I was hoping to attend the whole of pre-season training this season, but I only managed two Sunday morning sessions. A shoulder complaint plus catch-ups with family and friends were the main reasons for my limited attendance. Nevertheless, I at least managed to get value in the limited opportunities I got.
This pre-season was different from what I was accustomed to under our coach Mick Delaney. He had stressed that our fielding standards had to improve throughout the grades, and he had a desire of us, hopefully becoming the best fielding club in the ACT. Thereby he had announced that each player must take 30 catches (10 short, 10 medium, 10 long) before they hit the nets, and it seems that we have to work in pairs so that both players can meet the minimum requirement.
August 12, 2018
My fielding partner was Austin D’Alessandro, the best rookie from last season who progressed from 5th grade to 2nd grade in an entire season on the strength of his batting. The fielding session had started smoothly as we both completed the short and medium distance catches. The long-distance catches were a challenge to us, especially for Austin, who was battling against Canberra’s cold weather. As it got too much for him, he ‘threw in the towel,’ and soon it was my turn. It wasn’t too bad of a start for me until a passage of time that shook my confidence. First of all, while trying to take one high ball. I slipped, landed on my back, and hit my head on the ground with a bit of force, which resulted in me missing the ball. Then the worst moment, I tried taking another high ball; it clipped my finger before landing on my plastic sports glasses, which were then shattered to pieces. I immediately realized that I broke a fingernail, which let out a stream of blood. The worst was to follow upon arriving home. A bruise and a cut underneath the left eye, which my wife later discovered much to her annoyance.
But I was to carry on. We were then to continue in our pairs and take on the fielding circuit that was put together by Mick. We had four minutes at each station before we move to the next one. Although there were my positive comments regarding my body type and the fact that I’m a gym junkie, I was tested but not quite at the level of exhaustion. Nevertheless, the fielding sessions were fun and engaging. The ‘cricket’ version of squash where people have to throw the cricket balls at the net. If one person’s throw hits the net, then the other person has to try and catch the rebound even if you have to get in the way of the other person. But I found the catching the high tennis balls as they were hit from the racquet more challenging. Although the tennis ball will not pain as much as the cricket one given its weight and material, it proved to be a significant challenge, especially if the wind causes the ball to change direction horizontally or vertically. I was able to catch some balls, and I guess after the earlier mishap, it was a welcome morale booster. What I found was that if I tried to get into position early enough, I could allow the ball to settle into my hands. It was a handy piece I had previously received from Mick, and it was absolutely helpful yet again.
Following the fielding circuit, we then move to batting drills. This time, I partnered Dominic Tran, and despite his limited ability, he can provide the odd comment or two, which would be helpful to the other person. Sometimes he used to remind me of myself when I was coaching Under 15s players as a teenager despite my own modest performance at the junior level. It was an excellent time to knock in the brand new Gray-Nicolls Kronus I bought recently. Without much strength required, I was able to hit the ball with some power, which was to be expected from the bat itself when I initially checked it out.
Just to finish up, I did some bowling practice. Since the two-day 4th grade match against Tuggeranong (which was back in early March), I had not bowled a single ball. Still, I had spent the time theorizing about my own bowling run-up, mainly where I should commence my pre-delivery jump so that I can land the ball and swing it. It was no surprise that I was pushing the ball down the leg side most of the time. Still, I managed to get some useful advice in the form of our newly appointed 2nd-grade captain, Albab Masud (apparently he played one List A game in Bangladesh, but I can’t remember when or who he played for and against). Albab, known more as “Bobby,” suggested some technical adjustments, and it was refreshing to hear how these suggestions will help and why. I was told that too many coaches say “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that,” but they’re unable to suggest anything to remediate the issue. Anyways, Bobby suggested that I run in with my chest up so I can stand taller all the way through and together with the other suggestion of driving the non-bowling arm (as a right armer, it will be my left) through as it usually is responsible for the direction of my delivery, I was able to hit a better line. It was indeed an improvement as I got the ball to bounce and swing, but Bobby felt that I was bowling a foot shorter. So he said that next time, I should try to get the ball up a bit more.
August 19, 2018
Leading up to the session, I was bereft of confidence after last weekend’s near disaster. The fact my left eye got away with minimal damage was a blessing in itself, but it was clear that my high ball catching methods needed reviewing. More on that later.
After a quick warm-up around the oval, we again had to go through 30 catches before we commenced another round of the fielding circuit. This time, I was partnered with Daniel Leggett, the club’s most improved player from last season. Definitely going through the fielding circuit with him was absolutely hard work, but I was able to keep up with him since he was going full tilt (although he was still kind enough to give me time to breathe). The fact that I was able to keep up with ‘Leggs’ shows how much work I had put into my fitness during the off-season.
That aside, I got a bit of help from our new 1st-grade captain Luke Ryan regarding my high ball catching (obviously Mick would have briefed him). He still wanted me to attempt the Reverse Cup method but form a triangle vision so that I can track where the ball is going to land and meet it accordingly. Given my shocker from last weekend, it was a mixed result but still managed to take a couple of high balls under his supervision. It’s a matter of adapting this into practice this season.
Later on, Leggs and I worked on our throwing by attempting to hit a single stump. My focus was on my throwing technique since it has known to a bit weak, especially when trying to throw from the outfield. Rather than throwing front-on with a horizontal arm, which will put pressure on the shoulder and increase the likelihood of injury, I tried throwing side-on with a vertical arm, and I appeared to be more accurate. The key is to twist the body as you throw while using your non-throwing arm for direction. It needed a few goes before the improvement started settling in. Over time, I managed a lot of near misses with a couple of direct hits. Doing it then is one thing, but it’s now a case of remembering what you did right so that you can repeat again and again.
From a fielding perspective, it was very encouraging. I learned a few techniques along the way and had subsequently improved both in mind and in results. Moving forward, it will be useful to test out my throwing technique from the outfield at practice during the season.