By David Hinchcliffe, Director of Coaching, PitchVision Academy
Is there anything more wasteful in cricket than the talented player who fails to make the most of his ability?
This person plays effortlessly when everything is working, but too many days on the pitch are missed with low scores or average bowling spells. If you can sum it up in one word, it's "enigmatic".
Maybe you are a person like this.
You can feel that you have talent, but you are frustrated by your inability to consistently drain every drop. The route to becoming a cricketer feels frustratingly just out of reach and the difference is simply tapping into your genetic potential.
Here's what you do to get the most from your talent.
How much do you train?
At the simplest level, development is a numbers game. The more you practice, the better you get at playing cricket.
That's the fundamental principle behind the "10,000 hour rule": Masterful performers practice for an average of 10,000 hours on the road to mastery. Less skilled performers practice for less. Despite recent further research showing layers of complexity that undermine the basics of that law, the principle is unchanged: If you want to master cricket skills you need to practice a lot.
Some people need less time than others to improve. Some people have mental skills that make up for technical or tactical shortcomings. Everyone still needs to work very hard no matter what the other factors.
Above this, it's important to spend your time working on the right things. The Pareto principle states that 80% of effects comes from 20% of causes. In other words, work on the most important 20% first to get the fastest development.
What are these 20% skills?
Well, that's sort of up to you. You know your game, and yourself, better than anyone else. However, here are some thoughts:
- Technical: Driving straight on the front foot, especially through the on side. Hitting a line and length consistently.
- Tactical: Spotting batsmen's weaknesses. Working the ball around into gaps for singles and twos.
- Mental: Staying focused under pressure. Putting negative thinking out of your head.
There are times you will want to mix it up, but build your 20% and you will be 80% of the way there by volume alone.
What's your system?
Having a system, or process, is not as exciting (or reductive) as getting into the nets or having a game. Yet if you want to go from 80% up to your full potential, it's a crucial element. A system gives you structure and the ability to stay on course when things go bad.
One of the biggest pitfalls for players with potential is thinking that just practising and playing is enough. When you are young and talented, this is often the case. Good players can cruise through lower levels because they are already ahead. At some point, you will reach that difficult stage. The jumps become harder to make. This point comes earlier to some than others but whenever it arrives, you need a system to deal with it.
Your system is personal to you but for most people it contains:
- A way of getting instant, or almost instant feedback at practice (like PitchVision)
- Time outside of training to reflect, review and plan.
- A trusted coach, mentor or team-mate to provide an external view
- Removing distractions and using mindful focus
In combination, these elements allow you to take a look beyond the next ball or what you are doing at the next session or match. You can decide on long term things like your style of play, adapting your technique and a lot more, then you can turn these big parts into little actions, like a bowling machine drill.
It also helps you realise when you are doing "busy work". By this I mean training that looks good but has little benefit. A good example is when a player goes into the net to "have a hit". There are times when this is right for the right sort of player. Often it's nothing more than a waste of a session that could focus on bringing up a weakness or super-sizing a strength.
Yes, it means some soul-searching. But there are ways you can do this that are most suited to your personality. You can write it down, talk it through, even express it through the medium of dance.
OK, maybe not that last one.
The point is, get comfortable understanding that improving as a cricketer is about more than going to nets. Having a process on top of your volume helps you understand yourself, and your game, better. As a result you go up from 80% into the high 90s.
And with consistent effort, maybe even right up to that hundred.
Are you so talented that you can afford to leave some ability on the table? If you are, you are one heck of a player. If you are like most of us, following this advice could be the answer to your dreams of becoming a cricketer.