Pitchvision Academy

I’m not a big believer in over-simplifying advice. Yes, as a coach I try to keep things as simple as possible, but no simpler than necessary. That said, when it comes to bowling, there is no more simple advice than “bowl good length”.
This week we examine that idea in detail so see if it really is as simple as all that.
We also look at wicketkeeping drills, what makes a ball swing and what really makes a good coach.
Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

At Last: Proof that Hammering Length Gets Wickets (And How to Bowl Length Better)

It’s a mantra as old as overarm bowling: Put the ball on a good length for long enough and you will get your rewards. But in a world of slower balls, bouncers and inswinging yorkers, it’s an ideal we have forgotten.

Take Stuart Broad as an example. The England bowler spent a long time trying to work out what kind of role he had. Was he the enforcer; there to bowl bouncers and scare batsmen? Was he a line and length man; using swing and seam movement? How did this role change between formats, if at all?

It’s a confusing story, and one shared by many bowlers.

But it’s also a story which is blown out of proportion, because the mantra is still true: if you hit a good length consistently in any format you will get wickets.

It’s the current plan of the England side, but it also works at lower levels. I saw it myself in a 50 over game I played recently.

Proof length works

Our opening bowler - tall with good pace for non-professional level - had been having an average season. His pace was not up to usual standards and he was bowling too many boundary balls. The previous week he had gone for 11 in 2 overs, giving the opposition a great start.

At the next practice we had talked about how hitting length was more important than line. Good fast bowling in limited overs is not about the unplayable balls, but about staying in the game.

We practiced by monitoring his length on our PitchVision Solo.

Simply by making length his focus, we saw an increase in his success rate. We didn’t look at the line at all, deciding a good length ball outside off stump is as good as one hitting off stump because it’s hard to score.

On the Saturday he was brimming with confidence. We had set a big target to bowl at and he tore in. His opening 6 over spell yielded jumping batsmen, the keeper taking the ball chest high, 3 wickets (all caught behind) and just 7 runs.

4 of those were a thick outside edge.

And all because he was aiming at a length about 6.5m from the batsman’s stumps.

For me, this proves that when it comes to bowling you need to keep it simple.

How to improve fast bowling length

Practice by bowling without a batsman and tracking your accuracy (either with PitchVision or hand notation). Bowl like this a couple of times a week. Even if a batter is there (say at team nets) pretend that she isn’t. Keep aiming at a good length.

Keep a record of how many balls you bowl in the right place. Aim to improve this percentage with regular practice. Ignore your line as long as you are not bowling wides.

Then, when you are playing, just hit length. It doesn’t matter if you bowl at 145kph or 65kph. You will get results, and you will get them quickly.

What more proof can you need? 

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5 World Class Standing Up Drills to Fast-Track the Skills of Your Keepers

Variation of drill is one of the big challenges for a coach working with keepers. As we discussed last week, we should always remember that we need to keep the practice relevant to the match as possible.

Here are a number of standing up drills that support the staple diet of shadowing that we covered last week.

1.  Katchet drill

Place the Katchet board on a length in front of the keeper (3-5 metres from the stumps) and skim balls off of the board to the keeper. The ball will naturally deviate off of the board and simulate deviations off of the pitch or the bat.

You can also slant the board slightly to get different reactions from the surface. The closer the board gets to the keeper the quicker the keeper shall have to be to react to deflections. A keeper will be amazed how quick their reactions can be if their posture (Z' position) is good. 

An additional Katchet in front of the existing board adds a further distraction and different deflections from a more extensive length.

2.  Fusion MultiStump drill

Place the MultiStumps either just in front of the keeper (to simulate a back foot nick) or just over a metre in front of the popping crease (to simulate the front foot nick) and throw balls that either miss or clip the MultiStumps going through to the Standing Up Keeper. The deflections vary according to the part of the stump that the ball hits and gives a good variety of the deflection and distraction.

Remember to complete the drill to simulate both right and left hand handed batsmen. 

This drill can also be performed with spin bowlers instead of coach throwing to increase the specificity. A bowler can practice their own drills whilst servicing the drill need of the wicket keeper.

3. Bat nicking drill

The coach kneels on the ground directly in front of the keeper at a distance simulating the space between popping crease and a keeper standing up to the stumps. 

The coach holds the bat half way down the blade with dominant/bottom hand and with top hand on the handle opening the face of the bat towards the sky. 

The feeder delivers the underarm ball from a distance no further than 5 meters between waist and shoulder height of the coach. The coach nicks the ball or distracts the vision of the keeper with the bat. 

An upgrade would be to include a slip fielder so that he/she can get used to taking catches and viewing the ball with a keeper obstructing the flight path. 

Good "nickers" develop good catchers so practice this skill as a coach!

4. Hitting off the pitch

You can simulate the angles of deviation off of the pitch using a bat and cricket ball or tennis racquet and hard tennis ball. Use a half volley drop feed for and hit a one handed shot from the parts of the pitch that a bowler would pitch the ball. 

You can simulate the pace and deviation types that a specific bowler would create. So for example, to simulate an off spinner to a right hand batter you can hit from length just outside off stump and hit into the top of off stump, just outside off stump (simulating arm ball) and just outside leg stump (simulating big turning ball). 

You can use Fusion MultiStumps in the stump holes so that the keeper gets nick-like deflections off of the stumps, this adds again to the practice.

5. Batting glove/Fusion MultiStump swishing drill

Either using a batting glove or Fusion MultiStump, the coach swings the obstacle in front of the keeper simulating cuts and drives. Even if you don't hit many balls, the motion of the swing and the noise provides realistic stimulus that will test the keepers ability to stay relaxed and focus on the ball.

The deflections off of the glove or MultiStump are also realistic.

Have fun with these drills, use them alongside the shadowing drill from last week and see your keepers confidence go through the roof when standing up to the stumps. 



Cricket Show 164: Why Does the Ball Swing?

Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe talk cricket, KKR’s IPL success and why the ball swings this week. Friend of the show Laurence Houghton also joins us to discuss BATEX and performance analysis.
The mailbag is opened as usual, and this week we look into bowling beyond hitting cones, and how to bowl to left handers.

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Where Most People Go Wrong with Cricket Coaching Advice

There is a simple shorthand for what defines a good coach: reputation is everything. We look at a player’s first-class or International record and that helps us decide if we should follow his advice.

But you wouldn’t go to the dentist of you had a broken leg. So why go to a former player to fix your broken technique?

Of course, experience goes a long way but coaching cricket is a completely different set of skills than playing.

A Simple Tip for Improving Leg Side Takes for Wicketkeepers

Inspired by Mark Garaway's standing up drills, I did some work with some wicketkeepers on standing up to seamers.

We duly set up a drill with a bowling machine to work on leg side takes.

The machine was previously set up for right arm over, pitching on off stump, so rather than adjust the machine we:


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: 205
Date: 2012-06-01