Pitchvision Academy


It's a bit of a coaching special in this edition. Mark Garaway talks about what he learned from his old mate Graeme Smith, Sam Lavery tells us to "get on with it", and new coach Max Andrews reveals his tale of going from mediocre spinner to wizard.

And, if you have ever struggled against bouncers, there is a systematic approach to learning the techniques and confidence of dealing with the short ball.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Key Coaching Lessons from my Time with Graeme Smith


I have known, worked with and admired Graeme Smith for many years. Over the years he taught me some valuable coaching lessons.

I first met "Biff" when he was a 18 year old lad straight out of school. He played some club cricket in the UK and was in my Hampshire Board XI for a few games. I was impressed with his maturity and sense of fun; less impressed with his "grubby" technique.

The key lessons that I learnt from the great man are:


Listen to your body; Not everybody

I was a young coach who knew about technique. In my view, this Smith bloke wouldn't play 1st class cricket.

His technique was poor. His grip was closed, his stance too cramped and he hardly hit the ball through the off side. He had no chance..

9000 Test runs and nearly 7000 ODI runs later it could be said that my initial view was poor!

Graeme found a way to politely ignore the advice that told him to change his grip, stand taller at the crease and lead with his head; choosing to listen to his body instead. It's a vital message for all players: Trust yourself first and sift the information from coaches that supports your preferences.

Let me give you another example. In a championship match against Leicester, Graeme came out for some pre-match throws. He hit his first 3 balls sweet as a nut and then walked off saying "cheers Garas, I feel great today". He went on to score 311 in 255 balls getting out in the 80th over of the day!

Talk about knowing yourself!

Change the environment. Change the behaviour

Graeme was my captain at Somerset in 2005 we played a group T20 game away at Northamptonshire. Our warm up was terrible, the atmosphere in the changing room was nervous and negative. Biff and I chatted about it only minutes before we went out to field in front of a full house.

Biff then jumped into my seat and started jabbing me in the ribs. I whacked him back before he picked me up, threw me into my seat, gave me a smile and shouted to the squad "right lads, let's go and be brilliant today!".

3 overs later, with ice on my ribs, Northants were 18-2 and we were alive and firing, the nerves were a distant memory. We won the game and progressed out of our group.

Graeme had done something which distracted the group from their nerves and negativity, changed their focus and placed a positive statement over the top. This is high quality NLP practice.

Amazingly, Smith was only 23 years old.

Big players stand up in big matches

The Mark of a great player is how they impact upon the biggest games and the toughest situations. Graeme Smith did this repeatedly.

Somerset were chasing down 114 in a reduced overs T20 Final against Lancashire at the Oval in 2005. Smith and Marcus Trescothick stood at the top of the stairs ready to face Flintoff, Anderson, Chappel, Cork and Symonds.

Young Player: "We're gonna win aren't we coach?"

Garas: "Yes fella"

Young Player: "He (pointing at Smith) is going to be Man of the Match isn't he?"

Garas: "Correct!"

Result: G. Smith 64 not out. Somerset win with 11 balls to spare.

When South Africa were under pressure, Biff always led from the front. His 90 in 55 balls set up the onslaught which helped chase 434 in a world-record ODI innings against Australia in 2006.

In 2008, his 154* was a masterpiece against my England team as he single handedly chased down 283 to secure South Africa's 1st series win in England. Whilst the loss hurt, I couldn't help but be proud of my mate.

I have learnt a heap from Graeme Smith, is there anything in here that you can take into your game or your coaching?

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 9: Introverted Field Settings

David Hinchliffe, Mark Garaway and Sam Lavery get together to discuss field settings. How much is instinct, and how much is planning? Then the team delve into the question of how we measure cricket thinking, and how that links back to whether you should have a mid off or an extra slip.

Plus in the mailbag reader's questions are answered on how to throw further, and the coaching language used when batting against a bowling machine.

And, don't miss Gara's soapbox, it's a cracker!


How to Send in Your Questions

If you want to win a cricket coaching prize, you need to send in your burning questions to the show. If your question is the best one we give you a free online cricket coaching course!

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This is show number 252.

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Get on with it: Outdoor Cricket Training in the Cold and Wet is Possible

Weather often keeps us training indoors, but why not think outside the box this year, or perhaps more aptly, think outside the sports hall?

There's still a lot that can be achieved from getting out, even in the wet.


Reignite the throwing arms and catching hands

Indoors, the range of throwing and catching drills are limited. So get outside and start switching on those shoulder muscles with basic throwing drills over realistic distances.

Just 10 minutes of throwing in pairs should allow 50 throws each. This is plenty of time to begin to reignite that shoulder strength, power, and technique required the moment that first games is underway. Start from 10m apart and progress out towards the kind of distances we expect to need from a boundary rider.

Not only are you developing your players throwing, but you are also starting to allow those soft winter hands to develop a bank of catches over extended distances with increasing power. And of course, there is nothing better than the feel of being outside again after a long winter!

I always like to run my basic throwing drills to and from the edge of the square. Hopefully if we stay just off the square we wont get told off by Bob, our ever so knowledgeable, but slightly crazy groundsman, but equally we're already recreating a match specific event throwing back in towards the wicket.

You can easily get 10 players spread around the edge of the square safely, throwing and receiving catches to their partners who are at various distances from the boundary. I also like to set the players on the edge of the square up with a stump, again to familiarise themselves with taking a return throw and executing a run out.

Do something amazing: Dive to save the game

My priority is not staying on our feet and taking clean throws/catches from the edge of the ring, in fact its quite the opposite.

My main reason for being out in the wet grass is to create a dynamic fielding unit.

I want everyone of my players to feel confident that they can do something amazing in the field. In fact one of our motto's is to:

“do something amazing today”.

Just like any other aspect of the game, making a diving stop in the final over of a cup final is what we're aiming for, but getting to that skill is something that requires small steps. So when it comes to fielding, it means every player must have the confidence, to go with the speed, and the technique, to throw their body on the line, quite literally.

So when we go outside, we spend time learning to dive.

I start by getting the players to familiarise themselves with being on the floor. After we've all had a 6"5 fast bowler in our team who hasn't picked up a ball for 15 years without stopping it with his feet first. So getting him to dive at this stage is nothing short of a pipe dream; simple slow crawling drills (hands and feet only, no knee's) on the soft ground are a great way to do this, and while it may be physically demanding (another sneaky benefit), it also shows the players that it's not so scary down there as they may have once thought.

Next are the crawling races. Here I introduce a few low (ish) hurdles for them to go underneath, turning it into an obstacle course. Hurdles about 2 feet off the ground should easily be low enough to encourage them to get up some speed on their hands and feet, and then slide their way safely under before they start again.

Next comes the important transfer, the obstacle course with 2-3 hurdles each, turns from a crawling race, to a running race, however they still need to slide under the hurdles, and this is where we start to develop the need to dive and slide.

Some players will take to this instantly and some will take a little more time to develop their confidence, however once they're all happy leaving their feet and hitting the deck, or sliding along the surface of it as would be a better description, feel free to change the obstacle course to mirror any movements you may see on the field; sprinting, zig zag runs, diving in different directions, even diving over hurdles as opposed to just sliding under them to further develop their confidence off their feet.

Once you're out in the wet you'll think of lots of different ways which you can challenge your players, and each time you do you'll be giving them that little bit of extra confidence they need to do what I always ask of them:

Go and do something amazing!

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How to Play the Short Ball

This is a guest article from Gary Palmer, batting coach.

Without a good ability to bat against the short ball, you will never make the step up to a higher grade of cricket. It's the stumbling block that finds out many talented players. It's the difference between making it and not making it.

But, it's also counter productive just to go and practice against fast, short balls. You have to build a foundation of technique first. It's not about being brave or "having bottle", it's about eliminating technical errors to build confidence.

Here's How I Went from Mediocre Spinner to a Wicket Taking Wizard

This is a guest article from Max Andrews, Leg Spinner and Coach

Have you ever felt this way?

I'm a leg spinner who had good success in my first few seasons of club cricket. As I got older and started playing representative cricket I was not having much success at all. It came to a stage when I thought about giving up leg spin and bowling medium pace.

There was even a time when a thought about giving up cricket all together.

It's a rut I know many spinners face. But I got through it.


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: 298
Date: 2014-03-14