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Everyone knows that if you practice your catching you improve your catching. The question is: Are you practicing in the right way?

This week we look at both the technical elements of catching and how to approach practice generally, catching included. Also in this edition is another insight into the Laws with the international Institude of Umpiring and Scoring, a look at goal setting from our case studies and the latest miCricketCoach show for you to download and listen to on your iPod.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Why you drop more catches than you should (and what to do about it)
Does this sound familiar?

You have been practicing your catching like always before play. You stroll onto the field focused and confident that today you will catch everything that comes your way.

That is, until it does.

You snatch at the ball and watch in seemingly slow motion as the ball makes its inevitable path to the turf. The horror of that moment is unmatched on the cricket field. You have let the bowler down, the team down and yourself down all in the fraction of a second.

The myth of soft hands

"Catch with soft hands and give with the ball"

We have all heard the coaching advice. It sounds good in principle. Cushion the ball into your waiting hands and enjoy the congratulations of your team mates. But watching top players catch the ball shows a different picture.

Excellent fielders like Mark Waugh make catches look like they are having a ball lobbed to them from 5 yards, not flying off the edge at great speed, or just travelled 60 metres plus to the boundary edge.

They are not catching with soft hands, but they are catching. What's more they make it look easy.

The secret of catching under pressure

England fielding coach Richard Halsall has examined great catching in detail. He has discovered the greats catch with strong hands, not soft hands. All that giving with the ball is not only a waste of time; it reduces your chance of catching the ball.

Look at someone like Marcus Trescothick. The ball used to nestle into his hands as if they were both covered in Velcro. There was no dramatic give of the hands, just strong hands and a relaxed body.

The secret of good catching isn't being soft, it's being strong.

How to catch with strong hands

There is an important distinction between strong hands and hard hands. When you are tensed up your hands are hard and don't allow the ball in.

Strong hands close around the ball effortlessly while your arms remain relaxed and your eyes focused on the ball. You will often hear players talking about 'seeing the ball all the way in' when they pull of a great catch. It's rare to see it all the way and drop it.

So strong hands start with focused eyes and mind. Other coaching cues that can help you practice catching with string hands are:

  • Get your hands to the line of the ball, not the ball itself.
  • Get into position to catch the ball with the minimum amount of movement.
  • Allow the ball to come to you.
  • Keep the phrase "strong but relaxed" in your mind.

It's almost like you are catching in slow motion, which the best catchers tend to report as happening.

You don't need special equipment like modern international fielding coaches use: Just some mates and a ball or two.

This method takes a bit of getting used to if you have always been told to catch with soft hands, but it's worth it. If you practice this way the next time a catch flies towards you, you will be ready.

Image credit: mrowe

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How much practice is right for you?

At every level of cricket there are the practisers and the non-practisers. Both jealously guard their methods as right for them, but which way will get you more runs and wickets?

At club level it seems the practisers can never get enough: Always at nets, always looking for someone to help with a minor technical point, getting to the gym and constantly thinking about their game. Meanwhile the non-practisers are getting on with other things. If they train at all it's just to go through the motions. They are happy to rock up 5 minutes before the start of play, confident they will perform well.

Then there is the third type who we will come to shortly. First, let's look at the cases of practice vs. non-practice and find out what is best for you.

The case for practice

There is little doubt that improvements can only be made through practice. Even the strictest non-practiser would agree.

A natural extension of that is to practice as much as possible. As we often say, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any skill. The average club player may never reach that level. Nevertheless, each hour logged is an hour closer to becoming the best you can be in the time available.

The problems for practice start when you try and turn this theory into reality.

Many club practices are undirected. It's hard to make any real improvements as a bowler if you are bowling in a net with three others to a slogger giving it the long handle. It's impossible to work on your on drive when you are facing 2 medium pacers bowling off short runs and a spinner putting the ball anywhere but the leg stump half volley you need.

Wicketkeepers can find it almost impossible to get decent practice. Getting someone to hit quality balls to them can be a massive challenge when everyone is trying to focus on their own skill.

An hour of undirected practice is an hour wasted and contributes little to your improvements.

This is not the picture at every club and school though. A good coach or organised captain can direct decent practice and help players work on specific areas and make improvements. It doesn't take much to set up.

If you feel the need to improve, perhaps with ambitions to play at a high level, this way of practice is for you.

The case for natural play

For the non-practiser even the most brilliantly organised training session is a waste of time. The only thing that matters is playing games of cricket.

Cricket is where you score runs and take wickets, not practice. If you are in a slump of form practice will not get you out of it, but playing cricket will. Practice is where you focus internally too much and end up with 'paralysis by analysis', unable to remember the joy of hitting a ball or the stumps.

In my experience this player is comfortable with their game. They have found a method that works for them at the level they play. They probably have no ambitions to improve further. All this adds up to the idea that there is not much point in practicing.

The big advantage of this attitude is that it allows you to play with confidence. You have worked out a method that has been successful. Even when things are going badly you know it is a blip and you will be back as long as you stick with what you know. For the practiser this kind of easy confidence can be a lot harder to achieve.

However, if you have ambitions beyond where you are now this method is severely limited. You might perform well without practice (especially if you have a certain amount of natural talent). One thing is certain; you will never achieve your potential unless you practice with purpose.

The problem child

As we mentioned at the beginning there is a third attitude too.

As a coach I don't mind if a player prefers to practice or stay away as long as they do the job on the pitch. The problem arises when you have someone who refuses to practice when they clearly need to.

For example, fielding is a team activity. One good bit of fielding can lift a side while a poor performance can make everyone's heads drop. It takes practice performed with real intent: what the professionals call 'game head'. The player who turns up to practice without game head on or worse does not turn up at all is letting the rest of their team mates down when they make an avoidable error.

This can be avoided with the right team attitude. The coach and/or captain can insist on a certain approach. If you want to do well this may be as severe as 'no practice, no play'. If your side plays more for fun then the attitude may be that you are prepared to drop catches regularly. Or perhaps you can sit somewhere in the middle, giving players freedom to choose but letting them know the consequences of a mistake.

How do you and your team practice?

Image credit: pj_in_oz

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Umpires corner: the changed boundary and 10 men fielding

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. Now we can consult a team of expert experienced umpires for the answers to those tricky questions.

You can submit your own questions to the umpires here.

The changed boundary


"I played my second week of my semi final last night and we were chasing. Everyone in the team noticed that the boundary was 5 to 10 metres longer than the previous week, when we were bowling. The opposing team refused to shorten the boundary to the same length as the previous week. As a result, we lost several runs (about 20) and also several wickets on the 'boundary', these would have been 6 last week.”How are we meant to deal with such a situation, especially when chasing a very big total?"


It is good to hear that you didn't let this frustration prevent you from completing the match.  

Law 19 requires that the captains and umpires agree the boundary before the toss. After that, it is the responsibility of the umpires to ensure that all Laws and pre-toss agreements are adhered to. This principle must apply even if there are no appointed umpires, though, of course, player-umpires will have more difficulty in imposing themselves on captains and on ground authorities. Having completed the match, there is nothing that can be done under the Laws of Cricket to remedy this situation - once the scores have been agreed, the result cannot be changed (Law 21.10). You should, however, refer the matter to the Authority responsible for the competition. They cannot change the result of the match, but they could, perhaps, (it would depend on the

Competition regulations and whether they were satisfied that the boundary had been set up differently when your side batted) choose to declare the conduct of the match to be invalid and order that it be replayed.

Law 19 Boundaries (Open Learning Manual Page 57)

Only ten men fielded


"The opposition gave in their list of players to the umpires, lost the toss and fielded throughout our innings with only ten men their captain said their missing player ‘might turn up later.’ Then they batted. When their ninth wicket fell, we all started to troop off, thinking the game was over. Suddenly, the missing eleventh man on their original team list walked out and hit the 4 runs needed to win. Is this fair?"


It may have seemed somewhat unusual, but what this team did was not illegal according to the Laws of the game. There are Laws that govern when a bowler is able to bowl should he arrive late for a session of play, or what happens if a batsman is forced, or indeed chooses to retire, but no Law insists that a batsman must field before or after he bats.

Law 1.2 The players. (Open Learning Manual Page 4)

Remember you can submit your own umpiring and scoring questions here.



Want more tips on how to umpire? Get instant access to The Umpiring Survival Guide on PitchVision Academy. Now with a free bonus 91 page quizbook.




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Case study update: Goals for the season

Having clear goals is like having a map to success. That's why I have been working with our case study subjects on getting some clear goals for the English/Welsh summer in 2009.

Cricket Show 21: Keep your elbow up

Classic coaching advice is covered this week as we answer your questions on batting technique, fitness and bowling tactics. This week we cover:


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: 38
Date: 2009-03-20