Pitchvision Academy


This week we cross the globe again to talk cricket: From marginal gains in the UK, to women's cricket in South Africa.

Waqas Zafar looks at the stats of uneven bounce, Mark Garaway saves your throwing arm to make it better as the season goes on and Mignon du Preez is announced as PV SA Academt Director.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Here's a Simple Way to Turn Small Improvements into Huge Cricket Gains

The devil is in the detail.

It's an old saying that has a lot of modern truth when it comes to cricket. It has positives, but many consider the idea of "marginal gains" a waste of time and too much effort to put into a typical cricket team.

So, what's the truth?


It certainly worked in the world of cycling. Team Sky was formed from scratch to try and win the Tour de France in five years. Using the idea of "marginal gains" to the extreme, they did it in three.

Under Dave Brailsford, the team went crazy over details. They started with the big stuff (bikes, training, psychology) then drilled down further, even picking out the right pillows to use for cyclists to have the best night sleep.

No stone was unturned.

Naturally, without the budget of Team Sky, you wo't be able to recreate such attention to detail. But there are still small gains you can adopt to make just as dramatic results.

A marginal gain in cricket

Let's take a cricket example to prove my point.

In 2016 a club cricket team averaged 3.86 runs per over (RpO) the season of limited over cricket. They scored from 31% of the balls they faced (SB%).

This team scored singles from 18% of the balls they faced, 5% boundaries and 4% in twos and threes.

The team took, on average, 17 quick singles a match and faced 229 balls.

By the way, this is no paper exercise. This is a real team with real statistics.

Due to the large variation in SB% between games, it's easy to see what happened when things went well compared to when things went poorly. So, when the team made a good score,

  1. RpO rose to 4.37
  2. SB% rose to 33%
  3. Boundaries rose to 6%
  4. Singles rose to 19%
  5. Quick singles rose to 20

What does all this number crunching show?

That increasing small things by 1-2% makes big differences.

The team scored nearly 30 more runs per match by scoring from 5 more balls an innings.

Just 5 balls in 229!

The halo effect of these five balls was strong: more singles, more boundaries and more quick singles stolen.

Without this information, you might assume you have to make huge changes to your team or tactics to boost scores by 20%. In fact, a marginal gain of 1% in your strike rotation skills will certainly boost your final score.

Marginal gains for everyone

All this is great for team tactics and strategy, but what can you do as a cricketer or coach to gain the benefits of marginal improvements?

In other words, if you are a player on the team above, how do you go about boosting team SB%, quick singles or boundary%?

Shouldn't you just play rather then get a head full of numbers?

Yes, and no.

First, ask yourself about how much you train.

One of the easiest gains is to train more often. Simply by training more, you will improve. You never need to worry about the details of the team SB%, you can get to work sorting out your way of playing and you will naturally start scoring from more balls.

Over time, each small session builds on the next one and before you know it you have faced 10,000 balls and are feeling like a superstar.

Similarly, over time, every session you miss starts building the habit of not training.

You might overcome this habit with good form or talent (many do) but you are not giving yourself the best chance of success.

And, over time, each tiny, unnoticeable improvement you make at each practice can either build up by attending, or dip away by not turning up to nets.

So, build a training habit.

It might be as simple as managing your calendar to make sure you get there. Whatever it takes. Get to the sessions. Every tiny success is built on, every tiny failure chips away.

If you are nailing the numbers game, the next step is to start working on tiny improvements to what you do at nets: what's your focus on improvement (strike rotation)? How are you tracking your improvements? What's your mindset?

You can even get down to tiny details: What balls are you using? Is there a sightscreen at nets if you use one in games? Are you bowling no balls? Are you recreating conditions as closely as possible to games?

There's plenty of marginal gains for all of us.

Other marginal gains

But it doesn't begin and end at practice.

Years ago, a famous American coach, Vern Gambetta coined the phrase "24 hour athlete" to talk about marginal gains in another way.

Ask yourself:

  • What can I do to be 1% faster and stronger than before?
  • What can I do to improve my sleep quality by 1%
  • How can I ensure my hydration is preventing dehydrated loss of performance?
  • How can I increase the amount of time I am in form by 1% just by understanding my reaction to pressure?
  • What small chance can I make to my diet to give me less body fat and more stamina?
  • Will 20 minutes of meditation a week make more more focused when batting?

Each small thing might not seem like much. It isn't much to take a sip of a drink, for example. Yet, enough sips and you are properly hydrated. Proper hydration stops dehydration which can decrease performance significantly.

It's really about good habits.

Work out what habits will give you tiny gains (that become big gains over time). Build those habits and trust that, given time, they will work.

It's easy to either not start, or give up. It's easy to say "I don't think this will work" because you can't get the instant feedback. You may never know for sure that getting eight hours of sleep a night is better for you than six.

You just have to go with it.

Try building a few habits for six months. Start with the big win of training quantity and quality and look at other things like sleep, diet, mental training and exercise.

It's a simple approach, but not an easy one.

But with grit, hard work and faith you will build better habits, a better chance of success and cricketing marginal gains as successful as the cycling ones of Team Sky.

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What Length Should You Bowl on an Uneven Pitch?

When you get a minefield pitch, everyone looks to the bowlers to win the game easily. Do you feel the pressure?

It's not as easy as you first think.


While conditions are in your favour, you can slip up. If the game is likely to be low scoring, a bad spell can finish the game for you.

So, analyst Waqas Zafar has done some research to help you stay focused.

Analysis on a tough pitch

Using PitchVision, a total of 434 balls have been bowled to ne batsman. The bounce was unpredictable, but the pitch was not unplayable, as we will see.

200 balls were dug in short, a huge 46% of the balls the batter has faced. Here is a close look at beehive of the shorter balls.

We can see a lot of green balls, which illustrates singles being taken. Balls on top of off stump have been dot balls but anything straight and even just outside off stump have been picked for runs.

The balls that have been picked away for boundaries have been beyond the 8.0 metre mark, which means that the batter has a good judgement of length and has not gone for horizontal bat shots until the bowler dug it very short. This takes away the factor of chopping the ball back onto your stumps.

The data shows bounce at this length has been predictable, hence not causing much worries for the batsman. The batter has looked to score runs which is a very good sign. Average pace has been 103.67 kmh (64.42 mph).

The bowler was wasting these deliveries, especially when you see what happened when the ball was fuller.

The length for wickets

113 times (26%) the bowler has hit a good length length. There has been a lot of unpredictable bounce from this length so I decided to break down it into two ranges.

First, the 6.0 – 6.5 range.

Here is a look at the beehive of the balls in 6.0 – 6.5 range:

With this happening, the batter left the balls outside off, but luckily for the batsman, no ball bounced below stump height. However, the batter has been provided with an easy let off with a lot of balls wide outside off stump or the ones sliding down the leg side.

Now, the 6.5 – 7.0 range. A look at the beehive of all these balls:

A number of balls from this 6.5 – 7.0 range have kept very low. A couple of balls outside off are almost equivalent to stump height or lower.

This is where the bowler has missed out.

Because whenever the ball is keeping low, bowlers should change their line of attack and look to hit the stumps.

We can see one wicket ball, skidded through very low but the number of dismissals could be increased. The wicket ball landed on 6.8 m from the stumps but bounced only 0.40m. A lot of balls from this 6.8 m zone bounced higher than 1m. This plays on the batter’s decision making.

Not all tracks are all uneven

When the bowler went fuller, the bounce was consistent, making run scoring easier. We can see the batter has put pressure on the bowler whenever the ball was either straight or width was on offer. The batter has taken advantage of not very accurate bowling as we can see the scattered beehive.

121 times (28%) the bowler has bowled the fuller length and this is where the batter has been most aggressive. A look at the beehive of the fuller balls:

So, as we can see, the key to bowling on a "bad" wicket is to work out exactly where it is bad and try to hit that as much as you can.

Get it wrong and the captain will think you are giving away easy runs. Get it right and you'll be the hero.

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Cricket Show S7 Episode 40: Bowling Fast, Batting Balance

The podcast partners, Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe talk cricket. The team discuss what has changed in the world of coaching fast bowling. There are also chats about building a culture of training and keeping balance while batting.

Listen to the show for all the cricket coaching and playing fun.


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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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Save Throwing Arms with These Tips

What's the normal journey for a cricketer's throwing arm?

Start strong and get progressively weaker and sore over the course of a season.

Major League Baseball players throwing arms get stronger over the course of an 162 game regular season.

Mignon du Preez to Direct PitchVision Cricket School at CSA Centre of Excellence

South African International player, Mignon du Preez,is the new Director of the PitchVision Cricket School in South Africa.


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: 435
Date: 2016-10-28