With the shorter formats of cricket becoming ever more popular, batsmen are having to learn how to hit the ball harder and further. When comparing modern day cricket to the game we watched 20-30 years ago, you can see a huge difference in terms of how batsmen are able to strike the ball. Thankfully, every player can be taught to hit the ball further! And hopefully by reading this post you can learn to do just that!
I’ve spent some time this week putting together my list of top tips for improving your power hitting, and in this post I’m going to take you through each of them. This list is a combination of things that I’ve tried to incorporate into my own batting technique, as well as things I’ve picked up from countless hours studying the game on TV and the internet! So anyway…here is the list of things that I believe will help you to improve your power hitting game
- Watch the ball
- Focus on developing good footwork and technique
- Use the pace and line of the bowler to your advantage
- Get yourself a bigger bat!
- Work on your strength
- Designing your own ‘big hitting’ practice sessions – with ideas and examples you can use!
Watch The Ball
Now I know that if you’ve read some of my other batting posts, you’ll notice that I mention this a lot! But where else is there to start? In my opinion, watching the ball is the golden rule of batting! It’s also often a lot harder to do than you think!
Watching the ball from the moment it leaves the bowlers hand to the moment that it reaches you makes it a lot easier to hit. Taking your eye off the ball halfway down the pitch is common for a lot of players, and means that there is a period of the balls journey where we are not entirely sure where it is. This means that when we play a shot we end up guessing where the ball is, based on the period of its flight that we did see. Sometimes this can work! But you will become a better player if you train yourself to focus on the ball until the last possible moment. This is something that I always struggled with. I always seemed to lose the ball at the last second. Through practice I adapted, and from then on I knew I was batting at my best when I was watching the ball until it was right underneath my eyes!
Watching the ball closely is especially important when it comes to power hitting! When you’re trying to hit the ball harder, the speed at which you move the bat through the air will generally be faster. This means that there is a lot more room for error when it comes to making contact with the ball. This makes sense, right? If not…let’s consider the sport of golf for a second. When a golfer is putting, this is a very controlled shot, played with minimal power and backswing. It is unlikely that a golf player of any level of ability would miss the ball playing this shot. Now consider a golfer who is driving the ball. This is a much more powerful shot, consisting of a high back-swing and faster movement of the club. Therefore, there is much more chance that the player could swing and miss the ball when playing this shot. The same is true in cricket! When you’re moving your hands quickly through the air to try to smash the ball into the stands there’s much more chance you could miss it altogether! That’s why you see more players getting stumped trying to hit the ball for six rather than playing forward defences! The more expansive the shot, the easier it is to miss the ball!
I’d recommend using your time in the nets to really work on this part of your game. Focus on doing it every time you practice. I can’t stress this enough because it really will benefit all aspects of your batting technique. Trust me on that! You need to ingrain it into your brain through repetition. Even professionals have to remind themselves to watch the ball! In fact, you can often see some of them muttering it to themselves as the bowler is about to bowl to them! Get used to doing it practice, make it into a habit and you will be more likely to take it into a game!
Focus on Developing Good Footwork & Technique
This for me is the second most important aspect of hitting sixes in cricket. Having good footwork and technique allows us to time the ball better, and put us in the best possible positions from which we can launch our attacking strokes. Both of these things are crucial to hitting sixes. Pay some attention to these few things:
Don’t Get Too Close to the Pitch of the Ball
When batting, you will often be told to ‘get close to the pitch of the ball’. This is especially true when facing spinners! Although this is incredibly important advice, it’s equally as important not to get your front foot too close to where the ball is bouncing if you hope to hit it for 6! This is something that a lot of players overlook. Getting too close to the pitch of the ball means that we can’t get the bat underneath the ball properly, something that is necessary when trying to get a lot of elevation on the ball. By moving down the pitch too much, we can unintentionally turn deliveries that would have been perfect for smashing for 6 into yorkers! As most batsmen will know, it’s incredibly hard to hit a yorker for 6…so try to control your movements down the pitch!
Get Your Front Leg Out of the Way
When trying to hit a six we should always be trying to put ourselves in the best position to do so! One of the best ways to do this is to move your front leg out of the way towards the leg side instead of moving it towards the pitch of the ball. This has the potential to do a number of things for us as batsmen, including:
- It widens our foundation/base at the crease, giving us better balance. This is vital when trying to strike the ball hard
- It stops us having to hit around our front pad when hitting to the leg side. It allows us to swing the bat freely with no obstructions.
Clearing the front leg is one of the safer types of pre-meditated movement. It’s safe because it’s still possible to adjust and play a more conservative shot if the ball we receive turns out not to be suitable for hitting for 6. It also opens up our scoring options dramatically. The key to doing it properly is ensuring that you are still balanced when you have cleared the leg out of the way. In some cases, widening the stance in this way could cause us to fall forwards slightly, which would be harmful to any shot you were trying to hit! Again, this is something that can be practiced in net sessions. Go into attack mode and try to play in this way for a few overs. The more you practice this leg movement and attacking style, the more comfortable it will feel during game situations.
Body Position During the Hit
By now you should know that our foundation at the crease is important, and this is where a lot of the power comes from when we are hitting sixes. In my career I’ve heard coaches talk about driving your back hip through the ball, especially when hitting to the leg-side. I’ve also heard them speak about creating ‘Power L’s’ with your body position during a batting stroke. Let’s have a look at what they mean and how they can help us…
Driving your back hip forwards as you strike the ball feels like it helps you create a little extra ‘pivot’, or a little extra rotational force. This really helps when trying to hit a six over the leg-side, as this is where a lot of our power to be able to do that comes from.
Now for the ‘Power L’s’. This refers to the shapes that your back leg will often create as you try to hit the ball for six. Take a look at the photo below and you will see what I mean!
You can see in the photo that my ankle and knee joint have created L shapes and that my back leg has collapsed slightly. I’ve marked the L’s on the photo in red just so it’s easier to see! It is this leg position that will allow you to get underneath the ball and achieve maximum elevation on your shot! You’ll also notice that my back hip has driven forwards and is now in line with what was originally the front hip! All of this action results in a powerful leg-side shot that has plenty of elevation, meaning the shot will have a great chance of sailing over the boundary!
Below I’ll post a couple more photos of batsmen hitting sixes towards the leg-side. In each photo you’ll notice the same thing, the back hip driving forwards to help the body to rotate forcefully, and the back leg ‘collapsing’ to form the Power L’s, allowing each player to get underneath the ball. When batting in the nets, it can be useful to get coaches to video your batting style so you can monitor the positions you get into. When hitting leg-side sixes, try to copy the stances you see in this section. If you and your coach notice obvious areas of your technique that cause problems, then this can be something you can work to correct.
Use the Pace and Line of the Bowler to Your Advantage
You are much more likely to hit the ball further if you can use bowlers’ speed and direction of delivery to help you!
Let’s look at facing fast bowlers first. If you receive a ball which is high and wide of the off stump, why not play an uppercut shot and allow the ball to simply ‘glance’ off the face of the bat, travelling over the heads of the slip fielders? This is what we call ‘using the pace’.
A photo of the uppercut shot can be seen below. This shot is much more based on touch rather than the raw power of the batsman, and if played correctly the ball can travel a long way. All you have to do is make sure you watch the ball right on to the face of the bat, and flick your wrists a little as you make contact to give it that extra bit of speed. Don’t try to hit this shot too hard because it really isn’t necessary! Sachin Tendulkar was a master of playing this shot, and I regularly remember him hitting it over the ropes for 6. He certainly wasn’t one of the most physically strong players! He let his timing do the work.
You will see the same sort of thing occur when playing a ‘ramp’ shot. This shot is usually played to very full balls or full tosses. The batsman will usually either get down on one knee or turn square towards the bowler and simply look to guide the ball behind square by glancing it off the bat face. If the bowler is fast enough, the ball just needs to be helped on its way with a little flick of the wrists from the batsman. Again, this is a shot that requires a minimal injection of power! The emphasis is more on timing, touch and placement. Batsmen who can master this type of shot can regularly use the bowlers pace against them to make the ball travel over the ropes for 6. Jos Buttler of England is a player that always springs to mind when I think of it. He is one of the deadliest big hitters in the game today because of all the different ways he can score. He has the ability to clear his front leg and smack a ball back over the bowler’s head if he likes, but he can also just as easily sit back, wait for the ball to come to him and use the bowlers own speed against him! This makes him a nightmare to bowl to!
You’ll see the type of shots I’ve mentioned above a lot more in shorter formats of the game where batsmen have to get creative to carve out run scoring opportunities for themselves. You should also notice that both of these examples involve hitting the ball behind square of the wicket, and that’s because all of the speed the bowler has put on the ball is travelling in this direction. All we have to do as batsmen is give it a helping hand, and that’s why the flick of the wrists is important. We can hit these kinds of deliveries a lot further without putting as much effort in!
When it comes to batting against spin, trust me, it can be much easier to hit the ball further if you ‘hit with the spin’. Some of you may be wondering what this means….well the answer is very simple. It means that you if you try to hit the ball in the same direction that the ball is spinning, you can use the original angular momentum of the ball to help you hit it further. This is especially true when the ball is spinning in towards your body, which I will try to explain here.
If you’re a batsman facing spinner that is spinning the ball away from you, then it may be easier to try and hit this delivery over the off-side fielders. If the ball is spinning in towards your body, then it may be a much better option to hit the ball into the leg-side, because this is the direction the ball is already travelling in. In both of these cases you are simply helping the ball on its way, therefore you do not have to hit the ball as hard. In my opinion, the ball spinning in towards your body is a much better candidate to be hit for 6. This is because those balls are much easier to hit into the leg-side, and it is generally much easier for us as batsmen to hit the ball for 6 over the leg-side. Lofted shots over the off-side against slow bowling often require a lot more skill and power to execute, and it may be better to play the ball along the floor on that side of the wicket!
Imagine for a second that you’re doing the opposite…trying to hit ‘against the spin’. This is often a harder shot for batsmen to play as you are totally redirecting the ball from its original path. This requires us to time the shot a lot better, as well as use more power if we want to get plenty of elevation on the shot. Obviously, there will be times when we have to hit against the spin, but I’m just using this section to point out that hitting with the spin can often give us a little advantage!
Get Yourself a Bigger Bat
This tip doesn’t involve practicing or changing your technique or anything along those lines. It simply refers to the fact that some bats are better for hitting a cricket ball a long way than others are! If you have a meatier bat with a thicker sweet spot, the chances are this bat will be better for big hitting.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should go straight onto amazon and buy yourself the thickest cricket bat you can find! Thicker cricket bats weigh more due to the additional willow used, and the additional weight may mean that they are too heavy for some players to use properly. A bat that is too heavy can slow down our hand speed (vital for hitting the ball long distances) as well as harming our technique overall.
If you think you may be someone who would benefit from using a bigger bat then why don’t you head over to my post titled ‘How to choose the right cricket bat for you’? The link is here! In this post I’ve put together a really useful list of all the factors you should be considering when buying a new bat! I’ve included size guides and some pricing information as well as a few other things you should be aware of when making your purchase. If you read that post and still feel like you’re using a bat that is too small for you then by all means, go out and get yourself a newer and thicker one!
Work on Your Strength
If you want to hit the ball further then it’s always good to work on your strength in the gym or at home. Big hitting isn’t just about having big arms or a big upper body! In fact, there are multiple areas of your body that you can look to strengthen to improve your hitting power. Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this post into a full workout plan…but read on to find some exercises that you can research in more detail:
As I’ve said multiple times in this post, one of the most important things you need to have to hit the ball powerfully is a solid foundation. Strengthening the muscles in your lower body can help you to achieve this. There are 4 main areas of the legs you can work on, these are the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. If you improve your strength in these areas then you’ll definitely see a difference in how you’re able to transition your body weight into the shot, and therefore hit the ball further! Here are some exercises it would be good to incorporate into your training:
- Dead lifts
- Leg press
- Hamstring Curls
Obviously the arms make up a vital part of our ability to hit sixes, and I find that strengthening the forearms is particularly helpful. If you pick up a bat that is too big for you and try to use it like you would a normal bat, you’ll probably notice that it puts significant strain on your wrists and forearms and as such, it is hard to move the bat with accuracy and speed. Therefore, the stronger forearms you have, the quicker you will be able to move the bat around.
Two exercises that I like to use to work on my forearm strength are as follows:
- Seated reverse wrist curls
- Finger curls
As well as forearms, you will probably want to look at improving bicep/tricep strength too. If you do then here are some ideas for exercises:
- Bicep Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Close Hand Press Up
- Skull Crushers
You’ll hear me talk about ‘core strength’ a lot on this blog, and yes…it really is that important! The core is specifically vital to batsmen, as it is where most of the rotational power comes from when we are swinging the bat hard in order to hit the ball a long way. As your core rotators get stronger, you’ll be able to more effectively transfer force between your upper and lower body. You’ll also be able to increase your stability, which will help you to retain your balance and a good foundation at the crease.
Here are some exercises you’ll want to integrate into your training routine to increase core strength:
- Rotational medicine ball throws
- Rotational cable pulls
- Oblique Twists
If you’re interested in learning a lot more about workout routines specifically tailored to cricketers, it may be a good idea to speak to a sport strength specialist!
Design Your Own Big Hitting Practice Sessions
How we practice our skills as batsmen is absolutely critical. The main way you can become better at hitting the ball harder and further is by changing up your practice routines and adding some specific variations! I’m going to take you through a couple of those here:
Focused Long Hitting Sessions
A normal net session for a batsman usually involve facing random deliveries from bowlers or a bowling machine. During a session like this you won’t be looking to play in a specific way, instead you’ll just be trying to play each ball on its own individual merit. However, a focused long hitting session will look to build up your big hitting confidence by first batting against throw downs, before moving on to face real deliveries. A throw down is simply a ball that is thrown towards you (either underarm or overarm) rather than being bowled as a bowler usually would. With every ball you face you will be looking to hit it as far as you can! In my opinion these are the kind of practice sessions you need to be having regularly if you want to get better at hitting the ball further! To set up one of these sessions for yourself all you will need is a few cricket balls, and a partner or a coach who will be throwing/bowling them to you.
In my opinion there are four different difficulty levels to this sort of practice. If you’re doing this for the first time then start with the first tier! Get into your usual batting stance and have your partner/coach crouch down about half a pitch length away from you. Ask them to throw the balls to you underarm without bouncing, whilst you try get elevation on them and hit them as far as you can.
Once you’re comfortable with this you can move on to the second tier of difficulty, with your partner/coach standing a full pitch length away from you. From here they will give you throw downs, but in this tier they should tell you where they are going to try to pitch the ball. For example, if they say they are going to give you a full ball outside the off stump, it gives you as the batsman a small bit of time to prepare before trying to launch the ball into orbit. This tier of difficulty helps improve your positive foot movement. This is because it is much easier to move your feet to the pitch of the ball when you know in advance where the ball is going to bounce!
The third tier of difficulty is exactly the same as the second apart from one small detail! This time your partner or coach will give you throw downs without telling you where they are aiming to pitch the ball. As a batsman, this small change forces us to learn to be more reactive, and teaches us to move our feet based on how we read the flight of the ball rather than knowing where it is going to pitch beforehand.
In the final tier of difficulty for these focused long hitting sessions, you will be batting against properly bowled deliveries. Get your partner to bowl deliveries to you exactly as they would do in a real game situation. This is more of a true test of your big hitting prowess, as you will be relying on your ability to react to the quicker ball, as well as your skill and power that are needed to hit the ball for six.
These drills can be done in the nets, but often I feel that they are more useful if they’re done on an actual cricket pitch! This allows you as the batsman to properly judge how far you’re hitting the ball, and how likely you are to hit the ball over the boundary. You’ll need a lot of cricket balls to do this in the middle of a pitch, but it’s definitely worth it if you get the chance!
Use Softer Balls to Increase Hand Speed & Strength
Having fast hands is just as important as strength when it comes to hitting the ball hard. Practicing with different types of cricket balls is a good way to improve in both of these areas at the same time.
In the past I have used softer, spongier balls in the nets to practice batting with. The best way to do this is to use a number of these balls and have a partner or coach throw them underarm to you from quite close range, while you try to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can.
The reason this benefits us as batsmen is that when softer balls are hit, they stay on the face of the bat longer. This is primarily due to how they compress under impact. Proper cricket balls are much harder and do not compress nearly as much during impact, meaning they’re much more likely to ‘ping’ off the bat. The softer spongier balls require us to use a lot more force and speed to hit them as far as a real cricket ball, and this drill is all about training your body to generate that extra force and speed.
During this drill you can look to hit the ball anywhere (as long as your partner is out of the way!), but make sure you focus on maintaining good technique throughout the motion of the shot. I’m a firm believer that when looking to hit the ball for six we should try to keep our technique looking as correct as possible!
I hope found something that you’ll find useful in this post! Trust me, if you can work on the things I’ve mentioned in this post and try to incorporate them into your practice sessions, technique and games then you’ll begin to see a difference in the distance you can hit the ball!
If you also want to work on other areas of your batting technique, then click here to read one of my more detailed batting tips posts. That post should give you a lot of new ideas for things to work on!