Pitchvision Academy


This newsletter is packed with cricket tips for you, just like every week. The time of year makes no difference to us!

So we talking about training volume, practice quality, mental costs, sin bins and review the year. Plus we take a quick trip to the "panto" just for fun.

Have a great week and a great festive period,

David Hinchliffe

Just Hitting Balls: The Simple Way to Understand How Many Deliveries to Face at Training

After this epic case study article, we got a comment from Facebook saying, "You could realistically be drilling/bowling close to 500 reps per week, which would get improvement.". Yet our case study players averaged a mere 38 reps per week, despite putting in 20 hours of sessions. The highest in any one week was 114. Miles away from 500.

Have we wasted our time?

More importantly, are you wasting your time if you can't put in 500 reps a week?


It's not a simple case to answer, but here's a primer on "training volume" to help your decide.

(Spoiler Alert: Volume matters, but not as much as quality.)

Why hit balls?

To start, let's go back to basic principles and ask, why do we even practice anyway?

You are probably thinking the answer is obvious, because it is: We train to get better. We might be learning new skills, honing existing ones or trying to find form, but there is always a reason to have a net.

In the last five to 10 years, we have learned that the more deliberate your training, the better you get. Undirected sessions won't help you improve, so if your goal is to get better through training you better create a feedback loop.

We also know that even with deliberate, focused practice, it takes a very long time to master your skill. They common shorthand for this is "10,000 hours" of practice. While there is no magic in this number, the idea that you need a lot of training volume is sound.

So, now we know we need plenty of well directed practice.

We next need to know, what is practice?

What is a ball?

Again, you might be wondering if your coach has gone daft in asking this. But a "ball" is not one thing, so we need to know what we mean when we say "reps".

A ball, or a rep, could be,

  • A ball bowled to a batsman.
  • A Sidearm or throwdown from the coach.
  • Target bowling.
  • Facing a bowling machine ball.
  • Drop or bobble feed.
  • Tent peg drills.

Each one is valid, has different reasons to be used and takes different amounts of time. You can manage 200 balls an hour with a bowling machine, but that number is half as much when the feed is from a Sidearm. If you are having middle practice you may only manage 60 balls an hour split between a group of 10.

The point is, if it was just about volume alone, you would only ever do drop feeds and tent peg drills because you can do so many compared to the others.

Going back to our case study bowlers and batsmen, we can do a couple of things,

  1. Estimate the number of reps that were not counted and add those.
  2. Examine the quality of each counted rep.

In the first case, when you add together all the throwdowns, tent peg drills and bowling in nets without PitchVision, we can estimate another 30-70 reps uncounted. Let's call it 52 so we can call it a nice round average of 90 reps.

Let's then look at the quality. Each player was working towards a specific plan of areas to improve, and drilled towards this plan. For example, one player was developing a sweep shot and after many reps from throws, faced spinners in the PitchVision net, playing 74 sweep shots in an open, match-like situation.

Had the player gone into the sessions in an undirected way, he would have played far fewer, if any, sweeps and gone home no better.

The point here is this; all reps are not created equal.

How many balls?

With all this in place, we get to the crux of the question. How many balls is right to see improvements? And how long will this take?

Let's assume we can make a noticeable improvement in around 500 reps. If you did something 500 times, you would be disappointed if you had not become good at it. You may not be a master, but you will have confidence that you can bowl that yorker or play that sweep after 500 goes. Some of those goes will take less time than others, as we have already discussed.

Now, this applies to a single skill only so, in reality, to improve something wider like "scoring runs" or "taking wickets" you need much more, but let's stick to one skill.

If we average out the different types of reps, we can assume roughly the same as we saw in the case study, 50 reps an hour in a group session.

With that conservative estimate, 500 reps will take 10 hours.

That is very doable, and very clearly showing signs of improvement.

Speed up improvements

But let's go back to the counter-argument of 500 reps a week. Will it speed up improvement?


When done with proper attention to deliberate practice.

If you are able to train 10 hours a week, there is no doubt you will improve compared to the same training done two hours a week.

But there is a risk in accelerating things.

If you have access to a bowling machine and decide to hit 500 on drives a week you could get it done in around three hours. At the end of a few weeks you will be amazing at hitting the bowling machine through mid on. Yet you don't know how good you are at doing the same against a bowler.

That's why it's important to practice with lots of different methods (as listed above) that may take you away from sheer volume. You are better off facing fewer balls on the machine, then developing the skill in more open situations like nets with live bowling and middle practice.

In addition, if your skill is something around the mental side of the game, you have to take more time. Learning to bat under pressure, for example, can only be done if there is pressure applied. That might mean very few reps per week because your session is over the moment you get out!

Quality and quantity

In short, there is no simple, magic number that you can use as a target. Everything depends on many variables: time available, goals, equipment and even your focus.

Naturally, more is better.

Even more naturally, quality trumps quality (although high quality and quantity is the best combination).

If your goal requires lower volume (usually pressure based training) then it will take longer to see an improvement than if your goal is based on learning a shot or new delivery.

If you have multiple goals, it will take longer than if you have a single one.

If you train two hours a week you will take longer than if you train 10 hours a week.

If you train in a group you will take longer than if you train one to one. But sometimes, you will have to train in a group to meet your goals.

So instead of shooting for a number per week, shoot for a specific goal, then work backwards based on how much time, equipment, training buddies and training methods you have.

If that number shakes down as 50 reps a week, do it.

If it shakes down as 500 reps a week do it.


  • We practice to get better.
  • We get better with deliberate practice.
  • Different deliberate practice methods take different amounts of time.
  • Work out your goal, then set a weekly volume target based on your goal.
  • Get it done!

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Coaching Tour Diary: England in Sri Lanka (part 2)

Iain Brunnschweiler is on tour, coaching England Under 19s in Sri Lanka. This is the second part of the diary, you can read part one here.

Day 7

Day seven brought first International match of the trip, as we took on India U19s at the Premedasa Stadium.

For the duration of this trip, we have had a police escort taking us through Colombo. It seems rather odd to have such a prescence, but it is testament to how important cricket is to this fabulous island. The Sri Lankans are lovely people, are some of the friendliest and smiliest that I have come across, and, boy, do they love cricket! There are so many cricket ground in such a small space, it’s brilliant to see. For most of the coaching staff, the police escort has reminded us of TV episodes of CHiPS (California Highway Patrol) that were on during the 1980s. These guys have similar beige jodhpurs and a cracking white motorbike.

We knew we were in for a tough battle on the pitch, as the Indians fielded a strong side, featuring Sarfaraz Khan (recently having scored runs for RCB in the IPL). It was Sarfaraz who showed his undoubted talent with an excellent 84, playing our spinners with aplomb.

We are lucky enough to have an excellent young spin attack, spear-headed by Hampshire duo of Brad Taylor and Mason Crane. Both lads have already taken first-class wickets for Hampshire, with Taylor having taken a 4-for as a 16 year old against Lancashire, and Crane breaking onto the scene with five wickets against Warwickshire. However even these two classy young spinners were on the receiving end of Sarfaraz and pals, with the Indians posting 254.

I was personally very disappointed with our fielding and bowling performance, mainly because I know we can do so much better. On reflection though, much of our carefully planned prep week was affected by the huge thunderstorms, and this was the first time that the players had entered the field as a unit to bowl in the middle! So they were definitely underprepared.

It reminded me that in order to succeed in such a crazy sport as cricket, you have to be highly adaptable to whatever conditions and challenges you meet.

We ended up losing the game on D/L, so a poor start.

Day 8

We had a training day today, with nets being made available at the Premedasa Stadium. Something that many coaches ask me, is how we keep things fresh and avoid having stale or meaningless practices.

I’ve got two answers: competition and mental cost.

1. Competition

In all of my experience of working from U11’s through to International players, there is one sure fire way to ensure that you get the most out of them is to make it competitive!

This could be setting challenges in the nets, setting up scenarios or phases of a one day match, giving bowlers individual targets of hitting a certain line or length…it could be anything. When you make it competitive and you engage your players, they will love it. We spend a lot of time as a coaching staff discussing exactly these things to enable the players to compete with each other in training, whether it is batting, bowling or fielding.

2. Mental cost

Now this may not be a common phrase to everyone, but it is something that I think about every single time I am involved in setting up practice sessions,

How am I going to create a mental cost for the players?

By this I mean that I want the players to engage their brains when they are practicing, not just hit balls or bowl meaninglessly.

Often just by making things competitive you can create a mental cost, and if you set a field for batters or bowlers in the nets, then they are actively thinking about whether their shots or deliveries were actually successful in the given scenario.

Another way of creating a mental cost which we regularly use, is to have a ‘sin-bin’ zone for batters, or a ‘good ball or goodbye’ policy for bowlers.

  • Sin Bin Zone. If a batter gets out in the nets, they have to walk out of the nets, take their pads off, drink some water, re-pad and then re-join the net. They hate doing this, and therefore the price they put on their wicket increases!
  • Good ball or Goodbye. A bowler can continue bowling as long as he bowls the delivery that he intends to. Clearly he has to say this out loud to one of the other bowlers or coach at the end of the net. If his outcome doesn’t match his intention, then he gets taken off, and goes to the back of the queue.

There are limitless variations to all of this, but competition and mental cost are the way forward in training!!!

Days 10-11

Back-to-back matches. This is where the boys will make it or break it in the competition. Having performed disappointingly in game one, we reviewed and discussed the main areas we needed to improve upon, and focused on them in practice. We knew we had let ourselves down in the field and with the ball, and wanted to put it right against Sri Lanka.

We certainly did that. From the first couple of overs Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood and Somerset’s Ben Green hit the deck hard, and we put the squeeze on in the field. Wit the seamers having done a good job, it was our Hampshire spin twins of Brad and Mason, with combined figures of 20 overs, 6-72 that reduced the hosts to 191 all out. A highly chaseable total on a good deck.

Unfortunately what unfolded was not what we were after. Wickets fell all too regularly, and we found ourselves up against it. A bit of a rear-guard from the highly talented Ryan Davies in partnership with skipper Brad Taylor gave us a glimmer of hope, but it was too little too late. Played two, lost two.

With no time to dwell on it, the next day we were back at Premedasa ready to take on the Indian favourites. Despite the losses so far, there was a very positive mood in the camp as we knew we were getting better by the game. If we could match up a batting performance to go with our bowling and fielding we could take down either of these teams.

We lost the toss, and after 30 overs India were 200-2! Blazing hot day and staring down the barrel of a 320-340 chase. Dan Lawrence induced a false shot from Bhui and it was well caught by the skipper. The response was outstanding, as we fielded and bowled brilliantly, taking 8 wickets for 60 runs.

Dan Lawrence got us off to an awesome start, with a run-a-ball 50, ably supported by George Bartlett. But the Indian spinners bowled very well, and once again wickets fell too regularly for our liking. Youngster Max Holden (Middlesex) joined Bartlett at the crease, and the pair of 17 year olds batted with maturity way beyond their years edging us towards victory. These two are definitely on the ‘ones to watch’ list.

But when Bartlett went for 70, young Max was left to try in vain to take us over the line, finishing with 46 and just short of a landmark win.

The devastation in the changing room was obvious.

The thing about youth cricket is, though, that failure is where the learning gets its ignition.

For those who are able to bank the feelings, and experiences of defeat, and use them to drive development, will no doubt come back stronger.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 50: End of Year Extravaganza!

Sam Lavery, Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe wrap up the series with more cricket chat. The show includes a quick review of the year from a coaching perspective before getting into some more technical troubleshooting.

There is a tactical discussion around what to bowl when and we help a young fast bowler find out more about "chest drive" Listen to the last show for the answers.

The team will be back in January for Series 7!

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!

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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.


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How to Have a Bullet Throw

A powerful throw sends a message to a batting team.

The batsmen are looking for a second run and you are in the deep. The both look up to see your throw, as do most of the batsmen waiting to come in. There is a subtle moment of expectation: Just how good is this guy’s throw?

You sear it in head high, dipping into the keeper’s gloves so he doesn’t have to move.

How Christmas Pantomime Can Improve Your Cricket

Good sporting performance is a lot like acting in a British Panto.

Oh yes it is.


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: 391
Date: 2015-12-25