Coaching Corner 1 - The Grip
Now is the time of year when old kit is dusted off and youngsters start to pester their parents and carers for a new bat. Cricket bats these days can be an expensive item but, parents, do not despair! There is no need for the junior cricketer to have the most expensive, top of the range bat, because such a bat will probably be too big and heavy and as such restrict stroke-play. Don’t be tempted to buy an expensive full-sized bat that the player “will grow into”!
Size does matter and big is not necessarily beautiful! A good rule of thumb to adapt when buying a bat for a boy or girl is to ask the youngster to pick it up with his left-hand (for right-handed batsmen). He should be able to hold it in front of him at shoulder level. Alternatively he should be able to pick it up comfortably and lift it back and up to above waist level. If he can’t, it is too heavy. See photographs below.
As for which size to choose, rest the bat against the outside of your leg. As a rough guide, the bat shouldn’t be higher than about level with the bottom of the trouser pocket opening.
There are plenty of junior bats on the market (sizes 4, 5, 6 and Harrow), so make sure that the bat you choose can be picked up easily so that the back-swing and the various shots can be practised comfortably.
Pick a bat which has straight and evenly spaced grains and is free from knots. It doesn’t matter much how far apart the grains are. A wider grain will normally “drive” a little better, whilst a narrow grain will probably be more hard-wearing. English willow will have more give and “rebound” than Kashmir willow.
When you get your bat back home, if it hasn’t been covered with a protective face, it will need to be oiled with raw (not boiled) linseed oil, or a proprietary brand of cricket bat oil which may have a little wax added to the linseed. Oil the front, back edges and toe, but DO NOT OIL THE SPLICE and DO NOT STAND THE BAT IN OIL. Do not over-oil. A light covering, applied with an old rag is sufficient. Leave the bat in a horizontal position to dry thoroughly (about 12 hours) before applying another coat to the front, edges and toe.
When this coat has dried, the bat will be ready for the start of the “knocking-in” process. Use an old, softer cricket ball or a special bat mallet and tap the face and edges of the bat. This will need to be done over a few days, gradually increasing the force of the ball on the bat.
Another method is to put an old ball in an old football sock, hang it on the washing line, and hit it over and over again.
Then start to hit an old ball bowled gently to you. Don’t use a hard, new ball – you will risk damaging the face of the bat if the surface hasn’t hardened sufficiently.
The bat will then be ready for net and match play. Keep it clean by using a fine sand-paper to rub away marks, and oil the face and edges occasionally. Don’t use the bat in the wet – the toe will swell – and don’t leave the bat where it is too warm and might dry out.
So as the proud new owner of your bat, how are you going to get the best out of it?
Well, let’s have a look at the grip first.
• Make sure that the hands are close together, with the top hand against the inside front thigh.
• The V s formed by the thumb and fore-finger should be in line with an imaginary line drawn between the edge and the splice of the bat.
Common faults: hands too far apart or too low, top hand too far round the handle.
Now the stance.
• The feet should be parallel and the weight evenly distributed over both. The back foot should be behind the crease and the knees should be slightly flexed.
• The batsman should feel relaxed, and adopt a side-on position.
• The head is crucial! It is your camera, with the eyes acting as the lens, - so keep it still if you want a clear image of the ball! The eyes should be level and over the toes.
Common faults: moving the head too far towards the off-side, or up and down, crouching so that it is difficult to keep the eyes level, moving about and not keeping the head still.
Then, the back-swing.
• As the bowler prepares to bowl, the bat should be tapped but then pushed back and up with the wrist and arms. Try to make sure that the bat goes back straight, because it has got to come down straight! Practise this in front of a full-length mirror.
• The face of the bat in the back-swing should be opened towards the off-side. This is because when it is brought down, there is a natural anti-clockwise movement of the wrist. So, if the face isn’t opened in the back-swing, it will close when it is brought down, turning towards the leg-side, rather than presenting the full face to the ball.
Common faults: picking up the bat towards the slips, not opening the face.
Make sure that you practise these basics frequently so that they become a natural and permanent part of your game. It will save a lot of heartache later!
It is hoped that you find this useful. If you have any suggestions for improvements or comments, please feel free to contact the website.