Cricket Challenge with Smriti Mandhana
Shadow batting is a practice drill used by professional cricketers to improve their batting skills.
It involves pretending to bat with no ball involved. It can be done with or without a bat in hand. The general idea is to simulate the batting action over and over again to train your body.
While it may seem futile since you don’t actually strike a ball with the bat, many cricketers swear by it as a way of improving their technique. It can be used in off season, when nets are not available, for pre-match preparation, or just general practice when not around a cricket pitch or nets.
India women’s team opening batter Smriti Mandhana swears by it. Here she shares some tips on how to practice shadow batting the right way.
Tip 1: Visualise the entire process
Shadow batting is not just about the physical action, it is also about the mental process.
“One big mistake we all make while shadow batting is not visualising the bowler and the ball releasing from her hand. You need to visualise the whole process of the ball being bowled and you playing a shot,” explains Smriti.
She says that her shadow batting process starts with visualizing herself entering the ground, taking the crease, and then watching the bowler’s run-up.
Tip 2: Focus on the positives when shadow batting
Smriti says that shadow batting can help in particular when she is nervous before a match. She uses a mix of visualization and shadow batting to help her gain confidence.
“Sometimes when I feel nervous about a match, I sit down and visualize a good innings. Or watch an old innings of mine to get in a better head space. And if I am not feeling good about my batting I go back to the room to do shadow batting,” Smriti says.
Tip 3: Practice in front of a mirror
While you can shadow bat anywhere you want to, Smriti says there are huge benefits to practicing it in front of a mirror. You can watch your batting action and spot technical flaws if any. For example, when shadow batting a cover drive in front of the mirror, you can examine the position of your head, front/back foot and your knee, and if anything isn’t right, you can fix it.
“Shadow batting in front of the mirror helps a lot because you can see if you’re doing it right or wrong. You can also take a video of your shadow batting to see where you went wrong,” Smriti suggests.
Tip 4: Use it to correct your stance
Shadow batting is also a good way to work on your batting stance. Smriti uses shadow batting when she feels she needs the repeated practice to correct her stance.
“When I feel there is any change in my stance, that is the time when I do a lot of shadow batting to get back to my original stance. Or if I feel my head is falling, I shadow bat to keep it stable. It all depends on how I am feeling about my batting and how many shadows I want to do,” she says.
Tip 5: Don’t experiment during shadow batting
Smriti advises beginners that shadow batting is not the correct practice technique to try new things; it is the right type of training to further perfect your natural game.
“While doing shadow batting, I never try to experiment with anything because I develop bad habits very quickly. I shadow bat the way I generally bat rather than trying to change anything in my stance or technique. I just try to focus on feeling good about it. Always keep shadow batting simple because you can acquire bad habits if you're doing something technically wrong. I do less but quality work,” the opening batter elucidates.
Tip 6: Balance shadow batting with net sessions
Shadow batting is beneficial but it cannot be used as a replacement for batting in the nets. Smriti says that shadow batting makes you feel good, but you should also keep up with your net sessions.
“I think you can't just do shadow batting to prepare for a match. You need to hit the balls in the nets as well because at the end of the day you have to play real cricket,” she reasons out. “But yes if you have to feel good about your batting and have to work on your head position or your position when you’re playing a shot, shadow batting is really helpful. It is a slow motion way of practising and thus makes you more aware of your batting,” she adds.
Tip 7: Work on specific shots you want to improve and use
Shadow batting can be helpful to repeatedly practice how you want to play a particular shot so you repeat the same action in a match; it helps reduce the number of mistakes you might make.
“Sometimes I practice pull shots in shadows because I have a tendency to play in the air. The ball can thus land directly at the fielder towards deep square leg. To rectify that I visualise the pull shot in shadows and try to hit the ball on the ground. And sometimes before the net sessions I do one or two shadows of a front foot cover drive or a backfoot cover drive,” she says.