If you want to make yourself into a better batsman, I’d strongly recommend trying to improve your footwork! Positive foot movement is one of the cornerstones of a great batting technique. Getting it right can provide with you with a superb foundation upon which you can build your attacking and defensive skills.
So what will it take to make improvements? As always, you’ll have to put a lot of hard work in, but in this post I’ve put together a number of different things that I think you’ll be able to start working on straight away. If you can put all of these into action and add them into your practice sessions, you should see changes quickly!
Here are my tips:
- Try Out The Batting Tee Drill!
- Have A Go At The Drop Ball Drill
- Use A Bowling Machine During Practice
- Try Adding Some Resistance To Your Practice Sessions
- Lean Forwards Slightly In Your Batting Stance
- Don’t Commit To A Certain Movement Too Early
- Focus On Getting All The Way Forward, Or All The Way Back
- Use The Stationary Feet Drill
- Practice Hitting Shots From The ‘Engaged’ Position
- Establish A Trigger Move
- Do A Proper Batting Warm Up Before You Go Out To Bat
Before we get into all of the individual tips in more detail, let me explain why good footwork is so important!
Why Is Footwork Important In Cricket?
When learning how to bat, one of the first things you should be taught is the importance of the position of your feet. Getting your feet in a good position allows you to access the ball a lot easier, play attractive shots and helps you to avoid being squared up or hit on the pads by the bowler. Getting your feet in bad positions consistently makes it a lot harder to get to the ball with your bat. It also gives the bowlers something to target and will quickly become a weakness in your game. So, whether you’re striding down the pitch to play the perfect cover drive, or skipping down the pitch to hit the spinner over the infield, all of these shots are made a hell of a lot easier if you move your feet decisively and accurately.
The basic theory of good foot movement is that we should be using it to transfer our weight into and over the ball. If we can use our feet to take our weight into the ball, then this will allow us to play solid shots more consistently. Failure to transfer our weight into the ball can lead to us reaching for the ball, which often means we will end up playing wayward shots and offering more catches to fielders!
As you go through this post, it’s important to remember that good foot movement is not a single issue. Good foot movement should always be paired with good head position. I treat these two things as equally vital! The easiest way to transfer your weight into the ball is to move your head towards it. Where your head goes, your feet will follow. If you have exceptional foot placement but your head is falling away from the ball as you strike it, you will find it a lot harder to play a good shot!
There have been many professional batsmen who didn’t move their feet as much as other players, but their balance and head position allowed them to compensate for that lack of movement. Players like Virender Sehwag and Marcus Trescothick are two examples that immediately spring to mind! In this post I’ll be giving you tips that will help you to improve the way you move your feet, but I’ll also cover how to control your head! Mastering both of these things will make you a much better player.
Try Out The Batting Tee Drill!
This is a very simple drill that will help you to practice the specific foot movement required to play certain front foot shots.
To try this drill for yourself you will need:
- 1 – 5 Cricket Batting Tees – These are basically small cones which you can place a ball on top of. It’s better to have more of these so that you can practice multiple different shots quickly! They’re quite cheap, so if you’d like to buy yourself some click here to see the latest price for a pack of 5 over on Amazon!
- A Set Of Balls – These can be normal cricket balls or any balls of a similar size. Tennis balls are perfect for this drill
- A Cricket Bat
- A flat area on which you can place the batting tees
Once you have all the equipment, you should arrange the batting tees in front of you and place a ball on top of each of them. You should place one batting tee directly in front of you around a stride length away. This cone will signify the straight drive. You should also place a batting tee in the position for a cover drive, an on drive, and a square drive! To be honest, where you position the batting tees is really up to you, but I recommend an arrangement something similar to the one I’ve shown in the diagram below! This arrangement will allow you to practice all of the main front foot shots.
Once you have your batting tees in position with balls on top of them, you should get in your batting stance, and move your front foot towards one of the cones. As you move your feet, you should play the shot that is suitable to the position of the batting tee. This drill can be repeated as many times as necessary!
Have A Go At The Drop Ball Drill
The drop ball drill is another great way to practice the footwork for your front foot shots. It’s very easy to do, and you don’t need to buy any extra equipment before you do it! I’d strongly recommend adding it to your practice sessions if you’re looking to get into a good rhythm with your footwork.
To try the drill yourself, follow these steps:
- Get into your batting stance and have a coach or a partner drop a tennis ball vertically around half a metre in front of you
- As the ball drops, keep your eye on the ball and step forwards with your front foot.
- Your front foot should now be close to the area where the ball has bounced. Once it is in this position, bring your bat through and strike the ball.
- Have your partner/coach drop the ball at different locations. This will force you to stride forwards and hit the ball in different directions down the ground.
- To practice advancing down the pitch and striking the ball, have your partner/coach stand a bit further away when they drop the ball. Once it has been dropped you should move your feet towards the ball and strike it just after the second bounce!
Use A Bowling Machine During Practice
I’m a big advocate of using bowling machines to improve your footwork for one simple reason: You can set a bowling machine to bowl consistently in one area.
If you want to practice your footwork for a specific shot like the cover drive, you can simply position your bowling machine to bowl full balls outside the off stump, and leave it there until you decide you’re ready to move on. With bowling machines, you know you’re guaranteed to get a ball in the area that you want it! This isn’t the case if you’re getting throw downs from a partner. Sadly, the aim of your partner will probably not be as good as the bowling machine, and they’ll probably end up throwing you some inaccurate balls. As a result you may not be able to focus solely on your cover drive shot!
Bowling machines make it very easy to practice your foot movement for against a specific type of delivery, or for a specific shot. They also make it very easy to practice your footwork against deliveries of different speeds! For example, you can start at lower speeds and move up when you become more comfortable. In my opinion there really aren’t many disadvantages to using them.
A lot of players are put off buying bowling machines because of various reasons. Most people I speak to think they’re much more expensive than they are! Well I’m here to tell you that there’s some high quality bowling machines available on Amazon for very affordable prices….click here if you’d like to check out one of my favourites! It even comes with 12 balls and an automatic ball feeder so you can use it alone!
If you’re really serious about buying a bowling machine to use at home, then you’ll need to make sure you have the following things:
- A power supply – Some bowling machines have batteries but others will require access to mains electricity.
- A flat surface – bowling machines use large stands for stability, so you’ll need a relatively large flat area on which to place the machine. As well as a flat area where the ball is going to be delivered.
- Enough space to cover the length of a cricket pitch – A standard cricket pitch is about 22 yards (20.12 metres) long, which means the bowling machine should be placed roughly this distance away from the batsman. You’ll also need a bit of extra space at each end to make sure the standing room of the bowling machine is accommodated as well as a bit of space behind the stumps.
- Appropriate balls for your bowling machine – Most bowling machines aren’t compatible with normal cricket balls. Instead they will require you to purchase specific bowling machine balls. Make sure you look into this and find out which balls you have to buy before purchasing your bowling machine.
- Cricket Matting – You may wish to purchase some cricket matting that can be laid down to mimic the surface of a pitch. This can be quite expensive!
- A Batting Net – This isn’t an essential item if you buy a bowling machine, but sometimes it will help during your practice sessions. A batting net basically surrounds the batsman and makes sure that when a shot is played, the ball does not travel too far away – making them easier to collect afterwards.
- All of the protective equipment required for batting – Just because we are facing a machine, you still need to protect yourself. Make sure you’re always wearing full protective gear when using your bowling machine.
Try Adding Some Resistance To Your Practice Sessions
One option you can use to get your feet moving a little faster is to attach some weights to your ankles in practice. If you do this, you will get used to moving more weight around when you move your feet. As a result, when it comes to playing in a match and you no longer have the weights around your ankles, you will feel as if you can move your feet a lot faster. The movement will feel much easier!
If you’d like to try this out, you should think about buying some specific ankle weights. There are loads of these available, so you’ll be able to find some that suit your level of strength. Personally, I’d recommend starting at the lower end of the weight range before trying to increase the weight as you go. If you’re a junior cricketer, you should probably start with a set of 1kg weights, and then build up from there. Adults can make their own choice about which weights they want to buy first, but remember not to push yourself too far. This isn’t like lifting weights in the gym. You don’t want to add so much weight to your ankles that it makes you unable to move your feet.. Remember, The aim with this is to challenge yourself just enough that it will make your feet slightly faster when you remove the weights. I think anything around the 3-5kg mark will be suitable for most cricketers, with the absolute maximum weight being somewhere between the 5-10kg range! Start small and see what you’re capable of.
If you practice batting for 2 or 3 hours a week and you want to start using the ankle weights, I’d recommend wearing them for at least 1 hour of your practice. Then take them off and you will be able to feel the difference!
Most ankle weights you buy will strap right around your leg just above the ankle, so you should be able to use them alongside wearing your batting pads. If you want to check the price of some highly rated ankle weights on amazon, click here! Remember to select the correct weight before you buy!
Lean Forwards Slightly In Your Batting Stance
When the bowler is approaching the wicket, a lot of batsmen will lean forward slightly in their batting stance. You can see what I mean from the picture of Steve Smith below!
I think this forwards lean encourages you to press forwards on to your front foot slightly just as the ball gets released. This is a great position to get into because from there it’s easy to either continue forwards into a front foot shot, or push back off your front foot, stand tall and play a back foot shot!
Don’t Commit To A Certain Movement Too Early
A lot of batsmen have technical difficulties because they move their feet in a certain direction too early. Most batsmen who have this problem will plant their front foot across to the off-side just before the bowler bowls the ball. Batsmen who do this will get out LBW a lot, because their front leg will be planted directly in front of the stumps. Bowlers will see that the batsman is planting the front foot early and target the pads! Deliveries on the pads are incredibly hard for these batsmen to hit as they have to play around their front pad! Basically, this is not a good position to be putting yourself in!
The aim when batting is to get into good positions early and make things easier for ourselves. If you’re going to make a movement with your front foot before the bowler has delivered the ball, make sure it moves more down the pitch rather than across to the off side. Also, make sure it doesn’t move too far! You want your front foot to be in a position that you can either push forward from, or push back quickly and play a back foot shot!
Remember to trust your eyes and your judgement of the ball. If you’re getting plenty of practice, and watching the ball intently as it leaves the bowlers hand, then you’re setting yourself up nicely to be able to react to the ball in the proper way! If you’re pre-empting where the ball is going to land and guessing with your front foot before the ball has been bowled, the best bowlers will make you pay! Try to avoid these bad habits if possible.
Focus On Getting All The Way Forward, Or All The Way Back
No matter what sort of bowling you’re facing, you should be aiming to fully commit to a front foot shot, or a back foot shot. A lot of batsmen second guess themselves and fail to make a decision quick enough, which leads to their feet barely moving and them getting ‘caught on the crease’. When this happens and our feet don’t really go anywhere, we are more prone to reaching for the ball with our bat. This is very dangerous because reaching for the ball makes it more likely than we will get an edge on the ball or mistime it, and the bowling side will usually have fielders waiting to take advantage of this!
Moving forwards and backwards accurately can also help you to mess with the length that the bowler is bowling. This is especially true when playing against spin! If you consistently drop on to the back foot and play a spinner from there, it may force them to start bowling too full. If this happens, you can then push forward on to the front foot and easily drive the ball! I would always aim to play off the back foot against spin bowlers whenever possible. This gives you the maximum amount of time to read how much the ball is spinning and react to it. When playing forwards, you have to make sure you get right to the pitch of the ball in order to smother the spin!
Ideally, you should be playing off the back foot to any deliveries that are bouncing over the top of the stumps. Any delivery bouncing lower than this offers you the opportunity to get on the front foot! If you want to make consistently good decisions on whether to go forward or back, then you’re going to have to learn to judge the length of the ball quickly. If you can detect that the ball is going to be full early in its flight, then you can quickly commit to moving your front foot down the pitch. The same can be said for short balls! The only way to become better at picking up length is to face plenty of bowling. You need to be batting…a lot. The more deliveries you face, the better you will get at it!
Use The Stationary Feet Drill
This is a great little drill that I have used a lot in the past to make sure that I get my head in a good position when batting. Like I mentioned at the start of the post, good head position is vital to being a good batsman, just as vital as good foot placement! If you can get your head going towards the ball, then your feet will eventually follow. This drill has been used by many professional batsmen, including Kevin Pietersen, and that’s why I know it will help you too!
If you want to try this drill for yourself, simply follow these steps:
- Get ready to bat. You’ll need some protective equipment if you’re using a hard ball. If you choose to use a tennis ball, then you will only need your bat!
- Find a flat surface to bat on, indoors or outdoors. Ideally you want to be practicing on a surface that replicates the bounce of a cricket pitch as closely as possible.
- Find a partner and get them to either bowl at you, or give you some throw downs.
- As they deliver the ball towards you keep your feet still, and play your shot without adjusting your foot position at all.
- As you play your shot to the ball, focus on moving your head towards it. Imagine that you’re trying to ‘kiss the ball’. Aim to get your head over and onto the line of the ball as you strike it with your bat.
The more you can learn to move your head correctly, the better your weight transfer into the ball will be. If you use this drill often enough, you will get used to moving your head towards the ball. After this, when you bat normally you will find it a lot easier to move your feet towards the ball too! Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!
Practice Hitting Shots From The ‘Engaged’ Position
This type of practice is incredibly simple, but incredibly effective. This is especially true for beginners, or more experienced batsmen who are really trying to hone the basics of their technique.
It basically requires you to get into the position required to play certain cricket shots before the ball has been bowled. This is what we refer to as the ‘engaged’ position. Then, once someone delivers the ball towards you, you can strike the ball from that position. This helps to teach a batsman what proper foot position should look like when playing each individual cricket shot, and also helps them to experience what the sensation of playing the shot with good foot position actually feels like. Basically, it helps you to break down the shot motion into smaller parts!
If you want to try this yourself…follow these steps:
- If you’re choosing to use a hard ball, get into your batting gear. If you’re using a softer ball like a tennis ball, you’ll probably just need your bat.
- Find a flat surface to bat on, indoors or outdoors. Ideally you want to be practicing on a surface that replicates the bounce of a cricket pitch as closely as possible.
- Find a partner who will give you some throw downs. Tell them what shot you want to practice.
- Before they deliver the ball, get yourself into the correct technical position that is required to play the shot. If you’re not sure what the correct position is, either ask your coaches or check out my post here which explains the details of every cricket shot!
- Your partner should now deliver the ball, specifically aiming for a spot on the pitch which will allow you to play the appropriate shot. For example, if you are looking to play the cover drive, they should throw the ball so that it bounces 1-2 metres in front of you, just outside the line of your off stump.
- If you’re working on a specific shot such as the cover drive, try to hit 10 of them from the engaged position. Once you have got the feel for it, try to hit a few from your normal batting stance where you move your feet towards the ball before striking it.
Establish A Trigger Move
A ‘trigger move’ is a term that describes a small movement that a batsman will make just before the bowler has delivered the ball. Trigger moves help us to get our body, and specifically our feet in a great position to play our shot. At the end of the movement, you should have gotten your feet in a position from which you can come forward to play a front foot shot or push backwards and play a back foot shot very easily.
Not all players have a trigger move, and if you’re still playing junior cricket it might be something that you don’t want to worry about just yet. Sometimes they can confuse you too much! In my opinion, when you’re younger you should just focus on watching the ball, moving your feet and hitting it. However, once you begin playing senior cricket and facing much faster bowlers, developing your own trigger move can give you a big advantage. Facing faster bowlers requires us to move our feet into position much more quickly, and trigger moves help get our feet moving before the bowler has delivered the ball. This means that we don’t have to begin our shot motion from a stationary point!
All trigger moves are different and what they look like depends on the choice of the individual batsman. Therefore, I can’t really recommend any specific movements that I think you should make! What I would recommend doing is to watch videos of different professional batsmen, to see what they do. These videos might give you some ideas of the trigger move that you would like to develop for yourself. A batsman like Steve Smith of Australia has a very exaggerated trigger move. He takes a leg stump guard and will take a huge step across the stumps with his back foot just before the bowler delivers the ball. Whereas, a batsman like Sachin Tendulkar would barely move at all, choosing to stay very still while the bowler was approaching. Any of these trigger moves can be effective as long as you practice them and become comfortable with them!
An effective trigger move will ideally be simple, repeatable, and will get you into the same position each time. You will need to practice it enough so that you no longer have to think about it while you’re batting! The goal is to make the movement feel 100% natural. If you can achieve this, then it will definitely help your footwork when facing faster bowlers!
Do A Proper Batting Warm Up Before You Go Out To Bat
I’m a big believer in doing a full warm up before you go out to bat. A proper batting warm up can help you get in the right technical and mental state at the beginning of your innings, but for the purposes of improving your footwork let’s look at the physical side of the warm up!
Here are a few things you may choose to do before you go out to bat to get your heart rate up and to get your feet moving:
- Face some throw downs or have a quick net session against some bowlers from your team. I always aim to face at least one fast bowler and one spin bowler as the foot movement required to face each type of bowler is so different! If you do manage to face a spin bowler, make sure you practice advancing down the wicket towards them. While facing fast bowlers/fast throw downs, make sure you practice front foot and back foot shots!
- Try the drop ball drill (outlined earlier in this post)
- Skipping – This is not one you’ll see that often but a lot of batsmen find that it’s a very good way to get their feet moving during a practice session or prior to an innings! In order to use a skipping rope properly you will have to move your feet quickly and accurately, and this makes it a perfect way to warm up before batting. A skipping rope might be a good item to add to your cricket gear if you’ve got some money to spare!
I hope you enjoy putting these 10 tips to the test! To really perfect your footwork you have to make sure you’re batting in the nets and in matches regularly! If you’re only practicing your batting for 20-30 minutes a week then you will struggle to get into a good batting rhythm. If you can, I’d recommend getting some batting practice at least 2 – 3 times a week! Let me know in the comments below if these tips worked for you.