Pitchvision Academy


Cricket is a batsman's game. So this week I'm redressing the balance a bit with some bowling tips for you. Even the batsman can benefit though. If you know your enemy you are more likely to succeed.

Articles this week include a question about what makes a good length, wrist position and swing bowling and injury prevention advice.

There is also an article from 14 year old Shaaz: A player with big ambitions and no fear about writing about them. His efforts are inspiring to us all.

Have a great weekend (and Happy Diwali to all Hindu and Sikh readers),

David Hinchliffe

Are we looking at length bowling the wrong way?

It's the classic mantra of coaches to their seam and swing bowlers: Bowl a good line and length for success.

Line is easy, aim for that 'corridor' on and just outside off stump.

As to length: Do we really know what good length is and are there exceptions to the rule?

Which end is best to understand bowling length?

A good length is a good length all over the world. It's the area on the wicket where the ball pitches and the batsman is in two minds whether to go forward or back.

While certain factors can vary this length, modern computer analysis of length has shown this area is somewhere between 4-7m (4.3-7.7 yards) from the batsman.

The question is: Why are we looking at it from the batters perspective?

It seems to make more sense to look at it from the bowler's point of delivery. That makes a good length 11-14m (12-15.3 yards) from the bowler's popping crease.

Here is a diagram so you can visualise things. It's the green area on the wicket:

This seems to me to be easier for bowlers because they can look at a length from their perspective and not have to worry about the batter's view.

The picture is from the PitchVision Coach Edition software that is part of the PitchVision system. For the first time it has allowed us at club level to quantify exactly what a good length is which is very exciting.

Why is the area so large?

The 'good length' area is quite large because a true good length can vary depending on:

  • The type of bowler. Spinners have the fullest good length. Swing bowlers aim slightly fuller than seam bowlers. The height and pace of a bowler effects the amount of bounce they get so taller quicker bowlers tend to have a less full length.
  • The pace and bounce of the pitch. The faster and bouncier the pitch the further back a good length tends to be. The slower and lower the pitch the more full a good length is. Although this only has a small influence on length and usually only at the extremes of pitch examples.
  • The type of batsman. Some batters will drive 'on the up' to a ball you consider to be a good length. These players see a good length as further back. Others with more back foot tendencies will play back to the same length ball; to counter this you will move your length to the fuller end of the scale.

A good bowler is able to find the right length quickly and pin it down. As a general rule you start somewhere in the middle of a good length (12-13m from your popping crease) and make small adjustments as you go along.

I think as we start getting data from around the world from PitchVision we will start to be able to refine this information even further. Something until now only the top internationals has done. If you are a bowler this is a coaching tool you can use to find your length more easily than trial and error.

When is a good length not a good length?

Generally speaking, a good length is your best strategy in most situations. The longer the format, the truer that is. However there are some exceptions:

  • The batting side is hitting out. Be it a T20 match or an attempt to set a target in longer games, a good length can be suicide. Batsman can swipe across a good length over extra cover or midwicket for easy slogged runs. In this situation you can try a bouncer if you are fast enough or yorkers if you are not (or both if you are good).
  • You need to try something new. Aside from quicker bowlers throwing in the odd bouncer, there is another situation you can try a variation away from a good length. You look at the scoreboard and its 156-0. You have tried slower balls, bouncers and asking the captain to take you off. One extra variation could be a wide half volley length ball. You never know the batsman might be over confident and nick off.

I'm interested in your opinion here. What is a good length to you, and would you benefit from being able to measure it over time like you can with PitchVision.

Leave a comment and let me know.

Image credit: pj_in_oz

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Diary of a future cricket star: The return

After a long layoff from his diary, miCricketCoach reader and cricketer Shaaz is back. He is a 14 year old all rounder who has already played for the UAE Under 15's, Young Talent Cricket Academy and Talent Cricket Club. In the future he plans on a long and illustrious International career. Follow his progress here.

I've learned a lot since I wrote the last post in this series. I've done a lot too.

I have been practicing regularly: At least an hour a day. However, I've had many setbacks along the way.

Once I twisted my ankle and got a stiff-neck type injury, something like cervical spondilitis (I can still feel the pain when I say that) at the same time. I had to get it treated and it was three weeks before I could play cricket again.

I also had to fight my way through a lot of stress, especially before exams, since I have to maintain academic standards too.

I realized that everything wasn't going the way I wanted it to. I decided to become a 24/7 athlete. I started making decisions by asking myself 'Will this help me with my cricket?', and every time I did, it gave me satisfaction throughout the day, satisfaction that I used to get only during practice sessions.

I started seeing things in a different light.

When I injured my right ankle, I started hopping around my house (and climbing stairs) on my left foot, and considered it training for my weaker left leg. Instead of usual practice, I learned relaxation techniques and did lots of visualization.

During my last vacation, when I visited India, I found out a lot of things about the structure of Indian cricket. I went to matches and found out about local players so that I knew how much competition I would have to face. I talked to the authorities of various schools that give importance to cricket in India.

I'll be going to India for my education once I finish my 10th grade.

I have also made lots of friends along the way, and they have all helped me. I have realized that I have lots of friends who could help me reach my goal of becoming a cricketer. I've heard somewhere that you are less than ten people away from anyone on earth.

Turning the negatives around

When I first started playing cricket, I would ask people if I could play for my country. They usually tell me it's hard or near impossible. They would say that only 11 players out a billion were selected to play for the country. This  often left me in a negative mood.

But slowly, most of the players whom I thought would make great cricketers, started giving up.

The usual comments were:
  • "There are too many good players"
  • "You'll need lots of political connections"
  • and lots more.

But when I simply believed that I still had chances and held on to my dream when my friends ditched theirs, I realized that this is how most of the players who could have become cricketers, end up not being one: Most of them give up cricket. Of all the various junior cricketers I know, only very few even believe they might be able to play a high level of cricket.

I started asking my coaches and friends different question:

"How can I become a great cricketer?"

I got excellent answers on how to practive and many stories about cricketer. Most coaches seem to know atleast one professional cricketer. I even learned that one of my coaches had played the 1996 World Cup!

After I asked one of my coaches this question, he took a great interest in me, and started helping me a lot during coaching sessions.

Mental Strength

Most of my development as a player has been mental. My results as a batsman and bowler have improved tremendously, and are exactly where I want them to be.

I learn a lot every single day.

Once in a recent match I had trouble with my bowling. I realized it was the thick grass I was running in on. So, I started practicing on thick grass in my neighbourhood. The first day I did badly, but I made up for it on the second day. I went home from practice telling myself "Excellent. Now there's nothing stopping you Shaaz! I can't believe how fast I adapted!"

My excitement didn't last for long. The next day, all the balls I bowled strayed in line and length and I wasn't at my best. The thick grass made it hard for me to remain stable throughout. So without changing the way I run, I ran in looking at the stumps and made sure that the off stump didn't shake as I ran in. This worked great!

Then I became aware of another problem.

I couldn't bowl well after a long innings (I am opening bat and opening bowler). I twisted my back a lot to gain pace at times and my legs were weak. I ended up bowling with a mixed action, and strayed in line & length. 

So I began practicing bowling after some batting and running, simulating match conditions.
I had long before read an article on miCoach on feeling the earth beneath you and breathing. As soon as I pictured myself as a tiny dot on the vast area of land on the earth, I realized that the earth was actually carrying me. A sense of lightness took over my body, and the way I ran changed (I guess it was the part of the feet I used to run that changed a bit).

These are things I learnt from trial and error and it's better than being coached directly.

You know what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong. You understand the full extent of your strengths and weaknesses. 

I practice lots, and I also take time to check if I'm practicing correctly. I enjoy the hard work - it's really sad I have to call it 'hard' work!

It's pretty easy, and everything flows when you are enjoying the game and not trying too hard. It's just like what Malcolm Gladwell says - I don't even remember how I hit my sixes, it all happens in a flash!

Photo credit: Seema KK

Want to start your own training diary or log? Start one in the miCricketCoach Training Logs section today!

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Bowling around the pole: Wrist position and swing bowling

In the art of swing bowling, subtle and minor adjustments can make major differences to the amount and type of swing you get.

It's easy to see what the grip looks like for inswing and outswing. It's also easy to see if you are making chances of swing improve by having an upright seam position as the ball travels towards the batsman.

The difficult, almost imperceptible, difference is your wrist position at the point of delivery. It's one of those 'feel' things you get as a bowler that can be hard for a coach to demonstrate.

Where does the wrist go?

In seam up bowling (rather than swing), the idea is to hit the pitch with the seam. The way to do that is to release the ball with a vertical seam and your wrist following right behind, facing the batsman. This makes sense because if your wrist does not follow your fingers the seam will wobble and be less effective.

Swing bowling takes this principle and allows you to encourage late swing through both wrist and angled seam position (as long as you don't scramble the seam in the process).

So the seam stays upright, what do you do with your wrist?

This is where things start to get hard to explain.

In fact, I thought long and hard before writing this article. Is it worth trying to explain when wrist position is so reliant on the bowler getting the right feel? I thought on balance I would at least try. Here is my attempt.

If you want to bowl outswing, you soften the wrist a little so the wrist almost leads the fingers. If you want to bowl inswing you keep the wrist firmer.

Use the seam position as a rudder.

Another way of looking at it is from Bob Woolmer:


"The best way of visualizing the correct arm and wrist action for the outswinger is to imagine putting a pole into the pitch on the bowling crease. Now try bowling around the pole, your arm coming round it on the right hand side... go 'round the pole' with your wrist only"


For inswing, Bob advised going round the other side of the pole.

Clearly this very small change takes some practice to get the exact feel of release and seam position you need. This can be difficult of you are practicing in conditions where the ball is not swinging.

That may be the reason swing bowling is such a mystery. Conditions have to be right and even your pace on the day makes a difference to how much it swings.

But with practice, you can get the feel you are after and start swinging the ball more regularly.

Image credit: cyberdees


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How to protect yourself from the 4 most common cricket injuries

Sports scientists know a lot about how cricketers get injured, but oddly there is no study on the prevention of injury.

That's left up to the coaches and players themselves.

You could turn to a gym to organise an injury prevention training plan, but often commercial gyms have little understanding of the needs of cricketers.

Field settings: Right arm fast, outswing, new ball, fast wicket, long format

This article is part of "The complete guide to cricket field settings" series.

This is a very attacking field that is rarely seen, even at the top level. It requires a genuinely fast bowler (at club level that is around 80mph or 129kph) on a pitch that is very quick.

The idea is all out attack where the bowler holds the advantage and wickets are the main consideration.


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: 19
Date: 2008-10-31