Pitchvision Academy


This week, we have plenty for you to chew on. There are drills for better shot selection, and spin bowling flight and guile. Plus the podcast team discuss how to go about getting advice from a coach. It's all in the way you ask.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

More Runs with These Shot Selection Drills

Before you can smash that half volley through the covers for a searing boundary, you need to pick up the half volley. That's shot selection in action and - as batsmen and coaches - we should never take it for granted.

But how do you train for shot selection?

Learning the technique of a shot is much easier. You are moving. You can get feedback. You can drill repeatedly until you get it right. But it's hard to come up with "drills" for a process that only goes on in your head: While you are identifying the line and length of the ball, and then choosing a shot, you are not doing anything with your body.

Fortunately, it's simple to integrate shot selection specific drills into your normal training. Here's some things you can do.


Decide your shots

Start with basic principles. Ask yourself, "in an ideal world, how would I deal with different types of balls?"

This is mostly simple; you drive the full ones, you cut and pull the short ones. But there are grey areas. Do you sweep spinners or use your feet? How do you deal with a length ball at the death? What shots do you cut out when your team loses five wickets for 20 runs?

Stick to shots you know you can play at first. You may also decide to learn a new shot or two, but begin with what you have. And be honest. If you can't play the flick off your legs then don't imagine you will start now because you have planned it. If you only have two reliable shots then stick to them. They will get you a long way.

You can make these kind of decisions away from nets and games where it's easy to think things through with an uncluttered mind. Use this as a starting template to avoid temptation through scoreboard pressure.

(You can also use nets as "thinking time" but they need to be set up in a very particular way to be effective, so unless you are going to do this, keep the thinking and playing separate.)

How to adapt nets to shot selection

We know from research into elite batsmen that facing bowlers improves your ability to quickly pick up line and length. So, nets are ideal.

Where most of us go wrong is not tracking what happens in nets. We rely on memory and hope. We say things like "I felt good today" or "nothing went well today" when in reality it's usually a mixture of results that we can only see properly by reviewing the whole session.

So, when you feel you need a shot selection tune up, you can have your normal net with normal bowlers (or a coach with bowling with a sidearm). However, you also need a way to track what happened.

Tracking is best done with video, but you can also do it with hand notation. Keep a note of each ball and whether you chose the right shot (based on your own standards). Did you nick that half volley while trying to drive? That's a technique issue not a shot selection issue. You get a gold star for picking the ball even though you would have been out in the game.

At the end of the session you will have a certain number of balls you got right, and a certain number you didn't. Aim to increase the former and reduce the latter over a period of a few sessions.

Additionally, it helps if fewer bowlers bowl at you in nets because it give you time to pick up the cues you need from each individual action. So, if possible, get bowlers to bowl at you in overs one or two at a time.

When the session is over, take a moment to think through how it went initially and what you might like to do next time. Then between sessions, review your performance in more detail (look at the video, review the stats) and be sure you are planning ahead for the next session based on the results of the last. Imagine you are an airliner and this review process is your autopilot keeping you exactly on course by constant minor adjustments.

Warning: Avoid the machine

One tool for batting to avoid while you are working on shot selection is the bowling machine.

They are wonderful tools for technical work, but remember shot selection is all in the head. That means you need to be able to see someone delivering the ball, and you need to be uncertain exactly where the ball is going. The bowling machine can't provide that.

Clearly, your best option is to face bowlers. If your main aim is shot selection, a net works best because you don't have the pressure of the game situation. However, eventually you need to apply your skill under pressure too, so middle practice is also a good place to improve your shot selection.

Another good option is a coach. If the coach can bowl to your standard then have her bowl! Even if they are not quite as good as you want, getting them to bowl from 18 yards is an option. If she can't bowl to the standard you need, then turn to the sidearm. This gives even the most terrible bowler much more pace. The best option is to have the coach bowl with it. It does take practice but it's worth it.

Review like your career depends on it (it does)

Drills are great, but they are far less effective unless you build in a review.

So, consider it a golden rule that your session is not complete until you have done a review. Don't panic, this doesn't have to take a long time.

Spend 2-5 minutes after your net to think about the session. Discuss it with a coach or team mate if you want or quietly reflect to yourself as you take off your pads. Make a couple of notes about how it went and what you want to do next time. These can be mental notes, a quick scrawl on a pad, an entry in Drafts , notes in PitchVision, or 12 pages of feels in your diary. Whatever works for you.

Between sessions, go back to the results of the session and look in more detail. You should have tracked something over the session so you might be satisfied with "I improved this week, great!" or you can sift through the data with a fine toothcomb. That will all depend on your personality, but the key point is to have a second check over things before your next session and decide what you will do.

Then at the session, make sure you have let someone know your goal for the session before you walk in to bat. Again, there are options for this. You can tell the coach, tell the bowlers or write it on a whiteboard. This is a key step because it makes you accountable. You are more likey to stick to the plan if someone is watching.

Repeat, adjust and improve.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 14: Approach the Coach

How do you approach a coach if you want to get help with your game?

That's the question David Hinchliffe, Sam Lavery and Mark Garaway tackle on the show. It's tough for both the player and the coach and there is no easy answer, but there are ways to get heard and you can listen to the discussion to find out.

Plus there is combative question about tennis vs. cricket, and a player with a frustration we have all face; how do you practice to perfection?

Listen to the show for the details.


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

How to Listen to the Show

Just click the "play" button at the top of the article.

Or, the show comes out every Friday and you can listen to it on your computer, smart phone or tablet every week automatically. Simply choose your favourite podcast player and do a search for the show:

Or subscribe manually with the RSS feed. Right click here, copy the link and paste it into the appropriate place for adding new feeds in your podcast subscription software or RSS reader.

You can also download this show onto your computer by clicking the play button at the top of the article, or clicking on the mp3 to download.


This is show number 305.

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2 Simple Drills to Improve Your Spin Bowling Flight and Guile

"He approaches the wicket and releases the ball. I'm about to find out what it's really like to face a top class bowler.

It hangs there in the air.

If someone bowled a ball like this to me in a Baldwin match, I'd probably stop it with my glove, sling it back to the bowler and tell him, 'Never mind, have another go...' In fact, I might say it anyway, once it's been retrieved from the far stands.

Perhaps age has caught up with the Indian master. Or perhaps he was never quite as good as we all thought. Perhaps none of them are.

But then something inexplicable occurs. The ball, having seemed suspended in the air from some invisible string with the words 'Hit Me' on it, suddenly dips and loops at the last second. It pitches just short of a length, spits like a cobra and climbs at a scientifically unfeasible angle. Striking the outside edge of my bat it balloons gently into the air and is caught with pathetic ease by the wicketkeeper."

Michael Simkins – Fatty Batter.

 You won't find many better descriptions of a master spinner totally deceiving a batsman than that. The great Bishan Bedi at work.

Can you do the same?

Mastery of flight or loop can take many years. However you can speed up the process with some simple practice methods that can be done alone.

What is flight?

To understand how to deceive the batsman in the flight we need to know what it is.

A ball with flight is about more than 'tossing it up', it needs to be spun with force above the eyeline of the batsman giving it that effect of hanging in the air.

The intention, like Michael Simkins found out, is to make the ball seem like doing one thing when in fact it does something different enough to deceive: The mythical combination of flight and guile.

Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes identify several different ways of achieving this:

  • Top spin. Where the ball hangs in the air before dropping sharply.
  • Back spin. Where the ball skids through lower and fuller than expected, like Shane Warne's flipper.
  • Side spin. Where the ball drifts in the air laterally more akin to swing bowling.

You may find one type of flight easier than another, depending on both your bowling style (finger or wrist) and your own technique.

Adjusting the way you spin the ball, how much you spin it, how fast you bowl it and how high above the eye line you make it go will all make a difference to how the batsman plays the ball. This decreases his or her chances of settling in and getting used to your style.

What must remain despite these tiny changes is your accuracy. Without putting the ball in the right place often enough the batsman can just wait for the bad ball.

Practicing flight and guile

Once you can confidently bowl your stock ball accurately you can work on your loop.

There are two simple methods to doing this. Neither requires a batsman so get yourself a bag of balls, find a net and get to work.

  1. The String Method: The simplest way to flight the ball is to hang some string across the net and to try to bowl the ball over it. Combine the string with a target on the ground like a bit of cardboard or some cones to land the ball.
  2. The Stumps Method: You can still use a target such as cones, but in this case you get an additional set of stumps and place them in front of the target as a barrier. The idea is to drop the ball over the stumps and still land it in the target.

With both methods you learn how to make the ball dip.

It makes sense to record your success rate. You will find the more you practice the higher percentage of balls you will land on the target.

The trick is to really spin the ball and let physics do the rest.

Give it a rip, get practicing and let me know the results.

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Quick Tip: Train for Bad Times

One easy habit at nets is training for when things are going well. You imagine you are on target with bat or ball.

But cricket doesn't work like that: Teams collapse with the bat and find it impossible to break a partnership with the ball. So, we need to train for those times where it's all going wrong.

It's easy to do. Simply put yourself into a "distaster scenario", either as middle practice or in nets.

Graham Gooch: How to Coach Batting Concentration

This article is an excerpt from the Graham Gooch Runmaker eBook available on PitchVision Academy. For more details, click here.

Anyone can score 30 if they can play a bit, but to make a big score your concentration has to be better and stronger. Whether it's a long match, one day match or even Twenty20, it doesn't matter. If concentration is sharp, alert and in tip top nick, then you make less mistakes.


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: 354
Date: 2015-04-10