Batting slumps and other losses of form — what to do next?

I suspect that most of us who have played cricket for any length of time will have experienced a run of poor scores.

Often for no apparent reason — not down to any obvious technical failings, or over-confidence, or excessive diffidence.

That next run can seem a very long way away, as you take guard for another innings.

But as with any challenge, in sport or in life, a bad run can be the opportunity to re-group, re-define goals, and move on to better things.

Facing a run of low scores — what can you do?

Remember what you are (or were) good at.

I’m sure you will have scored runs in the past. You will have a favourite stroke or two (and maybe some weaknesses that you don’t like to admit to).

Maybe take some advice (see “Talk with a coach”, below), but now is really the time to be honest with yourself. Break your game down into “shots I can play” and “shots I’ll put away until I get to 50”.

Not “back to basics” so much as “back to you”.

And if that leaves you with just a block and a nurdle to leg, go with it. Recruit your batting partners to the cause — “I’ll look to nudge and run, and get you on strike” — and I’d be surprised if you don’t get all the help you need.

(If your go-to stroke is a pick-up from off the stumps, deposited over mid-wicket…maybe wait until you have picked the pace of pitch and bowler before rolling out the pick-up…)

Talk with a coach.

Ideally, one who knows you and how you bat, and can help you to recreate your own “best” style.

I’d be wary of the batting guru who tells you how you should bat — you should ideally aim to bat like yourself at your best, not follow a style that works for someone else.

For the same reason, I’d not advocate trying to “re-find” your technique by batting for hours in the nets — I’m assuming that you had a technique that worked, so there’s not a lot to be gained by flogging it — unless something has gone wrong with your set-up or timing.

And I’m writing, here, as a coach who has charged £xx/hr to feed a bowling machine and tell a batter that he might do better if he just relaxed his bottom-hand grip a little…

What do you want?

It helps to have realistic goals. Still with a degree of “stretch” (so please don’t settle on “not getting out” — batters are there to score runs), but don’t target 50s in the 1st XI when you have been struggling to score double figures in the 3s…

What is realistic? A score of 10 or more, or sharing in a 50 partnership, 4 weeks in a row, perhaps.

Should have gone to SpecSavers?

Get your eyes tested. No, seriously. Especially if you have dropped a few catches, as well.

When I returned to the game after my own annus horribilis (see below) I had new contact lenses, and soon switched to prescription sports goggles. No, I didn’t score 50s every week…but I caught more than I missed, and I knew that I couldn’t blame my eyesight, so I had to focus (no pun intended) on my technique and mental approach to batting.

It’s only a game.

Unless you absolutely have to earn your living as a professional batter, try to remember that cricket really is just a game. Sometimes, it seems to me that I am lucky simply to be on the cricket field.

Already this season, I have seen some remarkable batting and spectacular wicket-keeping, with the best view in the house (from the bowler’s end); played with team mates I first met back in the 1970s; spotted red kites and buzzards wheeling overhead (not on the same ground) and a variety of (mostly unidentified) speedwells underfoot.

And even if I can’t bowl anywhere near as consistently as I want to (7 wides called on Thursday, and it probably could have been a few more if the umpire hadn’t been so generous), I know what I should be doing (focus on the target; follow through).

But it’s a game, and I’ll be back next week.

How bad can it get? An extreme case study.

Some will attribute a bad run to misfortune, some to failing eyesight, others to the vagaries of selection — it would be a perfectly valid question to ask quite why I was ever picked in the 1st XI in 2003…

See below for my own annus horribilis.

Excerpt from the website of the Oakfield Parkonians CC,
Two games in which I did not bat are not listed.

The season record is genuine. Six ducks (plus one 0*), including once being run out without facing. No runs (and five of those 0s) on Saturdays after 7th June until the final League game of the summer on 6th September.

In case you were wondering, I was being selected that year as a batter and (41-year old) specialist fielder — I bowled just 32 overs over the summer, taking 5 wickets for 154.

What happened next? A “Sliding Doors” moment.

At the end of the 2003 season I “retired” from the game. Not the first time I had given up playing, nor would it be the last.

I started playing again in 2006, determined to prove that I really wasn’t as bad as my 2003 stats suggested. Three years after that, I took my first steps into coaching.

If I hadn’t taken those two years off when I did, I might have retired and left the Club long before I was invited to join the team coaching our Colts section.

And never started coaching.

Or writing this blog.

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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