Why is agility important in Cricket
Agility is a common buzz phrase with people saying things such as “I’m not agile enough” but what is it, why is it important and how can you improve your agility for cricket.
What is agility?
The textbook definition of agility is the ability to change direction at speed. However, In the world of cricket and sport in general it’s not as simple as that. There are so many other factors that make people more “agile” than others. Do they have the sufficient support mechanisms in order to accept and express force quickly? Do they have the mental processing power in order to react to single or multiple stimuli? Do they have the ability to execute skills at speed / on the move?
Why is agility important for cricket players?
In the game of cricket there is never a true closed loop stimulus and reaction. There is always an open loop decision to be made. Reacting to the ball off the bat to make a catch, reacting to a swinging ball travelling at 80mph and executing the correct shot. Reacting to the ball to prevent a quick single. Executing a shot and having to be quick between the wickets to be able to turn singles into 2’s. If we are slow to process decisions, we cannot be truly “agile”.
What we would define agility as is “the ability recognise appropriate stimuli as quickly as possible whilst executing the appropriate movement at speed.”
How can we improve our agility?
In the gym
Improving rate of force development (RFD) and explosiveness. This can be targeted by using velocity based training and explosive actions such as vertical jumps and broad jumps. Targeted plyometrics through varied planes of motion, practising being as quick on and off the floor as possible.
We must be three-dimensional working through all angles. If we can separate our hips from our shoulders, then we find it easier and more comfortable to move and execute at speed. An example of this would be picking up the ball on the move running parallel to the wicket and then being able to throw into the wicket keeper at speed.
Firstly, we will be changing direction from a slow walk in an athletic position. We need to be comfortable reacting and exploding from this position. Next, we need to break down fundamental movements fielders need to master. Accelerating forwards on varying angles, accelerating in a cross step to cover ground quickly either side of them, and accelerating from a drop step both left and right. These 3 fundamentals happen in every game of cricket in every format. If we can get better at moving through these 3 fundamentals, we will get better at fielding.
Once we are comfortable with executing these movements. We need to add layers of complexity. Bringing in variations of these with a ball and replicating starting positions and distances that need to be covered. When we practise these in training, we will begin to see better results in the field during a game. We get used to recognising cues and reacting to these cues and then executing movement and skills at speed. Having 3D hip mechanics is the key to being physically agile.
Being able to execute a 180 degree turn as quickly as possible when running a quick 2. The same as fielding, we need to get comfortable in the positions experienced in this environment. When we get strong, comfortable and explosive in these positions, we can be quick between the wickets.
Key things to consider to improve agility:
- Reactiveness (RSI) – Can be achieved with plyometrics
- Familiarity of key movements
- Strength in awkward positions
- Transition from closed loop to open loop multi-directional cricket specific drills (Batting & fielding)
- Practice scenarios to recognise cues, execute skills as quickly as possible with highest quality in practice