Language — help or hindrance?

Challenging question — do the words we use to explain sometimes get in the way of understanding?

We use a lot of words in cricket. And a lot of them mean exactly what we mean them to mean…

What is a “front foot defensive stroke”? Or a “pull”?

Sometimes, we only confuse when we explain.

Names for strokes do have a place (talking to a new player, or sharing an idea with another coach), but maybe not when a batter is learning.

How would you describe these strokes in simple(r) words?

Perhaps by describing what actually happens. How about “Low block” and “cross hit”?

Why do we talk?

What is the purpose of vocal instruction? It’s a name for a stroke, but that can only be a prompt, an aide memoire, not a live instruction — no-one sees a delivery, checks their personal index for an appropriate stroke, and decides on “defensive, front foot”…do they?

How much do words actually help?

Or do they get in the way?

Perhaps, then we can use language to prompt the batter, until the reaction becomes instinctive.

What does the batter really need to know?

  • Where the ball is (direction)
  • Where the ball is (how close to me will it bounce?)
  • Where to hit the ball (what direction), or how (bat path), perhaps?
  • Could it get me out? (How brave do I feel?)

Then react.

  • Get close to the bounce, or give yourself space & time to watch it
  • Hit hard or block
  • Pick a direction to hit the ball (generally away from a fielder…or over her head)

I am not suggesting a free-for-all, where we throw away all technique and just leave players to hit the ball.

And some of the old fashioned rules of batting “technique” will always apply — swiping across the line of a straight yorker probably won’t work reliably, and a straight bat in defence could still be helpful.

So “vertical” and “cross-bat” strokes will be used (and need to be developed) but perhaps it’s the shape of the bat swing that matters, not where the top hand is?

So the language used by the coach and players maybe needs to reflect this.

Towards a new language of batting

Keep it simple — bat-path: straight/vertical bat & cross/horizontal.

Then some sense of direction (where is the ball going) — legside, backside (I know I can’t call it this!), straight…what’s the opposite of “leg”?

Clock face, perhaps, for direction…but who has an analogue watch, these days?

Compass points just confuse — is North straight back to the bowler? Or to the North Gate?

I’d say “hit it to cover’s left hand” or “over mid-wicket’s head”…except then I need to teach all the fielding positions, with all the jargon and nuance and scope for disagreement over names.

There’s a long way to go!

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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