Batting is arguably the most glamorous part of the game of cricket, and this is one of the main reasons we should all want to improve our batting skills! If you can learn to bat better you will enjoy the game a lot more, and you’ll also contribute more heavily to the success of your team.
Based on some of the online research I’ve done I think there’s a gap in the market for a really detailed post that gives you quality batting tips with detailed explanations of how using those tips will benefit you. When I’m reading about batting technique, I would always prefer to read an in-depth guide instead of a simple one…so that is the post I have decided to write for you this week!
The 17 tips that I think are essential to consider when it comes to improving your batting are as follows:
- Safety First – Ensure You’ve Got All The Correct Equipment
- Make Sure You’re Batting Regularly Enough
- Grip Your Bat In The Correct Way
- Consider Your Batting Game Plan Before Starting Your Innings
- Get Used To Watching The Ball During Each Delivery
- Develop A Trigger Move
- Get Your Head In A Good Position
- Practice Your Footwork Against Fast Bowlers & Spinners
- Learn Methods To Keep Your Nerves Under Control
- Remember You Can Use Your Pads as a Defence Against Spin Bowlers
- Rotate The Strike As Often As Possible
- In Tough Batting Conditions, Keep Your Hands Close To Your Body
- Get Comfortable Attacking & Evading The Short Ball
- Practice Your Innovative Shots
- Play The Swinging Ball As Late As Possible
- Work On Picking The Gaps In The Field
- Try To Replicate Game Situations During Practice
Safety First – Ensure You’ve Got All The Correct Equipment
I know this may seem obvious to a lot of you but it’s incredibly important to make sure you’ve got all the right protective equipment before you start batting against a hard cricket ball. Batting can be very dangerous, especially when facing fast bowlers! Therefore, these are the essential items that you’ll definitely need if you want to start batting for real:
- A cricket bat (click here if you’d like to read my guide on choosing a cricket bat for yourself)
- Batting gloves
- Batting helmet
- Batting pads (these are strapped on to your lower legs)
- An abdomen guard (also referred to as a ‘box’ or a ‘cup’)
- Appropriate footwear for the surface you’re playing on (click here if you’d like to find out what the appropriate footwear is for each type of surface!)
- Females may wish to purchase a chest guard
In addition to these essential items, there are many other optional bits of batting equipment that really come down to the preference of the individual. These are items such as arm guards or thigh guards etc. You can find out more information about all the equipment you will need to play cricket by reading my post on it here!
Make Sure You’re Batting Regularly Enough
My first tip is a very simple one: You need to make sure you’re batting often enough to actually make improvements to your game.
When I started playing cricket I feel like one of the big mistakes I made was only practicing my batting in the nets once a week during the season. In the winter I wouldn’t practice my batting at all! This meant I could never really get into a rhythm. I’d bat once, and then by the time the next practice session came around I’d have lost the feel for batting! If you want to become a professional athlete, and more specifically a professional batsman, you need to be working on your skills as often as you possibly can.
As a general rule, I’d say you should be trying to bat at least 3 times a week during the cricket season, and at least once a week during the off-season. If you can stick to these rules or practice even more than this, then I think you’ll be well on your way to seeing major improvements.
To achieve this, the first thing you should do is make sure you’re registered with your local cricket team and take part in any team practices they have during the cricket season. Most teams that I’ve been a part of had a 1/1.5 hour practice every week…so that will get you a decent bit of batting time. Team practices are great because they will give you the chance to practice against a variety of different bowlers. The more experience you can get against different types of bowlers, the better you will be prepared to deal with them during matches! Team practices will also usually make better equipment available to you such as cricket nets and bowling machines. These are great things to take advantage of!
Aside from the team practices, if you’re really serious about getting better you should try to practice in your spare time as much as possible. You can do this at home, or use some indoor/outdoor cricket facilities if you have access to any! This kind of practice is usually done with friends/family, or with team mates that live close by. Remember, you don’t have to have all of the cricket nets, stumps and other equipment if you want to practice at home, you can keep things quite basic! All you really need to get a good bit of batting practice is:
- A ball that suits the type of surface that you’re playing on
- A cricket bat
- Protective equipment (depending on the type of ball you’re using)
- A partner (to throw or bowl the ball at you)
Just get your partner to throw or bowl the ball towards you while you try to play your shots as normal. This helps to keep you in rhythm so that you don’t lose the sensation of batting, and also allows you to groove your batting technique.
Another product I always recommend for people who want to practice batting at home is the sidearm thrower. Sidearm throwers are used by loads of professional players and coaches to simulate the speed of a real bowler during a home practice session. They’re pretty cheap, and I think this makes them especially attractive to club cricketers who don’t want to commit to buying themselves a bowling machine, but need something to add a bit of extra intensity to their practice!
In terms of the design, they basically look like a long flexible plastic rod with a cup on the end. A cricket ball (or a softer ball like a wind ball/tennis ball) is then inserted into the cup, and then your partner will go through a throwing motion with the sidearm thrower in their hand. This causes the ball to be fired out of the cup towards you at high speed! I think they’re really useful because they allow your coach, your parent, or your friend to deliver fast, accurate throw downs with minimal effort! If this piece of kit sounds like it would be useful, then you can check the latest price of a sidearm thrower on amazon here! Just be careful that you’re using the right size ball when you buy one of these!
In the winter season, you should try to seek out any indoor facilities that you can find and use these to practice in. Often cricket teams will hire out an indoor venue and use that to put on team practices during the winter, but if not, you can definitely find them yourself if you have a group of teammates willing to join you.
Grip Your Bat In The Correct Way
Before you learn how to use your bat, you need to learn how to hold it properly! There are a number of different ways you can choose to do this. Different batsmen hold the bat in different ways, and this affects how they play the game and where they look to hit the ball.
The first type of grip that you need to be aware of is the ‘V-grip’. This is the grip that most players like to use! It is really simple to copy and helps you to play shots accurately on both sides of the wicket. If you want to copy the V-grip, follow these steps:
- Lay your cricket bat on the ground with the face of the bat pointing downwards, and the handle pointing directly towards you.
- Hold your hands out in front of you and create the V shapes by positioning your thumbs in the way I’ve shown in picture 2 below. Right handed batsmen should have their right hand on top, whereas left handers should have their left hand on top. The V’s on each hand should line up with each other. Imagine there is a line connecting them!
- Bend down whilst keeping your hands in this position and place them on the back of the bat handle like I’m demonstrating in picture 3 below. Make sure there is a small gap between them! The V shapes created by the position of your hands should now line up with the middle of the back of the bat.
- Once your hands are in position on the back of the handle, wrap your fingers around it and pick up the bat.
If you’ve copied the grip correctly, the face of the bat should be pointing down towards the ground when you’re in your batting stance! You can see me demonstrating this in the photo below.
There are 3 other types of grip that you’ll see a lot in cricket. These are:
- The closed face grip
- The open face grip
- The Don Bradman/Steve Smith style grip
I’ve gone into details about all of these types of grip in one of my other posts that you can read by clicking here! Once you’ve read that you should be able to make a more informed decision on how you want to hold the bat.
Consider Your Batting Game Plan Before Starting Your Innings
Before beginning your innings, I think it’s a good idea to have a few plans in your mind about where you are going to try to score and the ways in which you are going to attack certain types of bowlers.
For example, early in your innings you may choose not to play the cover drive or any shots to deliveries that are just outside the line of the off stump. These shots can be risky shots to play at the start of an innings when you’re not used to the pace and bounce of the pitch. As another example, if you’re opening the batting in a T20 match you may want to just go out there and play your shots early in order to take advantage of the fielding restrictions and get your team off to a flying start!
Batsmen will also have specific plans for batting against spin. Are you a strong sweeper of the ball? If the answer to this is yes then you may want to use the sweep/reverse sweep to put the spinner under pressure early in his/her spell. If you’re particularly good at moving your feet to the spinners, then you may want to skip down the pitch and hit the ball over the infield. Deciding on strategies like this before you begin your innings can help de-clutter your mind and give you a clearer picture of what you’re trying to achieve.
Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are when batting against each type of bowler. Then, you can design a batting game plan that fits nicely around those. Over the years I’ve found that this is an incredibly useful thing to do. It’s much better to head in to battle prepared rather than unprepared!
Get Used To Watching The Ball During Each Delivery
The best way to ensure that you hit the ball consistently is to watch it all the way from the bowlers’ hand until it hits your bat.
I think it’s very important to get into the habit of doing this early in your cricket career, as it is the best possible method for improving your hand eye co-ordination. We use our eyes to gather information as the ball is travelling through the air towards us! This includes whether the ball is swinging and in what direction, as well as where the ball is going to land and how high it will bounce. All of this info helps us to make a better decision on what shot to play. The longer you can keep your eyes on the ball, the more information you can gather. This becomes especially important as you face faster bowlers and more skilful spin bowlers. Basically, it is much easier to hit a moving object that you’re looking at rather than one you aren’t focused on. If you lose the ball in its flight, the movement of your hands towards the ball may not be as accurate and this could result in you playing a false shot and getting out!
A simple little trick that I use to help me focus on the ball is to whisper ‘watch the ball’ to myself as the bowler is running in to bowl. By now I’ve gotten so used to saying this every time the bowler approaches that watching the ball has become second nature to me. Trust me, it’s a great habit to get into and one that will benefit your game hugely!
Develop A Trigger Move
Questions I’m asked a lot are ‘what is a trigger move?’ and ‘why are trigger moves important?’ Let me answer those questions for you here.
A trigger move is a small movement of the feet that a batsman will make in the very short period of time before the bowler releases the ball. Trigger moves are important because they allow the batsman to get their feet moving in a positive manner before having to adjust to the line and length of the delivery. A lot of batsmen find it much easier to react to a very quick ball if they are already moving their feet prior to the ball leaving the bowlers hand, rather than starting from a completely stationary position.
It’s important to remember that trigger moves look different for every player, and they are designed to be repeated on every delivery, so that the batsman can ensure they are getting into the same positions. Some players barely make any movement at all, like Sachin Tendulkar for example. He remained very still until the last second when he would make a small movement back towards the stumps and slightly to the offside. Players like Steve Smith have much larger trigger moves, starting on leg stump before stepping right across to the off side with his back foot and covering the stumps.
If you’re a young player that only plays junior level cricket, you may want to wait a while before you think about finding a trigger move that works for you. I think when you’re younger it’s more important to focus on hitting the ball and find a basic batting technique that works for you. Once you have found this and you start to face much faster bowlers, you can start to think about more complex issues like trigger movements.
If you want to add one of these movements to your game, one of the things you should remember is to keep your head and eyes level and ensure that you are balanced when the ball is released. The aim of the trigger movement should be to get yourself into a good position from which you can easily push forwards towards the ball or rock onto the back foot.
Get Your Head In A Good Position
The position of your head is one of the most important aspects of batting. This is because the position of your head largely controls your balance at the crease! If you lean your head too far across to the off side, you are likely to fall over and struggle to hit balls that are on your pads. If you lean your head back towards the leg side you will struggle to play accurate shots against deliveries that are outside your off stump. Taking all of this into account, the rule to remember is that whenever you’re batting you should be trying to get your head into line with and over the ball.
Batsmen like Kevin Pietersen have previously referred to this as trying to ‘kiss the ball’ as it is coming towards you. Obviously, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but they are saying this to emphasise the fact that you should be getting your head as close to the ball as possible. Because your head controls your balance at the crease, wherever you move your head your feet will follow! This means that maintaining good head position throughout your shot allows you to move your feet towards the ball more effectively! As well as that, keeping your head in line with the ball allows you to watch the ball a lot better.
A simple little drill you can do to start getting your head moving towards the ball is to face some deliveries without moving your feet. Get a partner to stand around half a cricket pitch length away from you and throw some balls towards you one at a time. Your task is to keep your feet completely still and try to move your head towards the ball as you strike it. This drill will help you to get used to moving your head into line with the ball. In order to hit good shots when your feet are still like this, it is vital that you get your head in the right position.
Practice Your Footwork Against Fast Bowlers & Spinners
We’ve just discussed the importance of head position, so now we will cover footwork, which is equally important in my view. Good foot movement helps to get you closer to the ball and get your weight over it, making it a lot easier to control your shots.
When playing fast bowling, the general rule is that you should always be aiming to move your front foot towards the line of the ball. I like to tell players to try to get their front foot just inside the line of the ball so that you have space to bring the bat through and make contact. If you move your front foot directly into line with the ball, you will have to manoeuvre the bat around your front leg/body in order to make contact with it. This is an incredibly awkward position for a batsman to get into.
Against spin bowlers, I always aim to get fully forwards on the front foot, or fully back into your crease. Getting fully forwards allows you to get to the pitch of the ball and hit it before it has the chance to spin. Getting right back into your crease gives you extra time to read how much the ball has spun off the surface and react to it. The decision on whether to come forwards or to retreat should be made based on the length of the ball, as it is when facing fast bowling.
If you want to learn new ways to practice your footwork, I have written about them in detail in one of my other posts which you can find here. That post goes into detail on the sort of technical things you should be looking to achieve, as well as giving you several drills you can include in your practice sessions.
Learn Methods To Keep Your Nerves Under Control
I know from experience that getting nervous before or during your innings can badly affect your batting performance. This was a huge problem for me at the start of my cricket career. I’d be so nervous during my first few balls that I could never get my feet moving properly, and I played so cautiously. I realised then that I had to develop a way of limiting or coping with the nerves.
Over time, I used a variety of different methods to keep me calm and keep me focused on the task at hand. Here are some of them:
- Listening to music before batting – something upbeat and fast paced would always get my adrenalin pumping!
- Shadow batting and visualisation before my innings – Shadow batting & visualisation helped to get my mind in the right place, thinking about which balls I wanted to hit and which balls I wanted to leave alone. I find it always helps to think about what success in your innings will look like, and this is where visualisation was a great help to me.
- Positive thoughts and repetitions – In stressful times, we tend to focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Positive thoughts and repetitions would help me shift my focus to my strengths!
- Breathing calmly and deeply – Getting your breathing under control is a great way to calm yourself down in stressful situations
- Develop your own routine between deliveries – many batsmen have a routine that they use in between balls that helps them to get into their own little bubble and just focus on the next ball
- Move around to get rid of nervous energy – Sometimes doing a quick bit of exercise and getting your body loose can help you to get rid of the nerves!
Remember You Can Use Your Pads As A Defence Against Spin Bowlers
I feel like it’s useful to remember that you can defend certain spinning deliveries with your pads if you need to.
To keep things simple, just remember this: You cannot be given out LBW to a delivery that pitches outside the line of your leg stump. Therefore, if you notice that a ball from a spin bowler is going to pitch outside the line of your leg stump, you can use your pads/legs to block the ball if you feel it is on the way towards the stumps. This tactic is especially useful on pitches where the ball is spinning a lot. In these conditions, many bowlers will try to pitch the ball outside your leg stump in order to try to get the ball to spin aggressively across your body. If this is their line of attack, remember you don’t have to honour their delivery by playing at it with your bat if you don’t want to!
If you’re choosing to defend one of these deliveries with your pad, remember to get your hands and your bat out of the way as much as physically possible. The ball could always accidentally hit your bat, which could result in you being out caught close to the wicket!
Rotate The Strike As Often As Possible
One of the best ways to frustrate a bowler and the fielding captain is to continually rotate the strike between you and your batting partner! ‘Rotating the strike’ is the act of manoeuvring the ball tactfully and taking singles whenever possible, allowing you to get yourself down the other end of the pitch.
Bowlers and fielding teams aim to build pressure by bowling many consecutive deliveries to the same batsman, starving them of runs and getting them frustrated. Batsmen can deny them this opportunity by trying to be proactive and working the ball into the gaps between the close fielders. Doing this will mean that the bowler can never get into a rhythm of bowling to one particular batsman and cannot execute their plans of attack as they would like to. It also means that the batting side will be adding runs to the total regularly, which increases the scoreboard pressure on the bowlers!
Rotating the strike regularly is particularly frustrating for bowlers if the batting team has both a right hander and a left hander at the crease at the same time. Taking singles in this situation means that the bowler will have 1-2 balls at a left hander, then 1-2 balls at a right hander, and so on and so forth. This will force them to constantly change the angle of their deliveries, which is very hard to do for a lot of bowlers!
Rotating the strike is also a great option if there is a bowler that is bowling particularly well, or is giving you a bit of a hard time. Sometimes as batsmen we have to accept that a bowler has got on top of us, and a great way to protect your wicket is to take a quick single and get down the other end! This will allow you to get a bit of a breather and gather your thoughts while your partner tries to negotiate the tough deliveries!
In Tough Batting Conditions, Keep Your Hands Close To Your Body
When watching test match cricket on TV, you might often hear commentators saying that when the ball is moving around, batsmen should try to ‘keep their hands inside the box‘. This is a phrase that means the batsmen should try to keep their hands close to their body, and stop prodding at balls that are wide of the off stump. This is especially true when the ball is swinging around in the air or moving off the pitch.
The diagram below should help to explain what I mean. In tough batting conditions, you should try not to get your hands outside the red box when playing at balls outside the off stump. This is especially true when you’re playing with a straight bat. If your hands move outside the red box in the direction of the white arrow, then you will be playing too far away from your body. Any movement of the ball in the air when you’re playing this far away from your body could lead to you getting an outside edge! If you’re playing a cross-batted shot like a square cut then this is a little less dangerous, as there is less chance of getting an outside edge.
Get Comfortable Attacking & Evading The Short Ball
If you’re going to become an elite batsman then you’ll have to learn to deal with the short ball effectively! As you rise up through the different levels of cricket, the pace of the bowling that you face will get higher and as a result the short balls that you face will test you a lot more. Many batsmen who don’t develop a technique that is capable of dealing with the short ball will struggle a lot when they reach the top levels of the game!
Basically, there are two approaches you can use to deal with this kind of delivery. You can try to attack the ball, or you can try to get out of the way of it. Often the short ball gets too high for us to be able to defend it with a straight bat, so that is the only reason I won’t be speaking about defensive shots in this section!
If you’re learning to attack the short ball you’ll need to learn how to play 3 different types of cricket shots:
- The Uppercut – This shot is usually played to short balls that are on the off side of your body, and it is hit over the slip region down towards the third man area of the field. The aim with this shot is to keep yourself underneath the path of the ball and use the bat to glance the ball up in the air over the slip region.
- The Pull Shot – This shot is played to deliveries that are between waist height and shoulder height on the batsman, and can be hit pretty much anywhere on the leg side of the field. To play this shot you should push your weight back on to your back foot and swivel your body towards the leg side. As you do this, you should bring the bat through horizontally and strike the ball into the leg side.
- The Hook Shot – This shot is played to deliveries that are above shoulder height on the batsman. It is played in exactly the same way as the pull shot!
As for avoiding the short ball, there are two simple rules that I think you should follow:
- If the line of the short ball is anywhere towards the off side of your body, you should try to sway out of the way of the ball. Basically, all you need to do is lean backwards slightly and get your upper body away from the line of the ball. As you do this, make sure you drop your hands so you don’t accidentally get an edge on the ball.
- If the line of the short ball is anywhere towards the leg side of your body, you should try to duck underneath the ball. Simply crouch down and get your body as low as you need to in order to avoid getting hit. Once again, make sure you drop your hands and get your bat well out of the way of the ball as you do it!
You can read more about different attacking and evasive strategies as well as other technical details by checking out my post titled the ultimate guide to playing the short ball. Click here if you’d like to read it!
Practice Your Innovative Shots
When you’re under pressure to score runs as quickly as possible, you may have to get a little creative with the shots you play! However, these creative shots are often a little unorthodox and therefore you’ll have to spend a while practicing them.
I’d recommend practicing shots like the ramp shot, the uppercut, the sweep and the reverse sweep. Maybe you can even practice the switch hit if you’re feeling particularly brave! The elite batsmen will not play these kinds of shots in a game before they’ve practiced them for hours in the nets. If you want to master a specific shot, you’ll have to get a partner to give you some throw downs in the right area while you get used to hitting the ball in the correct way. The aim is to practice the shot so much that the movement feels totally natural. If you try to take a shot like the ramp shot into a game when you’re still a bit unsure about whether you can play it successfully, then this could lead to you playing it badly and getting injured. As a general rule, I’d try to dedicate at least 20 minutes of batting practice per week to mastering a shot like this.
Play The Swinging Ball As Late As Possible
When you’re playing in tough batting conditions and the bowlers are moving the ball sideways in the air, you should probably be trying to play the ball as late as possible. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by ‘playing the ball late’, it basically means that you should be letting the ball come to you and playing it underneath your eyes, rather than throwing your hands out towards the ball and meeting it early.
Playing the ball early and way in front of our body when the ball is swinging is a recipe for disaster. It makes you much more susceptible to edging the ball through to the keeper/slips. This is because you are giving yourself less chance to react to the movement of the ball in the air. Playing the ball later and under your eyes gives you an extra bit of time to watch the ball and to read its movement.
In addition to this, playing the ball early and in front of your body usually means that you will be pushing harder at the ball and thrusting your hands out towards it. Attacking the swinging ball in this way means that any edge that you do get is much more likely to carry through to the fielders behind the wicket! Instead, focus on keeping your bat underneath your eyes and allowing the ball to hit it, rather than hitting the ball with your bat. This is commonly referred to as ‘playing with soft hands’, and means that any edges you get will not travel as far. An international batsman who is great at this is Kane Williamson. He’s an expert at playing within himself and letting the ball come to him before he works it behind square on the off side.
If you can learn to play the ball later in the nets, you will be much better equipped to deal with the swinging ball.
Work On Picking The Gaps In The Field
A lot of batsmen do so much work in the nets and get so hooked on becoming technically perfect that they lose sight of the fact that batting is about scoring runs. Sometimes, a technically perfect shot isn’t the correct one to play, especially if the fielding team have got a perfectly placed fielder to cut that shot off. To be at your most effective during a cricket match, you will probably have to be able to make slight adjustments to how you play a shot in order to avoid the fielders.
In my opinion, you need to experiment with several things in order to become better at picking gaps in the field. These are:
- Hitting the ball slightly later
- Hitting the ball slightly earlier
- Changing your position at the crease in order to change where you can hit the ball
- Use your innovative shots
Hitting the ball slightly later than you usually would can help you target areas behind square on both sides of the wicket. The perfect example of this is when a batsman plays the ball incredibly late and opens the face of the bat in order to glance the ball down towards the third man region. Hitting the ball earlier can help you target areas further in front of square!
Changing your position at the crease can open up tons of gaps in the field. For example, if the fielding side has got most of their fielders on the leg side, you may want to step away to the leg side before the bowler has delivered the ball. Stepping back towards the leg side increases the chance that the ball you receive will be on the off side of your body. This gives you a lot more room to strike the ball into the largely vacant off side field!
Using innovative shots such as the ramp shot, the uppercut and the switch hit allows you to hit the ball in unconventional places. This makes it much harder for the opposing captain to set a field against you as they won’t be as sure where you’ll be trying to hit the ball!
A good way to practice avoiding fielders during practice sessions is to set up cones where you would expect fielders to be during a real cricket match. As you receive deliveries from the bowlers, try to hit shots into the gaps between the close fielders.
Try To Replicate Game Situations During Practice
I think that the most effective form of practice is one that makes you feel like you’re in a real game situation. Here are a few simple ways that you can do that:
- Set yourself a target number of runs and chase them down – Agree a number of runs that you will have to score off a number of balls when facing bowlers in the nets. For example, let’s say you choose 30 runs off 3 overs (18 balls). The bowlers will then bowl to you like they would at the end of an innings, and try to stop you scoring. Your task is to bat efficiently and score the runs! Because you’re batting in the nets and not on a full pitch, you’ll have to use one of your coaches or another teammate to be the judge of how many runs each of your shots is worth. For example, if you connect really well with a square cut or a pull shot, the person judging may choose to award you 4 runs for that shot. This is a great way to add an extra dynamic to your practice sessions.
- Set up cones to replicate where fielders would be standing – I’ve already covered this in the section above titled ‘work on picking the gaps in the field’, but this a great way to replicate a game situation in practice. All you have to do is focus on hitting your shots in between the cones!
- Set yourself the challenge of not getting out – Most of you probably try to do this anyway, but in my opinion, you should always challenge yourself to not get out during your net sessions. If you can face 30/40 balls without getting out or playing a bad shot then that will help you get into good habits at the start of your innings.
This post was a long one so I’m going to end it now. I hope all of this info can inspire you to get into the nets and improve your game!