A.B. de Villiers : Timing To Perfection
Two Questions In One – Arun from Karur in India asks what is the best way to focus when batting, so that he can concentrate on the ball properly.
and Sudhir says …
Hello, first of all thank you for providing cricket lovers with this genuine and original cricket coaching material. I just love it. My question – One could play all the cricketing shots in the cricket bible, however all this is of no use if I cannot watch the ball thoughout its flight until it hits my bat.
Can you share any techniques or tips I can use to be able to sharply focus on the ball and keep track until the last minute. Basically “how does one watch early and play late ?”
I think this is THE most important thing any batsman needs to learn. Thank you!
Hi Sudhir and Arun, great questions, these are the centre of batting and scoring runs.
If you can’t focus properly you can’t judge the flight of the ball and if you can’t judge the flight of the ball, then you won’t choose the right shot for that delivery.
Lets talk about focus first:
Focus is how you pay attention, managing your focus when your batting is key to scoring runs. You only have a finite amount of mental energy so you need to learn to switch it on and off.
Here’s an example: You’re in a room with a beautiful picture on the wall, you have a torch with a lens that can focus in and out, soft to sharp focus.
You turn out the light in the room and focus the torch on the painting, using soft focus to look at the whole picture and sharp focus to zone in and pick out detail on the picture.
Your mind is like this, it can switch your focus between sharp or soft, close or far, in and out, very quickly.
Focusing in sharp and tight on something uses up mental energy very quickly … so how do you manage this for batting.
Batting Routine: Off field, waiting to bat, watch the game with soft focus, keep an eye on the game so you see who is doing what, but don’t play every ball in your mind … you’ll wear yourself out. Jacques Kallis can actually doze before he goes into bat, then switches on when a wicket falls and he walks out.
At the Crease:
The most important time to manage your focus at the crease is between balls, strange as this may seem. This is when you have time to think, an over may take 3.5 to 4 minutes but the ball is only in play for 4-5 seconds from when the bowler runs in, to when the ball is bowled.
You want to keep your mind quiet between balls so that it is present with where you are, not off in the future thinking about the ball you might get or off in the past thinking about the ball that was just bowled.
Between balls step back from the crease, rest your bat, breath easy and smooth, the quieter your breathing the quieter your mind. Look off into the distance.
Waiting to face: In the crease now, the bowlers running in, as the bowler gets closer you focus in on the ball, making sure as the bowler enters the crease you have a tight focus on the ball. Zoning in as the bowler releases the ball so that you are focused in on the seam.
Facing Slow Bowlers you have time to adjust your stroke as you track the ball in flight.
Facing fast bowlers the brain projects the flight of the ball from the release position of the ball in the bowlers hand, when it’s really quick the batter doesn’t have time to adjust. You make your decision on the stroke you’re going to play on the first part of the ball’s flight.
Practice switching on your focus, full beam onto the ball in the bowlers hand when the bowler is entering the crease. Do this in training at the nets … top batters are often seen on TV saying ‘watch the ball’ to themselves, to remind themselves to pay attention!
Timing Drills: A.B. de Villiers has an excellent routine based on the above, you’ll see him step back between balls, relax, switch off and then switch back on when the bowler runs in.
He also has some great practice drills for working on his timing.
1. Have a training partner or coach throw to you in the nets, on various lengths and play defensively, practice really paying attention to the ball, watching it come right up onto the blade of the bat.
2. No feet drill: Stand still, lean forward slightly so your head is forward so your weight is in the stroke. Have your partner throw a good length to you straight at the stumps … you practice hitting the ball back straight on the ground. This is a great drill for you to practice letting the ball come right up to you, you will find you’ll be hitting the ball right under your eyes.
3. Timing Drill: Use your feet now, practice hitting the ball into the turf in front of you, off front and back foot, this forces you to allow the ball to come up under your eyes again.
Great questions, happy batting. Regards Coach
About Richard Pybus
I'm Richard Pybus, I've coached Pakistan, Bangladesh, Middlesex, Titans and the Cape Cobras in South Africa and the goal of this site is to help you to play winning cricket.