Coach extraordinaire Peter Moores answers an aspiring coach’s query every month.
“I’m coaching a player who is really strong off the back foot but keeps getting out lbw. How do I get him to play more on the front foot without ruining his best asset?”
ACCENTUATE A PLAYER’S STRENGTH
This is a classic case. People often want to focus on improving the weakness (in this case, front-foot play) but really, you’re better off trying to accentuate a player’s strengths. You should aim to get him better at executing off the back foot rather than spending all your time practising his front-foot weakness. Obviously he needs to be able to go forward when needed but some of the best players, the likes of Mike Atherton, have been back-foot players. His main scoring shots are off the back foot – which is fine – he just needs to be good enough that he doesn’t get out lbw. Carry on doing quite a lot of back-foot work to make sure he’s really good at that because that’s where he wants to play from.
METHOD NOT TECHNIQUE
This is not so much a technical issue but more about method. Technique is how you swing the bat whereas method is how you apply the shot. While a player can’t just play off the back foot or just off the front foot, they can have a preference. If the batsman wants to be a back- foot player, discuss how they can apply the skills they’ve got, what balls they could score off but also what balls they could get out to, so they can see potential dangers. You also need to ask how they are going to play a bowler who is bowling full on middle-and-off which you can’t play back-foot shots to. This will allow the batsman to see what they have to do to become the player they want to be.
There will be a certain length that the player feels comfortable coming forward to and this may well be fuller than for other players. Emphasise the need to get his front-foot work to a threshold point so he can play some shots and not be too easy to bowl at.
EXPLORE DIFFERENT LENGTHS
Take the player into the nets, try using a dog ball-thrower/Sidearm to send down cricket balls because this makes the ball bounce and so forces the batsman to pay attention to each delivery. If you ask questions after each ball about where it pitched and how the batsman is doing, this gives the player greater awareness of length, and how they move and operate to different lengths.
Stay tuned for more expert advice from Peter Moores in the coming weeks