These three words are very easy for the coach to roll off the tongue but often very difficult for players to execute, especially in difficult batting conditions. The nuances of being able to perform this skill effectively needs to be understood for coaches of all levels. The ability to be able to keep the scoreboard ticking at low risk, especially in the middle overs of the shorter formats is an extremely valuable skill and there are a few key pointers for coaches and players to keep in mind when addressing this aspect of the game.
To first understand what “rotating strike” is we need to put it into perspective. Since 2015 what is the average dot ball percentage of international teams in One Day International Cricket? Having asked this question to a multitude of players and coaches at various levels,I am always amazed by the range of answers that this evokes. As an exercise, try it with the individuals and the teams you coach.
England have the lowest dot ball percentage of any team (48%) and Zimbabwe and Afghanistan the Highest (57,5%). This equates to between 144 and 172 balls on average per 50 over innings. Due to the Powerplay restrictions at various times of the innings, the dot ball percentages may differ. For example,in 2018, Bangladesh spinner, Shakib Al Hasan has bowled 70 % dot balls in Powerplay One, compared with 35 % in the last Powerplay. With this in mind, coaches should make provisions for this at practice and discuss game plans which are in line with these norms.
Since the 2015 World Cup, only one player in the world has an overall dot ball percentage lower than 40 %, can you guess who it is? The answer is AB De Villiers with 37,3 %. Of those close to him many are late middle order batsman such as Jos Buttler and David Miller. King Kohli, the best ODI batsman in the world sits at 43,2. The bell curve lands with a majority of top players slightly below or above 50 %. It goes without saying that not all batsmen are created equal. Some are better with manipulating the ball into space whilst others strength involves finding or clearing the boundary and this should be considered when formulating a game plan.
One effective practice session for the illustration of this is to set up a particular field (perhaps for the middle overs 11-40) and divide the balls into 10 ball brackets. The player then attempts to play a maximum of 5 dot balls (50%). A progression on this may be to add one boundary option to the equation as well as perhaps the addition of scoring doubles rather than only singles. This will equate to a healthy strike rate in game play rather and give the player a sense of comfort when facing dot balls with the knowledge that they have the mental know how to manage the pressure, the tactical ability to choose the appropriate options and the skill execution control the ball into the spaces for runs.
“Rotating the strike” is a very important skill to learn and teach players of all levels especially when arriving at the crease and during the getting in phase. There is a whole module dedicated to this topic in Coach Ed powered by Gary Kirsten Cricket involving drills and strategies for individuals and teams to improve this aspect of the game. For more details see www.garykirsten.com