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This week we have a wide range of tips: From the right way to use indoor nets to learning from every game you play.

Gary Palmer, the PitchVision Academy batting coach, talks us through his views on which guard to take and we answer more of your controversial umpiring questions. Perfect for club players and coaches who have to take their turn as the official.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

'The Map' Part 6: How to learn new skills from every match you play

Cricket is a great game in that you can learn from every game you play. The trick is organizing so that lessons learned can be identified and stored for future use.

Evaluating your game should be an ongoing feature of your map. By regularly assessing how your game is developing, you give yourself a better chance of picking up small flaws in your game before they develop into major problems. When developing evaluation routines try these techniques:

  • Don’t evaluate your performance immediately after the game. It is always best to allow any emotional haze to clear before you evaluate your game. This highlights the importance of routines. Set aside a time the day after you have finished the game to calmly, even cold-bloodedly, to look back at your performance. This gives you the time to celebrate the win or deal with the loss as well as complete your physical post-game recovery routines. Once this is done, you can really focus clearly on what you did and didn’t do during the game.
  • Work from a list. As with all these routines, a major reason for creating the routine is so that nothing ‘falls through the cracks’ in your preparation. When reflecting on your performance, working from a list is crucial. Some of the headings you may want to include in your list are:

How did I prepare this week? Details?
What was my plan?
Did I stick to my plan? Yes/no Details?
What should I do differently in the future?
What did I learn from the game?
How will I prepare for next game?

  • Record your reflections. The human memory is quite selective and imperfect. If you really want to remember the lessons you have learned from game to game, write it down. Athletes often go through form cycles and going back to a plan that worked for you in the past can often help you get back on track.
  • Review your records regularly. A great way to stay on track! Don’t waste time learning the same lesson again and again. If you regularly go back through your records, you memory will be jogged and you stand less chance of making the same mistake in the future. It also provides you with a reference point when developing a plan and helps you write good plans when the time comes.
  • Be honest with yourself. This is the only way to develop your game. Identify and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and above all be honest about your efforts. If you have a session that is less than intense or you skip a session during the week, acknowledge the fact that you have been ill-disciplined and uncommitted and then get straight back into the training. As the cliché says: It's a marathon, not a sprint.

All these routines provide you with the framework, or map, from which you can develop your game to its maximum.

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Can indoor nets hurt your early season form?

When the weather is not so good the indoor net is a saviour to cricketers. The question is: do they do more harm than good?

I would be interested to see an experiment where 2 groups of players were split into those who netted in the winter and those who did not. I suspect at club level the difference in form might be less than we imagine.

I'm thinking mainly about the average club level net. There is little or no structured coaching, instead players simply split up and take it in turns to bat and bowl. Let's look at why it's a problem.

Indoor Net Bowling

I suspect seam bowling is the worst hit skill in the traditional net setup. Your line and length as a bowler is very different from outdoors on a sub-first class club wicket. Over the weeks of the nets you see the ball swing more, especially if the club has bought new practice balls). You can also get a lot more pace and bounce from the harder floors.

This means that in nets generally your length is shorter and your line accounts more for the swing. So, for example, if you bowl outswing your back of a length ball pitching on middle/leg and hitting off in indoor fast swinging conditions becomes a slow short ball down the leg side when you get onto an early season wicket.

Spinners are no better off.

Both spin and seam bowling are based a great deal on rhythm. This is hard to achieve when you are sharing a net with 3, 4 or more other bowlers and have to wait between balls. The seamer also can't come off their full run to further disrupt rhythm.

As if that wasn't enough, you have a batter down the other end who is probably giving it the long handle. How are you supposed to focus on improving your action or hitting good areas when there is an unrealistic slog happening at the other end?

Finally a big issue for bowlers is the impact. Hard surfaces jar a bowler's joints and tendons. I'm no more than a net bowler but often spend the day after our club net sessions hobbling around with a sore Achilles heel. The last thing you want to see is star bowlers do an injury just before the season because a hard surface has worn them down.

Indoor Net Batting

Batters are slightly better off than bowlers. Indoor nets can help a player pick up the 'clues' a bowler gives in their action that give away line and length.

However, for me the benefit ends there.

The hard, fast surfaces are nothing like the slow, low club wickets most people play on early in the season. You suddenly have to wait for the ball for longer, upsetting your timing. You also have no time to think things through, just getting a quick fire succession of different types of bowling. It's all over in 5 or 10 minutes at most. No wonder most batsmen end up having a hit instead of playing as if they were in the middle.

The biggest batting issue for me is that most at net sessions simply don't consider working on technique. It's like you get to 16 or 17 years old and stop needing to eliminate technical flaws. Having a net will not improve your technique in itself. It may even harm your technique as you get into bad habits. It's something you need to work on with feeds, throwdowns or a bowling machine.

The Solution

You can see how indoor netting can be nothing but trouble, especially for bowlers.

I'm not suggesting we should stop netting indoors because of these problems. I do think most clubs could benefit from thinking a little more about how things are done. I'd like to suggest:

  • A bowling net. Use the PitchVision sensor system and have bowlers bowl at their lines and lengths without a batsman in the way. This will improve accuracy (which can be tracked automatically on the PV software on your phone or laptop) and if you have a coach you can get help with your action safe in the knowledge it doesn't matter if you mess up a few balls to start with.
  • Technical work. We all need to tighten up our technique, so why not use a net for throwdowns or tennis ball drills? Most batters have a good idea of what makes good technique and can coach each other while they take it in turns to bat.
  • Game scenarios. When you are in a net with batting and bowling make it as realistic as you can by setting a game situation: Say over number 25 in a one day match with batter trying to up the run rate in safe ways. Bowlers set their fields and bowl in 6 ball overs as they would in a match.
  • Get outside. I admit this is not always realistic. Club sides in the UK in the middle of January are not going to have access to outdoor wickets. However, be prepared to get out there as soon as you can. You can always wear gloves until it gets warmer.

How do you find indoor net practice where you play?

Image credit: HaroldH


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Great catching : It's in us all!

These catches should re-affirm in us the belief that you can make great catches too. It is within the capabilities of every fielder to change the course of a game with one piece of inspirational fielding.

The last catch in this video is former footballer Paul 'Fatty' Vautin taking one of the best outfield catches ever seen in Australia. Playing in a nationally televised benefit match, it shows why anyone can take a great catch on his day! In that one moment in time, Vautin shows all the attributes of a match-winning fieldsman:

  • Sound technique
  • Awareness
  • Athleticism
  • Determination
  • Self-belief

Fielders like Collingwood, Ponting, Rhodes and de Villiers take more than their share of great catches because they have recognized that the more you train, the more likely you are to snaffle that screamer and turn the game.

In short, they practice, practice, practice!

What sort of practice can a player do to develop world class fielding skills?

  • Sound technique. This can be developed through repetition. Take as many catches as possible at training and focus each time on employing the correct technique. Feet, shoulders head and hands all need to be put into the correct positions again and again and again. Catches off the bat, off a slips cradle or from the hand can all be employed to develop sound technique. Make sure you are changing the angles between thrower, bat and fielder regularly so that you are always working at getting in the right position.
  • Awareness. Catching drills can never be dull because each catch is unique and presents a new challenge to the fielder. So while the fielder is practicing sound technique, they should also be keeping themselves aware of the specific challenge of each catch and practicing their anticipation. This often translates into that split second advantage the great catcher seems to have over mere mortals.
  • Athleticism. This can be done via cricket-specific drills involving catching, throwing, running etc. But you can also use drills and activities that are not cricket-based to effectively develop your athleticism. Cross training can be very helpful here. For cricket specific workouts have a look this course on PitchVision Academy. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips so you should never be short of challenging, interesting and fresh drills.
  • Determination – The more you can push yourself at training the more likely you are to take that screamer on a weekend. This is often the area that separates the 'men from the boys'. To develop this attribute, you need to approach each training session with a single-minded attitude to attack every chance and really push yourself physically: To dive further, jump higher and anticipate quicker. By working to your absolute physical maximum, you develop mental toughness that stands you in great stead in games, be it in the field, or batting or bowling.
  • Self-Belief – When you train with a high level of intensity, you will be surprised at the number of amazing catches you can take! The more classics you take at training, the more likely you are to take a classic when it counts in a game, simply because you are used to making the movements and you really believe you can do it. We often talk about great fielders always wanting the ball to come their way. This is because they believe that when the ball does come their way, they will take the catch, make the run out or save the boundary. This self-belief can only come from constant and intense practice.

So look at this video again, and this time, don’t just be amazed by the wonderful, spectacular pieces of fielding. Realise that with a great deal of practice, you can make catches like these some day. And when you do, I promise you will never forget the exhilaration that accompanies your effort.


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How to take guard

PitchVision Academy batting coach Gary Palmer explains the basics of taking guard. For more technical tips try Gary's exclusive course: Improve your batting with simple changes to your setup.

You take guard so you know where your stumps are when you are in your stance. This is important because if you know where your stumps are, you know what balls to play and what balls to leave when you are defending.

Umpires Corner: Runs from a catch and slipping on delivery
This edition of Umpires Corner in association with the International Institute of Cricket Umpiring and Scoring covers some more tricky questions of the Laws.

Many times on the pitch (and after the game) we have come to discuss whether a controversial situation should be allowed or not. There are precious few players with a deep enough understanding of the laws for our arguments to be resolved, but many times it's the players who also act as umpires.


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: 35
Date: 2009-02-27