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You may have heard the phrase "perfect practice makes for perfection" before. This week we look at what that phrase really means. Turns out it can mean different things to different people, so see where you fit.

We also examine the role of short leg. It may be an underused position. Ben is back with an examination of how Chris Gayle bats. Can we learn from him? Finally, I find my gym closed due to a freak snowstorm. What did I do next and can you learn from my battle with the elements?

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

What is perfect cricket practice?

We love getting questions on miCricketCoach. It helps us be more specific about what you want. Recently friend of the site Dhruv emailed in this one:

"I would like to know exactly what makes up the 'perfect practice' part in the phrase 'perfect practice makes for perfection'?"

For me, the answer is specific to individual cricketers. If you can work out what you need you can work out how to practice perfectly. As an illustration, let's look at three example players all with different needs and approaches to perfect practice.

Example one: The talented school cricketer

This young player has a natural talent for the game but needs to build up a decent technique as a base. Training will focus on development of all skills to a high standard. If they bat, they will spend a lot of time shaping shots with tennis ball drills.

Ideally they will practice as much (if not more) than they play. Although there will be a heavy technical element, they will also find time to do middle practice and regular fitness training.

For many young players I see here, working on technique can be hard. It's often repetitive and dull. They also see less talented but bigger players smash the ball around with the bat and bowl fast without decent technique and wonder if it's all worth the effort. However working on technique hard at a young age pays off when you reach your late teens and early twenties. Then you will have both technique and strength.

Example two: The hardened club cricketer

The second example player has experienced a lot of cricket at club level and knows their own game well. As a result, the technical side takes lesser importance. Their technical work will focus mainly on specific weaknesses or ironing out flaws that have crept in. Often this can be completed as part of the warm up: short and sharp.

Practice will have a greater basis in fitness work. This does not just mean press ups and running around the outfield. Highly specific fielding, bowling and running drills can develop cricket fitness.

The player will also do plenty of middle practice working on specific match situations their team needs to develop. My own side has a weakness at the death of an innings when batting first. We have middle practice to work on scoring quickly with the minimum risk.

Example three: The unfulfilled potential

This player is experienced with a solid technique but has not had the success they expect. Usually you can put this down to their mental approach to the game: The classic 'net player' who gets everything right in practice but are terribly inconsistent in real games.

Improving their mental game is the priority here. This player will focus less on technique and even on netting than any other. They will take every opportunity to play 'friendly' matches to build confidence under less pressure. They will also be trying to make all practice more realistic with practice matches and open nets.

What about you?

You may recognize yourself in these three examples, or you may think you are totally different. Either way, you may have noticed that each players practice falls into three broad aims:

  • Technique (skill drills)
  • Physical (working on elements like speed, strength or mobility)
  • Mental (practice games, tactical drills, psychological skills work)

Your job is to work out which elements needs higher priority and then plan your perfect practice around each one. All players will work on all three parts; it's just a matter of doing more or less of each one.

For example the school play may decide to split their training into 50% technical, 20% physical and 30% mental. The experienced club cricketer may be more a 10/40/50. Nothing is set in stone though. It's important to regularly review your needs based on your results in the middle.

Once you have your methods planned you just need to decide how to structure each session and you will have the perfect practice for your needs.

What are your experiences with planning your perfect practice?

Image credit: pj_in_oz

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Why bother with a short leg?

In my experience, the leg side short positions are underused in club cricket.

Even at Test level a short leg is often left out, or when they are in place they are the first close catcher to be removed. Lower down the system, my team tends to play on soft, green and with a low bounce. You can see why many captains decide it's not worth putting a player 'under the lid'.

Yet there are many more tactical advantages to having a close fielder on the leg side than the classic job: catching the ball that has been fended off the gloves.

So whatever you bowl, it's worth considering the tactical advantages of the following positions:

Short square leg

This is the rarest position at club level. It can be dangerous to field there if the bowler drops short: Especially if you are not in the shin, groin and head armour. At school/youth level in the UK the position is banned by the ECB close catching regulations.

Never the less, it's an effective position to most types of bowling. The important factor is the pressure it puts on the batter. The short leg is able to stop the ball being tucked onto the leg side for easy singles. The closer the short leg gets the more the batsman feels closed in and may play a loose shot.

Another psychological edge the position gives you is this: doubt. Batters who see a short leg in may be fooled into assuming the bowler is getting extra bounce (or turn for spinners). They might play for conditions that don't exist, leading to errors.

Traditionally it's the seamer with extra bounce and the off spinner who have had a short leg in place. However, other bowlers can use the position too. Swing bowlers who stray onto the leg side trying to move the ball away can see runs saved. Left arm and leg spinners are able to pick up dismissals from balls that pitch in any rough.

Forward square leg/silly mid on

While it's usually better to have short leg square, there are times that pushing them in front of the batsman is effective.

Players who push at the ball with firm hands tend to lob it up in front of square. Also, if the wicket is very slow you can find that silly mid on will take more catches and be in the batsman's eye line as a distraction.

Backward short leg/leg gulley/leg slip

All three close catchers behind square have an important role, especially with less accurate club bowlers. A ball on the legs can often be hit in the air behind square. Traditionally the resting bowler at fine leg fields this ball for an easy single. Why not have them in close instead?


Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.



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How to bat like Chris Gayle

Regular contributor Ben Baruch brings another insight on batting. West Indian opener Chris Gayle gets the examination this time around.

Anyone who has seen Gayle bat will immediately notice his unorthodox technique. It is not as weird as teammates Chanderpaul or Lara, but there are several things you would not find in a coaching book.

Yet, his batting style is very effective. In an ODI series in New Zealand, Chris Gayle averaged 65 at a strike rate of 101, hitting more fours and sixes than anyone else. These are definitely the stats of a very good batsman.

Why does no one try to incorporate any of his style into his or her game?

I find it strange that people would find a style that seems obvious to them and not try to change elements of it. The most effective techniques are used by the top players and I think Gayle’s style is not respected enough.

Many people, even top coaches, just look at him and think: 'he’s slogging'. However many players can adapt one or two elements of his game into theirs to help them play better.

Here are my thoughts on what makes Chris Gayle such a powerful and useful batsman. 

Wide Stance

In his basic set-up, he puts his feet wider apart than the majority of other batsmen. As demonstrated here:

This has its up and down sides. With your feet in this position, you do not have as far to go, to go forward or back. It makes the cut easier to play because you do not have to move your feet as far. It gives you a solid base to hit from.

However, there are some disadvantages too. With the weight of your body in the middle of your feet, all drives must go straight or square, preventing you from hitting through cover and making setting fields to you easier. Also, he is more susceptible to yorkers as he may not be able to get his feet out of the way and jam the bat down.

This is a very personal preference, requires a lot of practice to get right and even then only works for some. Other batsmen using this style are Graeme Smith, Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Symonds.

High Grip

This effectively means that you hold the bat higher up on the handle like so:

This is very much a physics based tactic. The higher up your hands are on the bat, the more leverage you get on the ball when driving, and the more force is applied to it. However, doing this can loose a lot of control of where the bat is, so you must be careful how high your grip is if you do not have strong wrists. Adam Gilchrist was known to hold the bat very high. Once again this is a very personal preference.

Quick Bat Speed

Bat speed is another thing that constitutes how hard you hit the ball. The quicker the bat is going when the ball hits the bat, the quicker it will come off it.

How do you get a quicker bat speed?

There are two contributing factors here, the bat weight and your muscles. The bigger the bat, the more power you will get, but the harder it will be to swing quickly, so it balances out. You do not need huge muscles, but you must be quite strong. Take Tendulkar. He may be a small man, but he is very strong. To get stronger, concentrate on power training in the gym.


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.

Image credits: phik, PitchVision Academy


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Snow day: 6 Ways to train when the weather puts a stop to things

As you can see from the picture, I went to my gym here in the UK to find it shut with a snowman in the carpark.

That put an end to my plans to train that day. Or did it?

Umpires Corner: Accidental hits and riotous running

We are delighted to announce a brand new series on miCricketCoach: The Umpires Corner in association with the International Institute of Cricket Umpiring and Scoring.


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: 32
Date: 2009-02-06