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Ravi Bopara is England's golden boy so this week we examine if it's possible or desirable to emulate his technique.

In the rest of the newsletter, the debate between fitness and skill rages on as always. We also discuss how easy or difficult it is to become a wicketkeeper and we talk about overcoaching on the Cricket Show. As always, if you want to comment on any of the content in this newsletter please get in touch.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Fitness versus skill: Who wins?

Every now and again someone will challenge one of the central pillars of our coaching philosophy.

As you know, we feel that fitness is important to cricket. Others put less of an emphasis on it, which can lead to some interesting debates. Where is the truth?

In the death match between skill and fitness, who is the winner?

What's the difference?

Before we can answer the question, we need to know what the terms mean. That's because if you ask 10 people how they define the terms 'skill' and 'fitness' and you will probably get 10 different answers. For me it's simple:

  • Skill is the ability to perform cricket techniques (bowling, batting and fielding) within a game situation in order to take runs and wickets. 
  • Fitness is a non-specific combination of physical abilities that include speed, agility, strength, endurance (or work capacity) power, mobility and stability.

Both fitness and skill are physical. The basic difference is that skill applies only to cricket whereas fitness is applicable to any sport. Different sports may require a different balance (for example rugby players may need more maximum strength and marathon runners more endurance), but the elements are consistent.

Can't we all just get along?

Are these really two polar opposites destined to fight each other? I don't believe they are. You can be fit and skilful. In fact, I would suggest that most players in the professional game have both fitness and skill as shown in this diagram:

The large cloud shows the majority of good cricketers in the scale. The smaller clouds show where others are. Someone like Inzamam ul Haq would be in the smaller cloud area: Higher on skill than on fitness.

However, that does not justify saying to any player they should follow the example of the few. The fact is that if you want to be a successful player (at any level) the more skill and fitness you have combined will make you a better player.

Good players strive to be in the big cloud to maximise their chances.

Strike a balance

If the best approach is to be fit and skilful, how do you strike a balance in training?

It's an art to get right. On the one hand you don't want to do too much as you will be fatigued, on the other hand too little will lead to no progress and a waste of time.

Only you will know how much time you have available to you, and it will vary throughout the year. In season you may play so much you might only have time for a single fitness session every week. During the winter you may find you have more time to dedicate to the fitness side.

A good place to help you work out your own plan is Rob Ahmun's strength and conditioning course on PitchVision Academy. Rob's course is sympathetic to the needs of cricketers to work on skill and fight off fatigue while still improving their fitness levels. It's a perfect place to learn to manage both equally.

Image credit: Bill M


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How to bat like Ravi Bopara

Gary Palmer returns with a technical analysis of England's man of the moment Ravi Bopari. Gary calls it his technical ABC to success at the highest level. Gary has coached many players into county cricket over the years, If you would like coaching from Gary, check out CCM Academy.

Ravi Bopara demonstrates the three key attributes of a good batsman. Ravi's technique is one that I would advise young players to copy. From the research I have done in coaching technique over the years, these are as simple as ABC:

  • Alignment
  • Balance
  • Completion of shot

These are the technical areas that great players, especially attacking stroke players do very well. They all contribute to maximising a players hitting zone. The higher class of bowler you face, the better and more efficient the technique needs to be to combat that bowler. Once you have your ABC in order your technique is correct.

For this reason I think Ravi will be successful at international level and has the potential to become a great player.

Ravi displays a wide range of shots, all with a high level of technical excellence.

Setup and backswing

His setup is simple with a backswing over off stump and a stance that aligns his body to the line of the ball similar to this

He creates a 'diamond' during his backswing that allows his bat to stay on the line of the ball for longer. Click here to see the diamond shape illustrated.

Playing straight

Ravi is solid in defence, following his setup with a straight bat and correctly aligned body position.

In attack he plays straight where possible, looking to hit down the ground rather than square. He plays through the entire V, not just the off side. He maintains a high leading elbow after his shots and presents a full face of the bat at the ball. He does this by good positioning and alignment of feet. His back foot points up the wicket when driving straight and through mid on giving him good access to the ball. You can see these key points demonstrated here:

Playing spin

Ravi is a good player of spin because he looks to make contact with the ball under his eyes and after it has turned. His balance and alignment allows for the spin. Alistair Cook would do well to pay attention to his team mate.

His backfoot points up the wicket when playing the spinners straight and through mid on thus giving him good balance alignment and access to the ball.

Ravi's proficient technique allows him to play attacking shots with minimum risk of failure. This will give him confidence and belief to achieve challenging run chase situations with minimal nerves because he knows the percentages are in his favour.

This is why he is composed, highly focused and has very positive body language. He looks at ease with all of the different types of bowlers he faces and tends to look confident and relaxed at the crease.  He keeps it simple and plays the percentages with a very good technique, getting into great positions and make batting look easy.

Suggested technical changes

There is very little Ravi needs to chance within his technique

He has a little trigger, especially in Twenty20, which is to back away with the back foot before he plays forward. The only positive for this movement is that it opens up a wider scoring area on the offside but if the ball pitches on off stump because he lines up to hit it square his bat is does not stay on the line of the ball for as long as it could. Therefore there is a slight risk.

If the ball swings or nips back into him then he is closed off and will have to play across the line which is a higher risk option minimising his scoring areas on the leg side.

However, overall Ravi's well polished technique offers very few flaws for a world class bowler to exploit. This will give him the upper when confronted with a duel against the best bowlers in the world.

Image credit: RobW

If you want to learn everything there is to know about technique, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.



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Is wicketkeeping the easiest cricket skill to learn?

All cricket skills are hard to learn, but do the wicketkeepers have it easy compared to the batsmen and bowlers?

Paul Collingwood took over the gloves against the West Indies when the first choice keeper Matt Prior injured his finger. He did a good job. The TV and radio commentators enjoyed mulling over how difficult wicketkeeping really is, even at Test level.

Why wicketkeeping is easy

At its core wicketkeeping is about a skill most cricketers can perform: catching the ball. It's a task that is made all the easier by gloves. You could argue it's more difficult to stand at first slip without the aid of protection and catch balls flying off an edge at great speed.

Standing up is more difficult, but anyone could pick up the basics with a little practice. Like Collingwood, someone with a good pair of hands could do a competent enough job. You couldn't say the same about an opening batsman or swing bowler.

Duncan Fletcher, the innovative coach, has argued compellingly that it's far easier to teach a batsman how to catch than a catcher how to bat.

For these reasons the more specialist keeper has vanished from the game. All first class wicketkeepers these days must be able to bat. The simple truth is a decent batsman who can catch can do the job.

More than skills?

While these points are valid, they do miss a key element: You have to be prepared to do it.

Keeping wicket is difficult both physically and mentally. It's hard work crouching and concentrating on every ball of an innings and takes some getting used to. That's why, even in these days of batsmen-wicketkeepers, you almost always have a player who takes the gloves regularly.

The skills of wicketkeeping do get easier the more you practice them, so players need to be nailed down as keepers early so they can keep their standards high. This is especially true of standing up to the stumps. If you keep, always look to find someone to help you practice.

Yet despite all this work, the keeper is usually undervalued in a team. They only get noticed when they make a mistake. Unlike runs or wickets there is no strict measure of success for a wicketkeeper. You could look at byes and dismissals but both could arrive through no fault of the man with the gloves.

So for me, wicketkeeping is a skill anyone can perform but few bother to master (what's the point if you don't get much credit).

What do you think?


Want to know the secrets of how to change a game with a moment of wicket-keeping brilliance? Pick up a copy of "Wicket-Keeping: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Art" and become a better keeper today.

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Knowing your job will make you a better cricketer

Regular contributor Mark Atkinson has another article for us this week. Mark is a former first class cricketer turned coach who runs Elite Cricket Coaching in New South Wales. This article is examines your ability to define a role.

There is no point being out in the middle on Saturday if you don’t know what you are there to do.

Cricket Show 29: What is overcoaching?

It's the long awaited return of Kevin to the show this week. David and Kev catch up with each others cricket news and this week's '5 Questions' interviewee is Ben Baruch.

The show also includes:


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: 47
Date: 2009-05-22