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What is the job of your coach?

This might be a simple question, but the answer has never been more complex or less clear. So, we start a series in this newsletter that attempts to create a "state of the nation" of cricket coaches. Whether you are a coach or just get coaching, you can't miss this primer on what is expected.

Plus, Mark Garaway helps us with boundary running, Graham Gooch talks about the differences between talent and hard work, and we find out how immaculate accuracy is not as immaculate as we think.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

The Role of a Modern Cricket Coach: Preparation

This is the first in a series that details the job of a modern cricket coach from club and school to First-class level. This article covers "preparation". For the rest of the series, get the free PitchVision newsletter.

What's the job of a cricket coach these days?

Back in the day, the job was more manager than coach. You made sure the team turned up on time, gave everyone a go in the nets and taught the youngsters how to play straight. Maybe you ran a few pre-match warm ups. The captain did the rest.

Now, from school to club to representative and even to first-class level, the coach has a much wider role. And bigger responsibility.

The problem is that it's not always clear where your job as coach ends and the captain and player's jobs begin. If you have job description (and many club volunteers won't get that) it won't tell you the details you need.

So here is what I think a modern coach has to do to cover her role, and help modern players succeed. Starting in this article with the classic preparation of cricketers.

Preparing cricketers

The most obvious development in coaching has come on the training field. The coach has always been able to improve technique through nets and drills, and that remains an important part of the job. However, these days the coach has a much wider range of coaching tools, drills and methods.

From PitchVision to Sidearms, from the iPhone to cones and from the bowling machine to the nets, there are a lot of tools to aid practice.

Now add netting, middle practice, free play, mental preparation and skill drills to these tools and you have a huge matrix of options.

Additionally, we are starting to prove the common sense realisation that everyone is different. What works for one person may be a recipe for failure in another. One player may have a naturally wide stance, another is much more narrow. Both are right for their own needs. You need to know a lot more about technique than ever before.

And that's before we even talk about the huge mental side of the game. The modern coach is able to prepare a player to handle pressure, stay focused, be mentally tough and defeat self-defeat. Often this can only be done during one training session a week.

The good coach is able to tap into this all this information and resources, and create practice that best prepares players for matches, physically and mentally.

Yikes! That's a huge task.

Adapting your coaching

This task will vary between teams and individuals.

The Under 11 club side needs a lot more group technical coaching than a First-class team. The 1st XI club side needs more on the mental game and personal responsibility. The skill of the coach to adapt to her group is at the heart of the job.

In the past, we thought technique was the only thing that mattered. In reality, good coaches knew preparation was about more than technique. Factors like fitness, skill under pressure, learning to deal with failure (and success) and good fun all go into the mix. Modern preparation is not always about a relentless drive for technical perfection.

Often, this is done in imperfect circumstances: Training pitches that are poor, players who don't turn up or are easily distracted, and people who moan and blame and don't take responsibility for their own progress. It rains. The perfect session always seems to be a couple of weeks away. A good coach is able to take these things in her stride and move forward despite limitations.

In short, your job is to ask yourself before every session; "will this session help my group improve?"

The number of factors you have to consider are great, but If the answer is broadly "yes" you are on the right path.

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Video: Talent, Work and Cricket Lessons from Graham Gooch

Graham Gooch got a pair on Test debut but went on to be one of England's best batsmen. What lessons can you learn from his experiences?

In this video, Goochie tells us about his path to the top and what he did to harness his natural gifts into thousands of runs. If you are at all interested in batting, this is the video for you.

If you can't see the video above, click here.

If you want more practical coaching advice from Graham Gooch, click here for his online guide to coaching batters called Runmaker.

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Slide, Dive, Collide: How to Avoid Boundary Catastrophe

Fielding in pairs.

Boundary riding.

Assisted catches.

These are common terms in the modern game. The best players playing with the best players in the IPL and the BBL have bought this to the forefront and we see some incredible fielding feats on club and school cricket grounds all across the world.

However, in the Regional T20 Semi Final of the National T20 Tournament the other day, I saw 2 separate collisions as two fielders both hurtled towards the ball with the same intention. To dive and stop the ball!

The commitment was huge and cannot be faulted. Yet, on another day we could have had a much worse outcome. One of the players cracked rib could have been a lot worse and the head injury could have been hideous.

So how can we help boundary riders to perform their skills and stay safe?


  1. Delivery skills: Coaches have to be able to strike the ball from realistic distances with accuracy into a space between 2 boundary riders. If we take the distance out of the practice then the visual cues, the time taken for the ball to reach the boundary and the angles can be replicated in a functional and realistic fashion.

  2. Imitate the shot type: Deliver with the shot type that is likely to hit the ball into that zone. If you are simulating Deep mid-off and Deep mid-on converging then hit the ball straight using a driving movement pattern that mimics what the player will see in the match. If you are practicing Deep Square leg and Cow Corner to a spinner then mimic a sweep or pull shot. The fielders can then pick up on the visual cues that are associated with that shot and react accordingly. Those visual cues may inform the fielders about their individual roles in the "pairs fielding".

  3. Visual cues give us a head start: If the ball is airborne and needs to be taken to prevent a 6, then passed back into play to complete the dismissal, then the decision making regarding the roles will come largely from the visual cues. Without early visual cues the chances of both fielders choosing to take the same role in the fielding process increases. Thus increasing the chance of confusion, error and collision.

  4. Use the facilities: Always use the existing boundary rope or line and hit from the middle of the ground out to the boundary. This is something that I picked up from Duncan Fletcher. It gets the fielders used to the angles that they will face on a match day and gets them used to the backdrop behind the strike. I grew up on a tree lined cricket ground and used to practice fielding at deep backward square on both sides of the ground to ensure that I could pick up the ball flight against the backdrop as optimally as possible. This aided my decision making and ultimately I took a catch or 60 in those positions without dropping one. Precise practice makes perfect performance.

  5. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal: One coach from the other day said that the players should have called for the ball. That's one way of doing it, and a quick glance or arm movement as you are travelling towards the ball also helps. Eye contact when running between the wickets is essential; it works in a fielding context too. This is particularly prevalent on balls hit along the ground. Work on some simple signals to aid communication. A sweeping arm can indicate that you will dive for the ball and need the other fielder to hold off for the pop-up throw. It’s something that many sides are now practising and then taking into game time.

  6. Partnerships: I can still tell you the boundary riding partnerships of the 2005 T20 winning Somerset team, and that's many years ago. Practice your partnerships; practice your communications and lines of running. Build the relationships and watch performance sky rocket.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 23: Analyse This!

Sam Lavery, Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe chat through some way ways to bring modern analysis to club and school cricket. With great constraints on resources, can you really get good match analysis done?

After those top tips, we talk technique. The team cover the problems of hitting the gaps when you bat, and falling away when you bowl.

It's the perfect audio way to start your cricket weekend.

The Myth of Bowling Accuracy

How accurate is accurate?

We all know the stories. The opposition bowler who bowls perfect line and length all day and doesn't give you a thing. The long retired former player who is spoken about in hushed tones because he only bowled one half volley in 17 summers.

We know these are myths, but we like to believe them, especially our team has collapsed, or we bowl badly. We jealousy assume there is nothing we could do. We don't have the bowlers/the batsmen didn't have a chance.


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: 363
Date: 2015-06-12