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Based upon the antics of Dhoni in the Test match, this week we look at some unusual cricket tactics that are so crazy they might just work. From standing back to the spinner through to bowling down the leg side with a packed leg field.

Plus, we discuss "distributed cognition" and Mark Garaway finishes his series on mental toughness. Get stuck in!

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Good Enough for Dhoni: 4 More Village Tactics to Try

In the 2nd Test against England, Dhoni stood back to the spinner.

It's a tactic regularly employed in lower standard games where the keeper doesn't have the confidence to stand up. In short, it's village cricket.

But there was a method in the madness.

Jadeja was firing his left arm spin into the rough to try and catch an edge. No one was going to run down the track so stumpings were out of the question. Dhoni knew that he had a better chance of catching the edge standing a few yards back.

So, in memorial of seeing village tactics at test level, here are some more counter-intuitive moves that are just so crazy, they might work.

Follow the ball

As captain you are taught early to set a field and make your bowler bowl to it. If you move fielders after the ball has been hit there, you are just "following the ball".

That's true, but it's also true that batsmen have shots. If you can cut them off early, they are reduced to a single off their best hit and have to try and score boundaries elsewhere. Frustration breeds wickets.

So when that over smashes a ball over mid off in the 2nd over, think about putting him back on the boundary and get extra cover in tight on the single, or even catching. Suddenly his best shot is one and he is getting less strike. He might even pop it down the fielder's throat.

Remember, good field placing is about putting your men where the ball is likely to go. Sometimes that does mean following the ball for an over or two.

Declare early

Sporting declarations have all but gone from Test cricket. In club cricket, if you have the option to declare, use it.

Hitting as many as you can is a very "professional" thing to do, in that it is trying to ensure zero chance of defeat before trying to win. That's fine if your mortgage is on the line, but not if you are trying to have a good game of cricket as well as win.

It's every club captain's job to do everything in his power to prevent the snore draw.

Read the tea leaves, do some maths and work out how early you can declare when batting first and still win the gam, ideally in the last over. It's much more often than you think.

Play for your average

There is a breed of club player who is vilified for selfish batting. He scores too slowly because he has one gear. He his hard to get out but also has no way to rotate the strike. The middle order want to punch him in the face in frustration.

This guy is also a gem.

He will get you out of a hole when the team collapse. He will see off the best bowlers and - like the slogger who comes in at 7 - he will have days where it works and days where it doesn't work. Either way, it's a role that suits him so accept it.

Work on small ways to help him - like strike rotation - and let him get on with it. The middle order know he will sometimes mess it up but also will be grateful when the opposition best fast bowler is knackered from his blocking.

Bowl both sides of the wicket

"If you bowl one side of the wicket you can bowl to a field" we all say.

That's sort of true, but length is far more important than line. A wide long hop or long half volley - even with a 7-2 field - can still be put away. A good length ball on leg stump remains as hard to hit as a good length ball outside off.

So, if you are not a brilliant bowler, focus on hitting the right length and let line look after itself.

It does mean you needs more of a split field, but so what? If you bowl a length ball on leg stump, and the batsman spoons it to midwicket you have a wicket just as much as if he snicks it to third slip.

Yes, some of these tactics take confidence, and will sometimes fail, but not often. Besides, it's better than sleepwalking through a game stuck to orthodox plans that are just not working.

Let me know how you go!

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Here's a Simple Batting Tip to Unclutter Your Mind with Distributed Cognition

Don't you hate it when you can't stop thinking about how you got out?

You sit on the side of the pitch filled with regret and frustration. Sometimes this feeling lasts for days. You kick yourself, you dwell on what you could have done differently. You consider if it's all really worth it.

When it's really bad, you carry all these thoughts into your next innings. Instead of just reacting to the ball you are double checking your technique and tactics and getting your mind in a whirl.

It's painful.

It clutters your mind.

It lowers your batting average.


But you care. You are a thinker about the game and you want to get better. It's only natural to consider what went wrong to stop it going wrong again. After all, anyone can make a mistake once; twice smacks of incompetence.

You can keep the good parts without going through night terrors and waking at 3am screaming about an inswinging yorker.

Experts call it "distributed cognition".

Round here we like to call it "writing stuff down"

Clear your mind: write it down

Your brain is a powerful tool. It's incredible at having ideas, joining things together and solving problems.

It's also terrible at storing these ideas.

When you are racing through possibilities about your batting, each new idea creates a stress on you. You can't remember the first idea after you have had a few. When you try to remember it, you forget the other ideas. No wonder your mind is a mess.

So, cut out the pain and write things down.

That way you no longer need to remember everything. It's on a handy piece of paper. As soon as the idea comes to mind, write it down somewhere. It doesn't matter how stupid the idea might be. Your only job is to capture it so you can review later.

Suddenly you find that you mentally unclench.

The brain is free from its stress and can relax when you are in the middle. "Don't worry" it tells you "we can think about this later, for now, let's just watch the ball shall we?"

The catch: Review often

There is a catch to this batting tip: You also need to review everything you write down.

This is a simple task, and is best done as soon as possible after your innings (including training). You grab up all your notes and go through each one to decide if it's worth exploring, then create an action to take if you want to try it.

Let me give you an example.

A young batsman is facing an accurate spinner in a one day match and unable to rotate the strike. After the game he realises that he could have swept more for easy runs, but at the time he felt he was not confident to play the shot.

He sits down after the match and looks at the note on his phone "sweep spinners!" it says. Underlined.

So, he notes down that at his next net session he is going to practice the run sweep and tuck to build up confidence.

This review is also a great time to come up with new ideas and decide to continue doing things that went well.

So after each innings, sit down and think about:

  • What did I do well that I can keep doing?
  • What did I do badly that I need to stop doing?
  • What can I work on in practice?
  • What crazy thing can I do that might just work?

Make sure you turn the "blue sky" thinking into solid actions for the next innings or practice.

How long to think for

How long should this whole capture and review process take?

A few moments to write down a thought to get it out of your head, then perhaps 10 minutes to review things and create some solid actions. Take longer if you need it. You probably won't.

How easy is that?

Let's face it, if you don't set time aside, you will be thinking all the time!

Instead, you feel free from the shackles, your mind is clear and you bat with a purpose that fits your batting style perfectly.

All because you brought a pen to your match.

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 28: Low Tech Nicknames

Are you born to cricket captaincy or can you learn the skills?

Mark Garaway, David Hinchliffe and Sam Lavery team up again to discuss the issue and give some practical advice.

Then, the team answer some listener questions about losing sleep due to off spin technical issues (literally) and low tech ways to monitor performance. That discuss also leads to some brilliant nickname chat. Not to be missed!


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This is show number 271.

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Field Settings: Hook, Line and Sinker

Hook, line and sinker: literally.

Using a "leg theory" approach, and the English desire to win by hooking, Dhoni won the 2nd Test against England.

Could it work for you too?

I'm going to say yes.

In certain situations, you can use a similar tactic. It's risky, but Dhoni and Sharma proved that it can win you games when orthodox tactics are seeing you cruise to defeat.

Lets look at the details.

Coach Mental Toughness with the 7C Approach (Part 2)

Last week we looked at mental toughness for cricket and discussed the first 3 C's: Competitiveness, confidence and control

Now let's complete the set.


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: 317
Date: 2014-07-25