With the 2016 season coming to a close, and with some juniors having already finished up their fixtures, attention will shortly turn back to the cold winter nights and for many a lack of cricketing opportunities.
Whilst many youngsters get their sporting fix through other sports such as rugby, hockey and football for those who continue to push their cricket forward, the off-season is a crucial period of the year to further enhance player’s ability and understanding.
Role of other sports
Whilst we encourage juniors who are serious about their cricket to put in the hard yards over the winter, we also like to promote the importance of playing multiple sports for varying reasons.
The first of these is that is breaks up cricket practice and provides a different environment to relax and enjoy in whilst also participating in sport. The second reason for still wishing to promote other sports is down to the role sports such as rugby, football, hockey, squash can play in a child’s physical development. Superstars such as AB De Villiers and Brendon McCullum both had budding careers away from cricket prior to choosing the sport as the one they wished to focus on. Quite simply, don’t neglect the role other sports can play in your development. Just because you’re throwing or kicking a ball, doesn’t mean that it won’t help your cricketing skills!
Have a Break
Like anything in life, it’s very possible to have too much of a good thing! Whether you’ve had a fantastic season and just want to keep the ball rolling or whether you’re passion for the sport holds no boundaries (excuse the pun) it’s still vital to take time away from practicing and playing. Following in a similar pattern of the above, there’s both psychological and physiological reasoning for this, both of which are equally important.
From a psychological standpoint, it’s vital to have a designated ‘rest’ period just to let your mind get away from the intense environment of playing and training. On your return to training, it’s paramount that you’re clear minded and mentally driven to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and not just have a ‘want’ but have a ‘need’ to improve. Without a break from the game, our brain will find it difficult to get into the state. Spend enough time away that you miss the environment and ‘need’ to get stuck in again. This break isn’t a set period of time and differs from individual to individual. We recommend between 4 and 6 weeks for those who want to have a good, long, hard winter.
What & When to practice
So you’ve had your break from the game and you’re continuing your rugby or football at school through the winter term as well as wanting to fit your weekly net in, where you hit 150 half volleys in a 45 minute net on the machine. WRONG!
Before you even think about picking a bat or a ball up, you must review the summer months and the performances you put in for your team/s as well as how and why you were able to put those performances in. Whether it was one big score or wicket taking haul or eight hundreds and ten, five wicket hauls, it’s just as essential to gain a fundamental understanding of where your strengths and weaknesses are. Did you consistently get through the new ball, get yourself to twenty-five and then struggle once the spin came on? Were you brilliant bowling with the new ball but struggled at the back-end of the innings? It’s these questions that will shape your winter and what you will practice!
What to practice
Whilst it’s sometimes valuable to hit practice your strengths and having a ‘feel good’ session, the winter is about driving your ability forward and working at weaker aspects of your game so that come next summer, you’re in a better position to churn out the performances on a weekly basis.
At the beginning of the winter, once you’ve highlighted a number of areas you wish to improve have a go at ordering them in importance and how much they will impact your game. From here, grasp the concept that differing weaknesses will take differing periods of time to remedy and that potentially you may not get through all areas if you are dedicated and don’t brush over certain bits. Bottom line, choose the most important bits and be thorough in the work you do as you’re only cheating yourself! For example, it might be that during your delivery stride your head falls slightly too far off side and you need to focus on staying taller for longer.
For one individual, it may only take two weeks to sort out, however it may take another person two months! However, by the end both individuals are able to consistently land the ball where they want, they have increased bounce due to standing taller and they’re able to generate more pace as a higher percentage of their body mass is going towards the target!
When to practice the what
First and foremost, technical deficiencies must be ironed out through progressive practice. This may start at the end of October by hitting tennis balls or bowling from stand still. By November/December you may have progressed to hitting balls on the bowling machine or bowling from ¾ run.
Many professionals spend this time pre-Christmas really hammering home the technical side of their game without cutting corners. They may cover several technical areas that they may wish to improve. In this time they will also spend a small period of time making sure the stronger parts of their game are also in good order.
Beyond the festive break and leading into the new season, players will take the technical work that they have done and aim to put themselves under increasing pressure to see if their systematic work completed earlier in the winter stands up.
As the season draws ever closer, practice should become more realistic with batters and bowlers playing against each other in specific match situations. By mid-February all practice should be at close to match pace and from a batting perspective, minimal use of a bowling machine is advised. If you have access to bowlers, and or a side-arm, then these are effective methods of generating random practice. Likewise from a bowling perspective, find a batter to add an additional dimension of pressure to your practice! Make it competitive, make it fun!
- Have a break from cricket
- Play other sports through the winter
- Assess the summer you’ve had and plan the winter ahead
- Technical work before Christmas
- Scenario & pressurised practice after Christmas
- Dominative performances in 2016.