Pitchvision Academy


This week we take a look at technique, specifically, how you can come up with an ideal technique in a world of many different methods. Read on to find out.

Plus we help you deal with bad advice, give you a net drill to boost your game and reflect on the power of reflection and review.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

What is Good Cricket Technique (and How to Find it)?

In a world of many different and successful ways of playing cricket, how can we know what is good technique?


We used to know with certainty.

We looked in the MCC coaching book and read the advice of the expert coaches who had all the answers. This “one size fits all” lasted for decades while English cricket dominated thinking.

But even as far back as Don Bradman, the seeds of doubt were sowed. Bradman played differently. He averaged 99.94 in Tests (30% better than the next best). His “rotary” method was shrugged off as the idiosyncrasy of genius.

But what we learned was going to outlast Bradman: good technique for one is useless for another.

As time passed we noticed there were more unorthodox players than the technically correct. Everyone did things slightly differently. Being unorthodox was the new orthodox.

We argued back against this fact. We said great players could be even greater with better technique. But the fact remained that people did things differently and were insanely successful anyway.

The certainty had gone.

So how do you work on best technique now?

How to improve cricket technique

For most people the model for learning and honing technique is simple:

  1. Someone (usually a coach) shows you how to do it.
  2. You try to do it in a drill and succeed or fail.
  3. Someone corrects you until you are doing it right.
  4. You do it in a game and succeed or fail.

This is a time honoured, simple method that works well, especially if you approach it from a growth mindset where failure is part of the process.

But there is a problem with this.

It assumes there is a right way that works for everyone all the time.

If Bradman had trained like this he would not have developed the method that allowed stellar performances. The same is true for a host of players who have been successful and unorthodox at the highest level; Chanderpaul, Tait, Malinga, Graeme Smith, Warne…

What did they do that was different?

In one word: Played

Typically, players who have less formal coaching in the “correct” way learned the game by playing the game. They didn’t get caught up in the details and instead looked to learn through experimenting and pure enjoyment of the process itself.

This can take many forms: gully cricket, backyard cricket, a stump and a golf ball, even lying in bed playing out Test matches in your mind!

Playing allows you to fail a lot, work out what works and keep coming back to try again because theres nothing important on the result. It’s self correction based on the outcomes. It means that if you try long enough to bounce a golf ball off a wall with a stump, you will work out the best way for doing it because you instantly know when you fail (you miss the ball and the rally is over).

Playing is the best way to learn and improve.

Playing more at cricket practice

You might be thinking that this all sounds good, but the reality makes it difficult. There is a practice session with a coach who is keen to give you advice and you are keen to show you are respecting it.

How to do play at formal cricket practice?

It’s actually easy.

If you arrive at nets with the right approach.

  • Go into your session with a specific aim in mind. It might be technical, technical, mental or otherwise but have something challenging you want to achieve.
  • As you bat, bowl or field, try things out and see what happens. Some things will fail, some will succeed.
  • Assess these things and decide if they are worth pursuing further so you get better at them.
  • Repeat until it’s no longer a challenge, then make it harder or try something else.

What happens if, during this process, a respected person like a coach chips in with advice?

This is where great skill and tact is required.

The advice might be perfect for you or it might be something you would never try. It’s probably somewhere between. You need to quickly decide if it is worth trying or not. If it is, try it (you might like it). If it isn’t, you need to tactfully decline the offer of help.

According to Mark Garaway, both Alistair Cook and Graeme Smith were masters of this polite rejection of authority. They took on board things they could use, but if they decided the tip wasn’t for them they would stoically remain firm. Despite not following the traditional method of being coached, they managed a few runs between them.

Maybe there is something in this?

Is cricket instruction all over?

So, where does this leave the tradition of instruction and telling players the right way? Is it on the scrap heap?


Formal coaching is still important, but it needs to be far more surgical in approach.

Research has show that “active learning” (that’s the technical term for playing) is effective alone, but is even better when some formal “passive instruction” kicks things off.

The perfect example of this is teaching beginners to drive. Here, a coach can demonstrate a drive and make a one or two key points about technique. Then the players can be asked to try and hit the ball through cones straight ahead. While the players experiment and play, the coach can chip in with ideas.

It also works in helping well-established players.

For example, the coach thinks a bowler is losing accuracy and risking injury through a lot of “falling away”. The bowler agrees. The coach assigns corrective drills to get the bowler’s back in a stronger position. The bowler’s accuracy improves.

This is classic “tell” coaching and is great when it works.

However, the bowler might also disagree. They might point to their accuracy stats and say it’s perfectly good. They might disagree that the falling away issue is the problem and all they need is more target bowling. They might say they have never been injured so the injury risk is low.

And at this point we are back to playing. The coach is offering ideas, the player is accepting or rejecting them based on their experience of themselves. The injection of drills and methods is available if needed, but there is no one fixed route with the coach as the grand master of all cricket knowledge.

In this new world, both playing and formal coaching can thrive. They just need to work together to create individual techniques these days.

There’s still plenty of technique. So, get to work.

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Use the Magic Nets Drill to Stop Wishing and Start Improving

Nets are not magic.

Commonly, we rely on the idea that by going in, “just batting” and walking out a few minutes later we will have found form and timing and will be a step closer to our best.

This is magical thinking.

 Form, skill and timing do not arrive because you wish hard enough when padded up surrounded by netting. You might as well try to cast a batting improvement spell while you are at it. Both are equally effective.

While there is some psychological benefit to nets like this (some people see reduced anxiousness, improved confidence and a better feeling of team unity), we can do better.

So step into my office and let’s talk.

Magic nets drill

In this drill, you have a net as normal but you take it a step forward.

Bat in the nets against bowlers for a set time, as is the traditional set up, but have a whiteboard or iPad at the ready.

Against your name on the board there are three columns:

  1. Out
  2. Chance
  3. Nailed It

“Out” is marked any time you are clearly out: Bowled, caught and bowled and LBW if there is an umpire/coach or PitchVision there to give a neutral decision.

It’s not counted as out if you think you might have been stumped, hit the ball to cover, or even nicked to slip. In other words, it has to be provable out.

“Chance” means any debatable way you might have been out: If you nick it, hit it in the air, run down the wicket and miss it or are hit on the pads but there is noone neutral to act as umpire.

Some chances will be almost certainly out, some chances will be almost certainly not out. However, we can’t prove it. Even a nick to the keeper is dropped sometimes, right?

The point is, you gave a chance, no matter how small. So record it.

“Nailed it” is when you hit one right out of the screws. You could not have played the shot better. This is your judgement as batsman.

Get the bowler or coach to note down each one as it happens.

At the end of the net you have a score. You can instantly see how well or poorly you did in the session.

You might be tempted to have a big swing at one and you hit it well but it goes up in the air. The bowler says “that’s out”, you say “that’s six”. In fact, it’s a chance because, although it might well have gone for six, it might have also been caught.

Racks up the need for discipline doesn’t it?

(And if you feel like hitting sixes is your job in the team then read on until the end to find out how to customise the drill for your needs).

Reflection time

At the end of the session, take your score away and reflect on how well you did.

Were your tactics right for the role you bat in?

Are you a risk taker who ends up nailing more but having more chances given, or are you looking to minimise risk?

You can adjust the way you bat to work on the score you prefer.

You don’t have to think about it for long, but you will arrive at the next net ready to try and beat your last score.

Drill variations

You can also adapt the drill for different types of play.

  • If you want to improve strike rotation, lay down cones marking 1–3 drop and run zones. Every time you drop the ball into the zone, you record a “nailed it”.
  • If you want to improve hitting over the top, or six hitting, set a zone with cones that mark a safe area that does not count as a “chance” when hit in the air.
  • If you are working on a specific shot - for example driving in the V early on - you can give yourself a target zone and a no score zone (say, through square leg). If you drive through the zone you get a “nailed it” if you play across yourself and hit it square into the leg side you record a “chance”.

By the way, if you want to add video and ball tracking you can also use PitchVision to track the scores. The system has buttons you can tap after each delivery to mark the outcome. That means you can save time adding up your scores as well as see how you did against different types of bowlers and lines and lengths.

But whatever you use, customise the drill to your style of play and get recording.

Over time you will see a marked improvement in your chosen style of play. Essentially, You have turned nets into a game where you are trying to beat your high score!

And who doesn’t love a challenge like that?

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What Does Ricky Ponting Have in Common with this 13 Year Old Keeper?

In my first few years as a coach I used to go along to coaching presentations and hear about the benefit of reflection and review.

Having been bought up in a “beer and chat” environment as a player, all this was a bit lost on me: A bit of utopian and conceptual thinking rather than real coaching practice that I could use with teams and cricketers.

Then I met Ricky Ponting!

The world’s best batter at the time played at Somerset in 2004. I had the opportunity to throw balls to him and talk with him every day for months. During that time, Ricky showed me his reflections diary, which was filled in every day: A way of capturing his cricketing thoughts, feelings, performances, learnings and observations.

He spoke to me about how his reflections would influence his future practice goals, his focus in games, develop strategies against opposing bowlers and ultimately to up his performance levels.

It was the first time that I had seen someone actually do this and wow what and impact it had on me as a coach.

After that Ponting lightning bolt I have encouraged players to reflect, either by committing to writing or by creating some thinking time for themselves after sessions and games.

It would be safe to say that not everyone sticks to this method for a sustained period of time.

The ones that do invest in reflection and review benefit from it significantly.

This is the same for teams as well.

The Stop-Start-Continue reflection and review process is one that I have used with teams for the past 10 years and it has helped to lock in learning and fast track team development.

Spontaneous shared reflections from India

Millfield have recently returned from touring India, we got back on the 21st December. There I am tucking into my mince pies on Christmas Eve and an email from the tours youngest member, 13-year-old Jamie, landed in my inbox.

In a totally spontaneous self-driven venture, Keeper Jamie has reviewed his experience game by game, with a conclusion at the end.

Without sharing all of Jamie’s reflections, I have picked out to highlights to show the benefit of this process.

Game 1 (Bombay gymkhana)


  • Came in at 7, slow start getting used to conditions and a bit nervous playing in a team with older players.
  • Didn’t use my feet enough against the spin that would also create better areas to score.


  • Although the pitch was very bouncy and I hadn’t kept to the seam bowlers previously I still stood too far back.
  • Because of how much the ball was spinning I think I could have stayed lower.
  • The standing back catch was good because it showed that what I had been working on by turning my body when the ball is high and it also showed I had improved on it.

Game 2 (CCI/Brabourne stadium)


  • Out trying to hit the ball over the top of mid-off, misjudged slower ball.
  • Even in T20 need to focus and bat positively but also with some sort of sensibility.


  • I was still getting used to where to stand, mainly with Kasey (who bowled quickly) but also with the other seamers.
  • I could have stayed down for longer when standing up as the ball was staying low.

Game 4 (Maiden oval)


  • Judged well where to stand on a very unpredictable pitch. Much improved.
  • Taking into account how much it was turning and bouncing I thought I kept well up to the stumps by staying down and keeping a good posture.
  • I also thought I kept a good positive attitude through the match and kept the team going when we were struggling in the match. We nearly turned it around to get an unlikely win.

Game 5 (Hindu Gymkhana)


  • Came in at four and then after a slow start I thought I showed good intent to score and rotated the strike well.
  • I thought I had good intent to use my feet against the spin to create more scoring options all around the wicket.
  • Overall though I thought I adapted well to the situation and felt really good.


  • I think I judged well where to stand this time on more of a predictable wicket.
  • Standing up I thought I stayed low well and also kept good positions to catch the ball.
  • Also like game 4 I thought I was lively during and between overs which lifted the team especially at the end of the innings with all the wickets falling. We won!


  • Really felt the work we have been doing this winter is improving my game.
  • Great experience in very different conditions, learnt a lot about needing to hydrate and recovery which I will take forward to Sri Lanka tour over Easter.
  • Batting, I felt I played well in hard conditions but need to keep thinking about shot selection, footwork and building on good starts.
  • Keeping, went really well especially as I got used to the spin friendly conditions and the quicker paced bowlers than in my age group. Our work on posture, and strong catching positions really helped on the surfaces in India.
  • Attitude I felt I contributed well to the team and expressed myself more as the games went on.

Now it’s the end of the tour I have more specific targets both batting and keeping.

  1. Footwork vs spin

  2. Scoring shots – nail down my banker scoring zones

  3. Consolidate Trigger vs pace

  4. Hands going back for a fuller backswing

  5. Good posture – check consistency

  6. Good hand presentation - check consistency under distraction/fatigue

  7. Continue leg side standing up - Hands first

  8. Turning my body when the ball bounces (up and back)

How about that!

Not only has he honestly reviewed and reflected each game in India he has also outlined to the coaches the areas of his game that he would like to focus on for the coming 3 months!

Its lovely to see how reflection and review can:

  • Develop responsibility: Work with the coaches instead of waiting for the coaches to tell you what areas need improving
  • Development in self-awareness - look how the reflection on his footwork vs spin and his depth vs fast bowlers when keeping adapted over the course of the 5 games.
  • Improve performance

Now, Im not saying that Jamie will end up being as good a cricketer as Ricky Ponting (would be good though), but he has a key process in place that helped Punter to become the best in the world.

Jamie is giving himself every chance of being “the best cricketer he can be” by using reflection and review in this way.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch him develop over the coming years.

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How to Deal with Bad Cricket Advice

Be it praise or criticism, tip or coaching, useful or useless; there are always people who want to give you cricket advice.

How do you sort the good from the bad?

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?


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: 445
Date: 2017-01-13