Pitchvision Academy


This newsletter is a mixed bag, but full of essential tips for the buddy player and coach.

We examine some lessons from the Ashes in the week the contest begins. There are tips on better hand-eye coordination that you wouldn't expect. Plus there is a lesson on "training up" from an real life experience this very week.

There's aplenty to get through, so dig right in!

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Improve Cricket Hand-Eye Coordination

How many times have you thought "just watch the ball"?

While it's a useful shorthand for having good eye to hand coordination, the truth is a lot more complex than simply keeping your eye on the ball. Of course, it's not an error to try and watch the ball. It's just that there is also a lot more you can do to get better at hitting, catching and stopping the ball too.

We can make this easy by breaking it down into direct and indirect ways.


Fancy hand-eye training tricks

You have probably seen fancy training aids for improving vision. Most people think of the pegboards and plastic circles with coloured balls as for either professionals or a load of nonsense. The truth is that there is some evidence that the methods work, but indirectly.

When you do any kind of eye training, you are working to maintain your general hand-eye coordination. You are not exactly getting better at hitting a cricket ball with a bat, but you are certainly not getting worse. If you just let time pass, your skill will deteriorate with age.

Of course, it's not as powerful as more direct methods because it's more general. Just like you would work to build up your general fitness, you can also build up your general visual skills. There is some crossover as long as you do the specific work too.

By now, you might be thinking you should rush out and buy visual training aids. And while you can do that if you wish, you can also get similar benefits from other areas without having to buy specialist gear. Or, to put it another way, you can play computer games.

There are many specialist apps and programs for phones and PCs that look to keep your eyes sharp. And even playing video games is helpful. It's been shown clearly that gamers - especially those who play first person shooters - have sharp hand-eye skills and are able to make fast decisions under pressure.

So, you can get fancy just by playing on the Xbox!

Cricket hand-eye coordination

With a good base maintained with general training you can get more specific with cricket.

The key to this is is to put yourself in situations that allow you to learn both the ball's movement, and the cues of where the ball might go. In other words, watching the ball and anticipating the ball

Watching the ball is a matter of working out your focus. Experiment with both broad and narrow focus when batting in the nets or doing fielding drills. You will soon spot which way to go. You can the up the volume of practice where you can get a clear view of the ball. The trick is to make it as close to the game as possible. That means matching things like,

  • Sightscreens when batting
  • Bowler type when batting (spin, seam, left arm, right arm, height, unusual actions)
  • Background when catching
  • Ball size, colour and weight
  • Surface for batting and fielding

The idea is to get a lot of balls that are the same as a game so when it happen in a match, your subconscious mind is in full control and you put the skill into action without thinking about it. You don't have to perfectly reflect the game situation, but the closer you get, the more experience you build up over time.

A word of caution here too. There is the general idea that this kind of mastery takes "10,000 hours". This is true that on average a great master takes this long to achieve high skill levels, but the reality is some take much less time and others take much more. The important thing to note is you can never get enough volume when it comes to this kind of practice.

In short, catch and hit a lot of balls then review how it went!

Using anticipation to improve hand-eye coordination

The second part of cricket specific eye to hand training is your anticipation skills. If you imagine your balll watching skills to be the base, your anticipation skills take you up a level. You are not just seeing the ball well, you are using your experience to know what will; happen before it happens.

You are seeing the future.

The classic cricket example of anticipation is facing fast bowling. It's well know that at high speed we cannot just rely on picking up the ball because reactions are not fast enough. Instead the batsman uses visual cues from the bowler to predict the line and length before letting experience take over and playing the shot. You can do similar things with fielding.

The first way is by playing a lot of cricket. This will build your experience, especially as you review your performance over time. you can also do anticipation training that is cricket specific,

  • Fielding drills where the feeder plays real batting shots
  • Facing real bowling in the nets of the right standard
  • Facing lower pace bowling from 18 yards, or facing the sidearm

In the end, don't sweat it too much. It's complex, but playing mindful cricket will help more than anything else. Keep it as realistic as you can and build up your skills beyond technique.

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How to Prepare for Bowling into the Rough

One of the features of this Ashes series will be the battle between spinner and batters as the rough patches develop rapidly through each Test match. The weather in the UK has been (relatively) dry for months. The pitches are drier than usual for this time of year.

The Australian left arm seamers will help the rough patches to degrade at an accelerated rate outside the right handed batters off stump. This shall bring Moeen Ali and Nathan Lyon into the game earlier as attacking forces. It is likely that the Stokes, Anderson, Broad and Wood will bowl some overs around the wicket at David Warner, if he stays in long enough. This will also add wear and tear to that rough area.

The developing rough isn't just a problem for the batter. It also creates challenges for the keeper and the bowler as well. I know what you're saying; "Test match spinners shouldn't be challenged by the rough? It should be all their dreams come true!"

For bowlers such as Murali or Warne the rough represented opportunity. For most spinners, the developing footholds can represent a threat.

This threat is the pressure of expectation.


I have seen so many spinners go to bits under this pressure. They are seen as the 'only' wicket taking option in the last innings. There are men all around the bat for long periods which also builds pressure on the bowler to perform. Often, the reality is that the bowler's shoulders get tight, the hands get sweaty and the ball starts coming out with less energy and revolutions on it.

The bowler shifts his focus to merely landing the ball in the rough rather than spinning the ball hard. Their effectiveness drops, as does their confidence.

I have seen Monty Panesar go to pieces when faced with a huge area of rough outside Graeme Smiths off stump at Edgbaston in 2008 and also in Chennai against Sachin Tendulkar in 2009. Monty has been a fine bowler over the years, so it can happen to anyone.

What can we do to help our spinner overcome the pressure of expectation?

What is success?

Success should be gauged by the amount of revs on the ball rather than where it lands.

This way, the bowler also feels confident in creating pressure through landing the ball on the less rough bits of the pitch as well as the in the footholes.

Whilst we remember the Shane Warne wickets that darted back from the rough to dismiss left handlers, Shane would be the first to recall lots of dismissals in the last innings from balls that missed the rough by a fair margin.

Distraction theory

Glenn McGrath recently revealed that he often sang a song inside his head at the end of his mark and into his run up to take his mind away from technical thought or pressure. He wanted to be bowling on autopilot rather than in a high state of consciousness.

He did this in particular when faced with seamer friendly conditions or when he was bowling at someone who had the upper hand on him in previous battles. It was a fascinating revelation that I thought would transfer directly over to spinners as well as seamers.

The car mat challenge

Practice is always important yet is very difficult to recreate 4th and 5th day conditions in our training environments. I always carry a number of different car floor mats or door mats in my coaching bag. Some rubber ones, some carpeted ones, some with ridges, some with rubber spikes.

I lay these out in the net when we are training for upcoming matches where the rough is likely be a feature of the game.

The ball reacts differently to the car mats than the grass or artificial wicket that it sits upon. Some spin, some jump or keep low, some spin the other way!

The bowler gets the opportunity to practice using the rough.

The batter figures out strategies and methods that could be used in matchplay and the keepers have to work hard to stay down and react to the different bounces and spins that come from different mats and other parts of the pitch.

This acts as over training principle for the keepers and batters. It's fun and prepares players over and beyond what they are likely to encounter in a game.

Be proactive, be creative and help players prepare strategies to deal with developing rough before they are exposed to it - and fail - in matchplay.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 27: Tackling Team Issues

How do you overcome team issues?

With so much focus on individuals, it's possible to forget cricket is also about how the team work together. Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe give some tips on how to better work together to overcome batting collapses and "going quiet in the field".

Plus there are listeners questions on how to play swing bowling and how to get more consistency in your bowling.

It's a cracking week on the show!


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:

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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 319.

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Train Upwards: How to Improve Your Cricket Training Standards (Even When You Think You Can't)

I was having a chat with one of our first team players last night and he mentioned the idea of "training upwards". What was he talking about?

Currently, the team I coach is having trouble with the bat. There have been no first team fifties despite being 10 weeks into the season. However, the other two senior teams and the under 18 side are doing much better, with good averages for several guys.

This problem is where the idea of "training up" was hatched.

How to Improve Cricket Hand-Eye Coordination

How many times have you thought "just watch the ball"?

While it's a useful shorthand for having good eye to hand coordination, the truth is a lot more complex than simply keeping your eye on the ball. Of course, it's not an error to try and watch the ball. It's just that there is also a lot more you can do to get better at hitting, catching and stopping the ball too.

We can make this easy by breaking it down into direct and indirect ways.


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: 367
Date: 2015-07-10