Pitchvision Academy


We lead this week by talking about goals. Everyone has them, but how do you measure their success? Take a look at the case study below and join in with your own goals if you like.

Plus, we show you how to improve your batting, and give you some tips on joining a local cricket academy.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

What's Your Goal: A Four Step Plan to Rapidly Improve Your Cricket Skills

Today I am going to put my money where my mouth is. But I need your help too. This is a cricket skills case study about me: I'm going to report back to you on a goal so you can see how these methods work and take the ideas into your game. I'd love you to come along for the journey too.

Read on to join in.

You see, unlike previous years - where I played as much as I coached - in the last 12 months I have backed away from playing and focused mainly on coaching. This has highlighted some areas where I need to improve; nicking practice and throwing with the Sidearm cricket ball thrower.

I'm aiming to improve my Sidearm skills significantly in the next six months.

You can choose the skill you are aiming to improve too and come with me.

It might be a coaching skill, or it may be a playing skill, but by following along we can improve together.

Here's the plan.

Improve accuracy with a Sidearm

The first step in any aim is to have a target that is specific and measurable.

So, my aim is to be accurate enough with a sidearm cricket ball thrower to be able to hit the area I want most of the time. I also want to reduce "wasteful" balls, for example when trying to throw straight half volley length I send down a short ball down the leg side.

I won't focus on it, but I would also be happy to improve my pace when "bowling seam" and my turn when "bowling spin".

To monitor this, I'll use PitchVision to track my throwing accuracy, pace and deviation. I can then throw balls and track my accuracy over the next six months and beyond.

Starting line

To give you some background, here are my recent PitchVision stats:

  • Sessions: 12
  • Balls delivered: 388
  • Targets hit: 35%
  • Wasteful balls: 34%

The other balls are all playable by a batsman, but also not the right line or length.

Average seam pace is 54mph (87 kph), topping out at 61 when coming off a run up. Average turn when bowling spin is 1.9° (anything between 2-4° is good for club level spin).

As you can see, there is work to do.

But this is a starting line. I can use these numbers to see how I improve over time.

I encourage you to set your own benchmarks before embarking on a challenge like this too. You have to know where you are before you begin so you can see if you plan is working or not.

Carving time, setting the right goal

The next step in the plan is working out what you are going to do to make a change.

For players, this is easy. You go to practice and you bowl and bat while tracking results. For a coaching based skill, you need to practice away from practice. No batsman likes to face a coach who only gives them one good ball in three. I owe it to my players to carve out practice time.

So, for the next few weeks I'm arriving early at nets with half an hour to just throw balls on PitchVision.

I have set a target of throwing 500 more balls.

I am using a target I can achieve with the time available, but you will note I have not set any target on accuracy, pace or deviation. That's because I figure that throwing balls and getting instant feedback will be enough for me to get better. In short, if I look after the volume, the accuracy looks after itself.

I'll keep you up to date as I go, but the take away for any player or coach wanting to improve is,

  1. Identify a specific area to improve
  2. Define how you will measure it
  3. Set a realistic target based on elements within your control.
  4. Do the work!

What's your goal?

I know that the run up to the end of the year is often a super quiet time for cricket. But if you can find time, what are you going to work on to start next year in a better position?

Leave a comment and let's work together to make things happen now, and into the future.

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Improve Your Batting and Bowling with Clever Constraints

Recently, Mark Garaway spoke about the power of using constraints in practice to improve your cricket. This article will give you even more ways to use the same principle across batting and bowling.

If you are not familiar with "constraints led practice", it's really just a fancy way of saying you restrict your options compared to having a practice that is close to a game situation. It's halfway between a skill drill (where you work on a very specific skill in a closed way) and a game of cricket where you are free to do anything without restriction.

We do this kind of practice to allow us to develop specific skills in a more game realistic way. So, in Garas' example article above, he restricted the batsman to three options against spin. This simplified the options and lead to better results.

But enough about why we do this, let's look at what kind of constraint training you can try;

Batting practice

The first question for batting is what kind of feed works best for your needs?

Actual bowlers create an open situation because they can bowl anywhere. So if your goal is to rotate the striek against accurate bowlers and the bowlers are not very accurate, your plan is scuppered. On the other hand, if your goal is to "just bat" and dispatch the bad balls with your favourite shots, you can do it no bother.

Throwdowns and a bowling machine, on the other hand, are marked by accuracy. Many more balls are delivered where you want them to go. So, if your constraints practice is based on a couple of different shots then you are in a good place here.

A Sidearm or other ball thrower sits between these. They are less accurate than a machine but able to extract more turn, bounce and pace than most bowlers.

Then, with the the right feed you can then look at what kind of restrictions you want:

  • Score from every ball (no defensive shots).
  • Score behind square every ball.
  • Hit everything on one side of the wicket (off or leg).
  • Only play two or three kinds of shot (for example, pull and front foot drive)
  • Leave everything outside off stump.
  • Hit the ball through specified targets.

So, for example, an opener might face a bowling machine set to swing the ball both in and away on a good length just outside off stump. The batsman will try to leave everything outside off, play the balls on the stumps through the leg side for singles and drive slightly fuller balls. You can adapt restrictions to any situation.

It's still vital o keep score here because instant feedback is vital to self-improvement. This might be runs judges by you and the coach/feeder, it might be a points system. The details of the method are not as important as keeping some kind of score.

Bowling practice

For bowlers, the principle remains the same: restrict, track and improve.

The best restriction for any bowler is to not have a batsman. I know a lot of bowlers like the batsman there to judge line and length, and to get feedback, but target bowling is super powerful and everyone should get a dose of it.

If you do have a batsman in play, you can still bowl with restriction. In fact, this is what most club and school bowlers do all the time; aim to hit the top of off stump, with an occasional mess about with a variation when bored.

But there are other ways to bowl within constraints:

  • Have two kinds of balls you can bowl. Track how often you hit the target zone for those balls.
  • Have a set of balls you are working on. See some plans here. See how often you can "complete the set".

As with the bastman, tracking and instant feedback is king here. Tools like video, PitchVision and hand notation are all powerful ways to quickly improve.

Progressing constraints

Constraining yourself is a powerful way to develop a skill set. It's a step towards performing in games rather than hitting or delivering balls based around technical perfection. But you do still need to progress to even more open play too.

The process is broadly;

  • develop technique with closed drills.
  • test techniques in constraints practice.
  • test skills in open practice.
  • test skills in games.

You are not restricted to moving one way down this chain. You can go back and forth depending on how well the test goes. If you need to go back to hitting ball from drop feeds to keep your method honed then do it.

As an aside to this you can also test your general ability to "stack" options as you develop more of them. So, for example, if you are working on bowling good line and length and a yorker in one practice, you might have the previous bowler call what kind of ball you have to bowl as you run in. To overload your decision making, the call might be "yorker", "2" "blue" or "variation" (where blue is the cone colour).

This last element is less cricket specific but provides a good fun way to overload your decision-making skills in a cricket environment.

What are your contstraints?

Finally, what type of constraints do you apply to your practice? There are a few listed here but I have been far from comprehensive, so would like to you know how you approach this important style of practice.

Leave a comment and let the community know so we can improve together!

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 48: Back to Basics

David Hinchliffe is joined by Sam Lavery and Mark Garaway to discuss breaks; when to have them, why you need them and how to manage them to get the best from them.

Then, listeners questions are asked about grips and helping a young batsman expand his game to be more assertive while maintaining good technique. Excellent questions both.

Download and listen now.


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 show notes.

Or, the show comes out every Friday and you can listen to it on your 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.


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Set Up A Bowler Target Zone in PitchVision for Windows

Using PitchVision you can set an area for your bowlers to hit without the need for cones or other distracting visual aids.

Here's how.

Chance to Play: How to Join a Cricket Academy

You have heard the advice about how to become a cricketer: Get into a good Academy and the top quality coaching will send your game to the next level.

Whether you are in Delhi, Manchester or Sydney, the word “Academy” is shorthand for “excellence” and “success”. So, how do you get in there in the first place?


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: 389
Date: 2015-12-11