England coach Peter Moores answers an aspiring coach’s query every month.
“I have a player who scores runs going aerially but frequently holes out to players in the ring. What is the best approach to take?”
PRACTISE HITTING HARD AND LOW
The simple way to overcome this problem is to practise hitting the ball hard but along the ground. It is the easiest way to score runs and yet no batsman does anywhere near enough practice on it. If you think about it, cricket pitches are pretty big and there are only nine fielders protecting it. If a player can hit the ball hard along the ground they are going to score runs, no question.
CHOOSE YOUR MOMENTS TO GO AERIAL
Whenever a player is told to pick up the pace, they always want to try and whack it over the top. They don’t realise that hitting the ball hard along the ground and through gaps is just as effective and you are much less likely to get out. And if they are strong and hit it hard it’s going to be difficult for fielders to stop. If a player does start looking to go over the top and play aerially, you don’t want to do it when fielders are back on the boundary as if you get it wrong you’re in trouble.
WORK ON THE BACK FOOT
Most club wickets in England are slow and so it can be quite difficult to time drives off the front foot. Players may therefore find it easier to keep the ball on the ground by playing off the back foot. Practise back foot drives so that these are attacking strokes that can be used reliably and prevent you getting bogged down.
A great way to get players hitting along the ground is by using net challenges whereby the batsman has to hit every ball along the floor. It doesn’t matter if the batsman gets out – it’s about them getting a feel for the shot. They will no doubt find it hard at first but suddenly their feet will start moving better, they’ll get to the pitch of the ball quicker and be able to hit the ball a lot harder. This can then be refined so they’re trying to still do the same shot, but if the ball isn’t quite there then they defend. In club cricket, batsmen usually get out to slow bowlers because they become impatient and are trying to put pace on the ball. The only way you can hit the ball hard against a slow, spin bowler is to get right to the pitch of the ball or right back from it and wait for it to come to you.