In two simple practice sessions your club side could make dramatic improvements in both speed between the wickets and judgement of runs. That could lead to an extra 50 runs per innings in an afternoon match.
These sessions can be run by coaches or captains and don’t require much equipment beyond normal cricket stuff.
After warming up, this is how you do it.
Practice session one: Improving technique
In recent times coaches have learned the importance of technique on running speed. Your first practice session will focus on taking some important points from the world of sprinting and translating them to cricket.
Always run the first run hard is an adage that is still true. Your first few steps are designed to get you to top speed as soon as possible as either striker or non striker. The most important points to remember can be seen in this picture:
- Keep your head down and stay low like a sprinter coming out of the blocks
- Hold your bat across your body and focus on pumping your arms
- This should lead to short, fast steps as you focus on going from almost stationary to top speed
- Your foot is behind your centre of gravity, the angle of your shin in acute. This maximises the force your muscles can produce.
The feel at this stage should be almost overbalancing. In a coaching session you can get this feel by getting players to do this drill.
Hitting your stride
About a third of the way down you will start to take longer strides and your head will come up. This is not only important for speed. You want to remain aware of where the ball is.
The key element here is arm speed. The faster you pump your arms with the bat across your body, the faster your legs will go.
As you can see from the picture, you are also still leaning forward, letting momentum carry you but you are no longer accelerating:
This is the best position to be in to move to the next phase of slowing and turning for another run. To practice hitting your stride take it in turns to run singles focusing on the correct technique of accelerating, hitting your stride and sliding the bat in.
Once you are comfortable running singles alone, make it a race between two teams to add pressure. The focus should still be on proper technique at this point.
An exception to this technique may be when you are running a tight run in a match. Here you know where the ball is already and your only aim is to make it to the other end as fast as possible with no thought of turning. Instead of hitting a stride you can continue to accelerate with your head down, only slowing slightly to slide your bat in.
Decelerate, turn and go
If you are not running a quick single you will usually be looking for a second run. This makes the speed of your turn very important.
According to recent coaching advice from the ECB, the fastest way to turn has the following elements:
- Wait to the last moment in your approach to the crease to slow down.
- As you reach the crease, slow yourself by sinking your hips and sitting back slightly.
- Get as low as possible to the ground, using one hand to slide the bat over the line in the classic sideways position (pictured).
- Push off hard with the leg closest to the crease
- Accelerate into the run, staying low, using the setting off technique listed above.
To coach this, you can use a long stick that players have to slide under to learn how to stay low in the turn.
Again start with learning the technique then add a competitive element to increase the pressure.
You can see dramatic technical improvements in one session. However, running technique needs work to develop further. There is no need to turn everyone into a sprinter, but scheduling sessions that work on the technique of running between the wickets should happen regularly if you want to keep your team switched on.
Practice session two: Awareness
The second practice session is less about technique and more about how to judge a run more accurately. As a result there is a lot more fun cricket stuff.
Start the session with a discussion between players on best practice when running. This is up to the players to decide but could include:
- Early calls of yes, no or wait. Nothing else.
- Backing up from the non striker
- Talking about weak fielders to put pressure on
- Identifying which fielders are weak to right or left hand side and running harder if the ball goes to the weak side.
Small sided game.
You can them move on to a series of games to develop running and calling awareness.
Set up a practice game similar to the 360 degree fielding game but with batsmen padded up. Use this game to develop judgement of a run from various distances and throws. Adjust the position of fielders often.
From that progress to a game where the ball is underarm fed to the batsmen with a ring field.
The idea of the game is for the batsman to hit the ball into a gap and try and judge a run. The fielders are trying to run the batsmen out. Overthrows count to the batters score.
You can finish the session with a practice match like this one. The aim is to score as many possible runs in a given number of balls, boundaries count for one run.
You can repeat this session a number of times over the season. Each time a player will improve their judgement.
It’s possible to add an extra run per over to your innings with good running, so why not make that a target for the season? If your team averaged 180 in 50 overs last year make this year’s target 200.
Good running is easy to learn (you will see an improvement in just 2 sessions) and will make your team better at both setting and getting targets.
What’s stopping your club from giving it a try?