Pitchvision Academy


We are heading deeper and deeper into a world of technology, and cricket is no different from the rest. So this week we look into smart-net technology and how it is transforming nets like the iPhone transformed phones.

Plus, we examine slip fielding and leg spin bowling in equally innovative ways to help you improve or improve others.

Don't miss out, get reading and enjoying!

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Why Nets are Like the iPhone


Think about the phone you owned 7 years ago. I'm willing to bet that it didn't do much more than be a phone.

Then the iPhone arrived.

Since then, think about how much mobile phones have progressed. They are now small computers that many people rely on to run their lives. I know I do. It's evolved fast.

In that same time period, cricket nets have stayed broadly the same. In fact they have not changed much since some bright spark thought to string some netting around a pitch to save fielders chasing the ball. That was a long time ago. Bowlers bowl and batters bat in the same way that happened when WG Grace was the best player in the world.

But recently this has changed. The net still exists, just like the phone is still a phone. The difference is now that the net does more than catch the ball.

The phone became a smart-phone.

The net has become the smart-net.

Venues like The Cricket Asylum, The Taranaki Cricket Association and, most recently, Essex County Cricket Club are building PitchVision into the surface of their nets. It means that bowler and batters can continue to do what they do, and the net grabs all the information for them.

Having a WG Grace style hit, or rolling your arm over instantly becomes a thing of the past. You can see quickly and efficiently exactly what is happening in a thousand more interesting ways than hoping you remember (because you won't, nobody can).

Think about the implications of having access to that breadth and depth of information about your game on hand. Guesswork and memory is gone. Knowledge is power and performance goes up.

Coaches and players who have had this information at their fingertips start to wonder how they managed without it. When you go back to an ordinary net you get the same feeling to going back to an old phone after using an iPhone: Cut off, missing out and anxious you are out of touch.

So while having a smartnet is still not quite as easy as buying an iPhone, the times are changing for cricket. The future is about coexisting with easy-to-use technology just like right now it's easy to own a tiny computer in your pocket that also does calls.

What is a "smart-net"

A smart-net or smart-pitch a normal cricket net with sensors installed that detect the impact of the ball, and cameras capturing the action. The information is instantly sent back to a laptop for the coach and player to review.

What kind of information does it report?

Just about everything you can imagine: Line, length, spin and seam movement off the pitch for bowlers; direction and power of shots for batsmen. You can also link every ball to cameras to replay the bowling action or batting technique.

So, it's just like Hawkeye then?

Yes and no. It returns the kind of information you are used to seeing on the TV, but the difference is that PitchVision is designed for any net environment. It can be used by groups of bowlers and batters and doesn't need special cameras and huge computer banks. It runs off a lead to a laptop.

Is it better than a coach?

Absolutely not, it's a tool for a coach or a player to use. It provides information to coach, learn and correct. It's hard to watch and remember every player’s performance. With a Smart-net, information is instantly available and totally objective. But like any tool, it's only as good as the user.

What does it look like?

It looks like a cricket net. A sensor is installed under the surface of the lane, and more sensors are hung from the side and rear netting. All the information is sent wirelessly so all you see is a cricket net and a laptop.

Where can I use one?

Here’s a few places that use smart-nets that are open to the public:

  • Australia: Southern Academy, Perth
  • England: Cricket Asylum, Yorkshire
  • Trinidad: Queens Park
  • South Africa: Complete Cricketer Academy, Cape Town
  • New Zealand: Taranaki Cricket Association
  • India: Delhi Premier League

How can I find out more about using one?

If you want a smart net at your indoor facility contact Neil Fairbairn at PitchVision

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The Slip Fielding Science Lab: Experiment to Get Better Catching

I want you to look at a couple of pictures.

The first is Dennis Lillee in his pomp. 9 slip fielders in a range of 'ready positions'. Some are crouched low and others more upright, ready for the edge.

The second is 4 slip fielders all in similar ready positions: Lots of knee flexion and hands low in a keeper-like position.

I would be bold enough to suggest that the more contemporary image demonstrates a group of players who have been influenced by external forces (coaching, sports science, TV). Effectively, each member of that cordon is trying to get in the same position and adopt the same posture.

The 1970's image depicts slip fielders taking up the positions that each individual feels is best for them to complete the job.

So, which one is best?

As coaches, we are very good at putting technique into boxes. "This is the best batting stance", "lean into the shot with your head", "everyone should walk in", "keep your weight on your toes when fielding at cover", "all great fast bowlers have a long delivery stride".

Yet, I would say this is more convenient than correct.

I bet you are now challenging each one of my statements above (quite rightly) and picturing players who have been great and not done the things I have written.

So why should all slip fielders get down low, creating significant flexion in their legs and have their hands low as in the 4 man slip cordon image?

I would speculate that at least 2 of the players in the modern image move most effectively by not bending his legs significantly (concentric energy)

I know that the concentric position is perfect for Mike Hussey. Compare it to his batting stance which is also wide and has significant leg flexion. Yet I would challenge or test the other 3 slips to experiment with a more upright posture, less leg flexion and slightly narrower stance.

So my challenge to both players and coaches this weekend is to experiment with slip fielding ready positions in practice your practices and warm ups. Try both of the following methods:

  1. Wide, Knees flexed, hands low, chin up. Think Graeme Smith, Kevin Pietersen or Alistair Cook. Move to the ball by pushing off from the ground with the feet and legs. Catch a few, move right, left, up and down and notice how that feels and looks.
  2. Narrower, less flexion in the legs, head forward, chin down. Think Mark Waugh, Paul Collingwood or Andrew Strauss. Move your head to the ball and the rest of the body will follow.

See which one feels better, ask someone to video each ready position on their phone and compare.

One will be you preferred method as it will fit with your natural way of moving.

Once you have established that, practice so hard that you master it.

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Cricket Show S4 Episode 27: Becoming Left Handed

Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe discuss planning in coaching, vertical jumps in bowlers and switching to batting left handed. It's not as crazy as you think!

Plus we catch up with Matthew Dawson of The Cricket Asylum.


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This is show number 220.

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Ask the Readers: Help Jack Improve his Bowling Action

Can you help a young spin bowler to improve?

Recently we were contacted by Jack who said:

"This season I've returned to leg spin. Occasionally I get criticised by our captain as I'm not "finishing off my action". I know that when I do, I get drift and dip, and take wickets. Could you have a quick look at my action in the attached video and see if you have any thoughts?"

This question was interesting to me because Jack didn't point out any problems he is having. Only a vague awareness that something might be wrong.

So I thought this would be an excellent challenge for the PitchVision community to discuss.

What can Jack do to improve his action?

What to do When You Lose Your Leg Break

Menno Gazendam is author of Spin Bowling Project. Get your free 8 week spin bowling course here

Hardik enrolled on my course, and had a follow up question:

"I used to spin a ball big, but then I tried to learn the wrong one. So I kept practising but then I lost my leg spin. How do I get that my leg spin back and then learn to bowl wrong one?"

Oh boy. That does not sound good!


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: 263
Date: 2013-07-12