"Ten Percents" Part 2 - Running between the wickets
Our second "Ten Percent" focus is on running between the wickets.
This is one of the easiest areas to improve quickly for most players. Here we're going to focus on the actual running bit. Later today I am going to post a way to practice judging runs from home.
There are some key skills to running between the wickets: -
1. Run the first run as hard/quickly as possible
2. Support the bottom of the bat in your other hand and use it to pump your arms
3. Don't ball watch!
4. Run your bat along the ground from just outside the crease, to just behind the crease
5, Stretch in to the crease as low as possible as you turn for another run &
6. Don't run past the crease for any run!
7. If it's going to be close - dive or stretch in as far as possible
You can probably improve on all those elements and between them they will comfortably make up a 10 percent improvement in your (and your partner's) run scoring.
Let's break down these individual elements and examine them more closely: -
Running the first run as quickly as possible
It sounds obvious and yet I see so many cricketers, of all ages, not doing it. It serves many purposes. Not only does it potentially set up additional runs, but it also puts the fielding team under pressure which can create mistakes. There is an old saying "don't run on a mis-field" and that is often a very solid plan, but the process of putting fielders under pressure can roll on for future shots too, opening up more chances to score more runs.
You wouldn't jog in a 100m race so why not sprint in this 17-22 yard race? Make every run you take a running race.
Running technique This is as important in running between the wickets as it is in sprinting.
I see many players just holding the bat in one hand and that clearly slows you down. You wouldn't see a sprinter with their arms out wide and so by the same process you need to be as efficient with your movements as them by holding the bat in both hands at both ends and pumping your arms as fast as you can.
Don't ball watch
Perhaps the scourge of most batting runners, it's important once you judge there is a run on, that you focus on running that run and not admiring your shot. Be aware of where the ball is and, when you are getting closer to the other end and need to take a decision on subsequent runs, look to see where the fielder and ball are but don't stare at the ball as you are running as it will slow you down greatly.
Run your bat in
As coaches we probably introduce this one at the earliest ages and yet you even see international cricketers not doing it at crucial times. It is fundamental to running between the wickets that the bat slides just over the line from outside of the crease every time you run. Even if you are taking an easy single make sure you run the bat over the line. It builds up muscle memory and gets you into good habits.
Stretch & Go for two - Don't run over the crease
So often we see cricketers almost running the whole body over the crease before turning for a two in a full standing position. It's amazing how often you can take a two or even steal a three if you get yourself into the mindset of pushing hard for every possible run.
As you slide your bat into the crease to turn for a second run, you should be in a very low position, just like a sprinter at the start of a race, ready to spring off to push for another run, perhaps with your non-bat holding hand on the ground to help you push back off.
Not only does that get you into the optimal position for additional runs, it once again puts the fielding side on the back foot and helps to create additional pressure on them and their captain.
Don't give up and Dive if you need to!
It's amazing how often a team fumbles a run out at a crucial time. I've so many times seen a batsman pretty much give up and then watch as the wicketkeeper drops the ball and scrambles around on the ground just to recover it. How often is that batsman still out because they've given up? Far too often. Never, ever, ever, give up until the umpire's finger goes up!
If it's going to be close, you may need to put in a dive. On some wickets that's possibly going to hurt a bit, but the scrape on your elbow will go away. The run out next to your name on Play-Cricket is there for ever.
There is a skill to diving and it's worth practicing. If you have a garden lawn, have a go at diving full length into a crease with your bat out in front as far you can manage and running along the ground trying to be sure it doesn't bounce up when it hits the ground. Your hand should be right at the top of the handle to create as much stretch as you possibly can.
MEASURE & PRACTICE While you're at home over the next few weeks you can practice this and measure improvement.
Set up a wicket length appropriate to your age group (you don't need stumps just an area where you know the crease would be) and ask someone to time you running a three. You can find the lengths online if you're not sure - drop us an email if you need help.
Do this a few times every day, you should see your time go down slightly every day until you reach what is likely your optimal level. See what effect getting tired has on your times. Remember the hope is that you would have batted for a while, maybe after fielding too, so you need to be as quick at the end of a game as you were at the start.
Give it a go and post us your best times, telling us what length you are running too.