM from a distance of around 15 metres and encourage them to ‘hit the ball back where it’s come from.’
This can be done in the nets, a garden, field etc. and is best carried out using non-hard tennis balls or plastic kwik-cricket balls. For really young children who may struggle to hit a moving ball, try placing it on a plastic cup turned upside down and get them to ‘step and hit’ – they’ll find it much easier to hit a stationary target.
Bowling can be a difficult skill to master but you can really improve by following these simple principles. First things first – get a good basic 2 finger grip on top of the ball with your thumb underneath. When practising concentrate on your bowling action first – your run up can come later. Try to bowl from a relatively sideways position gathering both your arms up to your head – Glenn McGrath is a good example to follow.
When bowling make full use of your front arm towards your target and with your bowling arm, look to release the ball as high as possible – 12 o’clock on the clock face. Keep your eyes focused on where you want the ball to land from the beginning of your run up right through to your follow through.
For practice ideas on your own, try bowling against a wall and see if the ball comes back to you, a sure sign that you are bowling straight. If you can get to a cricket net take a bag of balls and bowl in sets of 6 balls at a single stump. If you can practice with a friend, bowl with a tennis ball to each other 20 metres apart. Practice hard but don’t overdo it – bowling can be tough work so if your body feels tired, rest for the day.
Practicing your catching is a fantastic way of improving your hand/eye co-ordination and will help improve the rest of your game.
Try throwing a tennis ball against a wall from varying distances. If you can catch it easily with both hands, see if you can repeat the success using one hand only. Catching as little as 50 balls will make a real difference to this vital skill.
One of the biggest problems young cricketers have is self inflicted – they are given a bat that is far too big and heavy for them. As a rule, children should reach the age of 16/17 before they use a full size bat. Below that age, make sure they can pick a bat and hold it comfortably in the back swing position, with one hand if necessary.
Children often want to have a heavy bat to hit the ball harder but if a bat is too heavy they won’t be able to generate the bat-speed required to really give the ball a good whack!
It’s very common for young players who are making the transition from softball cricket using a tennis or kwik ball to struggle when faced with catching and playing against a real cricket ball. The key is to get your hands, and your mind, used to playing with a hard ball. Try throwing an old cricket ball from one hand to the other for 1 minute. This will ‘toughen up’ your hands and make the feel of the ball less daunting. When you’re comfortable with that, do the same thing but with a newer, harder ball.
Make sure when you’re catching or fielding a real cricket ball to relax your hands and ‘give’ with the ball where possible – if you have stiff arms and rock solid hands it will make your job a lot more difficult.
Should I bowl fast or bowl spin?
Many young players struggle to decide whether they should be a seam bowler or a spinner, usually because they are good at both. If you’re having this problem, try to work out which feels the more natural and suits your physical shape. If you are tall and strong, there’s a good chance you’ll make a fast bowler whereas if your seam bowling is only medium pace and you don’t move the ball much, spin might be the better option.
However, there are no set rules in bowling and there have been some very good smallish fast bowlers such as Damien Fleming and Makhaya Ntini, whilst Ashley Giles and Anil Kumble are both well over 6ft tall. In time you’ll learn which style of bowling will give you the best chance of succeeding, til then – enjoy doing both!