In the middle of last season, I was asked to move up the order to push the scoring rate along. I knew that I could not do this by batting conventionally — I do like a stodge!
So I resolved to apply (my interpretation of) Julian Wood’s theory of power hitting for cricketers — not slogging, but a technique to put bat on ball, consistently, and with force behind each hit. And it seemed to work.†
Whilst it is far from fully thought through, yet, there is some theory behind my switch from “batting” to “hitting”, and the practice (that clickbait “drill” in the title) to develop the technical and mental approach needed to implement the switch.
Batting vs. Hitting
A technical approach to addressing and playing the ball as delivered by the bowler. It might depend on some or all of the following elements:
- head & eyes level, tracking ball from release to contact (not necessarily continuously);
- top hand controlling bat path, bottom hand providing power;
- “step & swing”, or some variation of transferring body weight into the stroke:
- front foot for full(er) pitch, back foot for shorter;
- “step (transferral of weight) to the ball”.
And all the coaching input about grip, stance, back-lift, guard & trigger moves etc. that we use to dress up what really should be a simple task — hit the ball!
- Balanced and comfortable “set-up” enabling a “ready to move quickly” position.
- Head in optimal position for you (the player), allowing you to see the ball at release and throughout.
- Decisive body movements to establish a stable and balanced base.
- Coordinated body movements (hips/shoulders/arms/hands) to enable clean contact with the ball.
- Present full face of the bat to promote clean contact.
These are actually the core principles of batting from ECB Coach Development.
For hitting, the only element missing is the explicit application of force.
Not quite “see ball, hit ball” but not so far removed!
But why do we make batting so complicated?
How do we get there?
The various practices prescribed by Julian Wood definitely help to develop bat speed, as did a session on ground forces with Mark Sheppard on “power for batters”.
But, for me, as important was a change of mindset. Not from “batting” (formal, technical) to “hitting” (bat speed & power), but from “playing every ball on its merits” to “playing every ball”.
A belief that (almost) any delivery can be hit for runs, if only the bat can be manoeuvred into the optimum position.
And that came from a modification of Don Bradman’s stump & golf ball drill.
I play it as solo “squash”, trying to keep a tennis ball “live” by hitting it against a wall and playing the rebound. This requires quick feet, to get into position to hit the next ball; accurate ball tracking from wall to bat; clean bat path to hit consistently straight (or the rebounds will be especially ragged!) — Bradman’s dynamic “continuous rotary” method carries the bat automatically into the optimum back-lift in preparation for the next hit.
So, do I think I bat like Don Bradman, now? Only so far as intent — put the middle of the bat on the ball as often as possible, with the bat path controlling the ball.
But it seems to be working for me, at the moment.
It works for me, but I have been lucky recently to play at some very nice grounds with good pitches and fast, flat outfields, against relatively benign bowling attacks, and with “Seniors” (fellow over-60s, frequently over-70s) in the field.
Quicker bowlers and fielders would undoubtedly reduce scoring rates. Mis-hits would be caught, rather than dropping just out of reach. Second runs taken “on the arm” would have to be negotiated much more carefully, if at all.
I would be wary of coaching this approach with a younger player, however.
I have played enough cricket, had enough batting failures, not to worry if I miss out with the bat a couple of times. I can always enjoy bowling, or fielding, or just playing cricket, even just being out of the house, at my age.
But would I suggest this care-free approach to a young player, ambitious to establish themselves in the game?
No…although if I was coaching at a venue with a suitable wall, I just might use the “Bradman wall”/squash drill as a warm-up, for feet and hands.
† 267 Runs in 6 innings for just once out (and that an LBW decision when I was convinced I had hit the ball…); run rate not recorded for all games, but for those that were I managed to score at better than a run a ball.
46* in 37 balls in this week’s game (after a painful 1 in my first innings of the season).