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Best way to transition into senior cricketer as a Junior Player!

Updated: Jun 10

Getting the green light to transition into adult cricket as a junior player from U13's to U16's can be nerve-racking for some. Even if they're up to the challenge, the expectation vs reality differs for everyone.

Junior to adult cricket

You've been practising hard and playing well since you began your journey as a first-time starter at the club. Now, as an established junior cricketer who has progressed through various age groups. The committee has decided you're ready to make the jump to adult cricket. The following significant challenge for any junior cricketer is being picked for your first-ever senior Saturday league game.

You may relish the chance and cannot contain your excitement about showing what you can do! But more than that, the reality is slightly more daunting than your expectations about making the jump.

"Have I prepared myself for this transition?" You need to ask yourself realistically, "What have I done to prepare for this next challenge?"

In most teams, the harsh reality is that most Junior players will only be considered temporary replacements to cover for injured or unavailable senior cricketers. It's your one chance to cement your place into adult cricket. Maybe you're technically gifted, but are you mentally ready for that senior debut? Can you handle the nerves, and what might go wrong? Can you bounce back, or will you give up? It's all about pacing yourself to make the move at the right time when you are good and ready. You need to be more realistic about the level you're currently at versus everyone else's expectations.

From my experience, most clubs prioritise adult members over junior players in senior league games on a Saturday, which has more of a negative impact than a positive one.

We must remember that most adults are already approaching a respectable age. How much longer can they realistically keep playing? Junior members are the future of any club. I have witnessed so many clubs invest time and energy into junior cricketers only for them to sit on the sidelines waiting to play adult cricket. Ultimately, they have no choice but to seek other opportunities with another club. Later on, hearing and reading about their performances and how they have become critical players in the first team on a Saturday for their new club.

So here are a few tips to ensure you are ready for Senior/ Adult league cricket.

Tip #1 - Attending senior winter nets

If you're serious about transitioning from junior to senior cricket, the most crucial step is to attend senior winter nets. You should select those senior nets over your junior training. This way, you will get an early feel for what it's like to be involved in adult cricket before the summer season starts.

Even if you can beat everyone's outside edge with your bowling in U16s, you will still need to do the same in adult cricket. The level and standard are different in reality. Most of the adults now playing in 3rd and 4th level teams are past players who have played 1st XI and county cricket in their prime. Yes, they're older, their reactions have gotten slower, and their fitness levels are not the same. However, they're more knowledgeable and experienced enough to put you away quickly.

The most crucial factor is that you will learn from experienced players, and one nasty net session will only define you once! However, one bad match performance might do the polar opposite, especially at the first and second-team levels. Many people, including adult cricketers, compete to make it into those teams.

This is your chance to eliminate the nerves. Knowing the people you might play alongside in your first adult league game beforehand will make you feel more relaxed.

Tip #2 - Don't change your natural game!

So often, I see junior cricketers transitioning into adult cricket as an entirely different version of themselves. I have never fully understood the reason for this! You must always remember you have been favoured for adult cricket for a reason. The selection committee and club captains have seen a hint of potential in your skills and ability, which they are confident will help you play at the next level.

I have witnessed a junior player at my very own club in U15s. When they bat in the top order, they hit nothing but boundaries and scored no less than 50 in every other midweek junior game. With an impressive strike rate of over 200 and a batting average of over 40. However, the moment Saturday comes, they turn into a test player. Why? Play your natural game and keep your playing style the same. Every run counts in adult cricket, and playing maidens after maidens means you will be considered someone who can't bat up the order.

Even when bowling, you must remember that your pace may be too quick for your age group. However, 9 out of 10 times, it will be easy for a senior 2nd or 3rd team cricketer to face. So, it would be best if you were consistent and stick to what you know works well for your personal game. Don't try to bowl too quickly or in an experimental way. Stick to your core strengths, hold the line, and be confident. Sometimes, you feel like you have bowled a perfect ball, but it still got belted. This shouldn't dishearten you! Most batters will play a good shot to a suitable ball. Try to work out what they are doing wrong, you can even approach the captain or other senior bowlers for advice during the game. Think, "What else can I try? How can I figure him out?"

Even though I am a culprit of this, during my junior playing career, I loved to charge spinners without the fear of being stumped. Playing sweeps and reverse shots like it was second nature to me. As soon as I transitioned into adult cricket, I stopped playing this way as I was nervous about adults complaining that I was being too silly and risky. To a point, I became far too defensive and kept getting out to spinners. I decided to play my natural game and enjoy it. Even now, when I am pushing nearly 40 years of age, you will witness me switch-hitting a spinner even when he's taken two wickets in his last over.

Even so, I still practice all my shots in net sessions to understand and learn when I can play those sweeps and switch hits out in a real game to what ball, line, or length and it won't be a risk.

"To me, it doesn't matter how good you are. Sports is all about playing and competing. Whatever you do in cricket and in sport, enjoy it, be positive and try to win" - Sir Ian Botham

Tip #3 - Be realistic about your level

As a junior player, you need to be very realistic about your cricketing level. I have met and spoken with many junior players who claim to be of a 1st—and 2nd-team standard. You're only lining yourself up for major disappointment.

The correct attitude and approach is to work your way from the bottom of the adult teams to the top. Starting off at a much higher level is not always the best choice; the pressure is a lot more tense, and there is never any margin for mistakes.

Adult cricketers are not overly fond of the cockiness or egos of individual players. They are most susceptible to juniors with positive attitudes who train hard and listen to senior members to improve their cricket. Dedication and perseverance make great cricketers, as they never stop learning.

Have a chat with the club captains and the committee, as well as with all your junior coaches who have helped you progress through various age groups. Helping you understand the right team to start your senior playing career with. Never force yourself into a position where you will lose confidence and doubt your abilities. You can always work your way up to higher teams. You will enjoy it and play with more confidence and freedom. Being dropped down to lower teams won't do anything for your confidence or performance.

Tip #4 - Sunday, fun day cricket!

Most clubs have teams that play in Sunday leagues or friendlies. Get yourself involved. Even if your club doesn't have a Sunday senior team, you can find one that does. This is a great way to get into adult cricket without any pressure or nerves about not performing. Even though it is considered league cricket, that isn't the case.

Most teams and clubs focus on Saturday league cricket. Sunday cricket is more sociable and relaxed. Most clubs will have a good mix of adults from various teams and many youngsters. Some clubs on Sunday play what's known as a development team: 2 senior adults lead nine junior players so they can get a feel of what adult cricket is really like.

You won't have to worry about your performance. You'll be able to play with complete freedom and have lots of chances to bat and bowl week in and week out, helping you become more confident and under less pressure.

However, the most fantastic thing is that you will get to play on main pitches at some stunning grounds. The pitches where the 1st and 2nd teams play have true bounce, nice bowling and batting decks. As a junior cricketer in the 3rd and 4th teams, you won't get this opportunity much until you reach a higher level.

Final thoughts

Prepare yourself properly; take your time with senior cricket. You are young and have a lot of cricketing life in you to enjoy the progression. Play with freedom and without pressure. As a junior, you will have ample opportunities to progress and play at different levels. Make sure you do everything you can to make your transition into adult cricket a smooth one that is right for you. Whether it's men's or women's cricket, approach it with the right attitude and confidence.

Good luck and happy cricketing from Ali Choudhry Cricket Coaching.


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