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Fielding drills are always popular topic, but sometimes we try to do too much too soon. This week we guide you through the different types of drills and how to be safe while being effective.

If you are more of a tactics person we look at the role of openers and what it means to play "percentage shots". Thanks to contributor Ben Baruch for his article. We also have an in-depth follow up on the 2 case studies for this year. You might be interested especially in the technical analysis we do on Geraint's drives.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Are you destroying your technique with fielding drills?

Fielding drills can cause injury and hold back improvements in technique if players are not given enough rest. It's rest times that can make or break a good fielding drill session.

It's a delicate balance. Too much rest and waiting between drills can quickly make the activity boring. On the other hand, too little rest leads to fatigue building up and sloppy technique creeping in.

Where do you find the perfect balance?

The answer depends on the goals of your session. Not all drills are created equal.

Warm up drills

The most common drills for adult players are those used in the pre-match warm up. Too much here is certainly not a good idea as you may enter the game feeling tired before you have started.

For this reason the tactic is to have a few short drills done at a high intensity. This gets you ready for the match intensity and gets your body warm to reduce the risk of injury. However it will not tire you out completely.

A good rule of thumb is to be able to comfortably talk at the end of the fielding drill session but still be a bit out of breath.

During the session keep rest times to a minimum by going in several small groups. Too much rest here causes you too cool back down again. You can still take a break but don't do your drills then sit down for 20 minutes before the start of play.

Skill development drills

Younger players will spend a lot of time learning the techniques of the game: Picking up, throwing, stopping and catching. Drills of this nature are hard on the nervous system but easy on the heart and lungs. In other words, the effects are hidden.

When coaching younger players in groups purely to develop skill it's important to not spend too long on technical work. It gets hard quickly for kids as they only have a limited capacity to concentrate on coordinating their bodies correctly.

That said, you don't want to keep them sitting around resting too long either as that is boring. Keep the skill based drills short and focused then move on to something else. Remember they don't need to be out of breath to be mentally fatigued.

Conditioning based drills

A lot of people equate 'fitness' with doing fielding drills that make you out of breath. This is certainly not the be all and end all of fitness but it is an important part. Fielding drills can build highly specific endurance and work capacity and be more fun for the participants than interval training.

To get a training effect the drill will involve skills the participants are already skilled in. The time doing the drill will be longer (longer chases for example) and the rest time between performing the drills will be short. Small groups are best for this.

Too much waiting for your turn will negate the point of these drills. As a rule of thumb no one should stand around for more than 60 seconds. Less is better. Work time (that's when they are doing the drill) should be on a 1:2, 1:1 or 2:1 basis depending on fitness levels. So a 1:1 ratio is 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest. 1:2 is 30 seconds work with 60 seconds rest.

The intensity of the drill will be slightly lower as we don't want to burn out the nervous system by combining high intensity work with endurance work. You can do one or the other but not both. However, lower intensity does not mean easy. Players should be gasping for air at the end of a session like this. I would recommend 10-30 minutes total training time to get a a good effect.

Speed/agility based drills

Drills designed to improve all out speed and agility are often overlooked but may be more important than endurance/conditioning type work. I would always pick a fast agile fielder over one who doesn't get tired (although ideally we want all fielders to have both skills).

Speed work requires an all out effort followed by a full recovery. As a general guideline each 10 yards of full speed sprinting requires 1 minute of rest. To put that in cricketing terms, if you are practicing speed between the wickets each player will need around 2 minutes recovery per run.

Any less recovery starts to turn the drill into conditioning work and detracts from the idea of developing speed and/or agility.

Remember we are trying to improve the techniques of speed and not get the players out of breath. Players should feel they are not tired at all between sprints. You can't combine both without risking injury.

Also, avoid doing these drills more than once or twice a week (and never 2 days in a row) as the recovery time is high.

Choose your poison

If you are responsible for the drills in your team, think carefully about what the goal is. Getting it wrong can make things dull, have no effect on performance and perhaps even injure your best player! Get it right and you will have fast, agile and skilful fielders who can chase the ball all day.

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Play the high percentage shots

13 year old Ben Baruch is back for another in depth look at batting strategy. This time he examines what we mean when we say 'Play the high percentage shots'.

What are high percentage shots?

If the ball goes in the air, does that make it a low percentage shot? Are shots the same percentage with different bowling or batting?

This will help you decide what shots are the safest early on.

As a side note, if you are better at a shot, most of the time it will be a higher percentage shot. It may be a good idea to try and learn to play the percentage shots, to increase the chance of playing yourself in.

Against fast bowling
  • Leave. As long as the ball is not hitting the stumps, this is the best thing to do. For starters, you have been able to see how fast the bowler is bowling, how the pitch is playing and how the bowling is going to be without any effort at all. You are safe to face the next ball, without even moving a muscle. The other thing that makes this tactic especially useful against fast bowling is that in wears them down and annoys them. The strike bowler’s job is to get batsmen out. They put loads of effort into doing so. It is as if you are saying, “bowl at me, this is not worth any effort”. A few runs and suddenly, you’ve seen their best bowler off and he stomps down to fine leg, annoyed that he hasn’t done his job. Each time a fast bowler bowls he is using up energy. With you not playing at the ball he will tire quickly.
  • Check Drive. This helps against fast bowling because the full face of the bat gives you more to hit the ball with. If you are not seeing the well, this effectively makes the ball bigger. There is no follow-through needed because you use the pace of the bowler to hit the ball hard. Sachin Tendulkar has the best back foot check drive in the world.
  • Leg Glance. If the ball is on your pads, going down the leg side, the leg glance can get you loads of runs. This is because, again, you are using the pace or the bowler. To play it well, start with a regulation forward defence. When you see the going down the leg side, stand up tall and bring your front foot next to your back foot, keeping your weight forward. It is very important not to play around your front leg. As the ball comes in contact with the bat, close the face of the bat to angle to ball onto the leg side. Do not try too hard as it will come naturally to you. Depending on how much you turn the face will decide on where the ball goes, between backward square leg and the wicket keeper. Flick your wrists more the play the ball in front of square, although this is dangerous to a really fast bowler. Don’t leg glance off your pads or away from your body, as they almost always lead to lbws and caught behinds respectively.
Against Spin
  • Forward Defence. Always defend with your bat. You wouldn’t pad up to a seamer, so why a spinner? If you play with the pad by the bat, you really increase the ways you can get out. The trick is to play with the bat in front of the pad, but not to leave enough of a gap to get bowled. Also, if you play with both soft hand and soft arms, you can keep the ball down. You can also let your bat ride with the spin. This means you can play the ball as it spins. You can turn the ball 'round the corner' and pick up singles. If you play defensively, the soft hands and arms ensure you cannot get caught.
  • 'Full-blooded' Drive. This is the other type of drive. It is still where you get your foot to the pitch of the ball and swing through the line, but it is slightly different to the check drive. For the check drive, the bat stops just after contact. The full-blooded drive is where you relax your wrists after contact and follow through over your shoulder, like a golf swing. You can only play this to a half volley to keep this on the ground. This is good to spinners because as you get over the ball you can smother the spin, and then hit the ball hard. You could also come down the pitch to make a half volley and upset the bowler’s length. However, this is not nearly as safe because you can be stumped, so you have to be in full control and be sure to hit it.
  • The Conventional Sweep. The conventional sweep is a sweep through the on side on the floor, as opposed to the reverse sweep, slog sweep or the 'switch hit' that Kevin Pietersen does. If the ball is turning a lot then it can actually be safer than the drive. This is because, as it is cross-batted, you can adjust to the turn of the ball. The trick is to get down low, take a big stride out and make sure you get the back leg on the ground. If you don’t, the bat will be pointing downwards and you can top edge it into your face. The bat should be parallel to the ground on contact. Hit down on the ball or roll your wrists, whichever is easiest, to keep the ball down.
You can contact Ben via the miCricketCoach contact page.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about technique, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.


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How to Be a Better Opening Batsman

How to Be a Better Opening Batsman at CricketAsk most people about opening the batting and they will tell you about batsmen who can block. Occasionally you get a big hitter. But, what really makes a good opening batsman?

Opening is about more than "seeing off the new ball" in your cricket match. It's a matter of good organisation, and a position that is specialised. The bowlers usually have the upper hand with a new ball and fresh legs. That means you, more than any other position, need to have your cricket wits about you.

There are certain traits a good opener has, or is able to develop.

  • An adaptable technique. Although you could have lots of shots, knowing your own game is most important. Playing straight is the cornerstone of your game. You could have the ability to switch gears from disciplined defence to attack depending on the conditions, match situation and bowling.
  • A good judge of the off stump. Knowing when to play and when to leave is a great skill for the opener, even in Twenty20 conditions.
  • Patience. There will be times when the bowlers make you play and miss. However, the bad ball will come. The ability to stay focused on the next ball will see you through the tough periods all openers experience.

This is often what coaches mean when they talk about seeing off the opening bowlers. Personally, I don't like the phrase. It puts openers into a defensive mindset. Opening the innings is more about having a sound defence and being ready to attack.

Once you have assessed that conditions have are in your favour you can start to think more aggressively. This may be a couple of hours in, or right from the first ball. However, you need to keep a tight defence as a good ball is never far away.

Naturally, these skills are useful anywhere you bat. So the biggest difference for me is the desire to do it.

You have the biggest opportunity as you are on the field from the first delivery. You have to be prepared to make a big score and that takes focus, patience and cricket bravery. Get out early and your side are off to a poor start. Make runs too slowly and the pressure is on. Do well, bulid an innings and pace yourself effectively and the team will come to rely on your solidity at the top. That's a different kind of pressure to batting between three and seven.

Opening practice

There is not much an opener can do differently from any other batsman to prepare. The principles of deliberate practice apply just as much with any position in the batting order.

That said, you will want to focus on two areas in particular:

  • Middle cricket practice. Practicing against fresh bowlers with a new ball in simulated match conditions will teach you how to adapt to the mental and tactical side of opening. When you have had a middle practice, sit down with your coach and opening partner (and possible the number three) and discuss how it went, what your tactics were and whether they worked or not.
  • Technical development. While you want as many shots as possible, you don't need them. Get the straight shots in order first. Learn to judge whether to play or leave. Have some more attacking options thirdly. This can't be done in standard nets as the bowling is not accurate enough so grab an empty net with your opening partner and give each other some accurate throwdowns or bowling machine drills instead.

I would also strongly recommend learning how to rotate the strike by taking cheeky singles and turning ones into twos. You can score very well without ever hitting booming boundaries.

An opener needs to be a positive player with the ability to leave attack behind for a while if you are up against a good opening bowling attack. Practice to learn this cricketing nous, and you will not go far wrong.

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Case study update: The rules are in place

This article is part of the miCricketCoach 2009 Case Study. To stay up to date with their progress get the free newsletter.

Things are going well for Geraint and Naz, the miCricketCoach case studies. We have started to make a few changes to both training and nutrition for the better.

Here are the current plans for both of them.

'The Map' part 4: How to stay focused on playing the game

There is a large mental side to cricket and it is often our thinking that gets us out or stops us bowling well.

There are a lot of distractions going on through the course of a game: In the middle, waiting to bat, waiting to field, taking lunch, tea or a drinks break. What is required is a set of routines or processes you can employ, almost without thinking, that will allow you more time and ‘brain space’ to focus on playing the game as well as possible.


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: 31
Date: 2009-01-30