Ok, so this is one of my favourite topics as “technique”, or our perception of “technique”, is a big part of this game.
So, where do we start? There are a couple of ways to approach this topic. There are four sides I want to address in this article.
What is technique?
“Technique” is the rules or the guidelines. In essence, it is the “how to do” skills. There are many theories out there on all parts of the game -from the batting stance and back swing, to the execution of individual shots. The same counts for bowling, run up, jump, and what generates pace and parts of the bowling action. Just Google any of these skills that interest you and you will find a whole host of information, as well as conflicting information. So, what technique is the best? If you look at the best cricketers in the world a couple of years ago, they technically did everything differently. Sachin, Kallis and Dravid were all labelled as “technically correct”. However, they were different. Kallis had a trigger like neither of the other two. Look at Graeme Smith, strong on the leg side, yet he hardly scored through the covers at all. Brian Lara jumped as a trigger at one point in time, Ponting triggered across his stumps on the front foot to whip through mid-wicket and Sehwag hardly moved his feet.
All of these guys were different, but what helped them all is what I would call the “fundamentals”. These fundamentals include balance at the crease (still head) with strong body positions, ability to attack and defend, understanding of their own game and the ability to read the game.
You can focus just on technique, however I don’t see the real purpose in this as there are more important things, such as mastering your fundamentals.
Then what is the purpose of technique?
Many would say, in batting, that technique is to get you runs, or, in bowling, to get you wickets. I believe this is untrue as there are many examples of cricketers with great techniques who don’t score, and cricketers with dodgy techniques who do score. A current example of a cricketer that doesn’t follow the textbook when it comes to technique but scores heavily is Steve Smith of Australia.
Don Bradman has a great saying: “technique should be the servant, not the master”. That is why my take on technique is that it gives cricketers consistency, reduces the risk of getting out in batting, or injured during bowling.
Third skill versus technique?
Technique is the “how” and skill is the “do”. I think it’s way more important to execute your skills and then, as “the Don” says, let your technique serve you in executing your skill. Yes, there is a time to focus on technique and to refine a part of your game. However, come game time, it is executing the skill that is important, no matter the technique you use. If you look at all those batsmen I mentioned before, they all had “errors” in their game. Kallis, Sachin and David also had errors, but less so, as technically they were more correct. Smith, Ponting, Lara, and Sehwag had things that weren’t as “textbook”, yet they could all execute their skills in order to score runs.
What is “skill”? Skill is your ability to hit the ball where you want, given where the ball has been bowled. In bowling, most important is bowling the ball where you want it to go, with the desired shape, swing, spin or variation. When you get bowled a half-volley, can you hit it through the covers? When it’s short and wide, can you cut it? When it is the last over of a match, can you nail those yorkers?
So lets say you can… Can you trust your skill? Or do you have to constantly try to refine it, which takes your focus away from execution and places it on correction? I would start with trusting your skills, improving your game more effortlessly.
So lets say you can’t... Correcting execution isn’t necessarily a technical issue, most coaches would only focus on the technical part. However, there is a mental part to this too. Yes, perhaps you are playing down the wrong line or dropping your shoulder!
Lastly on the overthinking?
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying ignore technique. Cricket, after all, is a technical sport. I am, however, suggesting that we start focusing on technique.
When cricketers go onto the field, we want them in a “performance thinking” space. Performance thinking is about being busy with game plans and doing what you need to do in the moment to get the job done. So yes, when focusing too much on technique, you can be overthinking the game as you are involve your mind with things that won’t serve performance.
Over-focusing and overthinking on technique can become an obsessive exercise, as in “I am never good enough, never correct enough”. Instead, work with what you have got, work with “what is good enough for now” and use it to the max of what the skill can offer you. When you do not perform, decide first if the lack of performance was due to a technical or mental error.
Mostly, in my understanding, mental errors cause technical errors. However, there can be instances when they function separately.
If the error was caused by a mental wobble, find your answers and shifts in your game on that front. Only when your lack of performance is a result of a technical error, will it be worth your time to focus on your technique.
Here is a simple process that can help with both of these:
- What happened? (This is mentally and/ or technically of course)
- What caused this?
- What can I improve on to ensure that I do not repeat this?
- How am I going to practice this?
As you work on these errors, start trusting the skills, whether mentally or technically, as you succeed in executing them during practice, so that they can become automatic and flow in the game.
By Jody Martins