I was out in the middle at my cricket club during a net session looking over the long boundary at cow-corner when I wondered how I can start hitting sixes without putting in any effort. So, I decided to sit down when I got home and carry out some research on basic principles of power hitting which I could introduce to my game.
It’s no secret that every cricketer wants more power, more distance and more consistency. One of the questions I often ask myself is whether you are gifted true power or it is generated through technique, strength or something more?
Even though, the fundamentals are the same for everyone, the differences in people’s body types means that no two people will have the exact same cricket stroke. I’m 5”9 with a relatively skinny build and therefore hitting Gaylelike sixes for me does not come at ease.
What’s even worse is when I try to really muscle the cricket ball over the boundary and end up trying to hit the ball too hard which causes me to lose my shape. So, it means for me that I have to adapt my body to perform a solid cricket stroke. Copying the likes of Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers may not necessarily work for me. Only by taking the time to develop my own strokes will it greatly improve by enjoyment and success of playing cricket.
Getting down the nets and practicing the basics of batting and generating power to the point where they are ingrained into your muscle memory will bring confidence out in the middle which will convert into longer carrying sixes.
Where does my power come from?
Going through the internet and speaking to my coaches, it quickly became clear to me that hitting sixes wasn’t just about swinging as hard as you can at the ball and muscling it over the boundary. There is a chain of movement and it all starts with your legs and hips which works it’s way up through the body and out through your hands.
First tip which has helped me improve generate power is to have a wide stance to work from. This is because power comes from the ground up usually using your back leg. This is not only the case just in cricket, if you take a look at baseball, tennis and golf, you will see these principles also in place.
It’s easy to get into this wide stance but to generate power from this position there is one fundamental thing you have to do. What my coach was looking for here is that my back leg is up on my toes. You are looking for two L’s in your back leg as demonstrated below by my diagram below.
By being in this position up on your toes, you get your back leg driving against your front leg which generates power out to your arms and into the ball.
So, I hope you can now see that it’s not just about swinging hard at the cricket ball with your hands. You will find it much easier and more consistent to start from the ground up.
Exercises to help me improve my distance hitting
There are two excises that my coach had given me during the winter break which really helped me work on the hip drive which I will explain below.
So, for the first one, you need to grab a medicine ball which you can throw in an explosive manner. It doesn’t have to be heavy, just a ball which you can throw at a wall. You want to set up by loading up your back foot as shown in the diagram below.
As I mentioned, the power comes from the ground up so you need to be able to load up your back foot and stride out executing a powerful hip drive. The quicker you can explode those hips, the quicker your hands will be as it is a transfer of energy from rotational movement. If you just focus on your arms and ignore your legs, hips and core, you are losing out on a large amount of power.
The second drill which really helped me apply this into my cricket shots is to get into a stationary striking position while receiving some underarm throws. So, I set up in my stance while clearing my front leg as shown below and would aim to hit the ball by getting up onto my toes and looking for those two L’s in my back leg we spoke about earlier.
Why do I keep mishitting the cricket ball?
When I mishit balls off the edge of the bat or to the wrong areas, it usually comes down to two things.
Firstly, my head is not still as the bowl is bowled all the way through to impact. It’s often said that the head is the heaviest part of your body. So, if your head is moving around all over the place, you are going to lose your balance. If you have good balance at the crease, I find that everything else comes naturally. If you read my 9 weird batting tips article, you would have seen me mention about Pietersen in an interview on Sky Sports saying “kiss the ball”. This is a great little tip which I often say in my head as the bowler is running into ball.
The second reason for me is if I start trying to hit the ball too hard especially as you get into the last couple of overs in the innings. There’s been so many occasions where I have got a full toss by a spinner and my eyes have lit up only to end up with the ball going straight up in the air to be caught out. I would have seen the ball loop up in the air and ended up trying to muscle it over the boundary which made me lose my shape and go at the ball too early. Again, this comes down to keeping your head still and having a stable base to generate power from the ground up which converts into a slow controlled swing. You want to be explosive but not swing too hard and it is a fine line between the two.
The only way to avoid both of these common mistakes is for it to become muscle memory through repetitions. So, for me, I really focused on playing the ball late, starting with a late block. I know it may sound a bit weird, but I took me a good two years before I felt like I could do this confidently. From there, it was a natural extension of the hands for a drive and a lofted drive.
There’s no doubt that these guys like Gayle and Chris Lynn make hitting 100m+ sixes look very easy to hit. It’s easy to duplicate their swing and technique in the hope of getting similar success. However, what I realised is that everyone’s body is different and these guys do so much work behind the scenes to build their explosive strength and rotational power.
Remember, don’t try to hit the ball too hard and make use of your legs, hips and core to really drive that energy into your arms and finally into the ball. For me, focusing on this has greatly improved my power hitting and I am sure it will do the same for you to.