Pitchvision Academy

Technology and cricket have always gone hand in hand. Right now the advent of affordable ways to integrate new technology into playing and coaching has brought it to the forefront of our minds. Well, that and the furore over every DRS decision.
So this week we look in detail at the implications of technology for grass-roots cricket. As always you can join the conversation by adding your comments.

Have a great weekend,  

David Hinchliffe

Umpire’s Call: Why DRS Is Changing Grass-Roots Cricket

It seems a Test series can’t be played without a controversy around the Decision Review System (DRS) technology. The system has utilised computer modelling and even military grade heat cameras to help the top level come to the right decision.

And there is a knock on effect to the games played at grass-roots level, even when the highest-tech item on the oval is a cricket bat.

And as far as I’m concerned it’s good for the game.

The DRS has given international umpires confidence to give out LBW on the front foot, especially to spinners.  The margin for error that DRS allows – the infamous “umpires call” – means elite umpires are rarely overturned because they rarely make glaring errors.

Top batsmen have responded with the simple tactic of playing the ball with the bat.

Gone are the days of thrusting a pad out and pretending to play a shot with the bat tucked behind the pad. The modern way is to get down the pitch and play with your bat a long way out in front of your pad.

Kevin Pietersen demonstrates the method here:

It also means the practice of sweeping off the stumps is seen as much higher risk. Yes, it is still an important shot when you want to score quickly, but the LBW risk makes it a risky shot saved for the death of one day innings or Twenty20 matches.

But all this is good practice at any level. You don’t need the excuse of DRS.

Any time you get hit on the pad you are risking being given out LBW. The lower the level you play, the lower the umpiring standards and so the more likely you are to be given out by a poor decision.

The umpire can far more confidently say that he thought the ball was hitting the stumps and point to how often it happens at the top level. The old rule that you can’t be out LBW on the front foot is dead.

Young cricketers can emulate their heroes even without DRS. If you are using your bat you can’t be out LBW. If you are sweeping carefully – to balls the pitch outside leg stump – you can rotate the strike safely.

So whether you coach 11 year old players, you play club cricket or you are in an Academy you can take the lessons from DRS and adapt your technique. It means when the time comes for you to play a televised match you will be ready.

It also helps to track your performance in this area, trying to adapt your game to reduce how often you get hit on the pads. An easy way to do this is to let PitchVision track your performance. PitchVision can adjudge LBW like DRS can so you can practice playing with the bat over the pad and find out how well you are doing by how many times the system gives you out.

It’s just one of the many benefits of using PitchVision to train seriously for cricket, and I highly recommend it for all serious clubs, schools, Academies, cricketers and private coaches wanting a reliable, hassle-free way to monitor training performance. 

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Fingers Up or Down: Which Catching Technique is Better?

I am often asked if the "English" method of high catching (fingers down) is better than its "Australian" counterpart.

The simple answer is that both methods have their merits so I teach both because individual players have their own preferences.  Also the ball arrives at us at different heights and angles. This in turn dictates which of the two methods is best to use when taking a catch.

With both methods, the vital consideration for a fielder is to use his footwork effectively to get under the flight of the ball as early as possible.  So the first point is always to use footwork to get to the ball.

Australian method

The advantage of the Australian method of catching is that it encourages fielders to make contact with the ball above their eye line. As a result, the fielder can watch the ball for longer as it goes into their hands and if a fumble occurs, he often gets a second bite at the catch.

It is important to create a big and strong catching area with the hands and this is achieved by placing your thumb and forefinger of one hand over the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. It creates a web like strong structure that no cricket ball can break.

The fingers are spread and the catching area is immense.

I often ask very young players to create their catching area with their hands and then place a ball in their open hands to show how "small" they can make the ball look in their huge catching area. This helps to build early confidence in the young players as they embark on a life of taking spectacular high catches.

Times when the Australian Method may not be the best option:

  • When the ball's trajectory is dipping beneath the line of your shoulders (Flatter hit from the middle which is falling short of the fielder)
  • When a dive is required
  • When you’re running at full-tilt

The English method often works better in these instances.

The Australian method is tends to be used by fielders right on the boundary edge. Kevin Pietersen prefers this catching style and has taken a number of catches with the Australian style in his specialist mid on and deep mid on fielding position in ODI and T20 Cricket.

English method
Again, a huge catching area is vital.

Interlink the two little fingers and butt together the heel of your hands to create the strong catching structure. Players often forget to spread the thumbs out and this is achieved by moving your elbows closer together.

Note the effect that the elbows have on the size and shape of the catching area.

As with the Australian catching method, players should be encouraged to raise their hands slightly above their eye line and for the head and hands to be in close proximity.

As we have discussed previously, the closer we keep our head and our hands, the more control we have over a catching opportunity. 

Many players will start of making contact with the ball around their waistband and this is fraught with danger. Obviously, if we fumble the ball there is little chance of us getting a second go and also, it is very difficult to track the ball with our eyes once the ball has passed our eye line on its descent.

So take the ball at Eye Level whenever possible.

So going back to the original question; which one is better?

They are both highly valid methods and players should be coached to develop their skill in both techniques so that individual player can choose which one to use for any type of high or boundary catch.

It's a bit like a set of golf clubs, a golfer chooses the club that fits the shot distance that he/she is faced with. You can now choose the appropriate catch method to meet the catching challenge presented by the flight of the ball off the bat.

So encourage your players to master both Styles, have fun with your catching practices and watch the success of your fielding unit flow.  

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The art of using technology in cricket coaching

A bad butcher with a sharp knife is still a bad butcher.

And for cricket coaches, technology is the same: A shiny tool can make you feel like you are going to make a difference to players. But in reality the best thing technology can do is add to good coaching, not make bad coaches better.

And at worst, technology can become a distraction from the coaching process. You can spend so much time tinkering that you get less done than you would have if you had just set up some cones and balls.

But that’s where the art of using technology comes in.

As affordable technology like PitchVision becomes more prevalent, coaches at every level will need to have a new set of skills. The challenge is to get the most from modern tools without distracting from improving players ability.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but here is how you can do it.

Coaching plan

As you already know, the best way to get results is to have a goal and a plan how to get to that goal.

So when you are deciding on how to use technology, always start with your goal.

Many coaches don’t do this, for example, seeing that a video camera is affordable and buying it for “video analysis” before they know exactly how it will help meet the goal.

It makes more sense to look at it the other way. Let’s take the example of wanting to help your bowler’s improve their accuracy. A good traditional method of doing this is target practice; lay down cones and bowl at them until you can hit the target with accuracy.

But it’s hard to keep track of every ball a bowler delivers so you can use a technology like PitchVision to track this for you over sessions and seasons. The technology is seamlessly becoming part of your plan instead of you having to adapt to the technology.

For me it’s all about dictating terms.

Decide what you want the technology to do rather than let it control what you do. Use it as one of the tools in your toolbox rather than trying to replace the whole box with something shiny.

That way you get to use the cool stuff and still be a better coach. 

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5 Cheap but Effective Cricket Innovations to Improve your Game

 Using technology to improve your cricket isn’t always about spending a lot of money. Sometimes you can get excellent results without a large investment upfront.

But you have to be careful too. There are many products on the market making big claims. Not all of them are as good as they make out. So here are 5 of my top picks for technology that you can pick up cheaply and make a difference to your game.

Respecting the Umpire is About More than the Spirit of Cricket

 It shouldn’t come as a surprise that cricketers disrespect umpires.

The incident in the IPL where Harbhajan Singh argued with the umpire so hard he forced a review is just another example of the Spirit of Cricket being ignored. Dissent goes back as far as WG Grace (probably further). Cricket is not a gentleman’s game.

But the thing that got me about the Mumbai Indians vs. Deccan Chargers flare up was that Harbajan wasn’t playing the game to his advantage.


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: 198
Date: 2012-04-13