One theme I thread through training is that of becoming exceptionally good at the basics. If you can catch, stop, throw, bowl a good length, drive and pull you are going to be a success!
So, with a smaller group due to a third XI game, we focused on making sure these basics were honed again and again. By the way, the thirds won. That's six wins from six competitive matches.
We warmed up with the new drill from last week to get everyone running around. I focused on slightly altering my tone after getting feedback that it could be less "jokey" and more "intense". I'm a happy guy and I love cricket - even when things are going badly - so I'll never totally lose the jovial nature. However, I can slip into headmaster mode when needed. This trial run saw me offering plenty of praise and encouragement, but also a sharp word to those who didn't get standards right.
After this, the new coach and I reiterated that everyone is trusted to do what they need to do to succeed, but that is not an excuse to be half-hearted. We split into two groups for nets and fielding. I asked the nets group to do something slightly different; bowlers who were not bowling fielded at mid on and mid off. I told them it was in their interest to do this at match intensity because this is practice for matches.
However, one guy bowled in a cap and barely fielded. Others sort of did it to start with, but by the end it was a free bowl with no fielding. This was not a great upset as the guys at the end were less serious anyway. However, again, these guys can all benefit from being focused at practice. In this session we were not at the level of intensity we needed to be to make improvements. Players need to understand that this impact on others when you bowl or field poorly. I will continue to stress the need to take responsibility for others as well as yourself.
Meanwhile, the fielding was self directed. Naturally this means lots of high catches and some ground work. I would still rather see a higher ratio of lower catches, but the volume is vey high and every catch makes a difference to players chances in matches.
I tried to compensate with some work using the Katchet (throwing onto it with the Sidearm ball thrower for extra pace and carry) to give low catches to a few guys. This worked well and is now a 100% staple drill for better fielders in the squad.
Finally, I did my secret favourite thing: keeper work. I worked with our main keeper on standing up to the stumps. I gave a few pointers on leg side work and threw balls like a spinner to practice staying low and moving quickly. We even got a batsman who was hanging about to do some shadow batting to help. I was a fun way to end the session.
For future sessions, I plan to keep pushing up against players intensity levels. I also want to put pressure on the players by challenging them with things like running between the wickets and playing under pressure. These things can be done with the right focus and every session feels more like people understand the way I do things, just as I am beginning to learn how the players respond to things. It really is true that the coach is the student of the players and not the other way round.