Mid-wicket maestro and run-machine No.3 for Essex Tom Westley explains how to maximise your method with these coaching tips for batsmen.
EMBRACE YOUR NERVES
I’ve always adopted the idea that nerves are a very good thing, but obviously, it’s about how you deal with them. For me, if I wasn’t nervous it would mean that I didn’t care. I’m always nervous before every innings.
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TRUST YOUR GAME-PLAN
When I go out to bat I’m always trying to enforce my game-plan. I take an off-stump guard, which is something I’ve done for about two years. I do that to make bowlers bowl to my strength more, which is through mid-wicket, and by covering all my stumps it helps me leave the ball a little bit better. It helps me line the ball up. If guys want to get me out, they’re going to have to hit my pads.
It’s my strength: I think I’m better off my legs then almost anyone else, so why not bring that into the game earlier on? Sometimes I even bat outside off stump, just because I leave the ball better, and especially when the wicket isn’t doing much, I trust myself to hit every ball that is on my pads.
PLAY THE BALL, NOT THE SITUATION
A long half-volley in the first 10 minutes is a ball you’ve got to put away. Ever since I worked with Keith Fletcher in the Essex Academy I’ve had it drilled into me to be positive and I think I play my best cricket when I’m looking to score runs and be positive.
The art of batting is managing the risk. You want to be positive, not reckless. If you get a half-volley, even if you get it first ball, you have to have the frame of mind to put it away.
KEEP IT ON THE DECK
For me, hitting aerial early on is asking for trouble. I don’t really hit that many sixes in first-class cricket and I can’t remember the last time I was out stumped – I’m not sure if I ever have been. I’m really conscious to not give my wicket away and am always looking to hit the ball along the floor.
OPEN YOUR STANCE
My stance is quite open, with my front foot pointing back down the pitch. For me, it feels like I can bend my knee and get into a better position easier. Sometimes when you’re a bit more closed, you can get blocked off. The last couple of years I’ve really worked on opening up my front foot and that really plays to my strengths. It’s similar to a boxing stance.
I looked up to Jacques Kallis a lot when I was growing up and if you look at his triggers, he starts in a similar position; he gets his front foot out of the way slightly to avoid bing closed off.
BALANCE IS EVERYTHING
Your head is so important. A lot of my preparation goes into making sure my head is balanced. If I feel like my head is over to the off-side then I’m going to fall over and try and whip balls that I should be hitting straight. If your head is in a good position, you’re laughing.
PRACTISE YOUR STRENGTHS
I practice my ‘super strengths’ a lot. I’ll set a bowling machine up so it’s angling in at my pads – outside my left foot – and I try and hit it with my weight going into the ball. When I’m not playing well I’ll fall into the off side a bit instead. That drill reinforces me to get my head and my balance right.
I’m actually not a big netter, I don’t net during a game. The day before the game is the big day for me, I do all my preparation and get into a state where I feel like I’m going to go out and score runs. When batting on surfaces that are maybe a little bit tired or the bowlers are bowling off eighteen yards, I feel like it might just get me out of nick rather than anything else.