Pitchvision Academy


Being able to perform under pressure is the dream of millions and the achievement of the few superstars in world cricket. This week, Mark Garaway gives us some drills, methods and ideas for developing this skill.

Speaking of skills, there has never been a greater responsibility on players to go their own way, but not a lot of advice on how to take that route. So, we also give you a method for what do do when you arrive at nets and are given responsibility to do it yourself.

It's all about empowerment so get out there, smash it and have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Heart in the Oven, Head in the Fridge: Coaching Control in Critical Game Moments

The next element in our guide to recognising and developing mental toughness in our players relates to "Critical Moment Control" (CMC).

What is CMC? It's often described by the quote "heart in the oven and head in the fridge".

Players high in CMC always make the right judgements under pressure. Not only do they make the right decisions, they also follow through and deliver the goods: Clear mind, clear thinking, and unwavering execution.

These players control the situation with a strong mind: The situation does not control them. They show skilful thinking, skilful risk taking, and skilful execution. Each one is a great player to have around when it comes to finishing games off.


Examples of players who display CMC in buckets:

There is a young player at Millfield who has risen rapidly through the ECB Player Development model because he has CMC in buckets. His ability to make excellent decisions in extreme pressure situations has caught the eye of a 1st Class Director of Cricket and some of the ECB's finest coaches.

There is no doubt that this particular player has a personality that helps him to remain calm when the pressure gauge rises but his rapid development has been helped by some coaching interventions and strategies like these:

  1. Scenarios based on small phases of the game. (last over, last 3 overs) This is the type of practice that Malinga does both in nets against team mates and in his target bowling in the middle. The more realistic he can make his practice, the more pressure that he places on the practice, the more effective it is.
  2. Honest review and do it again. "Repeat until you get it right. Once you get it right, do it over and over again". Graeme Smith would insist on running the same CMC "plays" or "scenarios" until he or the team mastered their responses to those particular situations. Smith knew once you had mastered a certain scenario in practice then it makes it easier to stay calm when a similar situation arises in the middle. This is one of the reasons why he was able to develop and take his side to World Number One Team across all 3 formats.
  3. Finish a session with a one ball challenge and consequence. Today, we ran a throwing competition between 2 players: 1 ball. 1 throw. 1 stump. The aim was to hit the stump. If both players hit the stump then it is the nearest to hitting the base of the stump that wins the contest. If neither player hit the stump then they both do the consequence. Today's losing consequence was to clean the whiteboard.

Some of the individual strategies that help players to maximise their CMC capacity are:

  • Breathing strategies. Slow your breathing to control the body and mind. Centering and belly breathing are great techniques to learn in the quest for Critical Moment Control
  • Smile when the pressure rises. This action has a chemical effect which helps to relax the body and calm our minds.
  • Slow the game down. Use your pre-delivery routine to settle you. MS Dhoni will never be rushed into facing a Critical Moment Delivery. He is in charge. MS would say "you bowl when I want you to bowl at me".

Give some of these things a go in your next sessions and then dominate the next critical moment in game time.

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What to do at Open Cricket Nets

How do you train when the coach or captain says "do what you like, just get something meaningful done"?

Modern coaches are all about giving players freedom to train. This means you need to be self-reliant as a player and work out your own training, even at group sessions. Yet often I see players given freedom and unsure what to do with it. They end up with a half-hearted warm up and getting a few throw downs under the guise of "getting my eye in".

We can do better than that.

So, the next time you have to direct your own training, if there is a coach there or not, here is what to do.


Have a goal that makes sense

Whatever your training, it's important to go into nets knowing what you want to get out of it. That means having a clear goal in mind so you can start working on it right away. If the training isn't meeting the goal, do something different.

One mistake I see a lot is the "ghost goal". This is when a player is unsure about a goal and so makes one up on the spot that is something like "I want to get my eye in" or "I'm trying to find rhythm". This sounds good but it doesn't mean much. No one can find rhythm or get their eye in during an indoor net 5 months out from the season.

So, set a goal that makes sense. In simple terms your goals can be,

  • Technical. Making a change to some part of your technique or adding a new skill like a shot. This is best in the off season.
  • Tactical. Working out how you play in certain scenarios and practicing that method until you can nail it. For example, yorkers at the death.
  • Mental. Discovering how you react mentally to pressure and fatigue. Coming up with strategies to handle those moments
  • Fitness. Building up your cricket stamina, speed, agility and power.

All these work best if you can measure how you are doing. I remember talking to a spinner who was doing target practice in his open session and he told me his issue was the first 18 balls of his spell. As soon as he got settled his bowling improved but it took him three overs to get into his stride. I advised that perhaps he should consider the first 18 balls every time he bowled in nets too. Note down what happens and track changes based on the outcome of those 18 balls. Laser focus.

Recruit your group

The first step to making an open net work is to recruit the people you need as quickly as possible. You have your goal, so get to work talking to people.

If there are coaches floating around, grab one and outline your target for the session. The coach might have told you to do your own thing, but they are also there to help you achieve that goal. You can get drill ideas, throw downs, someone to video you, or whatever you need to get going.

It's not just coaches either, chances are that there are players with goals that match yours that you can work with right away. If someone else wants to develop a sweep shot you can alternate throwdowns and advice. If a batsman wants to face the new ball and you are an opening bowler who wants to work on tactics in the first few overs you have a match made in heaven.

Again, measuring things is a powerful way to improve so chat for a moment about how you are going to measure the success of the session. In the new ball example above you can count how many times the batsman makes good contact vs. edging or playing and missing. This can be tracked over a number of weeks and even turned into a bat against ball competition where the winner buys the other dinner.

What you want to avoid is quietly letting other people achieve their goals with you getting nothing back in return. If the keeper asks you to give him some throws so he can do his drills, don't be afraid to tap him up for something in return. He will be happy to help.

Reflect on your session

Finally, when everything is done in nets it's important to reflect on the session rather than just skip away at the end waving over your shoulder and saying "see you next session guys!"

Ask yourself some questions, or sit down with your team mates and discuss it over a post-session beverage and food,

  • What didn't we cover that we can cover next time?
  • What did we do that didn't work and needs to be dropped?
  • What things worked that we can continue next time, and how do we know they worked?

Keep it short and simple and walk away with some clear actions for the next session.

Open sessions are not an excuse to get out of fielding drills you hate and have a blast in nets instead. They are your opportunity to show how you can work towards your goals and reflect on your session well. If you can do those two things you will have made the most of the session.

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 44: When to Bowl Variations

The headlines are often grabbed by bowler's with great variations, yet it's easy to get confused about when to best use the variations you have, be they bouncer, yorker, arm ball or googly. Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe discuss the details of this on the show.

Plus, there are discussions on "playing blind", dealing with recurring injury and if there is an off position on the genius switch.

Download, plug in and listen up!


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!

Send in your questions via:

Or you can call and leave your question on the Academy voice mail:

  • +44 (0)203 239 7543
  • +61 (02) 8005 7925

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This is show number 287.

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Is it Time to Stop Inexperienced Bowling Machine Feeders Delivering Short Balls?

Coach Gary Palmer wants to know your opinion on how to train playing the short ball.

Are we pushing the boundaries of safety?

It's time to stop inexperienced and underage people feeding short pitched deliveries on bowling machines.

5 Ways to Bowl with Express Pace

Jarred Opperman was on a path to fast bowling glory. He was in the Natal team, and the speed gun was showing the high 130s. He took pride in knowing that the batsmen were afraid of his speed.

“There is no better feeling in the world. The battle is already half over.”


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: 334
Date: 2014-11-21