Monday, 4 April 2011

Cricket: Reaction speaks louder than words

Anyone else remember that wonder catch from the 2007 Cricket World Cup? But how did he do it?
Reaction time, with a combination of agility and motor response, is key to success in cricket and improving this component during practice sessions can be beneficial. Reaction time accounts for fielding, wicket-keeping and batting with less of an emphasis on bowling except during ‘caught and bowled’ attempts. (Sometimes even umpires need fast reaction times when targeted by irate batsmen) =)))
The first part of reaction is identifying that the ball is actually coming their way.
The second part is to the make the right decision on what to do.
The third part is to initiate the action. The reaction time can be seen as the start of the movement.
Highly skilled professional cricketers show reaction times of around 200 ms (0.200sec)

Reaction is automatic - it's not a conscious process, but it can be improved through practising specific drills:
Reaction ball. They are cheap to buy, easy to slip in your bag and great fun to practice with. You can bat or field with it and it actually works at improving your reaction time.

Double up. During skills practice you can use 2 balls to improve reactions. Get a partner to hold a red and white ball out at shoulder height. He drops them both and calls out a colour. You have to catch the colour he calls.
Get fit. General fitness has been shown to improve reaction times significantly. So if you are not already training (and if you read this blog and don't train you should be ashamed) get into the gym.
Concentrate. The more focused you are on the task, the quicker your reactions. That said, it's impossible to concentrate for long periods without rest, so make the most of breaks in play between overs.

So how do you compare to professional cricketers reaction times? Perform a simple test by clicking the link below to find out.

The physical aspect (agility and motor response) is actually getting to the ball in the field or hitting it to the boundary if you’re batting. If you're not quick enough, you're not going to catch the ball or hit the ball respectively, no matter how fast your mental reaction is.

This is the area that separates the elite professional from the average person. The player has to have his eyes on the ball, which requires a high level of visual accuracy to actually concentrate their vision on a small object moving very, very quickly. The player has to know where their body, in particular where their hands (or extension of hands in the form of the bat), are in space and time and to coincide their hands or bat with the actual flight of the ball.

The ability to coincide his hands (or bat) in the right place at the right time to meet the ball in its flight path is called "coincidence timing".
Specific training can help improve actions and reactions, meaning the fielder and batsmen can pick up the ball quicker and respond adequately.

We will discuss specific training techniques in future posts. To end off have a look at this clip showing reaction time in baseball – a sport that closely mimics the reactions required in cricket when a batsmen faces a fast bowler.
McLeod P, 1987, "Visual reaction time and high-speed ball games" Perception 16(1) 49 -59
BBC Sport

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