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This week we ask should cricket have more coaches, and come up with a surprising answer. Read on to find out.

Plus we discuss data in cricket, bowling yorkers, batting plans and the use of social media in coaching technique. We always look at the controversial areas!

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Does Cricket Need More Coaching?

Coaching is simple.


That’s what people say who have a strong opinion about coaches.

It leads to quips like Shane Warne saying a coach is “something you travel to in the game”. It leads to people saying “they have more back room staff than cricketers!”

Why not keep the game simple?

Why not forget about all these coaches tinkering with player’s natural games?

Because the job of the coach isn’t simple. You can’t reduce coaches or the role of coaching down to a one-liner. And so, to know how much coaching cricket needs, we need to look in more detail.

What is a coach?

It’s difficult to define what a coach is. The name encompasses so many different jobs and styles.

The community coach bringing cricket to 11 year olds has a very different day, personality and set of skills to the Head Coach of a national team. Think about all the different coaches in the game.

Juniors are different from adults, women different from men, elite players are different from recreational players, power hitting is different from touch play and spinners are different from seamers. That’s before we even start to talk about fielding, fitness, nutrition and psychology coaching.

In broad terms, a coach is someone who helps you get the best from yourself. Usually they are in a formally appointed position, but not always.

Clearly the needs of the players and the team will vary depending on the level, but the overal theme remains the same.

How many coaches do you need?

With such a wide range of skills needed by players, the obvious arguement is for more coaches with more specialist knowledge. Especially in the elite game.

Of course, at lower levels this is less important as coaches are there to install passion and develop the basics. One generalist coach feels like plenty for the local club under 15s.

So, opinions vary but how do we know how many is right?

The problem is, we have no real measure of a coaches’ effectiveness.

That means when a team wins, the coaches are praised and when a team loses the coaches are criticised. And this simplified approach crosses all levels. I have seen junior coaches be criticised by parents when a team does poorly. It’s not reserved for the pros.

But winning is about far more than the coach. Let’s face it, it’s mostly about the players. They are the ones on the pitch. So, to use winning as a yardstick for coaching success is a problem.

In reality, success is more subtle. It’s about creating an environment of development that creates confident, happy people. It’s about ensuring players enjoy the game. It’s about the big picture. Quality over quantity.

If you get these things right, you tend to win games any way. Have you noticed?

So, will more coaches improve those things?

Maybe, but it’s impossible to say for sure because these are complex, dynamic human relationships that can’t be boiled down to checking the results sheet and averages.

Forget numbers

So, I will argue that we don’t need to worry at all about how many coaches there are.

Yes, we need more good coaches at every level with suitable skill sets.

Yes, we need more specialists who can improve specifics like spin bowling, mental game and strength and conditioning.

Yet, we also need to be sure that every coach is contributing to the overall plan of helping players and teams improve. Every coach is part of the environment and either helps it or hurts it. If they hurt it, they are not coaches.

I would rather have one coach who inspires than 100 specialists who don’t contribute to player development.

So the sooner we get away from reducing coaching down to weight of numbers, the better we will be able to get the right coaches in front of the right players at the right time.

That’s what builds cricket.

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Build a Yorker Tunnel to Build Yorker Bowling Skills

Millfield head to India on Saturday with 30 boys and 15 girls to play in 15 limited over games over 11 days.

Sure, there is going to be a lot of learning about how to play spin but I’m also interested in how our seamers fare in a new cricketing environment.

The challenges of India for a seam bowler includes heat, surfaces with limited seam movement, balls that degrade earlier than in the UK and some serious batters to compete against.

Indians love to bat!

As we are playing 40 and 20 over cricket in the main, one of the skills that Dan Helesfey, our bowling coach, has been promoting in recent weeks has been the ‘sandshoe crusher’, otherwise known as the yorker!

The king of yorkers

One of my childhood heroes watching cricket at Somerset was the West Indies legend, Joel Garner.

The ‘Big Bird’ used to let his yorker go from the top of his bowling height - he stood at over 2 metres - and it speared in with unnerving accuracy. Joel averaged 20 with the ball in Test Matches and 18, yes 18, with the ball in ODI.

Interestingly, the only other bowler who has taken over 100 wickets in ODI cricket with an average under 20 is Australia’s Mitchell Starc. Another fantastic yorker bowler.

So how has Dan been coaching yorkers at Millfield?

Technically speaking, many top class bowlers (including Mitchell Starc) have consciously or subconsciously slightly lowered their bowling arm to shift the trajectory of the ball as it goes through the air towards its intended target.

All of our bowlers have had a good go at this, some of them have found that they prefer to maintain their usual bowling arm slot but a larger number are keen to try this lower arm slot out for real when they head to India.

The slightly lower arm slot that many of the bowlers have enjoyed enables the ball to arrive at a more shallow trajectory into the very full length than a ball bowled from their more usual and more vertical arm-slot.

This means that a bowler can miss the perfect Yorker length by a few centimetres and the delivery still feels like a toe-crusher to the batter.

The most obvious example of this kind of bowler is Lasith Malinga.

Although he bowls every ball from this kind of arm slot.

Darren Gough, Mitchell Starc and Waqar Younis are bowlers who had a tendency to adapt from their usual release position when unleashing their Exocet yorker.

Tunnel vision

So how has Dan got our guys to practice their yorker skills?

Dan has created a “yorker tunnel” made out of speed hurdles, cardboard and sellotape. Something straight off of TV shows Blue Peter or Art Ninja!

It gives the bowler a visual target to go for, it’s static but very visual. The bowlers love trying to get the ball under the hurdle.

Some have managed to get the through the front hurdle, under the tunnel and out the other side without touching any part of the tunnel.

You guessed it…..the bowlers who achieved this are all guys who have decided to lower their arm slot when bowling a yorker!

Bowlers with a more vertical arm slot can also get the ball under the 1st hurdle but the ball rarely gets through the tunnel without disturbing the structure.

This suggests that the steeper angle gives less margin for error when bowling a Yorker.

It doesn’t mean to say that a vertical arm slot isn’t a good one when bowling yorkers, Joel Garner is proof of that.

But it’s certainly worth asking your bowlers to give the low arm slot a go and build a makeshift yorker tunnel of your own.

It’s been a fascinating watch from the other side of the cricket bubble!

Why don’t you give it a go?

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Cricket Show S7 Episode 46: Coaching or Commentating?

Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe talk about cricket coaching and playing better cricket.

Are social media comments helpful, and what do they tell us about how most people approach technique? In this context, the team look at coaching versus commentating and what is the role of each one.

Then, there are discussions about the use and abuse of data, and how to make your perfect shadow cover drive into something useful.


How to Send in Your Questions

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Work on Batting Plans Before Batting Technique

When you bat with a plan, you never have to worry about technique again.

PitchVision Live Video Session on Using Data in Cricket

 Watch this session on the use of data in cricket, recorded live and featuring examples from PitchVision's PV/ONE ball tracking software.


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: 440
Date: 2016-12-02