Power hitting expert Julian Wood is helping players around the world maximise their hitting ability
England’s secret power-game weapon
Touch game: tick.
Skill game: tick.
Power game: work in progress.
He's one of the best batsmen on the planet but England's Joe Root has identified an area for improvement ahead of next month's ICC Champions Trophy.
And, not for the first time, he's employed power hitting expert Julian Wood to address it.
Wood, a former first-class batsman with Hampshire in the County Championship, has in recent years established himself in the niche coaching area of power hitting, having identified just how important the skill would become for batsmen in a sport increasingly leaning towards its shortest format.
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After spending time with the Texas Rangers in the Major League Baseball competition in the US, Wood looked at how baseballers generated power in their hitting, and began developing a way in which that could be incorporated in cricket.
"I went over on holiday eight years ago and purely by accident I met a guy who was hitting coach for the Texas Rangers," the Englishman told cricket.com.au at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, where he's spent the past week at a coaching camp, presenting his ideas as well as working with the Australian women's cricket team and the National Performance Squad.
"I came home and I could see where T20 was going; the game was evolving.
"You'd talk to players and they all wanted to hit the ball harder, strike-rates started coming more into it, boundaries, boundary percentage, percentage of dot balls – that type of stuff.
"Obviously we're cricketers, we're not baseball players, so I started putting together a system which to start with was very 'power hitting' based, and now that's evolved over the last two years to include power placement, creating power angles, and just getting good at attacking the ball."
Wood's service has been utilised by England Cricket on and off over the past two years, working with their limited-overs batsmen as they look to find ways to maximise their hitting ability.Image Id: 861A002C3D8A49179A4AE981808157DF Image Caption: Joe Root is looking to build on his power hitting // Getty
The secret, he says, is finding a way for batsmen to channel the power in their legs and torso through their hands and into their shots.
"As batters, we're very hands dominant – we play with our hands – whereas in baseball they generate power from their body," Wood explained.
"So we're looking at ways of generating power up through the body and out through the hands. Because that's what cricketers are taught.
"These days, if you're going to hit the ball, you've got to really hit it – by generating as much power as you can up through your legs and out your hands."
Root is arguably England's finest all-round batsman but falls some way behind teammates Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Ben Stokes in the power hitting stakes.
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However, given the No.3 has averaged 64 and scored at a strike-rate of 92 in 31 matches since the conclusion of the 2015 World Cup, it's a frightening prospect to consider that, according to Wood, he is still to fully tap into a third facet of his batting.
"To me you've got a power game, a touch game and a skill game," he said. "The best players like (AB) de Villiers, Buttler have all three.
"Someone like Joe Root has two of the three – we're working on his power game.
"England start (ICC Champions Trophy preparation) next Monday at Leeds, and I'll be working with him on his power game there.
"To start with people were very stand-offish with the concept because it's different.
"But all I want to do is put information out there to players and coaches, and they're searching for it now because they see where the game is going.
"So for someone like (Root) to want me to work with him is pretty cool."Image Id: 7B0D374A1EA6495F91646D592C992758 Image Caption: De Villiers has all three facets // Getty
Wood proselytized his power hitting call to arms to the best and brightest Australian coaches at the annual Elite Coach Development Conference at the NCC, with mentors from men’s and women’s state teams and KFC Big Bash League and Rebel Women’s Big Bash League sides on hand to develop their skills during the week-long gathering.
As well as Wood, coaches benefited from the expertise of the likes of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, AFL Premiership winning coach Leigh Matthews and Melbourne Storm NRL Football Director Frank Ponissi and Storm Player List Manager Paul Bunn.
National men’s and women’s head coaches Darren Lehmann and Matthew Mott also presented to the group which included new Tasmanian Tigers coach Adam Griffith, Victorian and Melbourne Renegades mentor Andrew McDonald, Sydney Sixers coach Greg Shipperd, NSW Blues coach Trent Johnston and Queensland Bulls coach Phil Jaques as well as National Performance Squad mentors Matthew Elliott and Ryan Harris.
Having recently returned from a week-long study trip in the United States, Lisa Keightley (WACA/Perth Scorchers), Shelley Nitschke (SACA/Adelaide Strikers), Leah Poulton (Cricket NSW/Sydney Thunder) and Julia Price (Cricket Tasmania/Hobart Hurricanes) were among the attending women’s coaches.