The four ways to breed better batters

There is, as usual, some soul searching about the English game and in particular, for once, about the state of English batsmanship. The general feeling is that it is not what it used to be. Well, they say that about nostalgia as well.

There is, as usual, some soul searching about the English game and in particular, for once, about the state of English batsmanship. The general feeling is that it is not what it used to be. Well, they say that about nostalgia as well.

There are talented players about, batsmen who look as though they have what it takes. But there are few who are putting it together consistently, day to day, rather than just having the odd good innings here or there to keep them going. The reasons are many and deep-seated.

If they don't quite start in the cradle it is not long afterwards. When I started playing club cricket as a young lad I was extremely lucky with playing league cricket on Saturdays and friendly cricket on Sundays. Now, the Sunday cricket was perhaps as important as the Saturday.

In the league matches you would have 50 overs or so to bat, but the Sunday cricket was time-based. I was given the chance to bat early by my club and was encouraged to use the time available. That meant I had two-and-three-quarter hours to bat, and that was very important at 13, 14 or 15. That formative cricket provides the base on which you build the rest of your cricketing career.

These days, probably most club games are of limited overs on both days of the weekend. Players are encouraged to open the face of the bat, play across the line and hit over the top. They settle for a good 30 or 40 in these situations. For me, then, it was always important to go on and get a hundred.

It helps in your development, as in my case did playing for Middlesex Schools and England Schools in all-day matches. I was chatting to Middlesex's Australian overseas player, Justin Langer, about what it would take to produce more batsmen of good quality. He was unequivocal: sound basic technique. If you have that you can go on and get the scores.

But it has to be worked on, grooved in the nets. Then Langer said something else. He felt that 80 per cent of net practice in this country is of no use at all. Until we get good net facilities we will not produce a stream of good players.

It is impossible in most nets in this country for fast bowlers to come in off their full run-up because it is too risky. I can remember Mike Gatting breaking his finger in a Lord's net, and Graham Thorpe has broken a thumb in the nets.

We are playing 16 four-day games now compared to 28 three-day games at one time. The idea is to try to give more time for net practice, yet if the net practice is useless in giving confidence it is also pointless. Confidence gained in good nets can be helpful, if not decisive, in dealing with mediocre pitches. But to get better pitches it is time now to have groundsmen employed directly by the England and Wales Cricket Board. The other method simply is not working.

But we are blessed at least with splendid indoor facilities, and it is there work can be done on feet and head positioning. It takes time and effort to get it right, to groove it. I am not sure that too many of our younger players are putting in that work. There is a suspicion that too many of them have been willing to settle for what they have got in terms of a county contract and salary. The lack of competition for places may also lead to a certain apathy.

And then there is the way we look on batting in this country. The first shot most of us are taught is the forward defensive, so we have the defence to which the shots are added later. Yet a West Indian will tell you that the defence should come after the shots, because the natural desire of a kid is to hit the ball. It is the way we look at batting. Take two of the great Caribbean players of recent vintage, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. Richards could hit the ball mercilessly from any angle, Lara has this remarkably high backlift, yet when they defend they get right behind the ball.

The important thoughts for coaches of young batsmen are flair and discipline - and not to coach the first out for the sake of the second. I was again fortunate to have as my coach as a boy the late Middlesex and England opener Jack Robertson. He taught me how to play straighter, but he did not let it become too complicated with talk about where the elbow should be and so on. Too much information can stifle develop-ment.

Nets, pitches (not flat, but good cricket wickets), early development, hard work: all key areas. We need batsmen who are ambitious to play for England.

England resume the Test series against West Indies on Thursday at Lord's. It is still wide open but there are two major parts of the game: seeing off the new ball and making inroads into seven left- handers. Watch this space.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment