Keeping the faith
Even the most ardent cricket fan will not have been able to avoid watching some of the football World Cup.
Rather than scoff at our national winter sport encroaching on the territory of our national summer sport, can cricketers learn anything from ‘the beautiful game’?
Clearly there are transferable skills, particularly between goalkeepers and fielders and wicketkeepers.
During the World Cup everyone wanted to speak to a certain Italian coach working in England. Tim Dellor did just that. He spoke to Sal Bibo, the Reading FC goalkeeping coach, about the skills cricketers should recognise in the shot stoppers at the World Cup.
Two keepers he has worked with are in South Africa. Adam Federici (Australia) and Marcus Hahnemann (USA) both spent time working with Bibo.
“When I look at an aspiring goalkeeper the first thing I look for is their physical size and stature,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“That will draw you to a player. Is he tall? Is he an athlete? The role involves you being a good athlete. You have to sprint short bursts. It’s a power and agility position.
“You’re looking for natural ability, but you can polish the technical ability. You can do drills, practices and video work to make any improvements required to the technique.
“What you can’t add to is their size. If they haven’t got the right physical attributes there is little you can do. You can make them stronger with fitness programmes, but obviously you can’t make them five or six inches taller.
“Head, hands and feet are the important areas to work on. Your posture, with the head being in the right position, not tipped too far forward is essential. Eye fixed on the ball, and head locked still. Your hands are your base. You need balance, but it is important not to get too wide with your feet because you need to be able to move freely. You need a good platform on which to catch the ball.
“We use the term soft hands. It doesn’t mean you have limp wrists and weak arms. It means you are cushioning the ball in. If your hands go to the ball and are hard you will parry. When the ball comes into the surface you are absorbing the power of the ball.
“I’ve noticed wicketkeepers tend to set a lot lower than goalkeepers because the range of the catch you are going to make is different. Some like to set wider or narrower.
“You must always be in contact with the ground when you are about to make the save. Goalkeepers aim to adopt a stance about shoulder width apart. We’re also looking to be soft from their knees to allow powerful moves.
“Your bodyweight is travelling through the front part of your foot. You need to get the push like a spring. As a goalkeeper, when you’re trying to explode to go top corners or lower corners, you need to get a step in and then ignite power to get that push.
“You’re using power from calf, quad and glut. That involves footwork, starting from feet about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands in a comfortable “catch ready” and neutral position, chest up.
“The mental side is the most important part of the game. Goalkeepers at professional football clubs are all there because they have a certain amount of technical ability and physical ability.
“What level you play is determined by the mental part of the game. The best goalkeepers make the best decisions, and the fewest number of mistakes. They can deal with and thrive in those pressure situations. If you’re going to fall to pieces in front of 20,000 people you’re not going to make it. You need to control your anxiety.
“Some people freeze under the spotlight. You weed out those characteristics in people. They’re all very driven and they all thrive on the big occasion and that’s what it is about.
“Now it’s good because like American Football, we’ve become more detailed in our preparation. Gone are the days when you had a manager, a kit man and a sponge man.
“Now we have specialist coaches, fitness and goalkeeping coaches, video analysts, every part of the game. Players will draw techniques from different areas. Even non-league teams have goalkeeping coaches which is good because it is a specialist position. It needs someone who knows the art to influence development.
“Those early years are about giving the right building blocks. At the early age it is about technique rather than power. By that I mean handling, mobility and footwork, shape and posture. The power and physical part comes at a later date.”