Nandos & The Bunfather

As we are now all au fait with pub quizzes, here’s one for you.. What do these cricketers all have in common?

Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Alastair Cook, Alex Tudor, Kabir Ali, Michael Carberry, Graeme Swann, Andrew Flintoff, Michael Vaughan, Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope & Sam Curran

It is a rare old list, including England captains and World Cup winners. The easy answer is that all these cricketers have played for England. The less obvious answer is that they all played in a very special cricket festival at some beautiful location around the UK when they were 15 years of age.

This summer, the top U15 cricketers identified through school, district and county cricket in the North, Midlands, London & East and South & West were all due to congregate on the south coast of England at Eastbourne College for the annual ECB David English Bunbury Festival. In a competitive week of 50 and 20 over matches, the cricket is definitely the centrepiece, but the socialising, Bunbury BBQ, life-long friendships made and annual Nandos trip with ‘The Bunfather’, founder, Dr David English, are the stuff of Bunbury legend.

The Festival is in its 34th year in 2020, with Ollie Pope & Dom Sibley being among the most recent Bunbury Alumni to gain selection in the England Test side. The list above highlights only some of the success stories, with over 90 Bunbarians having gone on to play for England having once featured in the Bunbury Festival. Sadly, due to COVID-19, the ECB announced recently that, among other ECB competitions, the 34th Bunbury Festival would need to be cancelled. ‘Cancelled!?’ I hear you ask. The single most proven, consistent and reliable source of future England cricketers? Year in, year out, thanks to ESCA, David English and more recently ECB, the Bunbury Festival produces many players who go on to play county cricket, with a steady trickle drip feeding into the England set up who subsequently go on to receive a full England cap later in their careers.

With 10 of the 11 England players, who won the 2019 Cricket World Cup at Lord’s, graduating from their respective Bunbury Festivals, the impact that this ECB U15 competition has on the future of the England game cannot be understated. Jim White, writing in the Daily Telegraph in 2016, identified The Bunbury Festival as possibly ‘The Secret of England’s Success’, whilst Millfield School, who hosted the festival in 2018 described the Festival as a rite of passage for future England players.

It is not an insignificant fact that this moment in their young careers is the first time the boys will have had the opportunity to compare themselves nationally, to find out where they sit in the pecking order. Yes, the Bunbury Festival is but one step in the ECB pathway and opportunities for them will come again. For example, at U17, the best players meet in Loughborough for the Super 4s competition, leading to possible selection for the Young Lions, but the U15 Bunbury experience is one I feel is of significant value.

The 2020 U15 cohort should not miss their opportunity to show what they can do in the company of some of the most talented U15 players in the country. Whilst I recognise there is no way this festival can be played safely during the summer of 2020, I believe there is a compelling case for it to be played in 2021 as a one off U16 festival, either alongside or either side of the 35th U15 Bunbury Festival. Presumably the ECB had budgeted for this year’s festival to go ahead at Eastbourne College, and therefore this money should be ring-fenced for twelve months to allow these boys to go and have their day in the sun, ensuring young players do not slip under the radar or miss out on a once in a lifetime experience.

I understand this will place a significant pressure on the organisers and coaches. However, I feel there is an opportunity not to be missed here to ensure the most incredible festival and junior cricketing & life experience is allowed to continue to run, doing its job in identifying the future stars of England cricket. Whilst a trip to Nando’s for a 15 year old boy is probably less of a treat these days, it remains part of an experience that should not be denied the class of 2020.

PL

Patrick Latham & Wesley Durston both ex-Somerset CCC cricketers, write for www.aleadingedge.co.uk and have released four books now available on Amazon.co.uk. ‘The Ashes Illustrated’ is detailed in a daily illustrated diary containing over 50 cartoons and caricatures telling the story of The Ashes Series of 2019. Leadership, management and understanding of the game of cricket is covered in ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’. Also available are two game books, Dice Sports and Dice Cricket.

A Leading Edge Plan for a Safe Return to Cricket

We fully recognise and respect the potential dangers associated with returning to sport, sharing equipment and participating in team sports under the ongoing COVID-19 situation. At the same time, it is impossible to avoid the huge call for some safe and controlled return to cricket from children and adults alike.
We at A Leading Edge have been considering this for some time and are keen to share our thoughts on an idea for a safe return to cricket, in some form, when the Government deem it safe so to do. We very much hope that this is sooner rather than later, particularly for the recreational game. With that in mind, we have created a form of cricket which can be played by children or adults and respects and is sensitive to the sharing of space and equipment.
Whilst the game we have created is in the early stages of development, with the very basic rules in place, we hope that this is received in the spirit which it is meant. We are looking for a way to get cricket back on with our children and friends out there playing the game. We fully accept and look forward to the critiques and questions that will come. We will address the questions and attempt to fill the holes that are picked in it. The game we have created is not for everyone, and some will turn away from it which we understand. We hope that those who take the time to look at it and consider it will see some of the aspects of the game that we have tried to hide under the skin.
Whilst the game is predominantly aimed at children, we see this being played by adults too. We have tried to match the safe numbers of basketball, and adjusting the rules to allow only three fielders to cover their zones effectively. By creating a limiting boundary, we hope that batters will be able to work on skills that will compliment the big and powerful hitting of the normal game when that returns. We hope this is an opportunity for players to work on placement, weighting and strategy, whilst the bowlers can concentrate on accuracy and finding out where and how to bowl to make life harder for the batters. Fielders, with a much larger area to cover will need to be involved every ball, and improve accuracy in throwing and judgement. We have tried hard to keep all players safe whilst designing the game. In not knowing the full reasons (other than the obvious) why cricket is not allowed to return, we may have overlooked something. It may be that the sole reason is the ball and, as Boris Johnson describes it, ‘A Vector of Disease’ is the prohibiting factor. Sadly, no amount of designing a game will overcome a problem with the main object, if we want to keep the ball a constant. Obviously for juniors a wind ball or Incrediball could be substituted and whilst this may allow cricket to be played, ultimately will not help with the main aims of the game.
We welcome your questions, and will endeavour to answer them as honestly and openly as we can. We look forward to your critiques and problem finding which will allow us as a community to develop a game which we hope will allow some return to a form of cricket.
PL & WD

Weekly Brush with a Biohazard

In the last week, the red shiny stitched sphere we all love has been renamed: ‘A Vector of The Disease’ by our cricket-loving Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The once seemingly harmless cricket ball, (unless in the hands of some crazed overseas bowler, or as it screams teeth high through the covers off the bat of some hulking great lump wielding a tree trunk), has become the reason we are no longer allowed to play our beloved game. There have been many crazy stories coming out of decisions since the start of COVID-19 in this country, but suddenly it is deemed that should a cricketer be so unfortunate to come into contact with a cricket ball he or she will instantly fall victim to the disease. Therefore, whilst people are back out enjoying tennis, basketball and Frisbee us cricketers are still left looking longingly at the beautifully manicured outfields, lush striped squares and can only listen as the laughter and stories of the ghosts of cricketers past drift on the wind from the clubhouse bars.

It brings back a distant but startlingly vivid memory of standing at the top of my bowling mark in an invitation game, ball in hand, thinking it smelled a little funny. I looked around my field to check all was in order and everyone was vaguely where I wanted them. What was I faced with..? Well, let’s start behind the stumps.. Pete the Stumper – a stereotypical wicket keeper, in possession of some of the oldest and most foul smelling kit known to man. He could take it off and it would pack itself into a putrid kit bag, dripping with the exertions of 30 unwashed seasons. Next to him, at slip, the captain Johnny, who seemed to have a particularly ill-fitting jock strap as he forced his fingers ever deeper into his trousers to try and dig out the offending cheese wire from his arse crack. Down at 3rd man I could see my bowling partner warming his hands down the front of his trousers again, whilst at point George was busy extracting a sizeable bogey from his left nostril. The pre-match stories that came from the young Aussie batsman about his conquests with the local barmaid last night were not for the faint of heart and standing on my left, Tugger-Tom apparently didn’t get his name from his efforts in the young farmer tug-of-war team. To my right, I dare not look, but I can imagine Dan was picking left over lunch from between his teeth. At midwicket, Miles the vet. God forbid we ever get to hear exactly where he has had his hands. Square leg was home to farmer Chris whose hands and fingernails were constantly caked in pig muck despite his insatiable appetite for Swarfega.

Every one of these fine men would each touch the ball I was busy trying to shine with a combination of my own saliva and perspiration throughout the course of the afternoon, each transferring God knows what to the ball to generously spread around the team. Worse was to come, however, as we were all expected to enjoy our match tea and be thankful to Tugger for his egg and cress creations later in the day.

Mulling this over as I ran in to bowl, I imagined that cricketers must have some of the most powerful immune systems going around in order to withstand the germs we must come into contact with throughout a cricket match! I haven’t, yet, even mentioned the changing rooms and etiquette, smells and horror therein! As I neared the crease though, I focused all my efforts on thinking where I must bowl this ball to ensure it goes down to fine leg where the immaculately turned out and scrupulously clean Dr Stevens would be the fielder…

PL

The ‘Winner Stays On’ Ladies Dice Cricket Championship

A Leading Edge had a great #DiceCricket fixture with Brazil ladies and Somerset CCC ladies supported by The Female Cricket Store on Saturday, with the latter coming out victorious in a very close finish. This game was a part of the @aleadingedge1 #WinnerStaysOn

Ladies Championship being run on Twitter on Saturday evenings throughout the summer. We at A Leading Edge want to celebrate & champion women in sport, and we are looking for female teams from a single sport or a collection of sports to be the challengers each week in this summer’s Dice Cricket Championship. Let us know if you would like to be included. This week we have the winners, Somerset CCC vs Oakham School U18’s, the winners of which will play Annie Chave’s Women in Cricket XI the following week. Please contact aleadingedge@hotmail.com or follow on Twitter. #aleadingedge #womeninsports

 

 

Dice Cricket – Play seven forms of the game of cricket using just one dice

‘Dice Cricket’, a new book from A Leading Edge, which includes rules for 7 formats of cricket that can be played with a single dice, is now available from Amazon.co.uk for just £9.99 for paperback and £4.99 for Kindle Edition. The book outlines the rules for all forms of the game of cricket and is a great way to play the game at home or on the go using a single dice. The game book is a fantastic way to integrate families, giving time away from screens and providing a fun and competitive environment for everyone to play. As the cover suggests, the young can very easily challenge the ‘experienced’ as whilst the rules produce realistic scores and scorecards, the playing field is levels due to this being a game of chance. We have seen wonderful videos of grandparents who love and miss playing the game involved in hard fought T20 matches with their young grandchildren! It is a fantastic way for all the family to spend time and for new people to cricket to learn some of the rules of the game.

Over the 2020 summer, A Leading Edge is playing all the County Championship Cricket matches using the #DiceCricket rules whilst no first class cricket is able to be played due to COVID-19. You can follow the County summer on www.cricketword.com where all the results, scores, stats and match reports can be found at the close of play after each scheduled day.

Along side these ongoing matches, A Leading Edge is playing a number of live #DiceCricket matches in support of ladies cricket. The ‘Winner Stays On Championship’ involves ladies cricket teams from all over the world and is a fantastic way to champion female cricketers, sports women and sporting charities. A Leading Edge are looking for challengers, so if you have a ladies cricket team, please get in touch and ask for more details about how you can get involved. So far we have had the following teams involved: The Marko Marvels, a village team from Rutland who played against Charlotte Edwards’ 2009 World Cup winners, Lightning KSL, The Mintridge Foundation, Somerset CCC Ladies and Brazil Ladies.

A Leading Edge have also been very pleased to support schools during this period of difficulty, and have assisted by playing live school matches between rival schools much to the delight of the teams who in some instances have all watched the live games together via Zoom with their coaches. The games have been an excellent source of coaching opportunities as during the game being played the coach and players can discuss the various situations that the game brings up. How would you approach this situation in a real game? This is the scenario, how do you approach it as a batter? As a bowler? As a captain? Where do you put your fielders? It was wonderful to hear how the coach was able to use the situation to help his team better understand the game and what to do in particular situations. A Leading Edge are looking to assist more schools over the coming weeks during what should be the height of the school cricket season. If you would like to arrange a match between your school and your local rivals, or perhaps house matches, please get in touch.

#dicecricket

If you like Dice Cricket, why not try another book by A Leading Edge, entitled ‘Dice Sports’ where you can play 11 different sports again using just a single dice. Dice Sports is available on Amazon.co.uk

 

A Leading Edge to play live INDOPAK Cup Dice Cricket Series

To find out more about the INDOPAK Cup, please visit: www.CricketWorld.comIn the current world situation, #DiceCricket is the best place for all your live cricket on Social Media, and this summer A Leading Edge (www.aleadingedge.co.uk) have hosted inter-school matches, club matches & friendlies. There is an ongoing ladies ‘winner stays on’ championship featuring teams from County & KSL Cricket, Olympians and Paralympians, current and ex-international sides, with many more surprises to come over the summer. You can also catch all of the 2020 County Dice Cricket Championship season, as A Leading Edge work closely with Cricket World to bring you the entire UK county cricket season with daily updates and match reports, scorecards photos and stats from all of the 18 first class county sides.
The next step, therefore, was obviously to play some international cricket! And what better way to get this started than to have a two-match series between the two ODI giants India & Pakistan, allowing the roll of a single dice to decide which incredible cricketing nation comes out on top!
A Leading Edge and Cricket World have linked up with PitchVision to bring you live coverage of the ‘Cricket World INDOPAK Cup’, featuring all of the top ODI players from both nations as they prepare to go head to head in a two-match series with game 1 on Tuesday 2nd June and game 2 on Thursday 4th June. Both games will be brought to you live, with ball-by-ball coverage supplied by PitchVision.com.
‘Dice Cricket’ is a new game book written and designed by Wesley Durston and Patrick Latham, two ex-cricketers turned coaches, based in Oakham England, and allows the player to play seven forms of cricket using a single dice. The book is available on Amazon.co.uk as paperback and Kindle eBook editions. The rules allow players to play on their own or in teams, to pick their own sides, or pit their favourite professional teams against each other in a Single Wicket game; 5, 10, 20, 50 over matches as well as 4 day County and 5 day Test matches. The games, whilst being slightly faster paced than reality, produce truly lifelike and realistic scores, with each roll of the dice being a specified outcome, which varies from number to number and from format to format.
For the purpose of the #INDOPAK series, A Leading Edge will be using the 10 over format, in which 5 bowlers can bowl a maximum of 2 overs each. All rules remain the same, but from experience, a score below 150 is probably not going to be enough to win you the game. Scores in the region of 160-165 are a challenge to beat, whilst 170+ will take some beating! The matches are expected to last for between 45 minutes and an hour each.
A Leading Edge, Cricket World and PitchVision are very much looking forward to bringing you the first of the two-match series on Tuesday 2nd June at 11am (GMT). Updates can be followed on Twitter through @aleadingedge1, @Cricket_World @pitchvision, but ball by ball updates and live scoring can be followed on the PitchVision web site. Points will be awarded as follows; win 3 points, tie 1 point, loss 0 points.
A Leading Edge very much look forward to bringing you the first ever #DiceCricket International Cricket Series, and can’t wait for you to join them for the live toss at 10:45am in Karachi for Game 1 on Tuesday 2nd June.

You have got to be ‘Mankadding’ me!!!??

In the 2019 WODI series between Australia and Sri Lanka, there appeared to be evidence of the Sri Lankan team making a concerted effort to ensure that the Australian women did not steal even an inch at the non-strikers end. Regularly, the bowlers aborted their deliveries to warn the batters about taking an unfair advantage.

It is, at the highest level, with cameras, magnified images, and other technology, a game of small margins. With so many run outs decided by centimetres and millimetres, you can kind of understand the Sri Lankan’s thinking. I think they believe that by making the non-striker to hold for a fraction of a second longer, suddenly those tight decisions will go their way as the fielding side. It is not right that the batters be allowed to continue to flaunt the spirit and laws of the game by backing up early. At a time where over rates are slow and much discussion is around making sure the game continues to move along apace, I’m not convinced we really need these extra delays creeping in on a regular basis. If teams are now beginning to use the threat of a Mankad as a tactic to slow run rates, the game is going to slow down further and frustrate the fans to distraction. It is only a matter of time before we see it in the recreational game. So how can we solve the problem?

The practice of backing up is something we coach at the grassroots of the game. So why then, when we get to international level are the batters still getting it wrong? Watch the non-striker in any replay from side on to see that, in general, they wander lethargically off down the wicket, not particularly appearing ready to run, or moving with any real purpose. Leaving the crease early when backing up is lazy and unnecessary, not to mention going against the spirit of the game. Under normal circumstances, batters will not usually back up much more than a couple of steps, as they will fear being run out by the ball hit back and deflected off the bowler onto the stumps. Is leaving the crease early, then, actually not necessary to gain a distance advantage as a non-striker? Can the non-striker not get an adequate distance down the wicket even after the ball has left the bowlers hand? Of course they can, and it is a part of the game that batters continue approach with the general malaise which is at the root of the problem. Backing up; a small margin so important in making the difference between a dot and a quick single or turning a single into a two. Is this then an area of the game for development where an extra few valuable runs added with a bit of extra thought? The art of backing up and the role of the non-striker could become a part of the game that contributes positively to the batting team’s performance with a bit of lateral thinking. How often do we as coaches consider discussing or even thinking how the non-striker can affect the game, beyond what we coach our ‘All Stars’ about the very basics of backing up? What could the non-striker be looking at? What body position or shape would be best to adopt? Could the non-striker back up from a wider position? Or start backing up from further behind the popping crease?

We must ensure that our young players uphold the spirit of the game, whether that is with bat or ball, and play with honesty and discipline. Whilst some teams may now be using the Mankad as a tactic to reduce run rates, the batting sides must react to ensure they give the bowler no reason to abort their delivery to hover the ball menacingly by the bails. There is no need. With some thought and attention, backing up needs to be seen as a skill which can be developed. With practice, it can again bring that advantage back to the batting side giving you as a batter that small margin that we are always looking to discover. The best thing about it will be that it stays within the spirit of the game whilst allowing the game to continue to move.

Good luck!

PL

A Leading Edge has released a new book detailing the summer Ashes Series of 2019 with The Ashes Illustrated, an illustrated daily diary containing over 50 cartoons and caricatures covering ball one at Edgbaston to the final delivery at The Oval. This is the second book from A Leading Edge, with both ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ and ‘The Ashes Illustrated’ being available from Amazon.co.uk

Taking Your Guard

 

What guard do you take? Is it a ‘two please’, or ‘one leg’? Maybe you are a bit maverick and you would like a guard ‘outside off’?

Whatever guard you take, will have an impact on your batting, but why do you take a guard and what is the best guard for you and your technique.

The key to batting is knowing where your stumps are, and in particular where your off stump is. If you know and are confident in this, you will therefore be able to defend the balls that are hitting the stumps leave alone, or play appropriately, the balls that are missing the stumps. In order to know where the stumps are behind you, it will help you greatly to have a guard that positions your eyes over the stumps. More accurately for right-handers, ensure your right eye over the top of off stump and for left-handers, have your left eye over off stump.

If you become confident that your eye is over the stump in your stance, you will be able to judge if the ball coming towards you is hitting or missing off stump if the ball is outside your eyeline. As soon as you become confident at judging the line of the ball by relating guard and set up to the off stump, you will leave the ball better, and find yourself not playing at balls that you can leave to pass harmlessly by and therefore reducing the chances of edging behind or to the slips.

In setting up your guard, you will need someone you trust to help you line everything up. Take your normal guard and get your partner to check that when you draw a line from the point of delivery of the ball to the off stump that your outside eye is on the same line. If it is not, adjust your position accordingly until it is. Some batters will stand more upright meaning a guard of middle or sometimes middle and off is the appropriate guard. A batter who crouches more, may have a guard of leg or middle and leg. (Unrelated to the guard, but something that will also help while you have someone checking you is to make sure that your eyes are level and your head is not falling over to the off side.)

There may be a problem or those batters who have pre delivery movements, or trigger movements. If you set up your guard in your stance with your eye over the off stump and then move back and across your stumps, you will find your left eye is no longer in line. Take your guard the appropriate distance towards the leg stump and check that after your trigger movements your outside eye has ended up on the line of off stump.

There will also be a problem when the bowling changes to the other side of the wicket. If, for example, a right-hander has been facing a right arm bowler bowling over the wicket and the bowling changes to left arm over, the angle will change. This difference in angle will mean that staying on the same guard will have moved the position of the right eye from in line with off stump to a few inches outside the line of off stump.

When you are setting up your guard, as discussed earlier, ask your partner to change to over the wicket and try lining up again, seeing the difference in guard you will need to make for a bowler on the other side of the wicket. Quite often you will not only see the batter take a more leg stump guard, but they will open their stance slightly making sure the feet and shoulders line up to where the ball is coming from as well as making sure their outside eye remains over the top of off stump.

Whether left-hander or right-hander, and if you are facing right arm over or left arm over, you need to know what guard to take to ensure that at the point of delivery your head is still, your head is level and your outside eye is over the top of the off stump. With some practice you will eventually be in a much better position to judge which balls you must play at and which you are able to leave alone.

Good luck!
PL

A Leading Edge now have 3 books for sale on Amazon.co.uk. Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99). Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester. You can also buy The Ashes Illustrated and Dice Sports, fantastic books for sports fans!

New Year, New Cricketer

Happy New Year! The drink is finished off, there only the unwanted coffee creams hiding amongst the discarded wrappers in the bottom of the chocolate box, everyone is back to school and work, it is cold, dark and wet but thankfully, the 2020 season draws nearer with every day.

Soon enough we will be back outside negotiating the first few balls on an emerald April wicket, avoiding fielding at backward point and discovering that we should maybe not have been bowling so many no balls in winter nets. We will be wondering why all those cover drives we hit indoors, that ‘definitely’ beat the field and crashed into the boundary boards, only make it into the deep for a long two.

So what have you promised yourself that you will do to create a better cricketing version of you in 2020? What cricketing resolutions have you made? I do not really go in for Latin much, and Roman Gods are not particularly a strong point of mine, but there is one appropriate God worth a mention this time of year. Janus, the Roman God of Doorways, Transitions Gates and New Beginnings depicts a figure of with two faces, one looking back and one looking forwards, representing looking to the past and to the future. It is his example we should take when planning our own transition to new beginnings for the 2020 season and making ourselves better cricketers for the year to come.

Begin by looking back over the last season and reflecting on what you did well, how and where you performed to add significant value to your team. Then recall the days that may not have quite gone to plan. When you consider the decisions you made, that in hindsight were not necessarily the right ones for the occasion, you begin to build up a picture of where you might want to make improvements to become a better player.

It is tempting to set yourself a big target that you expect to come to fruition magically at the start of the season. However, with one overall grand target, you are likely to find that you lose your way or become frustrated that you do not see the progress that you were hoping to see. Rather split up the journey into smaller more manageable goals and plan an achievable route to the main target. Your smaller goals will need to be considered, relevant and achievable, so that they contribute to the overall target. You will need to be able to complete the individual goals, giving you a sense of success and progress. Setting improbable, unlikely and irrelevant goals will lead to failure and disappointment. You will quickly lose interest in your progress plans and the overall target will not be realised. 

There is always more likelihood of staying with a resolution when you are accountable to someone else. If you can plan your pre-season resolutions with a friend or a teammate, you will be less likely to give up as you will feel a responsibility to fulfil your part in helping your partner succeed, even if you are struggling with your own programme. Many of your pre-season goals will be about repetition, so having a partner to help you will be a big help. Not only will they be there to throw or catch the balls for you, but they will ensure that you are repeating the skill as you want to perform it. Often when we think we are practicing something well we may actually not be. If you have spent all winter training your body and muscles to remember a certain movement, only to find that you have trained it to do something the wrong way, you are in for a tricky season!

Your goals can be anything you like, but make them measurable and achievable. For example, as a batter, you may have one weekly goal as simply repeating your backlift a set number of times. If you do not have someone to check you are doing it right, perform it in front of a tall mirror so you can see for yourself. The next week might be your pre-delivery feet movement. High repetition trains the muscle memory. Check that your feet are in the right place, and after moving, your head is where you want it to be in relation to off stump. Your next session might be the down swing of the bat, again repeating a high number of times to train the muscle memory and make sure that you are not coming across the ball and the bat is under your eyes. These small goals when put together over the winter and then used in conjunction with your school or club net sessions will be of huge benefit to your overall target. When you find yourself in the net in a live batting situation, make sure that someone is still looking out for you to help you spot if you are not doing what you have been practicing!

Good luck and start ticking off those small goals!

PL

A Leading Edge now have 3 books for sale on Amazon.co.uk. Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99). Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester. You can also buy The Ashes Illustrated and Dice Sports, fantastic books for sports fans!

Face your Fears

The summer is still a way off, but now is the time to begin to tackle those fears and worries you will face when the first game comes around.

Whether batter, bowler, keeper or fielder, many players have a fear of failure or worries about specific parts of their game. By beginning the process of tackling those fears now, you can do a lot of work to reduce or even begin to eliminate some of those fears over the winter months.

In this article, we look at ways in which you as a player can learn to fight back and face fears of failure, whatever they are. Is it the first ball you face as a batter? The fear of being out first ball? Possibly as a bowler, you fear being thrown the ball at the end of the innings, or having to bowl defending 10 off the final over? As a fielder, when the last over of the game comes and it is down to a few runs, do you hope that the ball goes anywhere other than to you? As wicket-keeper, do you have fears about taking that difficult half-volley return to complete the crucial run out? Whatever your own personal worry or worries are, we hope that in this article we can offer you some advice to allow you to assert your control over your cricketing fears.

Face Your Fear and Identify It.

Firstly, identify what it is that is at the heart of the fear. Is it that you have a lack of confidence in your own skill or ability?

Do you freeze at the thought of the spotlight falling on you in a critical moment? Is the fear you have based on the thought of letting your teammates down? Perhaps you have a fear of the sense of occasion and your anxieties are worse in ‘big’ games?

When you can work out where the roots of your fears lie, you can begin to put in place the necessary work to tackle it.

Preparation

There are those who walk among us that have the ability to do no work in the nets, turn up one week to the next and generally churn out performances. Those that fly by the seat of their pants successfully do exist, but for the majority of us mortals, we need to feel prepared. You know yourself and you know how much preparation you need to be at your best. You possibly could get by throwing caution to the wind and seeing what happens, but you will never get the best out of yourself and most importantly, you will have to work far harder to do to try to appease anxiety over your performance if you are underprepared.

Talk positively to yourself.

Fears lie to us and annoyingly they are really good at telling fibsl! Our fears are actually so good at lying that we believe them because we think they are reality. The good news is that because of the way our brain works, we can (to an extent) trick it into believing what we want it to by challenging our fears with positive thoughts. When negative thoughts on your performance arrive unwanted in your head, push back against them and chase them out with positivity. It is possible, with an ongoing drip feed of positive thoughts, to change how you think and what you believe about yourself over time.

Visualise Your Performance

You can visualise in two ways. One way will hold you back, whilst the other will push you forwards to improve performance and self-belief.

To visualise effectively, you need to be able to see very clearly in your head an image of you executing a skill to perfection. To visualise performance with anything less than pinpoint accuracy and minute detail will not affect performance positively. The picture you create needs to be all encompassing, not simply just the skill or action you want to improve.

It is important you see yourself in the image you create with as many positive traits attached to it as possible. See a supremely confident person, someone with energy and strength, someone who is calm and relaxed, someone who is comfortable in the environment you are creating, someone who owns the stage and is standing front and centre of it.

Your brain has no eyes, so as far as it is concerned, the thoughts you are putting into it could be reality. The more realistic you can make your thoughts; real time, colours, details, noises you might hear, even your breathing patterns, particularly your routines, the more you will fool your brain into believing this is reality. Do not forget that the coup de grace, the execution of the skill, needs to be perfect. The perfect position, balance, timing and end result all need to be as perfect as you can make them.

Creating Comforting Familiarity Outside your Comfort Zone

Often our fears are borne out of the unknown, the ‘what ifs?’ The more you can experience of the unknown the more known it will become and the less frightening it will be. Venturing into the unknown to breed familiarity will not come tomorrow or even next week, it will take a journey over a number of weeks or months, but start now and you will get there sooner.

Take facing fast short pitched bowling for example. Whoever you are, against the real fast stuff there are very few batters in the world who are not the tiniest bit squeaky about it. Use your net sessions to take small steps to build up to it. Start by someone throwing balls from a short distance on the full to practice watching the ball and developing confidence in sound defensive and attacking shots, focusing on watching the ball. Progress to using these skills against tennis balls thrown into the ground to further develop your confidence.

Return to the cricket balls thrown on the full harder, increasing the speed and pushing the limits of your courage. If you have access to a bowling machine, set this up to test out your technique (using your positive thought processes!) but if not, ask someone to use the dog stick of simply throw balls bouncing into uncomfortable areas. Over time, pushing yourself steadily further out of your comfort zone, you will begin to find the short pitched bowling less fearsome and more manageable.

At the risk of going down a slightly hippy road with this, meditation can help. In the right calm and quiet environment where you can concentrate wholly on your thoughts in your own space, without disturbance to spend time going through this positive thought process can bring noticeable rewards come the summer.

Good luck!
PL

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