Club cricketers might get more time off than professionals, but do they know how to use that time wisely? And what’s the best way to approach things when you do get back in the nets? Warwickshire and England man Chris Woakes explains.
I think your first reaction, given how long the season is, should be to just relax and completely get away from the game. You need to let your body shut down and relax. All your bones and your joints need that time away from cricket.
For professional cricketers, we’re working hard from November onwards these days, and then the season itself is just chaos so we need to get off our feet for four to six weeks and do effectively bugger all. You need that complete break from cricket so the body can recover from having all those stresses put on it. It’s also great for the mind to just get away from it for a little while, because long seasons can be really mentally draining.
ENJOY YOURSELF (IN MODERATION)
During the off-season, when you’ve switched off from the game, it’s always a balance in terms of how much you relax. Some guys are probably luckier than others – they’re naturally fitter – but, from a professional’s point of view, if you’re not that lucky you can probably only give yourself a week in terms of having a few drinks, eating what you want and having a bit of a blowout. You’ve got to get back on it pretty quickly to make sure you don’t turn up in November completely out of shape because that can make the process twice as hard.
Six weeks during the season, when you’re travelling and playing regularly, absolutely flies by but come the end of our six-week off-season you’re kicking your heels and desperate to get back into it. Don’t get me wrong, after a couple of weeks of pre-season you wish you had had a couple more weeks off but at the same time you do find that towards the end of the off-season you’re looking forward to getting back in the gym and hitting some balls.
The majority of the squad will be concentrating on getting stronger. You do find that during the season itself it’s hard to find the time to get in the gym and make gains. The time to get stronger and get into better shape is the off-season, so you have to make the time for that. A lot of your off-season focus will be strength work. Cricket has become a more power-based game so you try to work on becoming more powerful.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BASE
It’s taken me a while to learn about and understand the importance of my lower half. As a bowler, from your core down you need to be as strong as possible. You can bang out as much benchpress as you want but it’s not going to make you bowl faster.
You can have a strong upper body but I wouldn’t say it’s the key to bowling fast, that all comes from your lower half: your trunk, your glutes, your quads. You need to be strong and take the pressure off your knees and your ankles – they work so hard. When you’re slamming your front foot down, a force equivalent to nine times your bodyweight goes through your front foot so you need to ensure that the muscles around it are as strong as possible.
I never like to bowl again until the new year. I need that complete break so that everything can recharge. When you come back and bowl for the first time, you’re going to be sore. Even for us professionals who bowl all the time, as soon as we have a gap of anything approaching two weeks you’re definitely going to feel it.
When you start bowling you need to start at 60-70 per cent. We get a ‘back to bowling’ programme when we haven’t been bowling for a while and you can’t just expect to begin again at 100 per cent, landing it on the spot six times out six. You have to build it up, you can start as light as you want, you can start at literally walking pace if you want. It might be a week or two before you get back up to full tilt.
IRON OUT YOUR GLITCHES
It’s important to remember that you can never go too slowly when you’re coming back to bowling. It’s a good time to iron out technical glitches, as well. You can do things slowly at first, and make sure you that you’re getting things in the right places before you come in off your full run. You’re better off slowing down and then increasing the pace slowly as you go.