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Animated Fielding Drills Get Fit For Cricket


This week we take a long look at the slingy bowling action used by modern pacemen like Malinga and Mitchell Johnson. Can it be coached? Find out in our main article.

We also look into the tricks for coaching fitness to 9-11 year old players, how to use drills to improve cricket skills and 3 tips that were learned live in the field at one of the PitchVision Academy Live! events.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Bowl with a Slingy Action

Ever since Jeff Thompson showed the power of a ‘slingy’ bowling action, there has been no debate that it is a devastating method for fast bowlers. Yet coaches worldwide persist with the traditional action. This is because coaches are not taught how to put sling into an action.

Many would argue that it’s too unorthodox or can only be developed naturally. But at PitchVision Academy we disagree, which is why we are going to show you how to coach a slingy action into yourself or others.

What is a slingy action?

Of course, to know how to get one, we need to know what the difference is between ‘slingy’ and ‘orthodox’.

You’ll be surprised to learn there is hardly any difference at all.

To give you a frame of reference, let’s use Mitchell Johnson as an example of a 21st century bowler with a slingy action. Take a look at his delivery stride here.

As you can see from the picture there are more similarities than differences:

  • The front leg is acting as a brace or block
  • The back leg is driving through with the back foot still on the ground
  • The hips and shoulders are pointing down the wicket towards the batsman
  • The chest is well driven forward
  • The non-bowling arm has been driven out and down and is on the way to rotating the shoulders 180 degrees in the follow through.
  • The head is driving towards the target.

All of these points are found in classical and unorthodox bowlers at the highest level.

Going back to the picture, the main two differences are:

  • The bowling arm is much lower, heading towards 10 o’clock of you imagine a high arm position to be 12 o’clock.
  • There is a greater delay in the action before the ball is let go, causing a huge stretch and co-contraction of the muscles. This is what the sling itself looks like.

So now we know that the basics are the same across any fast bowler’s action, it makes it much easier to focus on the differences.

Let’s assume you know how to do the basics well (and if you don’t click here to learn) and focus on the main differences.

Low bowling arm

The low bowling arm is a red herring.

Although Johnson and Malinga both show these traits, it’s not a requirement for a slingy action. Jeff Thomson had his arm at almost 12 o’clock at the point of release.

As Johnson has shown, a low arm increases the chance of inaccuracy. This is because you are no longer getting your shoulders in a straight line down the wicket and so need exceptional timing of the release of the ball to be accurate. A higher arm gives you a greater margin for error.

Of course, international bowlers with a low arm would never be able to change their technique at an advanced level. But a young cricketer still learning the muscle memory can have a slingy action and a high arm.

Delayed bowling arm

This is the real trick to a slingy action.

A slingy arm has a longer delay between the back foot landing and the arm coming over. When the arm does come over it appears to slingshot like an elastic band.

This is because that is exactly what it is doing. You can see how stretched the muscles are at front foot landing in Malinga here.

When you stretch that much the elastic nature of the upper body muscles store up the energy and release it as the contract back again and bring the arm over.

Ping. Like an elastic band.

The feeling of the stretch, ping is all important and it can be drilled with a stump and a friend:

In this drill, used by Ian Pont in his online coaching course How to Bowl Faster, the bowler is recreating the feel of stretching or pulling the muscles while driving the chest forwards as far as possible.

Move on to bowling at a slow pace without a run up to keep that feeling of being a catapult or a bow, storing up energy ready to fire the arrow at the target. Get the feel then gradually increase the pace.

The older a bowler is, the harder it becomes to learn this stretch reflex, but there is no reason why it can’t be taught even to very young kids. Those aged 9 and above will take to it easily and end up bowling much faster than their peers.

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What every coach ought to know about training 11 year old cricketers

This article is part 3 of the “How to use fitness training to make better young cricketers” series. Click here to go to part 1.Click here to go to part 2.

It’s a physiological fact that the ages of 9-12 are crucial because it’s the time where motor skills are developing the fastest.

Get these 3 years right (9-12 for boys, 8-11 for girls) and you will be giving your players a huge advantage: better coordinated, faster, injury-resistant and ready to move on to more advanced skills easily.

So how does this translate to the training you do with the under-11 squad?

Learning to train

The focus during this time is developing the basic movement skills learned by the under 9’s into formal techniques.

This fact is why people refer to the stage as “learning to train”.

In the ideal world, at least according to Vern Gambetta (who knows a thing or two about it) players would:

  • Have cricket based training 3 times a week
  • Play other sports 3 times a week
  • Train more than you play (training should take up 60-70% of time in cricket)
  • The training will now take up more time focusing on cricket specific skills. The techniques of batting, bowling and fielding will be learned most quickly during this time.

This is probably unrealistic for most, but you can still work with what you have, even if it’s just an hour a week.

Use the warm up

As you will be focusing more on cricket skills during your sessions, the best time to look at fitness is during the warm up.

In the warm up you can be less cricket-specific so can look to do drills that improve the different areas of fitness:

  • Mobility: Start each session with a series of drills to improve the dynamic mobility of the players. Focus on drills that increase the range of motion at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder.
  • Balance: Include in the mobility section drills that involve standing or moving on one leg. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to improve static balance. In cricket balance is dynamic (you have to stay balanced while moving) so start with simple standing drills but progress to drills where balance is needed while the rest of your body is moving. “Jump and stick” drills work well.
  • Speed: Introduce speed and agility technique drills into the mobility warm up. For a full range of these see SAQ Cricket. You can also finish each warm up with a “tennis ball race”. Pair up players, one dropping a tennis ball from shoulder height, the other sprinting to get to it before the second bounce. 5-6 sprints each is plenty.
  • Strength: This age is not the best time to develop strength and power, but it is a good time to teach correct technique. While no one expects you to be a strength coach, you can take time to learn the proper technique in common bodyweight/resistance exercises. The idea is to get them understanding how to do basic movement patterns: the squat (1 and 2 leg), the deadlift, the row, the pull up and the push up as well as core exercises (not the sit up) and stability work. A resistance band is the easiest way for a cricket coach to add resistance. Insist on strict technique and don’t try and exhaust them (this is a warm up).
  • Work capacity: for a lot of coaches, this is what ‘fitness’ means; getting a sweat on. Again, this is not the best time for improving endurance (and we don’t want marathon runners anyway). However, making fielding drills longer can get players used to the interval style training they need to do as they get older.

Once you are done with the warm up (and 15-20 minutes should be plenty) you can get on with the cricket practice.

If you are feeling very clever you can even slip in some more work as you go along. For example, getting the batsmen waiting to go in the net to do some mobility drills or strength training.

Of course, all this must stay fun. They are able to tolerate more drills than younger kids but are still easily bored and distracted unless you keep things moving fast.

But if you keep it fast, fun and focused you will start to see incredible results as young player's super-charged learning system kicks in over the 3 years. 


Click the links below to see the other parts of this series:


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Adapting cricket drills: Improving skill development

 This article is part of a series designed to show you how to adapt cricket drills for your needs. In this part we look at ways of increasing the speed of learning new skills. To see the full list of articles in this series click here.

You don’t have to be a kid to learn a skill but frankly, mostly it is kids.

But whether you are 5 or 45, the trick to learning a skill from scratch is to find out how it feels to put the movement together then practice it until that feeling becomes natural.

Clever people like to call it kinaesthetic awareness.

The problem is that cricket movements are complicated. Think about the basic bowling action. It requires movement at every joint. And for the action to generate the most power, it also requires the movements to be very carefully timed together.

That’s why it’s important to have good general ‘physical literacy’ – because it’s easier to learn a new movement if you already know how your body moves.

But the best way to make the learning process easier is to make the movement easier too, and incorporate that into your drills. There are several ways to do this:

  • Reduce the pressure. Skills are much harder to learn under pressure so make the environment as easy as possible. For example if you take away the ball and the batsman when teaching the bowling action. Let the player get the right feel before they start worrying about outcomes like bowling a good length or getting wacked.
  • Increase the stability. The more stable the position the easier to learn the movement. For example, bowling from a standing position, or playing a front foot drive with your feet already set in the right position (rather than stepping from the stance).
  • Slow things down. There is evidence that the slower you do a movement, the faster it enters the muscle memory. There is a tennis coach who teaches his charges to swing very slowly first to ensure the mechanics are perfect before increasing the speed. You can do the same with bowling, any batting shot and basic fielding skills.

Of course, any skill you have broken down needs to be built back up eventually. But the trick is to master the skill at a simpler level before adding complexity.

Don’t create robots

I’ll admit this ‘reverse chaining’ approach is a highly systematic and formalised way of developing a skill. And it’s this type of coaching that often gets the blame for creating robotic cricketers with no individual flair.

So why would you do it?

For most youngsters getting once a week coaching it’s not an issue. They will be playing formal games, having informal knockabouts with a tennis ball in the park and playing other sports.  Simplified coaching will be just one way they are learning how to move.

And even if the only way a player learned was formal coaching, I would still be dubious as to how robotic it would make them. You can only have flair if you are world class at the basics.

In the next part we move on to look at how to groove skills that players already have. Click here to get the free newsletter and stay right up to date.

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3 Coaching tips from PitchVision Academy Live!

As a coach, I’m always looking for ways to improve my methods. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing knowledge.

One of the great benefits of our current tour, “PitchVision Academy Live!” is that I get to share ideas with coaches I would otherwise be unlikely to meet.

Here are three of the ideas that we shared at the Birmingham event PitchVision Academy Live!

Cricket food ideas: Linseed


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 126
Date: 2010-11-26