Pitchvision Academy


Do you want to be the next AB De Villiers?

Of course, not everyone will achieve that success, but you can get a little bit closer with some batting tips in this week's newsletter. Mark Garaway has some boundary hitting drills and we take a delve into the mind of a confident batsman.

Plus we look at some field settings from the Test match and discuss how you can use them too, while also sending you on a guilt trip about doing more to help out (you can skip that one if you feel too bad).

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Use Space, Cones and Balls to Develop the Next AB De Villiers

Last week we looked at how to score big without boundaries, now we are going to switch it and look at some boundary options.

These are newer ways to score four and six, but with increased demands to score quickly are becoming vital skills for batters in all limited over formats from Twenty20 to 50 overs. These are methods pioneered by modern greats like AB De Villiers, Sachin Tendulkar and Jos Buttler.

And you can coach these shots with nothing more than a willing batsman, space, cones and balls.

Drop kick

The "drop kick" is a straight batted, lofted shot hit straight over the top of straight mid-wicket.

Many players develop it because of their innate preference to explore spaces on a cricket field. Somebody like Sachin Tendulkar was a great example and exponent of this shot.

Hit it with a high enough trajectory to clear the fielder on the circle at straight mid-wicket, landing the ball ¾ of the way to the boundary.

This area is largely unguarded in limited overs, especially now with the regulations stating that a maximum of 4 fielders are allowed to protect the boundaries for 35 for the 50 overs.

There are a variety of techniques that players use to hit this area:

  1. Some players use their wrists to ease the ball into the space beyond mid-wicket
  2. Others use their starting position on the crease to open up that area
  3. Some move into a position that lines their hips and shoulders towards the target area and hit conventionally

Each method can work.

Rather than coach a specific technique provide a target area, for the ball to land in (either with cones or a crash mat as I did with the Somerset T20 winning side in 2005).

This gives the players a simple intention of hitting the target on the full. The player will then self-organise, adopt one of the options above or come up with a new one of their own.

Line drive

The line drive isn't just found on a baseball pitch. In cricket it is the offside version of the dropkick.

AB De Villiers is amazing at shifting his body to access the area over the top of extra cover, hitting the boundary between deep cover and deep mid-off.

Again, there are different ways for a player to achieve a result. So set the practice up with crash mats or cones to create the intention and let the players find their own way.

Dilscoop, Buttler flip or De Villiers up and over

Captains can't defend all the boundaries on the field. The two shots above will regularly go for 4 if hit correctly.

But say that a captain then sends a man out to deep-straight mid-wicket area? He has to take a fielder from somewhere and most probably it will be fine leg.

Bring on a scoop or flip.

Buttler gets chest on and uses his hands to flip the ball, whereas Dilshan squats and stays sideways on using a scooping motion. There is no set way.

Place your crash mat and cones out and let them find out which one suits them.

Here is a great example of the 3 shots being used by AB De Villiers (in his own way) against Dale Steyn:

Great combinations that are impossible to defend in limited over cricket. Are you teaching your players to play this way yet?

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Bat With a Clear Mind? Yes, But Not Too Clear

How much of batting is mental?


We certainly know that you ignore what's happening in your head as you bat you will fail more often. Yet, so often the advice is to bat with a clear mind and "trust your technique".

It's certainly true that technical methods rarely change between formats and situations, but if you bat with the same tactics in the last 5 of a Twenty20 as you do opening in the first innings of a 4 day game you are bound for failure.

Similarly, if you spend the time between balls frantically worrying about how the bowler has spotted your weakness outside off stump and poor footwork, you end up playing worse and getting out.

The famous paralysis by analysis.

Of course, there is another batting method, a method that leads to far more success.


The master craftsman batsman is able to find a balance, define the right approach at the right time and seamlessly integrate technique, mental strength, and tactical approach into a whole batting performance.

And it's certainly not a skill that is accessible only to the greats: you can do it too.

Frustration is replaced by clarity and clarity brings runs.

To illustrate this, I'm going to give you a little example from a small success that shows just how this "crafting" approach applies at any level.

Your technique: warts and all

This weekend I had a rare chance to open the batting for my club. I'm no technical master and have only ever had moderate success with the bat. My technique has a number of flaws.

But the key point is this: those flaws are not a problem.

I tend to align poorly on the front foot, leaving me prone to lazy footwork. When I play I am always close to LBW and catches in the covers. I can work on this between games, but it's hard to get enough time to make technical corrections.

There is certainly no time to worry about it between balls.

Here's what I do, and here's what you should do no matter how excellent or poor your technique: Accept the weak areas when you walk out to bat, doing your best to hide them, and play in a way that gets you runs. As opener, I wait for the ball I know I can put away; a long hop or a half volley. I defend everything else. I sweep the spinners if they drift down the leg side. It means I bat slowly unless someone is bowling badly.

How did this work in my first league game opening for 5 years? Not bad: I scored 29 and put on over 100 runs with 2 partners, setting up the side for an above par score. In an better world that 29 might have been 79, but it gave me confidence that my technique can hold out in a longer, higher pressure match.

Where technique meets mental game

Importantly, you can see that technique and mental game have a huge overlap: Your confidence comes from your tactics which comes from your technique.

Where you need strength in your mental game is to be able to go the other way too.

What do I mean by that?

In the heat of battle, you can make technical changes during the game that give you confidence. I'm not taking about changing something fundamental like your like a trigger move, but small adaptations make a huge difference.

Let's go back to my game for an example. The opening bowler was bowling away swing and I edged a couple down early on. I realised he didn't have an in swinger (that often catches me LBW) so I adjusted my guard from 2, to middle. Suddenly I was middling my forward defence and feeling more confident.

SO, while a plan based on technique is crucial, you also need enough awareness and adaptability to adjust, even mid game. It's what war strategists paraphrase by saying "no plan survives enemy contact".

But there is a danger here too.

You can go too far and end up mired.

Think, but not too much

It's one thing to be aware and make a small change, it's quite another to try and change too much, or consider too many options when you are in the middle. The cliché is still true that the only thing that matters is the ball, and a mind full of clutter takes you out of that moment with the ball.

Luckily, the answer is as simple as timing your thinking, as all excellent batsman seem to be able to do, even when not in the perfect zone:

  • Between games: technical changes
  • Between overs: small technical points that can be easily tried, and shifts in gear
  • Between balls: reset and get back to "ready"

The final point is important because you respond differently to the next ball depending on what happened in the last ball. If you smashed it for four you feel great, if you were dropped at slip you feel awful. In both circumstances the best thing to do is learn to wipe away the experience and look at the situation.

For example, if you hit a four over mid off and the fielder goes back, instead of playing the same shot full of adrenaline, wipe your mind, and take the single. Similarly, if you are dropped, assume your luck is in and continue with your plan. You can always review it with your partner at the end of the over if you think you are doing something ridiculously wrong; although you probably are fine.

Mental game isn't important

So, let's put all this together: Mental game is so integrated to batting you cannot extract it's importance. If you bat you have a mental game already, the question is simply how you do it.

It takes some mastery: A balance between technique, tactics and pure mind games. The good news is that anyone can master this with practice and become a craftsman with the bat.

Put in as much effort to this part of your game as you do your technique and you will see your run scoring go through the roof.

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 23: Hooking Bouncers

How do you deal with bouncers if you are a "happy hooker" but keep getting caught?

The panel of David Hinchliffe, Mark Garaway and Sam Lavery deal with the issue and provide some top coaching tips for smacking it for a boundary rather than smacking your pad on the way back to the pav.

And there is a discussion about the changing role and knowledge of the cricket coach alongside another reader's question. This one is asking how to compare the technical, hard worker with the "natural".

Have a listen and see what you think!


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 266.

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Your Club Needs You: 5 Ways to Be a Better Member Without Committing

Admit it, you feel a little guilty.

You love to play cricket and pay your dues on time every year. But you know your club needs help.

It's run by volunteers who make the teas, manage the finances, coach the kids, score the book and a hundred other little jobs.

You think, "I could never do that, I don't have the time" when you see the coach turning up to his 8th day in a row at the club to take yet another group of cheeky Under 10s through getting a long barrier right.

You would love to do more, but pressures of work and family are hard enough, let alone that Netflix queue you have to get through. So you listen quietly when the Chairman complains nobody is helping, and nod sagely when he says everyone needs to do more.

You feel bad that you can't commit more time but what can you do? Life is busy!

Here is the answer to that mental anguish.

The Tabletop Cricket Approach to Field Settings

Was this brilliance or madness?

As the first Test against Sri Lanka meandered to a draw, England needed wickets. So, Alastair Cook took a leaf from the old tabletop cricket game, and set a ring of fielders in front of the batsman.

The field looked like this:


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: 312
Date: 2014-06-20