The Overseas Cricket Professional

Clubs all around the country are gearing themselves up for the arrival of their overseas player for 2019. Some will be familiar and returning to their regular clubs. Many, though, will be complete unknowns and it will be with great interest that these new players are observed at their first net, or in their first game on English soil. We have all known our fair share of overseas players and can probably all share in equal measure tales of horrendous experiences and of huge success stories. It is at this time of year I am reminded of this stereotype I wrote about a fictitious Overseas Pro, parts of which I am sure we can all relate to…

It has taken the Edgington Cricket Club Committee two years to mastermind. Finally the grand plan, kept top secret for months, has come to fruition. It has all been arranged that Rudolph van der Merwe, a seasoned pro from Gauteng Strikers, will be met at Heathrow off his flight from Johannesburg  by Kevin, the 1st XI captain.

He strides through arrivals sporting an eyebrow ring and a solitary sharks tooth dangling from a string necklace. His bleached blonde hair and tan look so perfect they can only be fake, suggesting the early onset of a midlife crisis. His colourful attire stands out from the sea of grey trooping through arrivals, and he greets Kevin with, ‘Haauzit Bruu’. Unsure of whether Rudolph is asking a question or insulting him with some filthy Afrikaans, Kevin decides to ignore it and they leave for Edgington. As he gradually acclimatises to the bizarre dialect, Kevin is mildly concerned that the topic of conversation in the car is less about with the type of wickets and standard of play in the league, but more the type of beer and the standard of females hanging out at the club.

After twenty hours of travelling and a sleepless night in economy, Rudolph arrives for the league curtain-raiser against last years league winners and local rivals, Finebury CC. There has been much talk around the club, during pre-season nets, about Edgington’s prized new opening batter from the veld. All the speculation, anticipation and hope of league titles come crashing down along with Rudolph’s off stump as the Finebury opening bowler slides a loopy full toss through an extravagant whip to leg.

Rudolph returns to the pavilion where he churns out reasons for his failure before plugging into his iPod. He wanders off the wrong way round the boundary, for which he will be confused to find himself fined for later in the day, to the other side of the ground where he promptly falls asleep to the dulcet tones of Johnny Clegg. Back in the pavilion, Gerald, the Club Chairman, tries to be positive about the situation, turning to a fellow committee member saying, “Although this chap looks to be somewhat of a loose cannon with the bat, I hear he bowls a ‘heavy ball’… whatever that means..”

On the field, ‘Rudy’ as he insists on being called, jabbers on Afrikaans much to the annoyance of not only the opposition and umpires, but his team mates as well. He boasts a wide range of explicitly abusive ‘sledges’, although the slight problem is that nobody can understand a word he’s saying. He pulls up short in his forth over saying his hamstring has gone and it doesn’t feel too good. He limps back to the sanctity of the pavilion and to the homely tunes of the Soweto Gospel Choir on his iPod. After the game he recants stories of players back home that his wide-eyed team mates have only read about in the newspaper, or seen on TV; he’s talking about them as if they were all his best friends.

As it turns out, ironically the only ‘heavy ball’ that Rudolph bowled all season was the one he bowled at the chairman’s daughter after the game behind the pavilion. He takes himself off ‘inter-railing’ through Europe and misses half the season through ‘injury’. He leaves behind a heartbroken seventeen year old and a Chairman wondering around muttering, ‘damn foreigners’ under his breath and secretly thinking that the money might have been better spent on a new roller.

PL & WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.

Joe Root: An Example in Leadership to us all

It was natural, instinctive and from the heart. Joe Root’s reactive response during the third test to Shannon Gabriel’s supposed homophobic insult, saw the England captain find just the right words using just the right tone, with huge pressure on him after such a disappointing series defeat, his own form & in the heat of the moment, is a fantastic example to us all.


It shows young and old that we can stand up for our beliefs and point out to someone when we believe they are wrong. I hope that children can see this and see the parallels between this situation and situations they might find themselves in at school. I hope that they can see that they do not have to get dragged into silliness, nastiness or worse, because they do not want to call out someone who is getting it wrong for fear of being laughed at or belittled.

Joe Root showed us how to stand up for what we know to be right, without demonstrating aggression or confrontation. What wonderfully positive leadership!

PL

From Bola to Bowler – Using a Bowling Machine in Winter Training

‘Set it to about 65; half volleys outside off please..’

The machine is set, the bucket of balls is full and you have a willing helper to drop them into the hole. You can proceed to stand and feel good as the ball flies straight as an arrow into a nice area where, if the bat comes down in a vaguely straight line you can feel like Ian Bell for as long as your friend will put the balls in for you.

What are you getting from this experience? Some would argue that using the bowling machine allows a batter to build some confidence, to feel that they are striking the ball nicely. Some might even get video or verbal feedback as to the efficiency of their foot movement and head position. Great, all worthwhile, but is practice against the bowling machine indoors preparing you for the first time you head out to bat for your team this summer?

Whilst there is a place for the machine in our indoor training, do not leave yourself under the illusion that just because you can hit a floaty half volley that comes on to the bat with even pace and bounce all along the floor indoors, you will do the same in the middle. When you walk out to try to locate what will undoubtedly be a green wicket on 20th April you can’t expect to be fed the same barrage of gentle half volleys all waiting to be put away along the floor with your newly crafted cover drive. The bowlers will be bowling different lengths, the wicket, still cold and damp from the winter will encourage lateral movement off the seam, there will be a little bit of swing in there too and as for expecting the ball to come nicely onto the bat from short of a length, think again.

So how best to prepare for your first game? Absolutely use the machine to get back into your batting. Focus on head position, feet movement, alignment, bat swing, etc.. to ensure that all is working correctly again after the break. Don’t rely solely on the machine for your hitting though, as without doubt the first one you see on a length that you have been busy blazing through the cover area indoors all winter will be hit very nicely at chest height to cover or mid-off.

When you are happy that your technique is working as you would like, throw downs are probably going to be a much better representation of what you might find outdoors. Yes, the ball will still come on evenly, but at least you will now need to think. The machine will be repetitive in terms of pace, line and length allowing you to switch off and repeat whatever it is you have set it to do. Throws will all vary in line, length and pace making sure, even if you have briefed your partner on what you want to work on.

Try placing thin rubber or material mats (easily sourced at low cost in DIY or high street shops) on the floor to change the pace and bounce of the ball. This makes the batter think even more about assessing the delivery before committing to a shot. Thick string, or tent cord on the floor snaking up and down the wicket to help alter how the ball reacts on a normally true indoor surface is also a great way to sharpen the reactions. A thin bat will also to help focus attention on the ball and help keep the batter sharp. Anything you can do to help create an environment that reflects more what a batter will find outdoors early season rather than the dry even ‘roads’ we find in mid-august, will help to make the batter think more about shot selection and making life a bit more challenging, giving you a bit of a chance of success in the early season games.

Good luck!

PL

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.

Pushy Parents

A few years ago, I started writing and illustrating a series of cricketing stereotypes. One of the collection I was keen to share my feelings on was the ‘pushy parent’. It is important to start by stating that I truly believe that for all but a few very rare cases, parents of young players of any sport only do what they consider the best for their children. They act make decisions for their young prodigies that they feel are in the best interests of the child and do not believe that they are doing any harm. The truth is the dangers of pushy parents can go way beyond simply putting their son or daughter off a sport and far more worryingly can have severe implications for a downturn in mental health.

I have a young child, and even though my son is only seven, I can already see how difficult it is going to be. Getting the balance right between guiding them enough so they understand the importance of commitment to a sport or activity but at the same time, trying not to generate too much pressure leading to upset and eventually drop out, or worse.

I have been lucky enough to work in a variety of magnificent schools with talented sporting children. I have been in positions to see, first-hand as well as hear anecdotally, instances of children pushed so far by one or both of their parents that by mid to late teens the spark has well and truly gone. The lack of enjoyment, the blank dull eyes and the expression of disengagement etched onto the faces of some of these young people has been so sad to witness. The feeling that they will never be enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite for success their parents possess, literally pushes them to remove themselves from the game before they leave school.

At this point, please enjoy(?) ‘The Pushy Parent’ which illustrates the parent we will have all come across on the boundary or prowling around the pavilion desperately trying to find out who they should be speaking to or breaking into conversations to blow their child’s trumpet. I think the following says it all..

The Pushy Parent
Vince used to play cricket. He always thought he was a handy all-rounder and is deeply bitter about never having been given the chance to fulfil his potential on the county circuit. Sadly, a 34* for Edgington Park’s Sunday XI was the best his cricketing CV had to offer. Vince booked himself on a coaching course and now, a Level 1 Coach, he appears bedecked in his tracksuit top, clipboard, mid-calf white ankle socks, brilliant white trainers and knee-length shorts. He stares out at the world from behind his face-hugging sunglasses that seem surgically attached to his face, and proceeds to live out his cricketing inadequacies through his only son, Viv. Vince believes his son has a gift, and so certain is he that he possesses the necessary genes to spawn a cricketing world-beater that he is spending all the family savings travelling the country taking Viv to be coached, videoed, un-coached & re-coached, by the best coaches money can buy. He is currently over the moon that during one of these sessions, an ex-England Test player told Viv that he, ‘showed some promise’.

Vince is omnipresent whenever his son finds himself within touching distance of a piece of willow. Vince has chosen a bat for his son and has gone for a hand sourced, hand crafted, tailor made, personalised piece of 5* willow, of which he has had four copies made. The bats cost him the earth but, ‘they are an investment’, he tells his long-suffering wife. The blades are all beautifully monogrammed with Viv’s initials, of which there are six: the more initials the more noticeable the name on the scorecard! After all, every little helps, and it was this sort of thing that held Vince back as a youngster.

It is impossible for Viv to escape his dad’s critical eye. Vince is the coach of the Edgington Park U16’s, as well as the county U16’s. Last year he was with the U15’s and he has lined up the U17’s for next season. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the matches where Vince patrolled the boundary keeping track of Viv’s runs, where he scored them and creating infinite little wagon wheels. When Viv walks past another left arm spinner to find himself stumped, his dad whisks him off to the net and for the next hour teaches him the sweep shot. When they get home after the games they sit down to assess and evaluate each and every performance, referring to the intricate diagrams, notes and other statistics that have been recorded over the day. The main problem is that Vince is also at every net session, fielding session and has even started coming to school games lessons. He stands behind his son whilst he is batting in the net, picking holes in his technique. He occasionally offers a ‘well bowled’ or ‘good shot’, to the other boys, but his attention is firmly on his son. Vince is relentless in his son’s pursuit of excellence and he has even arranged for him to get his ears pierced and blonde highlights put in his hair, so he will ‘fit in’ better with the young professionals at the county ground, when his time comes.

Over the winter, Viv meets Claire at the annual ‘Cricket Ball’, and since then he prefers to spend his time with her in the local park hanging out with a group of rum sorts, smoking, drinking, wearing baggy clothes and talking about a different sort of blade. Vince has been told by his son that he has ruined his childhood and that he never wants to see him again. His wife has left him, which he only noticed in September, and he has been made redundant as a result of all the days’ work he has missed in order to watch his son get another first baller. The news isn’t all bad however, as Viv has announced that Claire is pregnant. ‘There’s still hope’, thinks Vince, as he traipses around the local sports shops for the smallest pair of pads he can find…

PL

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.

The Joy of.. Nets

And so it begins….
‘Good to see you Dave, I see you didn’t go hungry over Christmas..’
‘Still persevering with that 90’s England shirt Kelly?’
‘How’s things, Steve? Just the 4 new bats this year is it?’ 

It is wonderful to see the excitement brewing on social media with tweets and posts from clubs all over the country marking the first nets and plans for upcoming winter training ahead of what will be an amazing year of cricket in the UK. How many sessions, though, will follow the same old procedure? Turn up, get sledged by your team mates, then run in from ball one as if it is mid-season, trying to flatten the stumps (or the batsman). After a few wayward and painful deliveries, you strap on the pads and for the next five minutes try to smack the cover off every ball sent down to you, before collapsing in a sweaty heap to discuss which local hostelry will be your post nets base this winter. 

I think that the majority of those reading this will recognise the pattern of events described above, and you will probably see that this type of ‘training’ is all but worthless in terms of preparation. 

Worthwhile and meaningful preparation is tough. It is hard work, as by its repetitive nature can be, let’s face it, pretty dull. So many junior sections do wonderful work in teaching our young players the basics of the game, but batting, bowling and fielding drills are seen generally as something to grin and bear to get to the ‘game at the end’. As adults, we can make the decision to skip past the ‘boring’ bit and go straight to a net situation. That basic stuff is surely for beginners and those learning the game?

It has been enormously refreshing to see some of the world’s top players sharing videos of their pre-season drills, often working on basic skills, on social media. 

It shows that, after a break from the game, even those cricketers performing at the top level need to reset, retune and groove their skills. By taking the time to remind the muscles, slowly, what they need to do to, ensures that come the season you have a sound repeatable action as a bowler and that all your body parts all move as you want them to with the bat. Building up slowly over a number of sessions to full net scenarios, in small groups, pairs or alone working on your game, will bring you huge benefits come the first game of the season. The temptation, (or excuse), is to make the most of the space and limited time you have to try to do everything at full speed from the word go, otherwise we feel we have missed out on opportunities to bat and bowl. The counter argument is that more progress can be made by hitting more balls under controlled conditions with more focus and direction than simply going aimlessly into a net for a five-minute hack.

In an early pre-season net you will probably find that during your allotted time, you receive something like: three balls into the side net, six down the leg side, two over your head, ten floaty half volleys, four that you play and miss at and a short one whacked straight up in the air. Sounds more like a cricketing version of the Twelve days of Christmas! The same amount of time spent with a pile of tennis balls and a partner feeding you the ball will enable you to hit ten times as many balls whilst focusing on developing or measuring a specific outcome. Depending on your objective for the session, you may want to aim at a target, or simply work on developing the ‘shape’ of your shot with the actual outcome being less important. This must be up to you, but is definitely worth discussing with your training partner so that they can help you spot errors or make suggestions. It will also inform your personal development plans for future sessions. 

The idea of building up slowly over a number of weeks applies to bowlers as much, if not more than the batters. It is unwise to run in hard and try to start flinging the ball about as fast as possible from day one after a substantial break. Start in the first week simply throwing the ball on the bounce to a partner across the hall or against the wall to loosen the shoulders and build up to bowling from a stand still. Stand on one foot in your action, holding the balance for a few seconds to help work your core muscles and develop a strong and safe coil position, which can be repeated accurately. Walking through an action can also help you get into strong repeatable positions through the various stages of your action, using straight lines or marks on the floor to ensure that your body parts are working in the right direction – towards the target. (A long piece of string tied around the off stump through the bowling crease where you deliver the ball is great for this, particularly when you get outside and are starting to run in). Move on then to jogging off a few paces consciously bringing the positions to mind, still working on the straight lines and standing tall at the point of delivery. There is no need for any medium or fast bowler to be running in at 100% effort in the first five or six sessions. If you can get the basics right here you will have built a solid, reliable, repeatable action for the season. Batters can work against pace, if they feel they need to, on the bowling machine or dog stick, although people who can use the latter consistently and to order are like hens teeth! Those that feel they need to hit 80mph balls indoors are often the ones who are left trying to work out why they keep getting caught at mid off and cover in the first few games..

Fielding at winter training is sadly, for whatever reason, often neglected. Encourage everyone to take at least 100 catches at some point every session. Developing a sound, reliable and repeatable throwing technique is so important to get right now. It is not by chance that we see the top players hit the stumps from the field so often. If the throwing skills of your team develop through the winter, it is very possible that moments of magic will happen for your team and a direct hit run out or flat accurate throw from the boundary leading to a run out will likely change the outcome of a match in your favour. 

Whatever you decide to do with your own winter programme, make the most of the time that you have in the space to which your club has access. As we tell the boys and girls in our own coaching sessions, choose something to work on, focus on that and ensure you leave the session a better player than the one who walked in. If you can do that consistently, you will enjoy a fruitful season. Good luck! 

PL 

To view weekly training ideas, follow @aleadingedge1 on twitter or visit our web site http://aleadingedge.co.uk/products/ 

Do You Have the Ability to be Instinctive Under Pressure?

There have been some show-stopping ‘sliding doors’ tight finishes to recent Rebel Women’s Big Bash League matches, and this week A Leading Edge focuses on pressure versus instinct in big game big moments. Are you the player hiding, willing the ball to go anywhere other than in your direction, or are you the player seeking out high pressure situations and attacking them head on with confidence.. Wesley Durston asks: 

Do You Have the Ability to be Instinctive Under Pressure? 

On Saturday in the WBBL there were two of the closest finishes to matches in recent times. Not only that, these came in the two semi-final fixtures, arguably the most important games in the competition. I say that because if you’re going to lose a match I think you’d want it to be the final, and not the semis. Who remembers the losing semi-finalists? Getting to the final gives you the big day out to go and win the trophy. You could argue that spectators all across the sporting world will remember these victories however because all four teams contributed to the spectacle that culminated in two moments of brilliance to win those matches. Both games coming down to the last ball and both games won by the fielding team’s ability to cope with the pressure and the enormity of the situation.  

In semi-final one Sydney Thunder’s Nicola Carey needed to hit a maximum from the last ball to take her team to the final. Players all over the world have been set that challenge in net sessions with the result merely bragging rights to the winner. Here the rewards were huge and a place in the final of the WBBL waited. Carey eyed up her options and took on the leg side boundary. She struck the ball very well with enough to make it for the six required and for a long while her breathing would have stopped along with all present and watching. Only for the match winning moment executed by Haidee Birkett running full speed to her right and outrageously plucking the ball out of the sky and dashed all of the Thunder’s hopes. A quite phenomenal catch resulting in the chance to win the WBBL.  

Semi-final two, also amazingly came down to the last ball, albeit with a simpler task for the Melbourne Renegades to win, just three from the last ball. Sophie Molineux against Ellyse Perry; the victor would earn their team a place in the final of the WBBL against the Sydney Thunder. What happened next has already gone viral on social media and will be used by fielding coaches and psychologists for evermore as the template for teams in key moments. All watched and hoped for their team as Perry ran in and bowled full to the left handed Molineux who went up and over the off side and away for a certain boundary. That is, however  if Erin Burns hadn’t sprinted twenty five metres before executing the perfect full length dive to scoop the ball back into play for Sarah Aley to support Burns and in one motion throw the ball on the bounce into Alyssa Healy. Healy already with her right keeping glove off collected the throw, turned and threw the non-strikers stumps down with Molineux agonising short with her own full length dive. Spare a thought for the Renegades and in particular Molineux who must have thought she had been the match winner for her side only for the smallest margins, not once but twice, going against her. She then had to get up dust herself off and contemplate the prospect of the super over. This didn’t match up to the excitement of the previous forty overs nor the preceding forty seconds but then was it ever likely to after that? The Sydney Sixers through to the final.  

Having watched both clips several times it’s easy to think what could have been done differently and how fine margins shape sport nearly every week and sportsmen and women will always say ‘what if.’ But because these moments are so special it adds to the occasion. Had Carey missed the ball the result would still have been the same, but we’d have been denied the moment Birkett won the match. As Carey’s shot was intercepted within a yard of the boundary she will always wonder how she could have done things differently. Similarly, had Perry nailed her Yorker the Sixers would still have gone through to the final but we’d never have seen that moment we can now talk about over and over. It’s still hard to work out which part of the fielding is the best bit, but I do know that it all had to work in unison for the result to happen. The Sixers aren’t the first team to win from the last ball but are probably the first team to win with four players involved executing their task to the best of their ability to bring home the prize. 

I’ve played in big games that have come down to the wire and early in my career I’d always want to be out of the way and not in the firing line because I must have been playing with fear of failure and pressure. In those moments I basically would rather a team mate would win it for us, than me being in the thick of it. Once I’d soul searched and worked this out my whole philosophy changed; suddenly I wanted to be the person fielding in the key positions. I didn’t seek the limelight but I was secure in my ability. I’d looked inwardly and not sought excuses and managed to turn that pressure into a positive for myself. Losing still hurts and there will always be regrets in sport, but you hope that the times you get it right will outweigh those negative experiences. But if you constantly play under extreme pressure you may not be in those situations for too long, after all who is putting the pressure on that individual? Is it self-pressure, external pressures from the coaching team or crowd or is it the pressure of the situation? i.e. the WBBL semi-final. Whichever it is dealing with that pressure consistently is fundamental to success.  

When you look at the clips next try to look at them with that in mind and ask yourself, who is under the most pressure? Is it the bowler or the batter? Both had the chance to be the hero in those scenarios. Did the fact that Carey needed five to win and Molineux only needing three make a difference in their personal battles with the bowlers? Therefore was Perry under more pressure to defend three rather than Jess Jonassen who had five to protect? I say both bowlers were; which led to them bowling ‘length’ rather than getting their Yorkers in, a direct response to the situational pressure. Although Nicola Carey and Sophie Molineux will look back at these clutch moments now and in years to come and wonder if they had just hit the ball a little further I hope they, like me can watch them knowing that brilliance shone through. An individual piece and a collective team passage of brilliance won those matches, pressure may have played a part but instinct played an even bigger one.  

WD

Cricket – A Leading Edge for Captains is a new book looking at the art of captaincy and leadership aimed at educating young cricket captains in the subtleties of the game.

Please visit Amazon.co.uk to have your book delivered to your door.

Filling the void

‘It’s good to talk’ and to connect with others. In the second episode of our new Blog Patrick Latham looks at how his decisions professionally were a leap in the dark, were also a source of angst, concern and worry. He now reflects on those and everything he had taken as his norm was replaced and how he managed to come out the other side with a book in one hand and a pencil in the other.

Any change in a career brings a degree of uncertainty and challenge. For a professional team player, leaving behind the changing room will inevitably be a wrench and will be unsettling. I was never in a full time in a professional changing room, but I definitely understand what a sportsman or woman leaves behind when that atmosphere, those friendships, those well-earned drinks after a narrow victory, that togetherness, your support network and, above all, your normal are gone.

At the time of retirement, whether forced or at a natural end, the opportunities will present themselves, and a new life will begin to grow in whatever career path you choose to take. These opportunities may seem obscure and random, far removed from what you ever thought you might end up doing, but give them a chance and never pass up an opportunity. Sportsmen and women are far better prepared these days for the transition into a life after sport but all the preparation in the world will not get you ready for a life without the changing room, so what can you do to create a new one?

In my case, my professional ‘changing room’ was the department, friends and colleagues in the school staff room I left behind in a move away from teaching and my role as director of sport. I left the position to pursue a career as a self-employed graphic designer, setting up as a sole trader but also taking on a cricket and hockey coach role in a different school. I have been fortunate to make something of combining two of my passions: design and sport. However, I very quickly became aware of the difference in time I was spending with people. Having come from a busy school where as a department we solved problems, put in place exciting and stimulating programmes for the students, but mainly we talked. It is the regular interaction and the talking which quite quickly started to have a negative effect on my demeanour. I would wake up have breakfast, head to my home based studio with a coffee and then be on my own until lunchtime. The vast majority of interaction with customers was via email, so I could go hours without realising I had not spoken. After lunch, I would arrive at the school pitches for games, deliver the session to a group of young hockey players or cricketers and then return home often without interacting significantly with an adult. I imagine that the realisation of solitude I had is a similar feeling that many sportsmen and women feel as they leave their changing room behind. The feeling of loneliness and isolation, amplified by thoughts of missing the environment that was their normal and of such vast significance in their everyday lives. It became easy to see why sports men and women often suffer from mental health problems after retirement. The support network that was there, the safe environment, your changing room, is now missing. So how can we go about replacing it?

Your changing room was probably a unique collection of individuals in which you had some good friends, some with whom you got on and probably some who you made sure changed at the other end of the room. These, though, were the ingredients for the environment you are now missing terribly. It is unlikely you will ever recreate or rebuild a similar place with all those characters, feelings, emotions and good times but several aspects of your life in your changing room can live on giving you comfort in familiar ways of life.

In writing our ‘A Leading Edge’ books, I have had my eyes opened to how positively stimulating, challenging and refreshing it can be to actively get out and meet new people, and the ways in which these meetings have come about have been fairly easy to organise. I definitely fell into a daily routine of one-paced and introvert tasks in the day-to-day running of my business. It was having a seriously negative effect on my outlook and enjoyment of life in general. I do not think I became depressed because of the lack of interaction with other adults, but I was certainly not very happy, motivated or stimulated in the work choices I had made after leaving full time teaching, so the opportunity to work with Wesley Durston came at a very good time.

We wrote our first book A Leading Edge for Captains, together but separately, each taking a chapter, going away, researching and writing. Our regular meetings in the ‘office’ (a very comfortable Oakham coffee shop) turned out to be a huge help for me in feeling a lot more positive about life and I began to feel that I was starting to contribute to society again in some small way. Since publishing the book, we have used social media and social networking to make positive connections. We have set up meetings, skype calls and phone calls with influential people to discuss ways in which we might be able to get our first book and the second book in the series ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’, seen by a larger number of young people.

One of the most positive opportunities came at a local business group meeting in a local hotel, where we had a stimulating discussion with local successful businessmen and women about ways in which we might consider approaching the marketing of our books. Seeing the massive benefits of getting around a table with a group of positive thinking and encouraging people, not just to our product but also to our own mental health and wellbeing, Wesley and I are definitely going to get more involved in the group.

The process of writing the books has demonstrated to me that the positive use of networking sites, such as LinkedIn, can be fantastic tools in getting connected to some amazing people in influential positions who, invariably, if asked politely are very willing to help. Since leaving my director of sport position, I had lost the understanding of the importance of connections and knowing people who know people. I am starting to build up a larger support network again, missing for so long.

The importance of getting around a table for a coffee and bouncing ideas off each other was something that I was used to, but had fallen out of love with. That part of my ‘changing room’ I am very pleased to have put back in place, and the rewards in terms of the positive effect on my mental health have been amazing to experience.

It would appear that it can be quite easy after a successful life in professional sport to fall into a less challenging and rewarding lifestyle which can have a huge negative impact on your mental health and general enjoyment of life. The loss of the environment of the changing room and all that went with it can be crippling and if allowed to take over your thoughts can push you into a downward spiral. By challenging yourself with a project, getting out, meeting new people, and being open to new ideas and thoughts you can recreate parts of what you found so comforting and familiar. As someone who participated in a professional environment, you will have a wealth of experience, knowledge and stories that people will want to hear about. Your personal story, struggles or overcoming hurdles such as injury, setback, success and failure are pieces of information that people want to hear about. Children love to see a sportsman or woman in person and, like sponges, absorb your stories and hang off your every word. They love to be in the presence of athletes, to have the opportunity to be coached by you and to play your sport with you. These experiences for children can inspire, change lives and make a real difference. There are a number of excellent charities and organisations who are crying out for athletes with a story to tell, who can inspire young people with their experiences, talking to them about their journey.

The good news is that as well as being very achievable, connecting with new people will give you a new support network, meeting them and sitting down to talk is good for developing your own ideas and allowing you to explore your own thoughts on projects that other people are undertaking. A lot of what you will be missing from your old changing room experience. You will undoubtedly have acquired a vast range of skills and ideas throughout your sporting career and in getting together with people you will give yourself that chance to find that you are perfectly placed and in the extraordinarily privileged position to contribute significantly in helping others, inspire them, changing their lives for the better. Nothing can be more rewarding than that.

PL

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available as eBook and paperback on Amazon.co.uk. Please click here to visit the shop

The Twelve Bowlers of Christmas – Answers!

In the run up to Christmas, we ran a just for fun quiz called The 12 Bowlers of Christmas in which Santa impersonated twelve of the more identifyable bowling actions of some of the worlds leading bowlers of current and past cricketing history… Here they are our 12 Bowlers of Christmas:


Top Row: Jasprit Bumrah, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Merv Hughes, Mushtaq Ahmed, The Great Thomo!!
Bottom Row: Jimmy Anderson, Daniel Vettori, Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Graeme Swann & Mitchell Johnson.

Thank you all very much for joining in and sharing our fun Christmas Quiz on our various social media platforms: Twitter – @aleadingedge1 and Facebook @aleadingedge We hope you enjoyed getting involved as much as we enjoyed reading some of the more interesting answers!

It was interesting that Merv Hughes has a few doplegangers.. Chris Woakes has a similar action.. Ronnie Irani popped up in there as well.. Dermot Reeve even got a mention, but personally I don’t see it!

Now, looking ahead to Easter, we are going with another just for fun quiz, but this time it will be the Easter Bunny doing the work, and he will be impersonating batters. Glenn Maxwell is apparently quite good at taking off Steven Smith and a few others, so we are going to get the Easter Bunny to work, but we need to decide whether he will be impersonating Tailenders or the Top Order… Let us know which you would prefer to see!!

PL

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is available on Amazon.

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ is coming soon…

When the sporting challenge is over, where is your next challenge coming from?

Wesley Durston, former Somerset and Derbyshire cricketer looks at how he has continued to find rewarding challenges after his retirement from first class cricket in 2016. Athletes considering their future career and planning for a positive and successful transition to a life after sport is a hot topic. Professional sport is a short career, and there will be a lot of life to fill positively afterwards. Here is one example of how a professional cricketer found equal measure of challenge, fulfilment, reward and enjoyment in something very removed from anything he ever thought he would get into.. 

At the start of each year, I always think back to the previous twelve months before looking forward to the next twelve. I think back on the things that have occurred and how they have shaped me. Very often it is experiences shared with friends and family that are towards the top of the list along with days out or places visited, new Parkrun locations ticked off my list and nice meals enjoyed on holiday. But allied with those lovely things there are decisions made that can often be amongst some of the more rewarding experiences. That couldn’t be more true than in 2018 and a chance happening that occurred in February shared with my good friend and now my fellow author Patrick Latham. ‘Let’s write a book’, he said…. so we did!

I can honestly say that I’ve never ever considered or dreamt of writing a book, but less than a year on from the concept of the original book ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ we are in the process of writing our second book together. It’s both crazy and exciting in equal parts. In my formative years reading a book was a fairly major event for me so to think that my name is on a book as a co-author is still astounding every time I see it.

Nothing about the experience was easy, but then I suppose if it were everybody would do it and it would not be as much fun to do so. In so much of my professional cricketing life, decisions I made were semi-conscious in that playing and coaching sport are quite natural to me. I see something I make decisions based on what I see and act accordingly; this experience has required a lot more thinking and decision making, which is less natural. I’ve learnt and am still learning to wear three new hats as what I’m now known (certainly in the world of books) as an ‘Indie’ author. An Indie or Independent simply put is someone who writes for both business and pleasure, from concept to publication. The three hats I mentioned are a writing hat, a creative hat and a business hat. Patrick and I have made the decisions on everything that has gone into our first book, we’ve written it all ourselves, we created the layout and design of the book and now we are doing the marketing and business side of ‘A Leading Edge.’

We don’t think that for a minute every decision we’ve made so far regarding the book is the best one, it is definitely a learning process, but we made the best decisions at that time for us and for the readers. What we do know is that we are now better informed off the back of some of those decisions to act accordingly next time. It’s very exciting to say that knowing that we intend to have two more books released this year. We aren’t just going to sit back and rest, we are continuing to push through with ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ whilst planning, writing and publishing book two ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ followed by book three ‘A Leading Edge for Batters’ (Both are working titles at this stage.)

We are still a little while away from announcing a release date for book number two (A Leading Edge for Bowlers) but we hope that it’ll be somewhere near Easter and the start of the cricket season. We can, however, announce and are very excited to be able to say this weekly blog feature will be continuing into 2019, also ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ will be released and available onto iBooks very shortly, which is very pleasing.

As my professional cricket career drew to an end, the thought of what next, how to continue to challenge myself, and at the same time get a sense of achievement and fulfilment from whatever I did was definitely on my mind. As a professional sportsman or woman, you pick up a huge number of diverse skills and qualities that you probably never even know about until you test yourself, take yourself out of your comfort zone and give new things a try. I have certainly done this with writing the first book and I am very much looking forward to continuing to build and develop the skills I never really knew I had as a result of trying something new.

I hope that in a year’s time I’ll be looking back on 2019 with two new shiny publications, of decisions well-made and another exciting growth year for A Leading Edge.

WD

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is available on Kindle and paperback version via Amazon.co.uk
Alternatively, buy direct from our website:  www.aleadingedge.co.uk
You can also link to us on social media via  Facebook: @leadingedge and Twitter: @aleadingedge1 .

 

Keep it Simple!


It’s a common problem, and one which, if left unchecked can lead to a dip in form or at the extreme, a player dropping out of the game completely.

The more cricket the better right? School, Club, District, County… possibly Regional or even National level too! Oh, and don’t forget mum, dad or another family member who is always willing to throw balls ad offer a bit of advice. It’s fantastic for a young person to play so much cricket with lots of different people at a range of standards. Isn’t it?

We sometimes come across young players who fit this category. Plenty talent, bags of potential, a love of the game, but all of a sudden that enjoyment fades. The fun stops, the runs or wickets dry up and the player starts to go backwards and the brain starts to fry. But they are getting coaching at school. Their club coach is so keen and loves to offer plenty advice at training. The county coach is an ex-first class player and knows his stuff. There has even been an outside chance of an England U15 place, so the enthusiastic father has paid for personal weekly one-to-one coaching with a Level 3 coach to give the best chance of getting in. So why has the player stopped scoring runs? Why has she seemed less fussed about playing and training? Aside from the tiredness from all the travelling to and from different coaching sessions, the messages received from all these coaches often conflicts, and causes such a muddle in the players mind that they completely forget what works for them and what they used to do that allowed them to score runs and take wickets.

If you are a player with potential, you will undoubtedly find the coaches start sniffing around, looking to offer you their advice. So how do you decide which is the best advice to take? Because after all, the chances of every coach you come across telling you the same thing is highly unlikely!

The best advice I was given was, ‘to listen to all advice no mater who from, accept it gracefully and say thank you’. Depending on your ability, you will have either come across that advice in the past or it will be new to you. It will either be complete nonsense, make complete sense or it will trigger a little spark of curiosity in your mind. If you find the spark is ignited and you are interested in investigating the advice, try it out in a net or with a few throw downs. Even better talk to the person who offered you the advice. Ask them questions about it. Think about what you are trying to do and make a decision whether this advice might work for you or not.

A net situation is perfect for trying out small adjustments to your technique, and you don’t really need a coach to experiment! With the ball, it might be gripping a little tighter, or more loosely; moving your fingers together slightly, or moving the ball so there is slightly more pressure exerted on the ball by one finger than the other. Angle the seam a little more or less.
With the bat, you might adjust your grip slightly, up or down the handle, move the top hand round the bat a little bit more and see what it does to the path your bat takes through the ball on playing your shot. Lift the bat higher, start with it on the ground on your foot or in a different position on the ground relative to your feet. Try things out. You never know when you might hit on some tiny change that really works for you.

The problem will come, though, where you have two or three coaches, all who are insisting that you try something different and each piece of advice conflicts with the other. It is in this situation that players get set back, ruined or in the worst case scenario finished. The further through the levels a player moves the coaches need to ensure that they communicate with each other, ensure that all are following the best interests of the individual and are being led by one entity. It is important that if you are the player, you are honest at the first sign of conflict between coaches and let them know there is a difference in the message. The coaches should then communicate and decide on the best way forward for the player that will then become a united effort, ensuring the coaches are all saying the same things to the player.

In terms of the best advice that comes from coaches, and you will find players at the very top saying the same thing, keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things with novelty gimmicks, or coaching tips for coaching’s sake. Batters, stand still and watch the ball. Bowlers, bowl the ball with a strong wrist and fingers behind the ball, and get your body working and moving down a straight line towards the target. If your personal motto becomes ‘keep it simple’, you won’t find yourself far wrong. When it all starts getting complicated with advice from here, there and everywhere and the numerous coaches (who ultimately only want to help you) are scrambling your brain, the good news is that you have an identifiable starting point to go back to where you will be able to recognise yourself and what you were trying to do.

PL

Did you enjoy this article? If you would like to read more about cricket from A Leading Edge, our first book, A Leading Edge for Captains is out now in paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk