England World Cup-winning captain Heather Knight on turning herself from a ‘stodgy’ opener into an adaptable middle-order maestro.
I have been an opener for a lot of my career, but I’ve really enjoyed moving to the middle order. You have to adapt to situations; you could go in at 10-2, or you could go in 200-2. It’s about having the game to bat in any situation.
When I first started my career I was absolutely woeful at playing spin, but I think I’ve developed massively in that now; my attitude to spin is to now to try and dominate it.
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SCORING COMES FIRST
Against any type of bowling, you always have to look to score, and you have to know your game plan and your options, and how you’re going to play your shots.
DRILLING IT DOWN THE GROUND
I’ve improved a lot at playing down the ground which has enabled me to manipulate the field better. Now I can hit a shot over the top to help develop my innings. Usually when I go in, they have the field quite close up, so it’s about trying to take that risk and push the field back so you can start to milk it easily.
GOING OVER THE TOP
When we’re young we’re told to have a good, solid base, but when you look at power-hitters, it’s more of a motion where, once you hit the ball, you continue to move your right side through the shot, rather than having your feet firmly fixed. It’s made my shots a lot cleaner and a lot harder.
Hold your bat with your right (bottom) hand, and hit a drop-feed dead straight over two or three sets of stumps. If you don’t use your right side, it will end up skewing to the left or right. You’ve really got to get your right side to come through so you can hit it straight. It’s a drill I’ve used a lot.
Watch Heather in England Women range-hitting practice here:
COME DOWN WITH CONFIDENCE
Playing spin you want to have quick feet and get close to the pitch of the ball.
With someone feeding or bowling from the other end, coming down the wicket and using your right hand only try to hit the ball along the floor to mid-on, making sure you get close to the ball. So, if you’re not in the right position you can’t hit it along the ground – you have to move your body and your head through the ball to make sure the ball gets to mid-on.
THE REVERSE PADDLE
I’ve also worked on being able to score at any angle. In the Big Bash I used a reverse paddle shot to move the fielders across and then take advantage of the gap created with a normal paddle shot. I know as a captain it’s frustrating when someone can do that, so I’ve tried as much as I can to try and bring that into my game.
The way I play it is more of a deflection, just getting bat onto ball. So I only tend to play it against a quicker spinner where the potential value is high, especially on a quicker outfield. On a slow outfield it’s a bit more of a risk so I’ll just try and nudge it for one, and I make sure I bat on off stump so that if I do miss it, it hits my pad and hopefully I’m outside the line.
It’s just about getting as many feeds as you can, first against tennis balls, then cricket balls, then progressing to bowlers in the nets, and finally, doing it in a game.