Pitchvision Academy


As should always be the case, spinners take the centre stage this week as we develop a masterplan for those who want to rip it square and cause chaos.

Plus there are fielding drills, a video tip to improve your net batting sessions and plenty of pzazz! Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Become a High-Class Spin Bowler: A Complete Masterplan

What goes into becoming an excellent spinner? It's a question raised recently by this article looking at what England need to do to improve their spin stock. What can you learn from these ideas to take into your spin bowling?


One thing is for sure, getting good at spin bowling about more than just bowling. There will always be a school of thought that bowlers just need to bowl more and that's it. The more you bowl the better you get. And while you do need to bowl, there is more to it than that.

So, let's build a big picture.

What's your job?

Before you even pick up a ball, you need to understand what you do. Spin has a wide range of roles in cricket. Those roles are performed by players with a wide range of skills and experience against batsmen with a wide range of aims. There is no one size fits all.

The job will vary between spinners. It can vary from game to game, and even from moment to moment. The context is crucial.

Perhaps you are looking to rip it square, take wickets and win the game. Maybe your job is to keep it tight and take the pace off the ball in the middle overs of a Twenty20. Perhaps one day it's one job and the next day its the other. Maybe you're an experienced spinner on a turning pitch or perhaps you are a part timer on a flat one. What is considered a good performance in these moments will vary.

The point is, you need to understand the context.

Then you can get better at bowling within all possible scenarios (or at least, the main ones). Based on your knowledge you can answer questions like:

  • Am I getting enough turn?
  • Is my accuracy acceptable?
  • What pace do I need to bowl?

The answers will vary based on your context, so make sure you get it right. Then get to work.

Are mentors and consultants useful?

This is where a consultant or mentor is a powerful tool at your disposal. A good mentor will understand the context, and will be able to guide you towards getting better. This means technical, tactical and mental changes to iron out weaknesses or build strengths.

It's why we naturally think that, say, Shane Warne advising a leg spinner will help the spinner get better. Warnie, we assume, will use his experience to see what the young spinner needs to do and then guide his training towards the best approach. This can work, although it often depends on the mentors coaching skills. There is a big difference between understanding your own game and helping others learn theirs. So, don't assume mentors automatically have all the answers.

It's more important to have a good coach than a good player acting as a mentor. However, the ideal is someone who is both!

How important is experience?

So far, we have looked at context more than actual bowling, so let's fix that now by thinking about experience.

In short, spinners need more experience than any other type of player. It's why they develop so much later and why so many turn away from spin when they are young. It's darn tough and takes a long time to build up the required accuracy and game awareness to be consistent.

How many consistent 18 year old spinners are there? Not many. How many 25 year olds? Still not many!

Becoming a good spin bowler takes a long time.

The catch 22 here is that to get experience you need to bowl a lot, but you don't get a lot of chances to bowl when you have little experience. Seamers can get away with a lot more because they have more margin for error. With you, one mistake and the skipper gets scared and whips you off.

So, how to you build experience?

  • Bowl a lot in practice, especially at the captain. If you get him out a couple of times he becomes more understanding. Be the last to leave the net.
  • Be the first to offer to bowl in every match situation. Don't keep quiet on days where the wicket is flat and the batsmen are filling their boots, see it as a chance to learn.
  • Make sure you are one of the best in your team at another skill. The days of a specialist spinner who does nothing with bat and hides in the field are gone. Aim to be selected on your batting or fielding alone. Give the selectors no excuse to drop you.
  • Have an understanding captain and selection team. You can't do much about this, but it sure helps.
  • Play games at a lower level than you can play to get overs under your belt in the middle. It doesn't matter how rubbish the batsmen are, there will always be a challenge for you: A slogger, an aim to bowl fewer bad balls, a spell under fatigue.

Have you got the character for spin?

As you see here, it's not easy being a spinner. There are a lot of barriers to success. But, by far, the biggest indicator that you will succeed as a spinner is your character.

Ask yourself,

  • Can I have a terrible day with the ball and still come back next time just as enthusiastically?
  • Am I prepared to go through a lot of bad days to get really good at my skill?
  • Do I accept that spinners are treated unfairly: That I have to work harder than everyone else to get an opportunity?

Whether you answer "yes" or "no" to these questions, if you are going to be a spinner you have to develop a way of dealing with difficult situations. That's your character. If your style is to get down or get angry about these things you can change. If you don't want to change you will never be an exceptional spinner. Move along.

If you're still reading now, congratulations; you have a spinners heart and stomach.

You will still have your moments. You will lose faith and wonder if you will ever find a way. But if you spend time building confidence with lots of deliberate practice and a good review process you will have the tools to make it through.

What's your spin development masterplan?

So, let's go back to the start. What have we learned?

  • Understand what you need to do, because there are many different types of spinner and situation.
  • Relentlessly work towards building experience, it's your best chance of success.
  • The best spinners have the character to overcome the inevitable obstacles.
  • Only be concerned with technique enough to build up your experience. It's better to be imperfect and experienced than technically perfect but never bowl.

Then, hopefully with the support of coaches, captains and fellow players, you will make it through the hard times and start spinning to win.

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Video: Batting Drill to Improve at Nets

One of the problems with batting in cricket nets is that you can't see where you hit the ball after it goes into the net. So, here is a drill to bring in a better way to assess your shots you can take from the nets to the middle. In the video, we use a scoring system that lets the batsman self-assess each shot.

The system is based 100% on how the batsmen feels he hit the shot and is scored:

  • 0 - Out
  • 1 - Edge
  • 2 - Contact
  • 3 - Good Contact
  • 4 - Exceptional Contact (right out of the middle of the bat)

This creates a measurable score on a skill that usually can't be assessed at nets. Then we looked back at the scores and came up with an average for the net session. The goal over time is to increase the average to a level that builds confidence in the batsman without too much focus on technique

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Fielding Drill: Tennis Inspired Pick Up and Throw

Kate Warne-Holland - Millfield's fantastic Director of Tennis - recently ran a drill that inspired me to adapt it for cricket.

 The orginal 3 player drill involved several steps: The feeder puts the ball into play, player one hits a ball down the line. Player two hits the ball cross court. Player one hits the ball down the line (from the different side of the body). Then player two goes cross court (from from the different side of the body). The rally continues until the ball goes dead.

Kate ran the drill for two minutes and applied some measurable scoring criteria to the drill. She asked player two to award himself a point for an excellent cross court shots which met the following criteria: Was it hit flat and with pace? Did it land within one metre of the baseline or side-line? Kate kept a log of how many opportunities Player two had to score a point. Kate then compared her total to the total that of the player.

Interestingly, around one in three opportunities to score were taken throughout the session.

Here's how it got changed to a cricket fielding drill:

  1. The feeder underarms the ball at pace to the left of the inner ring fielder A (ball movement 1).
  2. Fielder A moves to his left, picks up the ball and throws it towards the rubber disk placed in the centre of the drill. This throw simulates a throw that is aimed to hit the base of a set of stumps.
  3. Fielder B moves to cover the line of the ball (simulating backing up). He has to assess the angle of the previous throw and anticipate where the ball will be at pick up1.
  4. Fielder B gains his balance before throwing the ball at another disk. Again, this simulates a stump hit.
  5. Fielder A's job is not done. He moves from his initial throw to then back up throw number 3.
  6. After pick up, Fielder A throws the ball back to the initial feeder who then puts the ball back into the drill. This throw should be into the mit without bouncing. The Feeder should not have to move to gather the ball.

How do we score the drill for cricket?

Run the drill for 90 seconds:

Fielder A can score by:

  • One point: Hitting the rubber disk (at pace) on throw 2 after a clean pick up.
  • One point: Hitting the feeder with her return throw (on the full at pace).

Therefore, there are two scoring opportunities per round. How many rounds can be completed by your players in 90 seconds?

With this in mind, we can ask,

  • What is the impact of fatigue on performance?
  • How can the three players work together and support each other?
  • Can each fielder take more than 30% of their opportunities?

Scoring the drill as a team

You could make this a team rather than an individual drill. Points are awarded for Fielder A's throws and also for Fielder B's throw if it hits the second rubber disk.

How many points can a team get in 90 seconds?

We had two drills set up on a hockey pitch two teams running against each other. The competition was excellent.The contest ended when each of the team members had performed each of the roles within the drill, the points were tallied up and one team was victorious.

It's a top individual and team drill. Give it a go.


1The one rule I would introduce is that the backing up fielder can only move once the ball is in the hands of the throwing fielder.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 44: More Pzazz!

There is plenty of razzle-dazzle on the show as Sam Lavery, David Hinchliffe and Mark Garaway talk about making a strength into a super strength. How do you do it, what do you need to avoid and how do you make it fun?

Then the team look at questions around batting like AB de Villiers when your coach want's you to do something else and should a bowler change his action? There's plenty of pzazz!

Become Fielding CEO and Watch Your "Stock Price" Rise

When I was Head Coach of Somerset, my main intention was to develop a fielding unit that would smash all others out of the park.

We worked significantly on our positioning, our specificity with specialist deep fielders, "box men " and slips. We ensured that everyone could high catch and dive in an effective fashion. We focussed on our high traffic area fielders being excellent stump hitters.


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: 385
Date: 2015-11-13