I can't bat. I'm useless especially when facing fast bowlers. It's rare that in training situations I get to face bowlers and if I do they're generally of the faster variety as I'm the only spin bowler in our team and the other slower bowlers - Nakul and Badger they're not around much. Besides up till recently I'd always take the opportunity to bowl at people in order to hone my bowling techniques rather than practice batting.
So for ages I've been trying to come up with ways that I might be able to force some improvements. A couple of weeks back one of my team mates at Chadwell & Grays CC pulled me aside and gave me some advice about where I should stand in relation to the stumps when batting in view of the fact that I don't really move that much. What he said made sense, but I hung on the fact that he said I don't move my feet. So I had a look at some batting video tutorials on the Ninemsn website in Australia and listened to what was being said about moving your feet and being on your toes and mobile.
I was thinking it all through a bit miffed that I can't get anyone to practice with, but kept looking around for other ways to practice. I've got kids - two boys 8 & 6 years old and they've got all sorts of balls - footballs, tennis balls, wind balls, sponge balls, golf balls etc. I opened up the back of the car and noticed a bag of balls and the golf ball caught my eye and I thought - now that's a small and potentially difficult ball to hit with a cricket bat. I realised if somehow I could practice with a golf ball and hit that it would be so much easier with dirty great cricket ball. I took it and bounced it on the ground and realised the potential to possibly hit the ball bouncing off of a wall. Using a smaller bat - a size 5 I gave it a go. To the cut the story short I tried a range of balls including tennis balls and tonight ended up with a hard plastic ball (The type found in bat & ball sets used for beaches on holiday) that bounces well off of walls and it's hollow and light. Using this ball I found I could bat it against the wall and the level of ping off of the bat and wall enabled me to stand 15' - 30' away from the wall and practice a variety of strokes having to respond quickly in order to keep a rally going. The ball is smaller than a cricket ball and using a smaller bat means that (1) my eye/bat to ball co-ordination is being used and hopefully improved and (2) because the bounce combined with the spin means the ball comes at me at different heights and angles and in order to keep a rally of returns going I've got no choice other than to dance around quickly in order to get my body/bat in line and my head over the top of the ball to return it. It looks like it's proving to be a really useful exercise if only to prove that I can get the bat on the ball which usually evades me in a cricket match.
I did this last weekend using a golf ball and tennis ball and last weekend (If you read previous blogs) I score a few runs and felt a lot more confident at the crease. I'm hoping now with this plastic ball, it just means I'm going improve my confidence in that I know I can get the bat on the ball and I now can sense how vital it is to move your feet and get your head over the ball when playing shots.
What's more during the rallies because the wall where I practice has a second wall at a right angle it means I can move my feet and look to hit the ball out to square leg. Additionally the walls are only about 4'6" high so I have to strike the ball keeping it low, so I'm practicing that aspect too. All in all this looks like it may be a good practice technique - half hour of it and I was dripping with sweat.