Wicket-keeping practice is vital element when performing cricket drills
Cricket drills are an obvious and effective way of practicing and perfecting the skills of the game. There are various cricket drills that will work on improving fitness, batting, bowling and fielding.
There is one position that is sometimes overlooked in cricket however, and that is the position of wicket-keeper. Wicket-keepers often double up as effective batsmen but there are skills that are unique to the position and these should be worked on using drills that will improve on catching, footwork and anticipation. These should be incorporated into all cricket training programmes.
It is often the case that a brilliant piece of fielding or a spectacular catch will draw attention and praise when it is performed in the outfield. There is less attention paid when a wicket-keeper pulls off a great catch or a quick piece of fielding, mainly because it is expected of the player playing in that position. But, it should not be taken for granted the skills and technique needed to be a wicket-keeper. The importance of this position in cricket is emphasised by the fact that the wicket-keeper is involved in every ball of the match when his/her team are bowling and has the potential to have a telling influence on any match.
Wicket-keeping drills should focus on positioning and stance, catching and stumping as these are the three main areas involved in playing the position. It is best for a ‘keeper to position themselves one to two steps behind the stumps. Occasionally, when facing a fast bowler it is better to stand another step or two back to compensate for the speed of the ball from the delivery. The player will know the best positions to take up through experience and practice.
When facing slower paced bowlers and spin, players’ can stand up closer to the stumps. The majority of the time however, wicket-keepers should be in a crouched position, balancing on the balls and toes of the feet ready to spring into action to catch the ball.
Catching the ball is the most important part of playing cricket when it comes to wicket-keeping. Players need to be able to catch fast, slow, high and low deliveries during every match. These areas need to be practiced when using drills. Ideally, catches should be made using both hands but sometimes this may not be possible and one handed catching drills should be practiced also.
Stumping is another vital aspect of wicket-keeping. Players need to be sharp and have quick reactions and hand speed. The bodyweight should be moving forwards towards the stumps at all times.
Players should practice the following basic cricket drills that focus on improving wicket-keeping technique.
- To practice catching on either side of the stumps, get the bowler to deliver balls down the leg-side and off-side. The bowler should mix up deliveries to keep the wicket-keeper guessing and alert. The pace and angle of delivery should be altered frequently.
- Use the same drill, but this time introduce a batsman. The batter acts as a distraction and does not play the ball. This drill will get the ‘keeper practicing catching the ball on the leg-side and keeping their eye on the ball as it passes in front of the batsman.
- Next, get the batsman to play and miss the ball on the inside of the bat. Again, this gets the wicket-keeper used to catching the ball while being distracted and unsighted.
- For this drill, a player stands in the batsman’s position wearing gloves. The bowler bowls the ball and the player touches it on the way passed sending the ball in different directions each time. This mimics gameplay and trains the wicket-keeper to react quickly to changes of direction.