Testing Your Boundaries

In his interview after an incredible 156 contributing to the England win in the 2nd ODI in Grenada, Joss Buttler spoke quite brilliantly and openly about his innings, his enjoyment of the game and for the behind the scenes training that goes on out of the public eye.

His interview was different from others in that he appeared to speak completely candidly, rather than tow a party line with standard rehearsed responses to the questions which was very refreshing. One of the comments he made in his interview caught my attention above the others as an important coaching and training point for all young players.

In talking about his own training and the enjoyment of range hitting amongst other aspects of his batting development, Buttler talked about using the lack of consequences in a training session to find out what he can and cannot do with the bat.

In saying this, Buttler intimated that his focus was far from practicing what he knows he can do but more on what he cannot yet do. It shows a fantastic positive and growth mindset, illustrating once again that the best players in the world are always looking to improve and never wanting to be at a standstill.

In an interview after England’s win over Italy at Twickenham in the 6 Nations Rugby last weekend, Eddie Jones spoke about the 1st XV and the 2nd XV all competing for places and pushing each other, not allowing any player the thought of comfort and security in their position in the 1st XV. “All the players from both teams are looking to make improvements in their game all the time”, Jones said.

In terms of what Joss Buttler’s training mindset means to him and how he trains, the knowledge of there being no consequences gives him the freedom to try new things.

For example, seeing how an adjustment in his grip allows him to access different parts of the ground but at the same time highlighting any negative side effects of any given alteration, however small. In tinkering with your technique in this way, you may hit on something that works for you, which, over time can be developed. Quite often batters will go into a net situation thinking only about protecting their wicket and trying not to get out. Don’t get me wrong, there need to be sessions, or part of sessions, that are devoted to protecting your wicket, but leave some time in your training for invention.

There is a line that younger players might find difficult to identify between the aimless ramps, scoops and reverse sweeps and this kind of positive inventive practice where something is tried before assessing how positively the change will affect performance then deciding to continue or reset and try something different. Younger players will need significant guidance and help in working on inventive sessions. It is important to note that all invention and audacious strokeplay stems from a sound technique with good footwork, balance and a knowledge of where your off stump is.

When working on inventive sessions and testing your limits, to get it right, consider the following:

In what situation of the game are you likely to bat?

What bowlers are likely to be on at this stage?

What is the field likely to be?

How many runs per over are you likely to be asked to score?

What areas of the field are you trying to access?

When you have processed all this, have the ball thrown, bowled or fed into the machine to reflect the bowler, line & length and work out the different ways you might access the appropriate areas of the ground. Remember, there are no consequences, so if you make a complete hash of things initially, keep working focusing 100% on a positive outcome. Consider, if things are not working, why they are not working.

Yes, the likes of AB DeVilliers, Jos Buttler, et al. are the extreme examples, but these players show that literally nothing is impossible in terms of where you can hit the ball, it is just finding a way that works for you.

A positive approach, some structured thought behind your training goals and some honest assessment of success combined with perseverance and time, there will be no reason why you cannot make big improvements in your strike rate.

If you can find a way of giving your team the chance of the extra 10 or 15 runs, that might be the difference between winning and losing. Test your boundaries in the confidence that there are no consequences in training.

Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from Amazon.co.uk. Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester

Scenario Net Sessions

I’m constantly asked if there is a better way to practice during the off-season than simply having a net session. I think for so many players the monotony of nets mean that in lots of cases, club players would sooner miss them and trust their natural ability when the season rolls around in April. This, as we all know, is rarely going to be successful, especially on early season wickets for the batters. Also, for the bowlers you need to have that month or so of practice in order to ready your body for the demands of the season.

I see how important winter practices are; but are nets still the best practice? I think however much you dislike them they are still the best way to train as a bigger group. However, the ways in which they are used are perhaps not as productive as they could be. Instead of a steady stream of bowlers each taking it in turns to bowl their ball and then wait for five others to do the same before having another go, there is a better way: Scenario-based nets. In these sessions with some careful thought and preparation, far more can be achieved without ‘flogging’ the bowlers. It needs to be specific to the players involved but results can be achieved whilst making the session more relevant and purposeful.

For example, three new ball bowlers each with a brand new ball bowling to three batters who would normally be the two openers and the number 3 in the order. The scenario facing the players involved being the start of the innings with a focus on the first ten overs. Bowlers should bowl in blocks of three balls or in overs (half overs reduce waiting time for the others.) If a flipchart or whiteboard is available, field plans can be drawn up making it specific for the scenario. Batters are then able to play the bowling according to the field set. For example, if they flick the ball down to fine leg they jog through for a single, thus changing the strike as if it were a game. Similarly, if one batter is out then number 3 comes in making the net more competitive and a possibly even introducing forfeits for being out/bowling wides or no balls.

In the adjoining net have the middle-order batters facing up against the spinners and medium fast bowlers with equally well thought out scenarios (4/5rpo, etc.) I feel this way there is a lot more purpose to the practice and everybody is involved reducing the dead time that can often manifest in a net practice. Think smart and use everybody’s time more effectively.

Enjoy.

WD & 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.

A Leading Edge for Rutland Schools

The book, ‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’, has been on the market for five months, and in the lead up to what promises to be a magnificent summer of cricket, we are very excited to announce a project we have been working on since the start of the New Year. This week, we have secured generous local funding which will enable us to put our project into action!

A Leading Edge has teamed up with Leicester based Schoolwear Solutions supported by Ian Guyler Business Consultancy. This positive new partnership will allow us to bring our book to every school in Rutland in time for the new season.

Thanks to the generosity of Schoolwear Solutions and Ian Guyler, we are able to deliver two complimentary copies of our book to each of the 29 schools in Rutland. One book goes to the school library, giving all children in the schools access to the valuable content. The second copy is to be present to a promising young leader in the school. The lucky recipient, to be decided by each school PE Lead/Head Teacher, will need to demonstrate an interest captaincy and in developing their positive leadership skills. Whilst the A Leading Edge for Captains uses cricket as the focal point, the sport is a vehicle for something much wider. The skills required to be a cricket captain transcend the boundary and spread through life, with the contents of this book having strong relevance to business, management and leadership of people in all areas of life. A Leading Edge authors Wes & Patrick will be visiting several Rutland schools to present books in person and hold coaching sessions and motivational talks to classes and small groups looking at captaincy and associated leadership skills, sharing first-hand some of the content of the book.

This is a fantastic good news story and a great opportunity for local schools to receive a visit from A Leading Edge authors, courtesy of Schoolwear Solutions and Ian Guyler Business Consultancy.

Schoolwear Solutions are a family-run business, specialising in supplying the best quality school uniforms and school sportswear, with solid values of excellent customer service, ethical sourcing of garments and massive buying power, the benefits of which we delight in passing on to our customers with the most competitive prices and the widest choice. For more information on Schoolwear Solutions please visit www.schoolwearsolutions.co.uk.

Ian Guyler has helped make many businesses successful, delivered business projects, catalysed team Leicestershire at MIPIM in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and has instigated fund raising projects for The Lords Taverners national charity to raise £250,000 in the last four years in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. www.ianguyler.co.uk

Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from Amazon.co.uk. Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester.

Leaving School & ‘Wandering’ About Your Cricketing Future?

Selection for the school ‘A’ team should not be seen with such importance as it often is. There is a lot of pressure on children to represent their school ‘A’ team at any age group in any given sport. This pressure comes from peers, families, teachers, but most of all from the children themselves. Cricket has far more to offer than just the high-pressure, cut and thrust of league and county cricket. As school coaches, we often see huge excitement and enthusiasm for all sports at the start of the school term, which, after selection for the initial training squads and first teams of the season can, to an extent, fall away as realisation dawns that the ‘A’ team seems out of reach. Too regularly, we focus on the high performers and interest in the development of the top players in the top teams can become a priority, rather than celebrating the success and relevance of players who are not particularly interested in cricket as a career or pursuing to higher levels after school, but who have a deep love for the game. Whilst opportunity for ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ teams is there to participate in inter school and inter club matches, arguably we do not consider enough the future development and interest of what will become the life blood of recreational cricket. For the top school players, we offer plenty advice and create links to clubs, district, county and other well-trodden pathways, but for those super keen cricket lovers who may not wish to follow the club or county pathway, we possibly fall a little short in advising them about alternative cricketing opportunities after leaving school.

Every year, there will be cricketers leaving school for whom club cricket is not a realistic option. This may be down to commitment in playing a large number of fixtures every weekend, a feeling of inadequacy, pressure of league cricket and the desire to play socially rather than having to consider league rankings, promotion and relegation, etc. Some of these players will play a little through university but sadly may ultimately be lost to the game if they are unable to find an alternative to club cricket.

On leaving school, I learned of an intriguingly named cricket team called ‘The Stragglers of Asia’. Traditionally, although rules are slightly more relaxed today, to play for this team one was required to have played cricket east of the Suez, which tells you a little about the wonderfully colourful history behind such teams. ‘The Stragglers’ offer wonderfully traditional cricket in idyllically quintessential settings, predominantly in London and surrounding counties. There exists a chance to play with and against like-minded people who are there for the enjoyment of the game, revelling equally in success and failure with the opportunity to play a smaller number of fixtures over the summer combined with opportunities to tour around the world playing cricket. Add to all this the amazing networking opportunities with some exceptionally well-connected people, the odd mountainous cheese board, fine wines and a glass or two of port over a long lunch and the whole scenario becomes a rather attractive prospect. Wandering Cricket Clubs, those traditionally without a home ground, ‘wander’ around the country being hosted by schools, clubs, military and other sides, is a genuine alternative to club cricket which is affectionately termed ‘jazz hat’ cricket on account of the brilliantly eccentric coloured and patterned caps and sweaters on show.

It is important to note at this stage that whilst this article is directed at players who may not feel able to play club cricket for whatever reason, the mix in abilities and ages amongst wandering cricketers is what makes the whole experience so welcoming, and fun. Part of the challenge of the majority of wandering games is to ensure that the day sees a ‘perfect’ game of cricket leaving all results possible as late into the game as possible. Ideally, the winning runs will be scored, or the last wicket will fall in the last few balls of the day. This takes a little bit of imagination from the captains, who also need to ensure that all players get as equal an opportunity as possible in the games. What you can guarantee from playing for a wandering side is a plenty of laughs, relatively little pressure and generally a close match of encouraging inclusive cricket, spreading the message of a lifelong love of the game where the whole family is welcomed to a day of cricket.

Wandering cricket will take you to any number of fabulous locations and give you the opportunity to travel around the world touring with your chosen side should you wish. Among the grounds you can find yourself arriving at can include the beautiful Ascot Park, The Hurlingham Club, The Royal Household, The Honorable Artillery, and any number of top Independent School grounds around the country.

The Wandering Cricket culture is quite remarkable, and offers something to cricket lovers that club and county cricket does not. Cricket is a game that holds a future for everyone, so if you are someone who feels that the end of the cricketing road comes as you leave school, please do not forget to explore off the beaten track, as this is precisely where Wandering Cricket will take you.

Good luck, and I hope this list of wandering clubs and their founding dates (source: nomadscc.com/wandering-cricket-clubs) is useful in your search for what will prove to be hugely enjoyable and rewarding cricket.

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.

I Zingari Cricket Club 1845 Gents of Worcestershire 1848 Incogniti Cricket Club 1861 Free Foresters Cricket Club 1856
Emeriti Cricket Club 1872 Wanderers Cricket Club 1873 Butterflies Cricket Club 1862 Harlequins Cricket Club 1852
Gents of Cheshire c.1850 Lords and Commons 1850 Stoics Cricket Club 1877 Band Of Brothers CC 1858 
Yorkshire Gents CC 1863  Quidnuncs 1851 Bluemantles 1862  Gents of Leicestershire 1868
Hampshire Hogs  1887 Northern Nomads 1892 Craven Gentlemen 1892 Borderers c.1892
Somerset Stagglers 1900 Devon Dumplings CC 1902 Berkshire Gentlemen 1895 Romany(Yorks) 1895/1902
Nomads Cricket Club 1903  Frogs Cricket Club 1903 Gents of Staffordshire 1904 Glamorgan Nomads 1904
Cornish Choughs CC 1906 Gents of Shropshire CC 1906 Dorset Rangers CC 1906
Sussex Martlets 1905
Gents of Essex 1907  Yellowhammers 1907 Cryptics 1910 Invalids 1919
Gentlemen of Suffolk 1921 Gloucestershire Gipsies 1922 Durham Pilgrims 1922 Penguins 1923
Thames Valley Ramblers1921 Grasshoppers 1923 Stragglers of Asia 1925 South Wales Hunts 1926
Lincolnshire Gentlemen 1928 Jesters CC 1928 Romany 1929 Souwesters 1930 
Buccaneers  1930 The Stage 1931 South Oxford Amateurs 1933  Wiltshire Queries 1933
Gaieties CC 1937  Flycatchers 1934 Arabs 1935 Woodpeckers 1936
Forty Club 1937 Bushmen 1942 Cricket Society XI 1949 Boffins  1949
Lord’s Taverners  1950 Almondbury Casuals 1952 Ravers Cricket Club 1954 Grannies 1956
Badgers Cricket club 1958      Privateers 1958 Saints 1959 Jack Frost XI 1961
Lord Gnomes XI 1963  Mandarins 1963 or 64  Old England 1968 Thames Valley Gents 1968
Heartaches 1973 Touring Theatres 1974 Weekenders 1970s  Fleet Street Strollers 1976
Captain Scott Invitation XI  Kensington 1982(1848)  Chelsea Arts Club 1984 Hetairoi 1980
Journeymen 1988 Harry Baldwin Occass 1986 Sydenhurst Ramblers 1946 Gents of Shropshire 1906
Law Society 1929 Brighton Brunswick 1870 Paralytics   London Theatres     1957
London Erratics 1974 Butler XI 1988 Spasmodics  1935 Nondescripts           1870s
Gents of Herefordshire 1850s Paddington 1920 Moose 1979 Fleet Street Wanderers   1989 
The Philanderers 1986 Eclectics CC20

Making your Fielding Count: Diving Stop with Throw

I recently helped deliver a very good group fielding session looking at the technique of the all-important diving or sliding stop paired with a firm and accurate throw at the stumps. We all dream of being the ‘Jonty Rhodes’ of the team and although for most of us that is all it will be… a dream! For many though, with hard work on technique and practice you can be the team’s stand out fielder.

 

All you will need for this session is a gym mat, some balls and some stumps. In small groups you take it in turns to be the feeder, the fielder and the spare player (collecting balls whilst resting). In the first phase balls are tossed just to the right of the fielder who to start with is on their knees. The reason for this is to isolate the top half of the body in order to really exaggerate the rotation needed to access the ball. Once the player has done this, they need to decide once they have got the ball in hand, whether to catch then extend their arms to prevent the elbows touching the ground or, option two, to trap the ball onto the group before gathering much like a football goalkeeper in a smothering action. Take five balls each, returning the ball to the feeder then rotate positions before repeating on the left hand side.

In the next phase once you have accustomed yourself with the positions you want to get into, you look to perform the stop from a standing position. The real focus at this point is ‘opening up’ your hip and leg on the side nearest to the ball. In essence you are rotating the hip to allow your body to access the ball and not tear a groin causing injury. Do not be afraid to really go for it before phase three.

In this last phase you build up to the throwing part. Once the catch has been taken you need to get your body into the best possible position to impact the run-out. You must create a firm base using both your knees and feet to create a triangle; here you’ll generate your power. Your shoulders now need to align to your target and simply aim for the base of the stumps. Now is the time of year to practice these difficult techniques but after a while you will really feel like you are making progress so that when the summer comes around you will be volunteering for backward point duties!

Good luck and Enjoy

WD & PL

This and other coaching session plans and ideas for winter training for all ages and abilities are available as free downloads from www.aleadingedge.co.uk/products/

The first book in a series, entitled, ‘Cricket – A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on www.amazon.co.uk

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 

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