9 Things You Didn’t Know About Cricket

by Jenny Gunn (MBE)

‘The England Women's Team are the fittest team we’ve ever been, but we need to stay on top of that and keep improving.’

Cricket players are much fitter than they used to be, the expectation is higher. People underestimate how fit you have to be to play cricket. They think we just stand around all day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Before playing 20-20, we hit the gym in the morning; not heavy sessions, more tops ups, but we want to maintain that hard work. Most players run approx. 8km during a 20-20 game (tracked by GPS); I know I run well over 10km. It’s not constant sprinting, but interestingly it’s not dissimilar to the distance Lionel Messi covers during a match.

Standing in a field for 3 hours or batting for long durations is mentally draining. It’s easy to lose focus so you have to be able to switch on and off. Players who try to focus every single ball without switching off really struggle because you need that ability to break things up, have a laugh and get away when you can, otherwise your attention span won’t be as efficient, your body will tire faster, and you won’t play as well. That said, having the ability to switch back on is key; switching off is all very well, but you need to be ready for that next ball.

Even in the field, there are so many different angles and techniques to pick things up. A lot of fine details go into our training to enable us to see the ball better. E.g. Regular eye tests determine our dominant eye. I didn’t realize that my right eye is the ‘tracker’ so I find catching the ball naturally easier when it comes from right to left. You don’t normally consider those aspects; you just think ‘I’ve got to catch a ball.’

‘Some players with fantastic vision now wear contact lenses to balance minute discrepancies. One player scored a 100 next game – imagine what she could have achieved if she’d had them years ago!’

Manchester City FC’s women’s coach guest coaches us. Let’s just say he was surprised haha. Cricket is a totally different game to football. In football, you can play small-sided games and the players largely train together. In cricket, you can’t do that; everybody is different. The batters do their drills, the bowlers do theirs… sometimes if I’m with a batter I’ll be working on one area while they’re working on another. You also have to adapt the training wickets that are used depending on the weather, monitor wind direction, and then you have the pitch. Football pitches are pretty much just grass nowadays; completely flat, no mud etc. whereas we have more to consider. Even seemingly insignificant details are pivotal in cricket.

‘The best bowlers are those who are willing to adapt their game, otherwise they won’t survive. I’ve been playing for 14 years and I’m still learning.’

Bowlers need to have dozens of variations in their armory. There’s a lot of trial and error, and you can’t hone them unless you play around during bowling sessions. They won’t come straight away, but persevere.

You might think you have the best technique or skill, but new batsmen and fieldsmen are coming up all the time, all with different mindsets, techniques, strategies. You need to be able to play against them, and also stay fresh and unpredictable. The best time to do this is out of season because it’s quite difficult to do when you’re playing matches and that’s time you need consistency so stick with your strengths. The biggest challenge: these days we play all year round so when is the best time to change something?

This is foremost in all positions, but especially bowling due to the impact that goes through our backs. When we bowl, 3 times our bodyweight travels through our spine and front legs. You need to be strong to even perform the action in the first place, let alone the amount of overs requires to adapt your game. That starts in the gym. Medicine ball sit-ups and other weight training core stability exercises help.

8. MRIs
Injury prevention and rehab is a big focus. We have MRI scans on our spines at the beginning and end of each season to monitor any changes. However, cricketers actually get injured far less than other athletes. A bowler’s spine is stronger than a rugby player’s. It has to be purely because of the impact we incur when we bowl on the ground.

'I love playing in South Africa – it’s one of my favourite places – but politically things need to change.’

It’s a completely different country to anywhere I’ve ever visited. Absolutely beautiful, yet they have so far to go politically. The racial problems between the blacks and whites really highlight that. It’s crazy that it’s still happening. There are government-endorsed rules (not sport endorsed) for how many blacks you have to have in a team compared to whites; not just in cricket, but in many sports. To see things like that deciding the play is shocking. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. Hopefully, one day it will change. South Africa Rugby has just appointed their first black captain so the views are changing. That was unheard of before so it’s really good moving forward, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s appalling that things like this are still happening in the free world.

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