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Back You are here: Home Sports Basketball Eastern Cape Health It's All Hands And Feet, Oh And Eyes !
Monday, 02 November 2009 09:25

It's All Hands And Feet, Oh And Eyes !

The game of Cricket is focused around runs. Scoring runs is possible (or else batsmen would refuse to play), but not all the time (or bowlers would refuse to play). It seems that batting in all sports requires skilled co-ordination between the eyes, hands and feet. And the higher the level of competition, the further this visual-motor system is pushed to its limit.

How fast are your reactions?

If you are facing a bowler at 140km/h, you have roughly half a second to react. Sprinters are called for a false start if they move off the blocks within 0.1 seconds of the starters' gun going off. Scientists have decided that it is not humanly possible to react faster than this. Unlike sprinters however, batsmen have a large chunk of willow to wield. You also have to decide whether to play off the front or back foot, and where to hit the ball!

I recently read a study (Land and McLeod, 2000), that monitored batsmen's head and eye movements while batting. The study showed that batsmen watch the ball out of the bowlers' hand, the eyes then move rapidly down to where the brain anticipates the ball will bounce. The eyes then hold this position while the head moves down to catch up with the eyes. After the ball bounces, both the head and the eyes move rapidly, trying to track the balls movement. So as a batsman, how do you improve your ability to predict where the ball is going to bounce, pick up the line and length quicker, and visually track the ball smoother and faster?

The answer is simple. Practice.

Old pro's will tell you that there is no substitute for 'time in the middle', referring to match practice. And it's true, but practice of all kinds is important- net sessions batting against bowlers, bowling machines, or even throw-downs. Input from your coach or video analysis of your batting is good to make corrections to technical faults, but it is through the repetition that you improve your skill of picking up the line and length, as well as your timing.

There are some other aspects to look at in rounding off your cricket training. One of these is your general fitness level. Since your aim is to spend long periods of time out in the middle batting and accumulating runs, you need to be fit enough to do so. If your body is tired, your performance will drop, and this is not what we want when reaction times play such a large role in batting.Although boundaries are needed when looking to score large amounts of runs, quick singles are just as important, so make an effort to work on your 20m sprint as well (with your bat in hand).

While on the topic of strength, arm and forearm strength are a must. If you look at swinging a bat, the majority of the weight is not the bat, but rather the arms, so you need to be able to move them swiftly. On the subject of bats, having the correctly weighted bat is essential. If you can't repeatedly lift your bat with each arm, your bat is either too heavy, or your forearms need strengthening. Moving down the body, your foot placement while batting can often make or break a shot, and many a bowler have taken advantage of poor foot movement. Although foot movement is best corrected in the nets, and with external analysis as I mentioned before, certain exercises may assist in getting you 'lighter' and more agile on your feet.

Since your head and eyes are following the ball, your front foot (or back foot depending on the length of delivery), basically needs to be placed in the correct line without looking.  Functional proprioception exercises look to increase your balance and 'joint feel' and may improve your ability to do this. Plyometric exercises are bounding and jump/land based exercises, and these are used to increase explosive power in the legs. These exercises may assist you in taking off for quick singles, as well as agility in the batting in crease.

Now before you throw on your pads and head off to the nets, there is one last thing that I need to mention. Although practice is the best way to become a better batsman, you need to be cautious of over doing it. Rest and recovery is just as important as your training, and I suggest that you rest as hard as you train.

Pain is a very good indicator that something is wrong, and you should always seek medical advice, from the likes of a sports doctor or physiotherapist to avoid more serious injuries or doing more damage.

With that said, BAT ON!


Jason Hiemstra