Being out of form with the bat is an experience that all cricketers go through whether they are test players or club amateurs. With each low score that comes, the batsman disappears into a world of self-analysis and negativity which creates a vicious circle of lack of confidence leading to even more low scores.
It's important to realise that just as it's easy to have a bad run of form, it's just as simple to get back into something like reasonable nick. Here are some tips to help you do it.
- Most bad trots come from mental rather than technical issues. You have the same eyes, same legs, same body all round so how you're thinking must be playing a part. Remove negative thoughts and steel yourself to get runs the next time you play. You've scored runs before, you can score them again.
- Time in the Middle – A run of low scores usually indicates you've spent a short time batting out on the pitch. For your next innings, make a conscious effort to relax and bat some time to help re-learn some of the good batting habits you used to do. If it means you're a bit slow so be it. Andrew Strauss's 177 against in the winter is a prime example of a player batting conservatively but for a long time to get back in form.
- Not Playing Well? Accept that fact and bat accordingly. If you've had a run of low scores you won't feel that confident so it's essential to play in a simple, lower risk manner. Watch the ball as closely as you can and look to play the ball in a narrow 'V' between mid-off and mid-on with a vertical bat. Leave the higher risk horizontal bat shots like the pull and cut until you're 'in' or feeling back in better nick.
- Run some singles – Bad form leads to lack of scoring and tension at the crease. Don't just look for boundaries to get you out of the slump. Quick singles are an excellent way of creating momentum and are absolutely priceless at the start of your innings so actively look for them and let your partner know you're ready to run.
- Practice – The mental side of a bad run can be challenging so take positive action to get your game back on track. A good net session will do you a lot of good and some throwdowns during the week will help you feel that the bat is sitting better in your hands. You may have developed a technical fault which could be magnified by a lack of form so ask a team mate or coach to have a look at you when you're batting.
As a guide, I think there are 4 very common faults that can creep into a player's batting which you might find yourself doing:
- Not Watching The Ball – Singly the most common problem in batting and one that's often overlooked. All the information you need to play the correct stroke is in the ball delivered so ask yourself 'Am I really watching the ball all the way from the bowler's hand onto the blade of the bat?' If not, you're asking for trouble.
- Head Falling Over To The Offside – So many batsmen do this because the weight of their head causes them to fall over their toes. Ensure that at the point of release, your head is in the same position as your stance and not falling over outside off stump. I use a simple technique to help with this based on stance – Head/Hands/Feet – make sure that in your stance, your head is above your hands which are above your feet. Jacques Kallis & Sachin Tendulkar are great examples of this.
- Planting – Most batsmen have a pre-delivery movement but if you're planting your front foot down the wicket, particularly if you've planted it over to the offside, it can cause all sorts of problems. Planting to the offside will cause you to play around your front leg because your head and body position will tell you the ball is heading down leg when in fact it's hitting off stump. If you feel the need to move your front foot, move it in a controlled manner straight down rather than across your wicket.
- Backing Away – This is particularly prevalent against faster bowlers and is something most batsmen don't know they're doing. As the bowler releases, the batters back leg slides away to square leg taking the body away from the line of the ball. The result is a greater chance of getting an outside edge to the keeper or slip. The backfoot should never go away to square leg during release. Instead, it should stay still or move back and/or across keeping you in line with the stumps and ensuring you can 'line the ball up' which is essential against fast bowlers.
Even if you're in terrible form, you will start to score runs again one day so the question is how can you assist that happening sooner rather than later. You may require a little break from the game to clear your head of distractions but if that's not the case, keeping your game simple, playing straight, batting for as long as you can whilst being positive and running singles is definitely your best option.