Preparing for the summer - Indoor cricket over nets?
By the middle of March many club indoor sessions are well under way but are these sessions really well thought out season preparation sessions or just an opportunity for the squad to get together and have a casual net and a chat?
There's actually nothing wrong with the latter and it definitely has a place but is there a missed opportunity to get some meaningful training under way before the start of the season?
Since 2009 we have run Junior and, more recently senior, Indoor Cricket Leagues in for Surrey Cricket and we have found that these matches provide the best winter/spring training you can possibly have. Why? We can split the reasons in two. Focus on all round practice - not just batting and bowling - plus the chance to have a good social as a team too.
Indoor Cricket practices pretty much everything you are going to need in the season bar perhaps long throwing and really high catching. Apart from that it sharpens the rest of the cricketing skills significantly and works on fitness too as it's hard work!
The ECB Men's Indoor League competition starts in October with county competitions leading to regional play-offs early in the New Year and national finals in late February/early March.
The skill levels involved in indoor cricket are very high and it's no surprise how many teams playing indoors hitting the ground running really well at the start of the summer. We see teams of all levels taking part and even lower division teams have more of a level playing field with the top clubs indoors. We also find younger players do particularly well too so it's a great opportunity to get some of your older juniors into the senior set-up.
I strongly believe indoor nets can be a wasted opportunity. It's incredibly hard in the first place often to find an indoor hall with nets so why not just look for a whole hall and play indoor matches? How often do you see the batter in a net standing waiting for the next bowler to deliver the ball as they're having a chat at the back of a net? How many batters do you see just slogging every ball in a net? How many fast bowlers end up bowling spin because they're tired or can't be bothered?
With an indoor game instead you can get everyone involved pretty much every ball. You can alter the rules to work on key areas. For example, one week maybe have no boundaries so batters have to work harder on manipulating the ball into gaps and running between the wickets or other weeks have the boundary wall behind the bowler as 6 for shots along the ground to encourage hitting the ball on the ground. In our FIT Cricket version of the game we have target areas at third man and fine leg where batters score a boundary 4 to encourage batters to play with soft hands.
There could be bonus runs/points for bowlers hitting a target on the ground or fielders hitting the stumps with a direct hit. It doesn't have to be repetitive.
If it's too late for this year don't forget to plan ahead for next. Indoor cricket is the way forward. Leave the nets for 2/3 weeks at the end to get a feel for a proper cricket ball and use it properly.