In this session we did some middle practice. However, it fell a little short of my aim of giving important strike rotation practice to senior batsmen.
We had good numbers, so after a quick warm up we used an old wicket to have middle practice with a realistic scenario for each pair batting time. I set the aim to try and rotate the strike because we have failed so far as a first team to do this well. We currently score off one ball in every five. At that rate, 120 is a par score.
I decided to do it timed to allow players to experiment. The first couple of pairs went well. Top order batters came up against good bowlers and there was hustle from the fielders.
The problem came when we needed to give lesser bowlers a go, but we still had top order batsmen to have their time in the middle. The standards stopped matching up. At least one player was clearly unhappy with this outcome.
We had one new player who will be joining us in a couple of weeks so I made sure he got a decent bat and he shaped up well.
The imbalance evened itself out as the lesser batsmen had their go and standards matched back up, but some people didn't get to have a bat because of time constraints. Another player was also clearly unhappy about this. Additionally, the standard of fielding was low and dropped away further, so by the end strike rotation became far too easy with the pressure off. I tried to mitigate this by bowling with the sidearm to some better players but this failed as it was getting too dark to see the ball at pace.
At the time I felt I had failed in my role of giving adequate practice to the players. I spoke quietly to both guys afterwards who both said it was not an issue, but I read between the lines that it was. I reiterated to them both that when I am managing a disparate group of 14 or more players, the onus is on individual responsibility to get what you need from a session. And, the more I think about it, the more I realise that there will always be a compromise in a two hour session. If I want to get some decent results for some players I have to focus on them and put others down the pecking order.
No acceptable alternative
The alternative would have been to give everyone their seven minutes in nets against all kinds of bowling standards and no one gets a hint of improving. That is unacceptable and I won't do it. I would rather have four guys get a decent bat and another three a proper bowl than 15 do nothing but busywork.
I told the players again that they are the ones pushing their own development and my job is to facilitate what they need from what they tell me, not run a mass session. I will keep pushing for this to sink in.
I will also push for a stronger "get on with it" mentality. Most people got stuck in, but at least one player got annoyed at the standard of bowling and lost focus, getting out twice to shots he wouldn't play in a match. I had a sharp word for him to focus, but didn't get the chance to reflect with him afterwards about the importance of making the most of an imperfect situation. As he has limited time to train I will try to catch up with him over email instead.
I was happy with the session intensity. It wasn't at full pelt (which would be my preference) but it was good enough considering the vast difference in fielding standards between players. Everyone stuck at it for two hours, which is a long time to stay focused.
- The good: commitment, realistic practice.
- Needs work: Better communication with individuals about meeting ther needs, better matching of standards, better fielding, sidearm.