Tuesday, 7 February 2012

One year on

While it's nice to have a few people reading the blog and get some welcome feedback every now and then, this blog is, and always was, predominantly for my own benefit so that I can remind myself of everything that's happened in relation to my cricket 'career'. Today I've had a look through my posts from pre-season last year, reading them for probably the first time since I wrote them, and the similarities and differences are rather interesting.

Firstly, I can see plainly how fragile my confidence in my bowling was last year. I had yet to lose my bowling 'virginity' by taking a wicket, and it's really no wonder now I look back that I found the first two games last year such a struggle mentally. I'm a lot calmer this year and even though I'm not bowling very well yet I have much more faith that it will eventually sort itself out, resulting - so far at least - in a lot less fruitless frustration. I think this year I have a much more realistic impression of my strengths and weaknesses, where last year I consciously hoped for the best but subconsciously feared the worst.

However my batting is still at that same stage - I feel I'm improving, but I'm not certain whether it really is or if it's simply that I haven't been properly tested yet. It does feel as if I'm seeing the ball better and hitting the ball harder and with better timing and control, but until I've got some solid runs in the scorebook I don't think I'm going to really have that deeper level of confidence. My highest score is still 8 from back in 2010, and a rather fluky 8 at that given that it amounted to four singles of a small boy and a top edge over slips off a decent bowler. Since then all I've managed is 5* in singles in a friendly and 4* off two balls from another vaguely deliberate edge that made it to the 3rd man boundary. I think if I can make 20+ in an innings this season that will be the figure that would really signify a breakthrough, but at this stage I'm wary of expecting too much considering I had hoped for similar last year and never got anywhere near it.

Another common feature is my verdict on bowling in pre-season nets as a means to quickly identifying problems with my bowling and improving my technique. Here's what I wrote after the first net last year:
The big problem with those types of nets is their lack of realism, in that with one or two exceptions the batsmen weren't batting seriously, and when you have to line up in queue of a dozen or so you have absolutely zero chance of getting any rhythm going. I probably bowled barely a dozen balls in an hour, an amount  I could probably manage in about five minutes on my own in an empty net.
And here's what I wrote only yesterday:
It's too busy, too loud, you have to wait your turn and thus lose any rhythm and bowl at a pretty slow rate, and the batsmen at the other end are just a distraction as far as I'm concerned. If I had an empty net I could probably fix this in about half an hour, sadly I don't so it may take several weeks.
Hmm, a certain amount of overlap there is seems... There really isn't anything I can do about it though, so I'm calmly resigned to doing things the long way round. It's simply the only way it's going be done.

As to how I'm looking forward to the season ahead, I suppose I'm trying hard to be more realistic. I'm not going to make a stupid goal like scoring 100 runs in a season again, for one. My goals are much less arbitrary but no less imposing - Batting average over 10, bowling average under 30. I'd like to get 20 wickets (well, I'd like to get 10 wickets a match every match, obviously), but that's not a firm goal as what does it mean? Last year I played 21 matches so that would still be less than one a match, and what worth would 20 wickets be if I was averaging 50+ each for example? Likewise I'm not going to make any fielding targets this year because they're far too dependent on field placings and random happenings within matches to be of any use, I just want to field as well as I can and catch as many chances as come my way.

Another major change for this year is that in my preparations I'm now conscious of the need to prepare things in such a way that by the time the season starts I'm able to do things instinctively without consciously thinking about them. Matthew Syed's excellent book "Bounce" has a lot to do with this, and based on what that book said I'm aiming to get to a place where I only have to give myself quick cues that aren't too complex. In batting my basic instruction is "watch the ball - get your head behind the line - move with your head", while in bowling I need to get back to where I was last year, where my pre-bowling commands where confined to variation, length and line, such as "zooter, off-stump on a length".

With my bowling the task is straightforward, I simply have to have enough control to bowl a particular variation in a particular way on demand, and that's what makes empty net bowling practise so valuable. With batting it's a bit more complicated, as my instruction above is more about setting the correct pre-conditions to face a ball rather than the shot itself, which obviously depends on what the bowler bowls. The next stage is to develop an instinctive response to each delivery, essentially the familiar old three-axis response - forward or back, play or leave, attack or defend - followed by selecting and playing the appropriate shot. Obviously, the pre-requisite for this is the ability to properly play the shot I've chosen, and I think for this I'll need a few lengthy throw-down sessions, building each shot from the basics up to full proficiency against a Side-Arm. Finding someone prepared to feed me these throw-downs may be something of a challenge though!

I suppose that flags up another problem with standard net practise - you throw the bat around a bit, but the bowlers aren't consistent, they're working to their own agenda rather than yours, there's a mix of pace and spin and even what technical advice you do get is hard to act on as you're unlikely to face the same ball enough times afterwards to get enough practise of playing a particular shot the right way. But again, what exactly is there to be done? I'll just have to muddle through and wait for the outdoor nets to go up, and hopefully bribe someone into helping me out.

No comments:

Post a Comment