Are nets worth it? According to some ex pros, no. Sir Ian Botham in particular has been a vehement critic of the net session. It’s time in the middle that counts, you see.
But what of us mere mortals, those untouched by professionalism and, in a lot of cases, natural talent? Time in the middle is something of a luxury. 10 minutes is a long innings for me.
So, to some extent, nets are a waste of time. Batting uninterrupted for 20 minutes is unnatural and unrealistic. It’s cricketing fiction for many.
There’s also a lack of fear in the nets. You let a few go by your off stump in an attempt to make it appear as though you are taking your precious practice time seriously and then you simply throw the willow at everything with gay abandon. Lose your off peg? No bother.
There are also net shots and ‘real’ shots. In the nets you feel much freer to attempt the expansive drive that you wouldn’t resort to in an actual game in late April. A teammate of mine had a particular penchant for the sweep, except he never felt able to play it in the nets due to a perceived lack of space.
Another issue in the nets is deciding whether or not you’re out. Would that uppish drive have been caught? The bowler always thinks so! Only when you get a chunky edge into the corner of the net can you be sure that four runs would have been collected.
But, for all its flaws, the raison d’être of the net session is feeling the leather on the willow. Aside from leaving you unable to move your body correctly due to muscle strains in awkward locations, of course…
A bit like practicing penalties at training in football, nets don’t prepare you for the real thing. Sure, you can practice those wristy flicks and landing the ball on a good length, but instinct in a game overrides this. A once weekly net session won’t alter your instincts.
So, Sir Ian is right. In a way. For professional cricketers. For the rest of us, it’s the only chance we get to experience a prolonged spell with the ball or time at the crease. It is also a rare bit of exercise for some of us, and that should be encouraged.
By Miles ReucroftTweet
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