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One of the most common complaints a bowler has is dropped catches. So this week we look at how to keep an eye on things rather than guess.

Plus we look at batting decision making, coaching team spirit and fitness for those who don't like fitness.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Use Chances to Improve Your Bowling

Are you an unlucky bowler?


You can't do much about dropped catches as a bowler. Yet they happen, and it costs you a wicket. You do all the work and the fielder does the drop. So, in the words of King Cricket:

"it makes more sense to gauge a bowler’s worth by how many chances they create rather than how many wickets they take. Everything beyond that is out of their hands (and quite often out of the fielder’s hands too)."

This is all well and good for professional teams with analysts, but can you do it with the cricket you play?


I know this because I ran an experiment on the team I coach to find out how costly drops were. You can do the same to prove how lucky (or unlucky) you are as a bowler.

Counting chances

Throughout the 2017 UK summer, I kept a record of dropped catches for the team I coach. Every time we dropped a catch I recorded where, who and which bowler suffered.

Overall the team caught 60% of all chances, including "Grade 2" or very difficult ones:


But we are interested in individual stats to see who had the most drops from their bowling. Here is the table:

In this table "chances" is dropped catches plus wickets taken. The overall numbers stack up without anyone being out of order compared to wickets taken.

However, you can also see that some bowlers were luckier than others. The top bowler by wickets also had the most dropped chances; one every 57 balls.

He was not the worst for luck though, as the second spinner had a drop every 54 balls. Looks like the spinners in the team got the rough end of the stick. It shows the value of needing good fielders if you bowl spin.

The take away here for the team is that you can give the spinners a bit more leeway as they tends to have less luck.

The bowler with the most luck was also joint third wicket taker. He had a drop every 169 balls. The other main wicket taking seamer had a drop every 126 balls. That is a significant difference over the spinners.

Take home points

  • Counting chances is a fairer way to measure bowling skill
  • Spinners tend to have less luck than seamers
  • If you can prove you have been unlucky as a bowler, it can help you make a case for selection and tactical changes in the team.

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The Role of the Modern Cricket Coach: Team Spirit

Keep the team on their path.


Call it culture, call it environment, call it team spirit; the coach's job around gelling the team has changed a lot in recent years. More than ever you need great man-management skills.

When the first coaches appeared at clubs, they were in charge of kids cricket and took the role of instructor. They told the young one what to do and they developed as a result.

Then things changed.

Coaching became widespread and all ages started to want a coach around. These senior players and older juniors also did not tolerate the dictatorship of a coach. They knew they were the ones doing the job on the field.

This extended to the team culture. Put a group together in a team and they will form a culture naturally. The coach might tell everyone to get to the ground two hours before the game but if the culture is to be there an hour before, no amount of shouting is going to change the result.

Progressive coaches instead took a different role in building team spirit and culture.

Duncan Fletcher - when he was England coach in the 2000s - used to say his role as coach was the same as a consultant in a company. The captain was the CEO and real leader.

Fletcher was correct. These days as coach your role in team culture is not to law down the law, but to be an influencer and advisor. You are there to help the team be the best it can possibly be as itself, not mould it into something it cannot be.

What does that mean practically?

For teams with older players, it means finding out why the team play, finding the common ground and putting it in writing to remind everyone of what they aspire to be.

It's not about catching people out.

Although there will be times when you can remind people what they said when their behaviour does not match their aspirations.

It's more about giving people an opportunity to succeed:

  • Offering coaching when and how players are best motivated.
  • Knowing when to let the players police themselves and backing off in certain situations.
  • Putting personal opinions aside if they don't match the team culture.
  • Working closely with the captain who can be far more influential as they are on the field doing the job.
  • Educating players on best practices for working as a team.

These things are practical: Session plans, booking training, skill and net drills and practices can all be used to put them into place. So can plain old-fashioned conversations at practice, in meetings or after games. (Just make them conversations, not lectures and rememebr not everyone will agree with each other all the time. That's fine too.)

Players and captains all want to do well. They also all have both real constraints and the ability to make excuses. The modern coach can guide the culture of the team towards working within the real constraints but still behaving in an agreed way.

That meets setting up an environment that gives everyone the best chance of success. That means letting players make their own mistakes and helping them learn from them. That means forgetting about trying to dictate everything because you know best and remembering you are the consultant, not the CEO.

It's tough. We have all slipped into trying to control things from time to time. Keep working and your team spirit will be stronger for taking a less rigid path.

This is part of a series on guidance for cricket coaches in modern teams. For part one click here, for part two click here.

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The Easy Guide to Strength and Conditioning for Cricket


It’s a natural reaction to the unknown and a way of protecting yourself. But your job isn’t to live in fear of negative results, it’s to improve.

And that means learning some of the basics of general fitness alongside cricket skills.

We know fast, mobile, coordinated and athletic people are the best cricketers. These are traits that can be taught just like cricket skills.

If you can get over that fear.

Play to get fit?

Some say that fitness comes from playing the game. There is no need to do anything else because the more you play the more match fit you get.

Why bother with anything else?

Yes, match fitness is a crucial part of the fitness jigsaw. No amount of strength training is going to teach your body how to bowl 25 overs in a day. But to say you play to get fit has it the wrong way around.

You get fit to play.

Doing it that way around means that players - even from the age of five - are learning universal skills.

Good cricket training teaches "fitness" skills like running, changing direction, throwing, jumping, catching, and coordination. As players get older it builds up injury-resistant bodies.

If it wasn’t for that fear, why wouldn’t you be trying to be like this?

Here are the basics.

First, have some fun

Strength and conditioning is not often associated with fun. It should be though, because at any age there is a desire to enjoy what you are doing. Whether you are a five year old beginner or a 40 year old trying to prolong your career, fun is a key element.

An effective method is to focus on a specific "physical literacy" skill every cricket training session. You can be creative with it but here are some ideas:

  • Speed: Use simple running races, making sure you keep it close by competing with someone close to your pace. Between races discuss how you can run faster. You don’t need to know much about sprinting technique, jut be prepared to test things out.
  • Agility: Use races with a change of direction in them. This can include starting from different positions (sitting, backwards, lying, walking) and different types of change (cut left or right, 180 degree turn, sudden stop and go). To make it less formal you can play team games with a ball and a scoring system. Starting, stopping and changing direction will all improve naturally.
  • Jumping: Simple competitions can be used here to see how far you can jump on two or one leg. Lay out flat markers gradually increasing in distance apart and see how far down the line players can get. Jumping is really all about knowing how to land so cue by encouraging a soft landing.

Sneak in the fitness stuff as a warm up and move on to more cricket specific skills. There's a big crossover anyway so you should find it easy.

Get the basics right

The next stage is less outright fun and more focused on getting the basics right. You can still use the warm up for these drills but the are now more conspicuously fitness work and so work better with older players.

  • Mobility: Start each session with drills to improve dynamic mobility. Focus on the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder.
  • Strength: Take time to learn the proper technique in common bodyweight and resistance exercises. The idea is understanding how to do basic movement patterns: the squat (one and two leg), the deadlift, the row, the pull up and the push up as well as core exercises and stability work. A resistance band is the easiest way to add resistance. Insist on strict technique and go for quality not quantity.
  • Conditioning: for most, this is what fitness means; getting a sweat on. To make it specific, and sneak in improvements while no one notices, make fielding drills longer to get used to interval style training.

Once you are done with the warm up (and 15-20 minutes should be plenty) you can get on with the cricket practice.

If you are feeling very clever you can even slip in some more work as you go along. For example, getting the batsmen waiting to go in the net to do some mobility drills or strength training.

Want more serious training?

So far we have looked at sneaking some fitness in here and there. It will help but to go up a level you need a little more. The problem is that both knowledge and equipment is hard to come by.

One thing you can feel happy doing is getting out of breath. Endurance levels soar with some serious interval training.

You could set aside an extra training session to do this but many at school or club level with a limited time will want bang for the buck and combine it with other drills.

Fielding drills and fitness make a lot of sense. Most out-fielding drills can be adjusted to make the distance covered longer. Keep groups small and waiting times short. Work time (that's when they are doing the drill) should be on a 1:2, 1:1 or 2:1 basis depending on fitness levels. So a 1:1 ratio is 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest. 1:2 is 30 seconds work with 60 seconds rest.

Running between the wickets can be added to net training or middle practice easily. You can even have specific sessions that focus on running between the wickets that will do the fitness job too. Again, keep your mind on work to rest periods.

Strength work is more difficult, as to move beyond basic bodyweight and band work, you need weights, probably in a gym. Seek out a good trainer to help you with this. It might be costly but if you are serious, strength is proven to boost your game.

At this point, recovery becomes a crucial aspect. Sore and tired players won’t do well. You can help players learn how to recover better through advising on:

None of this is complicated, but it is often ignored or seen as a waste of time. However, if you get the simple things right here, you can see huge gains.

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Batting Decision Making: The Pundit Inventory

When listening to TVcommentary, how many times do you hear the pundits speaking about decision making?

Cricket Show: S8 Episode 34: Vary Your Cricket

Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe discuss coaching issues and tips. On the show this week there are chats about "variability" in cricket training (what it is and how to do it), stopping in the bowling action and tactics for left arm spinners.

Remember to follow PitchVision Academy for free bonus content.


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: 478
Date: 2017-09-15