Pitchvision Academy


We love talent, but we love hard work even more. Based on that, we have some great articles for you around working harder and smarter, and getting better at cricket.

Jordan Finney talks about getting the best from players, Mark Garaway bats long and we practice without nets.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Hard Work Beats Cricket Talent

Jordan Finney is a cricket coach and sport psychology degree student. In this article he talks about talent and hard work.

All coaches have the story: The kind of player that doesn’t set the world alight but is a great "fill in" and cracking team guy.

They are often overlooked in favour of the "natural".

Yet, if you have someone who is a genuine lover of the game, and willing to graft then that is the player to invest your time in, because the chances are you will begin to unearth a star.


Players with these traits are like sponges for information. They take all of it in and put it into practice the best they can. They commit themselves to getting the very best out of each and every practice, and never go away feeling like they have not developed.

These players with receptive personalities always question. They always want to improve, and continually ask what the next step is or what they can be doing better. These players deserve all the time in the world, because attitude and receptiveness are the most important factors in development.

Let me give you an example.

I first started coaching a youngster when he was 9 years old. He was a tall strong lad for his age, but had very minimal levels of coordination and looked like he didn't know which end of the bat to hold. His balance was everywhere. Our coaching sessions were based around basic movements, maintaining balance and striking the ball from a strong base.

What I noticed was not only his will to get better through questioning, but his genuine love of the game and his dedication to practice.

I saw these qualities in abundance. He would continually question me about his game, about what he should be looking to do and get out of this practice and was a real joy to coach. When I would be taking other coaching sessions I would see him turn up at the cricket club with his Dad, get out the tennis balls and look to replicate good positions over and over again. He would beg his Dad to go to the nets so he could do hours of extra practice - proper practice - away from our sessions.

This young players attitude allowed him to progress to his first hard ball game that season, as we began to make him look something like a cricketer.

The following year we worked all winter on developing him, and at the start of the summer set out goals to help him gain a position in the club's "A" side by the end of the season.

This player once again showed dedication, a will to succeed and self-discipline, throwing himself into every practice with me, and then still practising all the things I introduced to him on his own with his Dad in every spare minute he could. Not only did this young player then achieve his selection, he got invited to the Regional Performance Centre for the County.

Progressing onto this summer, he has not changed in attitude and approach, and has achieved once again getting into the Regional Performance Centre summer squad: Just going to show that attitude, receptiveness to coaching and a genuine will to get better will always help you achieve.

This young player's discipline to practice away from formal coaching is also what sets him out, he doesn’t practice bad habits like most his age, he is always looking to play the correct way and what is right for him. I have coached many a naturally talented player, but it is the players this boy that make you the proudest as a coach as they dig deep and fight for everything they get.

The just goes to show how much can be achieved for a lad who was initially relatively uncoordinated and with minimal "natural" ability.

Personality traits are key to someone being receptive to coaching, in the same way that the coach needs to adapt.

It also shows that natural ability isn't everything, and no player should be ignored, because with the right personal attributes and dedication to training, anyone can develop and become far more than they ever expected they could be.

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How to Practice Cricket Without Nets

Maybe you don't have access to nets. Maybe your club nets are not very good. Maybe you are fed up of having the same old nets every time.


Whatever it is, it's time to get creative and start improving your cricket without nets.

Here's how.

Middle practice

A good old-fashioned game is often the answer.

If you have access to an old pitch, and a friendly groundsman, you can get the team together to play in the middle. There are lots of ways to do it, here's threee ideas:

However you choose to do it, rack up the pressure, get everyone to field their hardest and play out the scenario to learn some tactical skills.

Specific practice

If middle practice is about open-ended tactical skills, use specific practice to do more on certain things.

Using your old wicket you can work on specifics too. For example, if you want to improve sweeping, spinners can bowl, batsman can try to sweep and everyone else can field on the leg side to get the ball back.

You can do the same for any shot that is played to a good ball. Although, avoid working on "bad ball" shots like driving, cutting and pulling as bowlers won't be happy about being asked to bowl badly!

What you can do as a compromise is "specific side" practice: Batsmen can only score on either the off or leg side (perhaps even saying only in front of square if you're being strict). Fielders stick to one side and bowlers look to get their lines right for this kind of batting.

Technical practice

Working on technical skills is easy without nets because this area barely needs nets anyway.

Batsman can use throwdowns, drop feeds and underarm feeds to drill the right positions to hit the ball.

Bowlers can do the wide range of tent peg drills to get into better positions.

Fielder, yes fielders too, can work on catching and throwing technique. It's amazing how many cricketers disregard this part of the game, but makes such a huge difference when you work on it.

In my experience, club players are terrible at this part of their preparation. Most people just want to either bat or bowl and never even consider doing any technical work. This is foolish. Simple drills not only work to improve your game, they are also an excellent way to fill any down time at practice.

You don't even need space or lots equipment for this. Great players of the past have often been fine with a stump, wall and golf ball. Get creative and get into it!

Mental nets

Another less regarded part of the game is mental preparation. Yet, so much of the game is played in the head, getting your brain right is a huge contributor to your success as a cricketer.

Often this mental training is a simple chat with coach or team mates who have an understanding of the mental part of the game: dealing with nerves and pressure, staying focused during games, getting ready for games in the right way and so on.

Carve out some time to chat these things through with guys you trust in your team. It's amazing what you learn if you just ask for some advice.

There's also nothing stopping you from doing a bit of visualisation.

It's not as hard as you think, or reserved for pros. It does take time to get used to. You have to clear time and space to really do it. However, visualising for 20 minutes a couple of times a week is proven to be as effective as having a net (possibly more so, depending how well a net is run).

So, take some time to think about where your mental game could be improved (anything that is not directly tactical, technical or fitness is mental game). Then get some drills in that help you develop. Even if you think it's a waste of time, surely it's better than sacking off training altogether!

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Awareness and Adaptation: How to Bat Long

I’m on a crusade!

A batting longer crusade.


Last week I spoke about the clarity and self-awareness that all the most successful players in Test cricket batting history have around their shot making. Steve Waugh was one example of a player who understood his scoring shot super strengths and stuck rigidly to his most successful and repeatable shots to accumulate just under 11000 Test runs.

So here are my top three considerations if you want to extend the length of your innings.

Self-Awareness shot-making: Play to your strengths

The clearer you are about your scoring game, the more effective you will be out in the middle. Those with the clearest minds make the most spontaneous decisions in the middle. The subconscious level of batting they achieve is often described as being “in the zone”.

For most of us, this only comes in those rare occasions when we bat at the top of our game. If I asked you to tell me what you were thinking when you played your best ever innings, you will tell me “I was thinking nothing” or “I can’t remember”. The players who feature in the top Test run scorers of all time had absolute clarity about how they score runs and the shots that they use to achieve their goals.

  • What are your 3 best scoring shots to pace?
  • What are your 3 best scoring shots to spin?

As one of my coaching mentors states “if you think, you die!” which sounds a bit morbid but I get what he means. The body and mind, if trained appropriately and in a disciplined fashion can self organise.

Play to the bowlers weaknesses

I hear players attributing the reason for playing a poor shot to “that’s the way I play” or “that is one of my best shots” quite a lot in changing rooms and in TV interviews. As I said above, self-awareness is crucial. If you have a great reverse sweep shot then play it more than your poor version of hitting the ball over the top of the mid off when facing an off spinner.

That makes sense doesn’t it?

However, we also have to take into consideration the weaknesses of your opponent, the guy bowling at the other end.

I listened to a great conversation between a coach (Steve) and a player (Tom) the other day. The batter had just scored 70 and the coach asked him about his shot selection options to the oppositions very slow leg spinner.

They talked through the first over that the leggy bowled.

  • Ball one: Slightly dragged down, slow leg spinner pitching outside leg. Tom went for a pull and feathered inside of fine leg for two.
  • Ball two: Similar ball, slightly straighter. Tom dispatched the ball into a great space between straight mid-wicket and deep mid-on for four. Top shot.
  • Ball three: Slightly quicker delivery, similar length. Ball punched to deep cover for one.
  • Ball four: Tom’s batting partner received a front foot no ball slow, full toss and hit it to deep mid-off for one.
  • Free hit: Another slow leg spinner. Tom caught the ball before it bounced and played a slog sweep over square leg for six!
  • Ball five: Tossed up ball. Tom played a reverse sweep (one of his favourite shots) and luckily, didn’t hit the ball with any power and it dropped short of the two men positioned behind square in the inner ring on the off side. If he had connected cleanly, he would have been caught.
  • Ball six: Half Volley, single to deep mid-off.

16 off the over. 14 of them to Tom.

Steve asked Tom about his shot option on ball five. Naturally, Tom defended his reverse sweep option stating that it was one of his best options. Fair enough I hear you say. Steve went on to say that whilst having a clear idea of your own strengths is brilliant, that its really important yet we also have to use the bowlers weakness or characteristics against him.

Steve went on to ask Tom “Describe his bowling in that over”

Tom: “Really slow leg spinners, real slow, no pace to work with. Either very full or back of a length”

Steve: “Agreed. So what shot options would you advise someone else to consider against that pace and those lengths of bowler”

Tom: “Pulls definitely, you have to put pace on the ball and the slog sweep if you can catch it on the full like I did on the free hit”

Steve: “So lets go back to Ball five and the reverse sweep...”

Tom: “Well I would still play it as I was trying to move a fielder... but... actually, I didn’t need to do that did I? In fact, I almost got out when I had hit 13 off the over anyway and those other options would work better”

The quality of the question sequence used by Steve led Tom to effectively dismiss his previously held limited belief as being, well limited. It was a top bit of coaching and another additional layer to build on top of my number one consideration

Adaptations and concessions: Play the conditions

England Coach, Graeme Thorpe talks about adaptations and concessions.

It's basically where you adapt you technique and concede that a normally strong part of your game may be inappropriate against a certain bowler or ineffective on a certain type of pitch.

An example of this in Test cricket came in a India vs Australia Test in 1996.

Australia lost the toss and were due to bat last. The pitch was bone-dry, fractured and became more and more unpredictable in nature as the game wore on.

Steve Waugh picked up a 5-ball duck in the 1st Innings and then made a decision to limit his boundary scoring against the Anil Kumble to only one shot in the second innings. Anil Kumble picked up nine wickets in the match, India won comfortably. Waugh considers his 67* off 231 balls as one of his finest innings.

  • Learn to understand your own strengths as a batter. Be as clear as you can on your best scoring shots. Use stats to support or challenge your view. This will help to sharpen your clarity
  • Consider the bowlers weaknesses – Don’t be overly dogmatic about your strengths when the bowler is giving you more than enough easy scoring options through his own inadequacy
  • Adapt your game in tough conditions – Follow Steve Waugh’s example when your “best” simply isn’t appropriate enough

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Research-Backed Proof of the Right Length to Take Wickets

What's the best length to bowl to take wickets?

If you have bowled, you have a good idea of a good length. Yet, how much better would things be if you could know exactly what that length is?

Cricket Show S8 Episode 18:What Makes A Great Coach?

Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe discuss the finer points of coaching and playing cricket. The show talks about T20 batting on tough pitches and asks what makes a good coach.

Remember to follow PitchVision Academy for free bonus content.

Listen for the details.


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: 464
Date: 2017-05-26