Pitchvision Academy


Mark Boucher gives us some insights into his coaching after winning coach of the year in South Africa.

Plus we talk about cross-seam bowling, snapbacks and Madonna. Yes, it's all cricket!

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Mark Boucher: South Africa Coach of the Year

Mark Boucher, Head Coach of the Titans franchise, was recently announced by CSA as their Coach of the Year.

Boucher has taken to coaching after retiring from International cricket due to injury. He has made an immediate successful impact with the franchise. How did he do it?

PitchVision got the inside track in this recent interview.

PV: What makes a good coach?

MB: First of all you need to have a team to work with. Not just skill. They have to understand you and you have to understand them. It's a mutual respect where the coach is trying to get the best out of a player and the player is trying to get the best out of the coach.

You have to be understanding. Every player needs a different angle for coaching. If you coach everyone the same it's never going to work. Understanding of each individual is the way.

PV: How much does cricket experience help?

MB: Experience is not the be all and end all. Graham Ford was involved in tennis, but he understood what it took to become the best.

It does help though. I always say that I want to be the coach that I wanted when I was a player. The best lesson I learned as a player was because I had a few coaches, some I connected with and others I didn't. So, as a coach I understand I may not connect with every player, but I can still make the best of the situation. I try and get in mentors that players do respect and drop my own ego. If I can't get the best from a player, I want to get someone who can get the best from them.

PV: What advice would you give for a player moving into coaching?

MB: You have to want to be a coach. It's not easy. It's different because you can't change the game.

You have to understand you will make mistakes. I feel I have to go with my gut. If it doesn't work, I learn and try not to make the same mistake again.

Understand your character. I was a feisty player but I am a calmer coach. Sometimes you need to give some harsh words to players but in a pressure situation, panic is not going to help. Whatever you do has to be the best for the player.

PV: How important is a coach?

MB: For our team, the most important thing is to understand the team culture. Our team has a strong culture so the coaches' job is make sure players stick to those cultures and respect those cultures. Everything is for the team, it's not about the coach.

PV: Who's the best coach you have worked with?

MB: It's a difficult question. I worked with different people through my career and they all played an important role at the time. At the beginning I remember working with Richard Pybus. He knew my game from school days. He knew me best.

When I got into the Proteas I worked with Bob Woolmer. He taught me a few things about keeping and understood my character.

Graham Ford taught me about my work ethic.

I met Ray Jennings at the perfect time in my career. I was floating and had maybe got lazy. He took me under his wing and we linked well. He was a hard person but that's what I needed.

Gary Kirsten calmed me at the end of my career so I could enjoy it.

PV: What do you aspire to acheive in coaching?

MB: In franchise cricket my job is to bring cricketers to play for the Proteas. Titles are nice but if you develop players the results look after themselves. It starts by bringing guys in to be ready for the Titans. Once they have been here for a while, get them ready to play for the Proteas. Then I'll be satisfied.

PV: What is your coaching style?

MB: I like to let players run how the want to run. It's the new style of coaching. I am here to support the culture and live up to it. If they are not living up to it you still need discipline but it must come from the player's culture.

I would also want players knowing they are getting good knowledge, working hard and having a good time doing it. We are close to the Proteas setup, so I am here to support players with ambitions to move into the Proteas some day.

PV: What coaching advice would you give to your younger self, if you could?

MB: I would help me believe in myself more. I thought I got lucky with opportunies early on. I did not think I would play for South Africa. I did not feel comfortable. I would panic. So, I would say to my past self: "It's not others at fault. You need to back yourself. Until then, you will always have doubts. That's normal."

What's the most satisfying part of coaching?

MB: When you see something as a coach and you try to get it across to the player, one of the most satisfying things is the player trusting you and agreeing to try and change it. You know trust is there.

Then, it's satisfying seeing a player pull something off in a match situation that they have been working hard on. They give you a little thumbs up. That little gesture sums up what they have been through, the sweat and tears, and the trust between player and coach.

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Tactics You Should be Using: Cross Seam Bowling

Holding the ball cross seam is horrifying to swing bowlers, but vital on good batting days.


How many times have you heard your bowlers say "the ball has stopped moving"? Yet how often do you persevere with the seam up, hoping the ball will somehow start to reverse or move off the seam?

In this moment, stop flogging that dead horse. It's time for a new plan. It's time to go cross seam.

Why cross seam bowling?

The down side of going cross seam - holding the cricket ball with the seam pointed at 90 degrees to normal - is that the ball will no long swing or move off the seam.

For fast bowlers who love to beat the bat and get catches behind, this feels bad. They have lost their main weapon of destruction. They feel like cannon fodder. Think 2017 Champions Trophy where the ball barely moved.

I would agree that the main plan should always be to get the ball moving sideways. It's a great skill and a proven way to take wickets. Look after the ball and experiment with getting it moving.

What if that plan fails?

What if the ball is poor and stops swinging early?

Most of us fall back on hope: If we shine it a bit more maybe it will come back. Maybe it will go the other way. Maybe it's time for spinners.

Deep down you know this is pointless.

You want some wickets, so it's time to try a bit of cross seam.

How to bowl cross seam

The beauty of cross seam bowling is that you don't need to change much.

Use the same action and same grip on the ball, you simply turn the seam in your hand so you are holing it like you would throw it. Across the seam.


The benefit is bigger variations in bounce. If the ball hits the seam it can jump and stop. If the ball hits anywhere else it can skid on. This makes it hard for the batsman to predict things and put off their timing. Your wickets come through catches in front of the wicket.

The bigger changes are in length and field settings.

Your length is better shorter than usual. I always advise bowlers they have two options:

  1. Back of a length, about 6-8m from the stumps for club and older school seamers
  2. Bouncers, if you have the pace.

Most seamers are shooting for the 5-7m range, especially if your pace is around the 100-110kph. With cross seam, you pull length back a bit because you want the ball to "hit the pitch" and do something strange, rather than get the batsman driving to catch an edge.

As a result, you can remove the slips more quickly and have fielders in front catching from the mistimed shot. Anything from one to four at short midwicket and short extra cover.

The other option - bouncers - is higher risk but also higher reward.

With cross seam bouncers that get up to the chest, you can see great variation in height and pace on the ball off the pitch. The outcome is always something: A swing and miss, a wide, a hook to a fielder or a six.

If you can bowl them, and you want to make something happen, an over of well-directed cross-seam short stuff is a superb option.

Give yourself options

In club and school cricket we work hard on mastering the basics.

Cross seam bowling is an option because it's different when you need it. Most of the time you won't need it (for example, in my team the average opposition innings lasts 35 overs). As a result we tend to forget about our options.

But there will be times when these options are needed. The ball is not swinging and the opposition are batting well. You could just sit back and hope for a mistake or you could try a canny cross seam over or two.

When you are in those moments, what have you got to lose?

(Just be sure and practice it now and again)

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Challenge Your Batting with This Snapback Drill

How easy is it to "just bat" in nets, and not be as engaged as you would in a game?


Pretty easy!

So here's a drill that keeps you on your toes while you are in the nets, but is easy to set up and doesn't disrupt the session. It's good for bowlers too.

The team I coach did this drill last night and it got rave reviews from everyone. Here is how it works.

First, write down - on a white board or paper 6 or 12 skills that can be done in nets. Here's our layout:

As you can see, the batting options were to defend, drop and run, play the ball on it's merits, power hit (or sweep), or hit a boundary. You can choose anything to make it more relevant to the skills you want.

The bowlers had their own skills to perform, depending on whether they are a spinner or seamer. Again, the choice for your team is up to you.

The snapback of fate

Before each bowler bowled, they rolled a die and called out the required outcome to the batsman. They then tried to bowl the type of ball listed.

We didn't have a die to roll to find the number in the session, so I improvised and wrote numbers on a piece of paper, put them in a club snapback and made it our very own Harry Potter style sorting hat. The bowlers picked from the hat.

And that is the extent of the drill.

Simple and easy and provides a much better focus for both batter and bowler.

What was the feedback like?

  • Bowlers found it useful to try more skills that just running in a mindlessly trying to hit the off stump.
  • Batsmen enjoyed the mix of premeditating - like you would in a T20 - and playing more orthodox.
  • One batter complained that he didn't like the defensive option because you would never premeditate a defence (next time we may change that).
  • Everyone enjoyed the session and was fully engaged with it right up to the end (which can be a challenge).

Next time you hit the nets, mix things up and give it a go. It works like a charm.

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The Madonna Batting Drill

I’m a music fan and it’s great to work in a student environment as the pupils keep me up to date with the latest tunes when we have music bouncing around the cricket bubble.

Cricket Show S8 Episode 22: Too Many Drops

Sam Lavery is with Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe. The chat is about short seasons, dropping catches and one day jobs for spinners and seamers.


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: 467
Date: 2017-06-16