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Testing Your Boundaries

©A Leading Edge

'Cricket - A Leading Edge' by Patrick Latham & Wesley Durston

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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

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