In Coaching: a fabulous crisis, Rick Walton encapsulated the dilemma facing the batting coach today – in an era when “if the ball goes to the fence, anything goes”, what is the role of the coach?
Graham Gooch, in a coaching programme available to purchase via PitchVision, succinctly described the role of the batsman as being a run maker – ultimately, that’s all there is to it.
You don’t have to be stylish or technically “correct” (although elements of style or of a textbook technique might well emerge as long as they contribute to successful outcomes); you do have to score runs, ideally as quickly as conditions allow and the match situation demands.
So, for the batting coach – help the batters you work with to score runs.
Technical models help, if the player’s own technique lets her down; core principles (can) help to identify exactly what is going wrong.
But most important is to get the batter playing strokes and scoring runs.
If you haven’t yet read Rick’s post – start here!
Now, if I am working with a batter who consistently nicks off with his bat pushed out in front of a stiff front leg, I am going to suggest he changes his technique. Even if he scores tons for fun when he doesn’t get out early. Because, as a batting coach, I want to help him to score even more runs, more consistently, even when conditions are tough.
So I might work to reinforce/introduce a core principle – perhaps “Head in optimal position for you (the player), allowing you to see the ball at release and throughout” or “Decisive body movements to establish a stable and balanced base”, rather than “change your stance/grip/pick-up”or “cut out attacking strokes until the shine is off the new ball/you’ve got to 20/June”; never (very rarely, at least) “bat like X, it works for him”.
In fact, beyond working to eliminate flaws that will see the batsman on his way back to the pavilion (where, as a wise man once said, you can’t score any more runs), the most important part of the job is probably to build the player’s confidence in their own, natural technique.
In part 2, I shall try to describe some of the attributes I believe that the modern batting coach needs…beyond quick reflexes and a helmet when delivering throwdowns or feeding a bowling machine to a batsman intent on batting mayhem!