Getting the basics right is key to learning the elementary techniques needed to play cricket and, once those have been taken on board, you can build and develop those fundamental skills.
10 Fundamental Cricket Skills for Batting, Bowling and Fielding
1. Hand-Eye Coordination
This is a vital skill to learn for anyone who wants to succeed as a batsman. The eye will track the ball as it is released by the bowler while the hands will come through to play the shot but how do you learn and develop this skill?
Start by asking your coach or a teammate to gently throw some underarm deliveries at you. Get used to the swing of the bat and the feel of it as you make a connection with the ball. From that starting point, build up to higher speeds. Also consider other sports such as tennis which can help with hand-eye coordination.
All players need to work on their concentration levels. For batsmen, they are facing deliveries constantly while bowlers and fielders need to switch on at all times in the field. This can be a very difficult aspect of the game for coaches to teach
Sports psychologists often recommend using mental imagery to help you concentrate. Imagine hitting the ball through the covers or catching it comfortably at slip. It’s a very basic, but important skill to master.
Quick reflexes are important for batsmen but also for certain fielders, particularly wicket keepers and those who are standing in the slips. If you’re comfortable with facing fast bowling, set up a bowling machine and keep on practising in the nets.
Another good idea is to shorten the pitch and maybe get that machine – or some teammates – to bowl at you from around 18 yards. You can use a tennis ball to begin with as you gain confidence.
For fielders, having a coach to hit tennis balls towards you with a racquet is a great way to build up those reflexes.
4. Spatial Perception
This term relates to awareness of where the ball is coming from and where it’s likely to finish – either in a hitting zone as a batsman or in a catching arc if you are in the field.
This can be a tricky technique to learn but beginners should be aware of its importance. Studies have shown that this skill also responds to visualisation with cricketers tested using visual presentations.
5. Sprinting and Agility
Batsmen need to be quick between the wickets while fielders also need that pace to chase down balls that are heading to the boundary.
We’re all born with different speed levels but we can keep up with basic sprint training to improve them. In terms of agility, a good exercise to follow starts with setting up cones between 5 and 10 metres apart. Sprint between them and turn at the end as if you were heading into your crease and coming back for a second run.
6. Throwing and Catching Accuracy
This is one for the fielders and the wicket keepers: Catches win matches while run outs are also an important part of the game.
In these instances, there is really no substitute for practise. For throwing, get to the nets and aim at the stumps constantly. Catching drills can also take place at school or in your coaching sessions.
Balance is important for a batsman as they need to be in a good position in order to transfer their weight through the ball. Fielders also need to be poised so they can move quickly in either direction when the ball is struck.
Ideally, the head should be above the ball when it is struck. Obviously, this isn’t going to be possible for deliveries that are outside of either off or leg stump but the head should still move towards the ball. Once again, this is a technique that can be practised over and over again in the nets.
8. Strength and Flexibility
Anyone serious about cricket should be looking to improve their overall strength. There are lots of exercises that you can do here and I’ve covered these in more detail previously.
Good exercise routines could include planks, press ups, tricep dips, oblique dips and pull ups.
9. Muscle Memory and Consistency
Muscle memory is learned over time by the best sportsmen. Professional cricketers will play their most effective shots and, when you see them on TV, the practise seems almost effortless.
The muscles can be trained to perform a skill over and over again so that they will eventually have a form of memory installed. Batters can then subconsciously use that muscle memory to execute a skill such as an off drive, pull or any cricket shot.
This has to be learned over time, both in the nets and in a match setting, and that learning will lead to muscle memory performing its tasks with consistency.
Power has become an important factor for batsmen but even the biggest hitters will also need to rely on timing. Hitting the delivery at the perfect moment will always help the ball to travel further.
Part of this skill relies on balance and we’ve already talked about the need to keep the head above the ball. For perfect timing, the ball needs to be hit at the top of its bounce. When you get the timing right, you’ll know as the results seem effortless as the ball travels at great speed.
Once again, practise in the nets and in a match situation is the only real way in which you can improve your timing.
Exercises to Improve Cricket Skills
Once the basic skills have been learned, you can improve on an all-round basis by undertaking certain exercises. Training is vitally important as a lot of those fundamentals require strength and fitness levels to be high. So much so that many professional cricket teams wear performance monitoring technology during both trainings and matches.
Plan an exercise routine and you can keep in peak condition in order to help you hone these skills.