In this guide, we’re looking at the very fundamental cricket basics that we recommend mastering (or at least improving) if you are going to get to the point where you can play to a decent standard, even for your local village team.
We’re breaking it down to the very basics here. These are the sort of things you should be focusing on with your kids (or on your own) if you want to start playing the sport. Alone, these skills aren’t going to turn you into a world beater. We’re not talking about skills like “improving your back foot game” – think more along the lines of “be able to catch a ball”.
Every cricketer needs these fundamentals. Without getting too philosophical about it, they can also help with other areas of your life. Let’s dive into our 10 fundamentals.
This can feel like a bit of an abstract skill to master. We all use our hand-eye coordination every day. When we’re cooking, cleaning, or perhaps in our day jobs we flex this particular skill. It is all about using the hand and the eye in sync. Seeing what is happening in front of you and reacting to it is the basic premise. You even use this skill when you’re driving.
Being great at driving doesn’t mean you’ll be a great cricketer. Bad luck.
You can work on your hand-eye coordination for cricket, and a lot of the activities to do so are pretty simple. Throwing and catching (the next two points on our list) are ways that you can build up your coordination, so even simple cricket drills help.
Other things you can do to get better in this area include juggling, or playing other sports like tennis. There are also specific tools and games you can buy to improve your abilities in this area, such as boxing tools and reflex balls.
Yes, you’re going to want to practise catching. We could bundle this in with some of the other skills on the list, but we think it deserves its own place on our countdown.
If you watch a game of cricket, you’ll see how much catching is involved. From simply making sure you stop a ball that has already bounced but is in the air, through to taking difficult slip catches.
If you go to your local cricket practise and you drop a difficult low slip catch then you’re not going to get laughed at too much. If you drop an absolute dolly, prepare to buy the drinks afterwards. Whether you’re good at the other aspects of the game or not, being able to take a catch can ensure you don’t let others down on the team.
One of the good things about this skill is that it is relatively simple to learn and improve upon. A friend may be willing to simply go to your local park with you, or hang around in your garden doing some catching practise. Usually, having a cricket bat helps a lot, and allows you to simulate how the ball tends to actually leave the bat. Practise taking catches from a great height too by hitting the ball up in the air and setting yourself.
Catching is about more than just reflexes as there is a genuine technique to taking a catch. You should practise the correct stance, balancing your weight, and choosing whether to go with your hands up or hands down to take the catch. The art of “soft hands” to guide the catches into your grasp is also something to work on.
Sounds simple enough, right? This is a skill that can be pretty intimidating if you come to a new cricket team and don’t know how to do it.
Everyone can throw to some extent, but we’re talking about both distance and accuracy. Once the batter has hit the ball, returning it quickly is usually crucial, and can even help you to get a run out.
Throwing isn’t all about being a super powerful athlete. There is a lot of technique that goes into this. Virtually every part of your body is involved, and you need both a good arm action and the ability to step into your throw.
As with most things on this list, repetition and practise are the keys. The guide below can help you to get the basics of technique and transferring your bodily power to the throw.
Ask any cricketer and they will tell you that concentration is crucial when it comes to playing to a decent standard. Without it, you won’t get far.
When you go out to bat, it is easy to concentrate for the first few balls. You will probably be pretty hyped up, but if you’re good enough (and lucky enough) to spend longer out in the middle then concentration might be tested.
If you’ve got the sort of brain that can wander, this can be particularly challenging. Concentration can quickly fail you and you hear the death rattle as your stumps go cartwheeling out of the ground.
The same is true when you’re out in the field. This can be a long time, and you may have relatively little to do while you are fielding for long periods of time, but when the time comes for you to take the catch or stop the boundary then you need to be ready for it.
Improving your concentration can be very hard, and you may be breaking the habits of a lifetime, but cricket is one of those sports where it is essential to manage, somehow.
One of the best ways is to simply ensure that you are rested. It is proven that it is harder to concentrate, especially for long periods, if your body and mind are not rested. A lot of athletes also make use of visualisation techniques to help them to focus for longer periods of time.
This is not something that is easy. If you watch professional cricket, you will see that so often a batter gets to a milestone like a century and then quickly gets given out. A lot of this is because they’ve reached their target and they let their concentration go a little. If it happens to the best batters, you can see how it would happen to amateurs.
You don’t need the physique of a heavyweight boxer to play cricket. In fact, if you go to any cricket ground at village level on the weekend it is likely that you will see some people who are less than athletic in their stature.
One area of athleticism that can really help you out, though, is strength.
Not only does this help with the other skills such as fielding, it can improve your ability to bat and bowl. When you first go to cricket and try to bowl, you might even find it difficult to throw the ball far enough if you don’t have much strength. Cricket balls are heavy. However, the stronger you are, the more likely it is that you will generate power with bat and ball.
There is a balancing act here, as speed is important too, and if you are too strong, you will likely be heavy and this can make you struggle to generate the quickest bowling speeds or bat speed.
A lot of batters aren’t immensely strong, especially touch players who focus on technique, and they may use lighter bats helping them to generate bat speed and gain full control rather than just bludgeoning the ball for big sixes.
Reflexes are needed in every aspect of the game, but particularly in fielding and batting. You need to be able to adapt to quick changes. When the bowler manages to find the edge of the bat, the ball can deviate and leave you less than a second to get in shape and take the catch. Slip fielders tend to have very good reflexes.
At the professional level, the ball can be travelling at crazy speeds, which furthers the need for good reflexes.
There are some drills you can do to improve this. Some involve a simple tennis ball and can significantly improve your reactions. A lot of it comes down to continually practising, and trusting that your body will gradually get better. The drills below are designed for fighters, but the principle is similar, and it can improve your skills when it comes to taking catches, making runouts, even spotting the flight of the ball as you prepare to hit it.
Balance is another crucial skill in cricket, particularly in both batting and bowling.
When you bat, you need to keep your body in a strong position, and balance helps you to transfer the weight into the shot and make bigger shots in the process. It also helps you to access the ball even if it is bowled in difficult places.
Your head should be above the ball as you play your shot. This is incredibly simple technique, but it makes a big difference. If you’re not able to balance properly then you will lose the ability to keep a still head, above the ball, and this will result in some pretty poor shots.
On top of this, bowlers should be able to balance, helping them to control their deliveries and not fall as they follow through and transfer the weight in their body. This is something we do see sometimes in the professional game.
A lot of cricket is about timing. Arguably, this is very closely linked to both your hand-eye coordination and your reflexes, but it is also linked to your technique.
Possibly the biggest impact on whether a shot goes as planned for a batter is timing. Get it right, the ball may fly off the middle of your bat. Get it wrong, you could be in huge trouble as you edge the ball or fail to connect properly.
Timing is also important when it comes to bowling rhythm, and keeping your body in the right positions as you go through the delivery stride.
Timing the ball right can be improved, you’ve guessed it…by practising. However, you don’t necessarily need other people to do this. Using a bowling machine or one generous friend giving you throw downs, you can work hard on your timing to ensure you are hitting the ball in the middle, right as it reaches the bat, and not overstretching. For bowlers, you don’t even need a friend to practise with.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. According to Masterclass, muscle memory is “a neurological process that allows you to remember certain motor skills and perform them without conscious effort. Skill retention from muscle memory can potentially last forever, barring any neurological or physical ailments.”
Our brain stores the information of what we are doing, and is able to repeat it time after time. We remember the processes of our muscles, and our nervous system. This is why they say you never forget how to ride a bike.
We’re going to annoy you again when we say that the best way to improve this is simply through practice, but ideally, you should review your technique to make sure that the memory you are embedding is correct.
There are some studies that show that visualisation techniques may also help with muscle memory. Running through the sensations of facing a ball or bowling a delivery in your brain may be enough to help embed this knowledge for good and even improve your technique for the long-term.
Holding a Bat (The Very Basics of Batting)
You should probably know how to hold a bat, and how to swing a bat.
When a cricket team plays, all 11 may end up having to bat at some point. If you don’t know how, you’re not going to last out in the middle.
The technique of holding and swinging a bat is not overly complex. In fact, a lot of people advise using whatever is comfortable for you, including the tutorial below:
Start with your top hand gripping firmly, and a looser bottom hand to allow you more flexibility.
The video below shows you the traditional way of holding a bat, keeping your knuckles together on one side of the grip.
There are some top players who play with slight variations, so there are different ways to approach this. Whatever you do, make sure that you do not go into your first cricket match with no idea how to hold and swing a bat, even if you face throwdowns or a bowling machine before you go into a match situation.
Bonus Skill: The Rules
We’ve put this as a bonus so we don’t open up the debate on whether or not this counts as a “skill” or just a cricket basic.
In cricket, a basic knowledge of the rules goes a long way. The rules of the game are long. Very long. Knowing all of the rules is virtually impossible for newbies, but there are some basics that you should pick up before you take to the field.
A lot of people who are insecure before they go to play cricket are worried they will make a fool of themselves. Not knowing how someone gets out or where you should be batting or bowling from can hold up the game and leave you feeling somewhat embarrassed.
Get to grips with the basic rules by watching the sport before you get involved with a game. Or, if you prefer, you can set about a lot of tedious reading of the rulebook.
Summary: The Basics of Cricket
Cricket is a fun and friendly game. You don’t have to be amazing at it to go and get involved with your local cricket team. However, if you’ve got the opportunity to work on these basics, or to help your child to work on their fundamentals in between practising, the list of 10 fundamental cricket skills above will help you to build up the skill set required.
One of the great things about cricket at a village level is that you don’t have to be super fit to get involved, and you can learn many of the skills while you play. It’s an inclusive and enjoyable sport even for those who are brand new, but let’s face it, we’d all like to improve our fundamentals somewhat.