Adaptive formats in cricket — good for…anything?

Clubs in England have been able to play cricket for nearly a month, now.

It’s not cricket as we know it, perhaps, but recreational cricket is back [1]. T20 & 40 over, mostly, from what I have seen, but with multiple junior formats.

Perhaps it is easy to forget, now, the trepidation around the dreaded phrase “adapted” (or was it “adaptive”) gameplay that was promised by the ECB’s roadmap for the return of recreational cricket.

Because the original version of the ECB Roadmap described a step 4 of “socially distanced matches” with

  • COVID-19 adaptations for adult cricket
  • COVID-19 adaptations for junior cricket
  • Shorter formats — to allow more matches to take place…

And that third bullet received an especially blunt response on my twitter timeline:

“If it’s 8-a-side, 20 overs, then I’m not playing.”

I can just about see this for adult, recreational cricket — you pay your money for a game on Saturday afternoon, and you want a game. Maybe T20 doesn’t cut it, for you. For some, it’s a run chase and a result, for others, a few hours respite from the day-to-day worries.

But is a 40-over bash, with little context, really going to be that satisfying? Might something more deliberately “developmental” have been a better way to spend the truncated summer of 2020?

And for junior cricket, what format might give players the opportunity to learn more about the game?

What follows is a lengthy, almost entirely subjective, analysis of what constitutes a “good” format — it reflects what I believe (based on 45 years playing experience, 10 years coaching), with no empirical data to back it up. Of course, you are free to disagree…just apply your own rules to justify what you do. But don’t do something without thinking through why.

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What do elite batters do? Why not ask their coaches!

Fascinating article from Connor, Renshaw & Farrow on batting expertise from the perspective of elite coaches.

Rather than an analysis of the technical and physical actions, the paper looks at the mental process of batting, following the scheme I first encountered from Greg Chappell, of shifting focus from the broad before facing each delivery, to fierce as the bowler approaches, before relaxing again between deliveries.

In this paper, Connor, Renshaw & Farrow highlight the crucial contribution of what is described as “The Plus”, what goes on between deliveries, where the elite batter is able to reflect on what has just happened, recalibrate and revise expectations and intentions and then relax, before switching back to the intense focus needed to face the next ball.

So it’s not enough to be technically highly competent, tactically aware, physically fit, and to maintain that rolling focus for the duration of a long innings. Even in the “down time” between deliveries, the elite batter will be calculating the next challenge, the next advantage.

No wonder I sometimes struggle to hit the ball off the square…

Continue reading “What do elite batters do? Why not ask their coaches!”

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.

Continue reading “Language — help or hindrance?”