Batting expertise and decision-making in cricket

Test level batsmen have to be incredibly
skillful Fast bowlers can bowl over 150km/hr Batsmen will have less than half a second once the ball leaves the bowler’s hand to make contact with the ball In this split-second they have to pick the line and length of the ball whether it is swinging or going to move off the seam And then decide which shot to play or not play As a batsman, there are not too
many second chances If you miss the chances are pretty high
that the bowler will hit Either you, if you’re lucky or the wickets So it is key that batsmen make
good decisions and make them quickly We asked Jonathan Connor a specialist in skills
acquisition with Cricket Australia to help explain some of the
techniques and strategies batsman use and why they make certain decisions A batters primary purpose is always to score runs or look to score runs while
limiting the chances of a dismissal This can be done by playing
conservatively early on in the innings looking to adapt and attune to the
different types of conditions and oppositions they’re faced with Once they are better attuned and are able to understand the pitch surfaces and the layout of the game they start to play more expensively and perhaps look to score it
at a faster run rate There’s a theory, that essentially, as
you’re coming out to perform it’s all about your education of intention so you come out to bat
and it’s a case of okay what am I looking to do today If I’m an opening batter on a
GABBA, green, seaming wicket it’s probably leave everything
outside off stump and only play what I need to play until that ball gets a little bit older
and the pitch gets a little bit harder Education of attention is
probably more around… becoming better attuned to the opposition the conditions,
those types of things And then the calibration is all about
adapting your movements to the conditions of the pitch and the opposition bowler themselves But the specific goals of each batsman and how they approach the game will depend on their position
in the batting lineup and the current situation of the match So often batters have
different roles within the game Opening batsmen, depending on
what their strength is can be there to nullify the
swinging ball early on or perhaps they could be there to take
full advantage of a hard ball that allows them to score quickly It would be fair to say that opening batsmen
often face the most difficult conditions Bowlers are fresh, the ball is new and they’ve got the greatest
demands on their ability However, their role is often different to what you’d expect of a number
three or number four We often talk about our number three and our
number four are the best batsmen However, that might be due to the fact
that they do have to be the most adaptable and be able to fill that
opening role Likewise, if they come in a little bit
later when the batting team is in a more dominant position,
they might have to quickly get on with it and be more aggressive early
on in their innings Cricket is all about constantly adapting to the opponent, to the pitch and the
ball and this is especially important for batsmen We conducted some research on cricket
batting expertise performance and what it is that separates them
from less skilled players So we interviewed a group of
international or state level coaches who themselves used to be
international state-level batters And one thing they
would talk about is… their ability to attune to information
within the environment understand the conditions the opposition bowler and
ultimately their role in the game Ultimately, expert performance
is all about adaption the best players, the experts
that do it are often seen to be executing their natural game when constantly they’re
in a state of problem solving The most difficult situation for a
batsman is when they first go out to bat Facing bowlers and conditions
they’re not used to it can be tricky And against fast bowlers batsmen just don’t have the
time to assess what the ball is doing and go through options
on how to play it So, many will go in with a mindset of playing particular shots
against particular deliveries and will wait patiently for
the right ball to score off Cricket batting, in general, is incredibly
difficult in terms of the time demands that fast bowlers often put on batters Fast bowlers in Australia often bowl
anywhere between 140 to 150 km/hr Often what batters might try to do is
employ a particular game plan where they’re looking for a particular type of
delivery to be bowled to play a shot And every other type of ball, whether it’s
a good length just outside off or a ball going down leg you’ll have a particular shot
that you’re looking to employ As batsmen become more
accustomed to the pitch surface and the opposition, then they might
look to expand their game and start to play different shots
to different length deliveries It’s all about managing risk versus your reward and understanding what type of
shots you can perform today at different periods of the game so whether it’s dotting up
a ball until it becomes older and stops swinging and allows you to play your
more expansive game perhaps To do this ball after ball takes an amazing
amount of concentration and it can be mentally exhausting So batsmen need to be able to switch off
and then switch back on quickly As the bowler is running in
to deliver the ball the batters are often employing
a bit of a pre-ball routine where they might touch their pads
or tap their bat a certain amount of times so they can clear their mind and have a direct focus of attention on the
upcoming delivery During this period as the ball is running in it’s quite strenuous and
and cognitively demanding to focus all of your attention on
what’s coming up next In between balls, as the bowlers
walking back to his mark often batters employee a
between-ball routine that allows immediately reflect
on the ball that just happened and what it means for
the context of the game then they’ll often relax and think
about task irrelevant thoughts perhaps to do some gardening,
look into the field and then finally they’ll have
like a refocus period where they might basically start
a bit of a pre-ball routine stepping onto the crease, adjusting
their pads, their gloves and getting ready for the next delivery One of the things that really
surprised us was the consistency in their between-ball routine While some people might
call it superstitious it was very much a consistent habit that allowed them to refocus their
efforts onto the task at hand And when the bowler is coming in
batsman do not just focus on the ball They take in a surprising
amount of information even before the ball is bowled A lot of batters talk about
different cues that help them to anticipate the line or
length of the ball Subconsciously, we think
that the point of release is is a really informative area However, far more interesting stories
are the ones where batters talk about the bowler, at the start of their run up,
might stick their tongue out or smile and they know that what’s coming
is going to be a short ball or an inswinger Likewise, other research has looked at anticipating the kinematic
cues of the opposition by using video screen and asking the batters what the
line and length of the ball might be once they’ve occluded the video just before the ball is released While they look at the ball we often see that they draw
information from kinematic movements of the bowler Because, when we get rid of them we see that their anticipation drops This has highlighted some pretty
incredible information about how batters are able to pick up
advanced visual information from a bowler’s action Test level batsmen develop and refine these techniques and
strategies over many years it is not about talent But about hours and hours
of practice and determination So, a really interesting thing about expertise
in a lot of different sports is that expertise isn’t derived from any
particular, let’s say, hardware advantages So they don’t necessarily have better
reflexes or better eyesight It’s literally about their motivation,
dedication and adaption, to basically,
the opposition and game itself Experts are certainly not born but something that’s developed
through hours and years of practice And specifically practice that allows them to track a moving ball and couple their movements with both the trajectory and
the context of the game So, net practice is probably one of the
most common sort of practice methods employed by coaches and
players to develop their skill While it offers some
advantages logistically allowing great amount of volume less players need
to be involved it does have some drawbacks which are probably better suited
towards more center wicket practice So developing the cognitive aspect being able to deal with pressure and anxiety that might
come about after hitting three great shots to a fielder isn’t the type of anxiety that
might be induced within the nets What you probably get more so
out of centre wicked practice is holistic development to cricket batting So not just the technical aspect… but also the cognitive (aspect)
and emotions that are involved
with the game

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