Pitchvision Academy


When you play cricket regularly you tend to view the opposition with a healthy suspicion. They are your foes on the field after all. But what’s it really like at other clubs?

That’s the question we aimed to answer in full in this week’s newsletter. Using Watsonian CC as a case study we “get under the hood” of another club to find out how they deal with the problems all sides face.

Plus we look at opening the bowling with a spinner, rotating the strike and a unique way coaches can help players go big and score hundreds.

Have a great weekend, 

David Hinchliffe

You Are Not Alone: Do You Recognise These 5 Problems in Your Cricket Club?

It doesn’t matter what sort of cricket you play: Clubs the world over face the same problems and are looking for solutions.

Take Watsonian; the PitchVision Academy adopted club. The side are the top of the league cricket tree. They have aspiring professionals and play at well maintained grounds. Yet when I visited the club I discovered that they have as many problems to handle as anyone else.

The difference is that good clubs don’t let the frustration get the better of them. Here are 5 ways Watsonian are taking positive steps to deal with problems both on and off the field:

1. It rains

As I arrived in Edinburgh early on Thursday evening it started to rain. I cursed the weather because I was due to watch senior training in less than 2 hours. What I didn’t know was that a little rain was not going to stop things.

I stood under the trees at Myreside - home ground of Watsonian and local public school George Watson’s College – and saw 16 players arrive from their day jobs and kick a football around for an hour in the steady drizzle.

The old vs. young game was as competitive as any serious match.

'Sonians make the most of a rained-off practice session

Wet and satisfied with the workout they retired to the bar.

The team ethic was already becoming clear. These boys turn out in their numbers even when there is no chance of a ball being bowled.

2. A few people do all the work

Talking to the players in the bar after training, one name kept popping up. I had met the lively President, Ross Brooks, earlier that day carrying bagfuls of training clothes.

It soon became apparent that it wasn’t unusual: He was always doing something for the club and players were quick to recognise this. The sentence of the weekend seemed to be “I don’t know how he finds the time”.

All clubs needs men with boundless energy to give everything they can. Most club players don’t do much in the running of the club and it falls to those with a deep passion for giving more than they ever get back. Men like Ross.

I know your club has at least one too, so be sure and take the time to thank them.

3. Personalities clash within a team

It’s hard for an outsider to get a feel for the dynamic of a team, but when you have 11 players there is bound to be friction.

Despite the overall strong atmosphere, I did see up close how two players rubbed each other up the wrong way.

It was senior player and a youngster: both are highly ambitious. The senior player clearly expected certain things that the younger man felt didn’t match his goals. I saw the tension in a few guarded comments and thought how I have seen these types of exchanges in every club I have ever played and watched.

This is where a good captain is able to manage such relationships. It’s a difficult task for players who are unpaid and see each just a couple of times a week. It means the skipper needs to understand people to an even deeper level and work out subtle ways of dealing with the tension before it starts to influence player’s performances.

4. Its not easy relying on others

Like every club, Watsonians are not self-contained. They rely on others to help them get 3 teams out every Saturday and it can sometimes be frustrating.

In the ‘Sonians case, there is a very close tie in to George Watson’s College. The school owns and maintains the Myreside ground; talented schoolboys play club cricket for Watsonians. Yet each organisation has its own cricketing plans.

Ross Brooks told me he works especially hard at keeping the relationship good. It’s an organisational “marriage” in many ways and requires skilful handling.

I’ve played in clubs where relationships have been handled awfully by intractable administrator; relationships end up sour and the club causes greater problems.

What stands out about the Watsonian reaction is the positive frame. Of course people complain (its human nature) but Ross deals with it by trying hard to find solutions that work for both sides.

5. Gentlemen vs. Players

Watsonians have players at extremes of the club cricket scale. On one hand there are the serious guys: young players looking for ways to get a professional contract, club professionals and former higher level players still wanting to perform at club level. On the other, there are guys who are in it as much for the banter and post match drink as they are for the runs and wickets.

It’s the modern version of the old “Gentlemen and Players” attitude to cricket.

I know from experience this happens at every club. You need both because games wouldn’t be much fun without the mickey-taking just as much as they wouldn’t be any good without consistent performers winning games.

Problems occur when the two sides start looking at each other and deciding the other approach is wrong.

At Watsonian there is a healthy respect within the two groups. The Gentlemen know where to draw the line (mostly) and when to put the game face on. The Players are up for a laugh when the time is right. It’s not easy to strike this balance, but in my view it’s where every club should strive to be.

Again it’s the captain who holds the key. At Watsonian Craig Wright garners tremendous respect through his experience. He uses it to focus the Players and reign in the Gentlemen in perfect balance.

This is why a strong captain is so important to any club side with ambitions.

We will look in more detail at how Watsonian CC do things in future articles. If you want to learn lessons for your club, get the PitchVision Academy newsletter. 

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How to Coach Batsmen to “Daddy” Hundreds

Former England batsman Graeme Gooch is known for advising players to score “daddy” hundreds: When you get your eye in, take the chance and score very big.

It’s sound advice that as a coach you have no doubt given to players. Yet the way we practice is the opposite of the way we score big runs. It’s no wonder player’s score a pretty 25 and get out to a lazy shot.

In a normal net players bat for 10 minutes, do no running and face a range of bowlers bowling different balls every few seconds. It encourages pretty batting for a short period and slogging at the end.

When a batter makes a big score the routine is totally different.

Overs are bowled, there are long breaks between balls and - even in a one day game - you will be out running in the middle for over 2 hours to get to a hundred.

As a coach you need to find a way to better bridge that gap in the time available.

Here is what you do.

Never stop working on technique

When it comes to batting, you can’t work on technique enough.

Perfection rarely comes in the middle, but you should be striving to get there in practice. The more you work to develop excellent techniques, the less likely batsmen are to get out. This works because:

  • Good technique prevents common faults creeping in
  • Good technique develops a player’s internal confidence
  • Good technical practice delivers highly specific conditioning to batting

If you can keep your shape after an hour of hitting tennis balls, you are more able to do so in the middle, and you know it.

So work on technique at every training session.

The ideal is 2 hours a week of pure technical work in the off season. You can get away with less during the summer.

However, if you have an hour a week with the club under 15 batsmen maybe you only spend 10 minutes on technical development. The point is, use whatever time you have to get as close to perfection as possible.

Middle practice

Middle practice is a great way to mix up in-season training and helps players get in the rhythm of a match without as much pressure as playing.

It needs to be carefully set up and well organised, but batsmen get longer at the crease while bowlers get to bowl in spells.

The downside is that you need a lot of space.

You can’t do middle practice without a middle on which to practice. If the club groundsman/curator is a little precious you could struggle to even get an old wicket on which to play. Plus, there is no way to do middle practice indoors at winter nets.

If all you have is nets then the last option is perfect.

Change net practice

There is a way to combine net practice with all the good parts of middle practice, and add in some specific conditioning work for batsmen.

It’s called BATEX, and it’s been designed by a cricketer working on his PhD at the University of Western Australia – Laurence Houghton.

BATEX is an audio cue that is designed to develop both fitness and batting rhythms by using running between the wickets in nets.  Players use BATEX to get the feel of what it is like to bat for that long period, and score that “daddy” hundred.

It’s simple to use in one-to-one, small groups and even squad training because all you require is a portable CD/MP3 player in your normal net session. It’s flexible enough to be used in a 20 minute session or for over 2 hours if you have the time.

Players listen to the cues, follow the instructions and get better at batting.

BATEX changes training from “having a hit” to making real progress in net sessions.

And right now it’s available on PitchVision Academy with full instructions on how, why and when to use it. You get the BATEX files, a 41 minute audio guide and a 19 page e-manual featuring the science behind BATEX, a full year training programme and instructions on how to customise use to your needs as a coach (or a player).

Click to buy How to Instantly Improve Net Practice with BATEX now.


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Cricket Show 113: What Happened in Edinburgh?

The show is packed to the rafters with cricket advice and analysis this week as we take a detailed look at a week with Watsonian Cricket Club.

We have interviews with club pro Tim Weston and captain Craig Wright. I also recorded a diary of the grudge game against rivals Grange CC. That means you get tips on how to become a professional, an insight into how a club side like yours manage a game and ways a captain can help his team work on weak areas.

Burners and David have not forgotten your questions either. We take some questions on the Laws of cricket and give a detailed answer to a common problem of feeling like you don’t know how to score runs as a batsmen. 

How to Get in Touch With the Show

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How to Open the Bowling with Spin

We might think of it as a bold and innovative IPL-style tactic, but spinners have been opening the effectively bowling for years. Yet it’s still under-used in club cricket.

In my mind there is a place for defying convention and opening with spin. You just have to know who, when and how.

So, as a spinner, when might you be called on to bowl the first over of the innings?

Here’s A Simple Way to Improve Your Strike Rotation

Ask any club captain and one of the first things he will bemoan about his team is the lack of ability to rotate the strike.

Sure, decent batsmen put the bad ball away. It’s not so easy when the pitch is tricky, the bowling is tight and the field is set to squeeze. The run rate drops and you find it difficult to set a total.


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: 150
Date: 2011-05-13