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Batting 50 overs should be teams’ first priority

Over the last month one statistic that has jumped out at me more than any other in cricket is the inability for teams to bat for 50 overs.

I estimate that this happens in at least 75 percent of the matches. This frightening observation emphasises some serious flaws in both our batting and concentration.

It also potentially shows a lack of planning and strategy by teams in how to go about batting the overs out. This is a real problem for teams deemed to be in the lower tier for development.

The perception is that we are playing in a recreational league with the emphasis on winning rather than development.

I want to encourage the lower tier teams to ignore the huge losses and focus solely on development.

Sound advice would be to take a page out of Warwick’s book, and when you win the toss bat, rather than sit out there for 50 overs letting the more advanced teams get batting practice and pulverise your bowlers.

As it has been confirmed that this league structure is solely set up for development, we might as well assist the lesser developed teams with some tips that they can focus on, which hopefully will help them to develop as players and as a team.

The first point is simple. You must do everything in your power to bat your allotted 50 overs.

How do you do this? Well if you look at some recent scores, several teams are being bowled out for less than 100 runs, which means theoretically their techniques are poor and their approach to batting is poor.

The art of batting, in my eyes, revolves around a solid defence. The ability to occupy the wicket for long periods no matter who is bowing is essential. If you have a good defence along with patience you will be hard to get out. All your other cricket shots are manufactured from a good defence.

The second point revolves around being selfish. After failing to post big totals, each batsman should look to just stay at the crease without the pressure of trying to score quick runs. The longer you are at the crease the more you will develop as a batsman.

Coaches should be encouraging this for development purposes, and forget what the total is and bat the entire 50 overs.

However, in order to bat for a long period the first fundamental criteria is concentration. Your body has to be fit to be able to concentrate for long periods. More often than not in the Bermuda league you witness batsmen batting well for 30, 40 or 50 minutes and then all of a sudden they just take a big swipe, highlighting the lack of concentration because they are physically and mentally tired.

Secondly, there are key words that you should be thinking about or saying to yourself as the bowler runs in. Examples of words and phrases to say and think are: ‘keep focused’, ‘focus’, ‘watch the ball’, ‘now’, ‘concentrate’. These words and phrases will assist in keeping you focused one ball at a time for the duration of your time at the crease.

Thirdly, it is important that you know where off stump is. Sounds elementary I know, but too many batsmen play at balls outside of their off stump, balls that would never hit their wickets. Batsmen tend to play at balls, especially early in their innings, outside off stump and get caught by the wicketkeeper or slips. In cricket terminology it’s called, “fishing”. The less balls batsmen play at outside their off stump the likelihood of batting longer increases.

The last tip I will give is to play straight as long as possible. Growing up I was always taught to play your first 20 runs of your innings in the ‘V’, which is between mid-off and mid-on. Forget about all the fancy shots that one might like to play until later in your innings when you start seeing the ball better and you have judged the bounce and pace of the wicket better.

These tips will mean nothing without a good coach as this too plays a major part in player development. One coach that other coaches could get tips from is Wendell Smith. There is no better on the Island than Wendell Smith, where batting is concerned.

In St. George’s he was nicknamed “The King of Concentration” as he would always bat for hours and hours. If you are serious about batting development then speak with him on what you can do in a training session that is focused solely on batting. His basic batting drills are brilliant and would help improve your players batting without a doubt.

If developing cricket is the BCB’s main focus then next year I suggest they give more points for batting 50 overs. Right now if I have read the rules correctly on the Board’s webpage, a team gets one point for batting 50 overs. Why not make it three points for batting 50 overs as that is an elementary skills/goal that every team should look to achieve.

This would even encourage teams batting last that even if they are going to lose the game they can still get bonus points for batting out all of the overs. It would encourage teams to strive towards batting out the overs.

These tips are basic fundamentals of the game that can only assist you.

Remember the forward defence is the first stroke taught simply because it is the most important. I will be looking with anticipation to see more teams, especially the developing clubs, batting out all of their overs. Confidence is half the battle; you must back yourself to perform regardless of who you are playing against.

No matter who is bowling to you, do not be afraid because once the ball leaves the bowler’s hand it doesn’t have a name on it, it just becomes ball against bat. Continue to work hard at improving your game as the art of batting is something that takes years to master.

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Published June 28, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 27, 2013 at 8:31 pm)

Batting 50 overs should be teams’ first priority

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