Pitchvision Academy


This week we focus on the batsmen as we look at driving, pulling and a great drill from the Little Master himself.

Plus, guest columnist Rich Hudson reassures us about pressure.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Cricket Technique without Technique: How to Play the Drive

Forget getting told how to play a drive, here's how to learn it.


At PitchVision, we get asked all the time about batting technique. People like you, hungry for knowledge, search online for the perfect explanation of the perfect technique. You want to know how to do it so you can be consistent in our run scoring.

But are you?

I'm willing to bet you're not.

I know I wasn't when I played, despite hunting for detailed technical answers my whole career. I nicked off drives. I played perfect shots and missed the ball. I bet you have done too.

The evidence of your own experience suggests that getting a tip on the right footwork (or whatever) is not the way you develop your cricket.

And the research agrees.

What has been found - through both formal research and the experiences of high-performing coaches around the world - is this:

You learn how to play straight through trying to play straight

Seems obvious?

Think about why you are reading this article. You probably want advice or tips on how to play the drive. You want to know where the feet go, what the head does, how to swing the bat straight and avoid the mistakes of bad driving (even if you don't most readers will, trust me).

Knowing all this, and a hundred more points in the perfect shot won't make a jot of difference.

You have to do it.

And to do it, you need to set up some cones and try to hit the ball through them.

Let the drill be the coach

In coaching theory, this is called "constraints-based coaching". It's insanely effective in both the lab and the nets. Constraints are how Don Bradman taught himself to bat. And he was all right.

A constraint is just a way of working on a specific skill by adapting a game of cricket.

So for example, if you want to improve your drive technique, you can set up a game where your mate bowls to you while you try and hit the ball between two cones set up at mid on and mid off with a full swing of the bat.

Yeah. That's it.

Too simple surely?


As you try, you learn what works and what doesn't work. You start to develop a way of driving.

There will be failure. That's OK.

There will be success.

And you have not had a technical tip the whole time. The drill has allowed you to coach yourself.

Video is a massive help with this, as you can see what you did afterwards, rather than trying to adjust your body during the session. Combining PitchVision line and length data is also a huge benefit as you can filter how you deal with different types of delivery.

What about correcting batting technical errors?

This idea breaks the old trick of "error identification and correction": Looking at the player, pointing out flaws compared to a perfect model and trying to stop these flaws with drills.

There is nothing wrong with a technical perfect model to work from. It's just that no one ever achieves perfection, so chasing perfect technique is the wrong place to start to develop. Instead, research has shown technical specifics is the last thing to work on. We develop much better by focusing on the outcome. In the case of playing a drive, this means hitting the ball straight more often than missing it! Again, Bradman never had his technique "corrected" and he scored a couple of runs.

During your exploration, you might try some of the things that you heard work, but there is not much that works for everybody all the time so you may well abandon the idea.

Experimentation is crucial. And you can't experiment if you are doing fixed drills to try and correct a flaw.

So forget technical flaws, forget repetitive drilling, forget relying on an expert coach to give you the answers and keep technical perfection out of your mind.

Instead, think about why you want to play the shot, set up a game to challenge you to learn how to do it consistently then work out the answer for yourself. After all, your coach can't play the shot for you and they can't help you if you need to adapt on the fly. It's all up to you.

Train that way too.

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A Powerful Pull Shot to Break Bowler's Hearts

Ping that ball to the boundary.

Some people say the pull shot is the most natural of cricket shots. It's what we all start doing as kids when we first pick up a bat, so why would you need to develop it?

Because some of struggle when batting against the short ball, and pulling falls back as we focus on self-preservation instead. If you want the shot in your batting quiver, you need to feel confident you will make a good contact. So here are some constraint-based games you can play to build up the shot.

Get the feel

Most cricketers who are not great at the pull shot have never been great at it. They don't know how it feels to be consistently successful.

So lets start with that feel.

This means removing the complexity of the cricket ball, but still getting feedback for the shot. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Without a bat, using a partner and a boxing mitt.
  2. With a bat, and using a soft target like a punchbag, crashmat or even an old cricket bag filled with something soft (lost property clothes for example).

In both cases, the idea is to experiment with movements that give you the satisfying thunk of feedback of hitting the middle of the target.

As we know, there are many different methods to a good pull shot, so play around with them until something clicks with you. Generally, a full arm extension and hitting with balance are good things to aim for (although as always, there are exceptions that mean we can never be sure with any one "best way").

With some feel in mind, it's time to bring the ball back.

Hit the target

A ball adds difficulty and often reduces confidence, but you can build it in a quickly or slowly as you feel ready. However, it's vital to make the feed as realistic as possible. That means a coach bowling or throwing short balls from roughly the right distance rather that underarm feeds.

We also need to have a focus on outcome rather than method, so set up a target area to pull the ball into. the distance and size suitable to your skill level (you can adjust it as you get better).

If confidence in your method needs to develop, start with softer balls. Tennis balls, cricket-tennis balls, incrediballs or soft bowing machine balls (usually orange) are all good options. Even when you miss it and wear one, it's going to hurt your pride more than it hurts you.

A word of caution here. Because playing the short ball is tied to the ego of most older players, many use false bravado to claim they are not scared of the ball. This language is not helpful. Be it fear or lack of confidence, the player who doesn't have an established method will hit fewer balls, be hit by more balls and may react to this by playing timid shots. But timid shots are rarely effective shots. Using softer balls is a simple way to make shots more confident and, as a result, more effective.

When you can strike soft balls with confidence, and when you are no longer concerned about the risk of getting hit, you can move to cricket balls, and play the same "hit the target" game.

My favourite way of feeding short balls is with a Sidearm cricket ball thrower.

The Sidearm is very similar to bowling, and quicker than most throw downs. The feeder can also vary lengths as you improve your method to stop you premeditating the shot (as you find with a bowling machine). If you can't get hold of one, you can use throwing or bowling instead. Although it's hard to find a bowler who will try and bowl short balls at you for a whole session!

Play a game

As you feel a method developing, you need to start up the realism even more, and play a game where the pull shot is a key factor. For example, if you are in nets against bowlers, you can set cones down as a target and every ball struck with a horizontal bat along the ground gives you a key benefit.

You might make it competitive with the bowlers (whoever gets the least points has to clean up the nets) or with yourself (count how many pull shots you picked and got away, track over time how it goes).

Tracking short ball shot selection and outcomes on PVC.

The point is not to be technical perfect or hit every ball in the middle, but to learn where you are and what more you need to do to get your pull shot ready to play in a game.

By the way, you can also do this outdoors with middle practice and a game like jailbreak cricket. The link is a version for soft ball, but you can easily adapt it to a cricket ball.

Yet again you will see there has been no prescription, technical points or fault finding and eliminating by a coach. We know that is a poor way to develop your cricket these days. Instead, follow a game-based process that tries to make your practice realistic, but also constrain you to hitting the short delivery cricket ball with a strong outcome: Hard, along the ground and through midwicket.

When you do that, you are crushing both your game, and the bowler's heart!

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The Sachin Tendulkar Batting Drill: Divots

Here comes the most ultimate name drop of all time!


There was this time in 2008, in Chennai, when I got the opportunity to throw some balls at the one and only Sachin Tendulkar.

OMG, it was such an amazing thrill to have 15 minutes with the great man.

I asked Sachin what he wanted to work on and he said he wanted to concentrate on hitting the ball really late as he had found himself “feeling for the ball” in his last few innings before the practice session.

I then asked him what sort of things he had done in the past when he felt his contacts were getting ahead of himself. Sachin replied with

"I play a game that I call Divots".


"Divots" was a game that he had played as a child when having throwdowns into the side of nets ahead of practicing his cricket against bowlers or going into the match. These throw down sessions were held early in the morning, often on the Oval Maidan in Mumbai where the overnight dew had left the top surface of the soil a little damp.

  • Sachin would face up to the thrower, the ball would bounce (creating a divott and slowing the ball down).
  • Sachin would look to make late contact with the ball, focusing on transferring his weight effectively and being patient: Letting the ball come all the way into his hitting zone.
  • The aim of the drill was to create a Post-Contact “Second Divot” in the ground as the ball travels off of the bat.
  • Sachin wanted to create a ring of “Divots” as close as he could to his contact point.

This is a great practice drill for pre-game or in preparation for a net practice. But Sachin also told me that he would occasionally use the same drill in a net session against bowlers and also on 2 occasions, he actually did the drill in matchplay!

He told me that he did this for 20 minutes in one game when his technique felt a little out of sync. Sachin then found himself 31 not out at the end of the 20 minute period.

So how do I use this drill nowadays?

I find the Sachin Divot drill incredibly useful when working with batters on indoor surfaces. The surfaces are so true that it’s easy for the player to become complacent and to hit the ball without letting it come all the way up to them.

Bowling Machine

The grassless surface and bowling machine balls can sometimes mask the cracks in their technique as the batter can strike through the easy ball without worrying about making a mistake.

But we have to remember that real cricket, match play, is played outside on grass, with a ball that can seam and curve through the air.

Bowlers can also add in deception in terms of pace changes. All of this makes the job heck of a lot more difficult than when facing a slick 70mph bowling machine ball on an equally slick indoor surface.

The introduction of the Sachin Divots helps the player to focus on the process, allowing the ball to finish its journey and the player takes pride in striking it late so they can then point to the spot on the pitch where the resultant front foot drive has landed.

Sidearm or bowlers

The intention is for the player to make the front foot, post contact divot hit the ground before it hits the side net.

How many front foot shots can you link together where you meet the intention?

These are called "Divot Strings"

Compare your longest Divot String from session to session or compete against your batting partner to see who wins.

The Little Master was a fantastic trainer with bat in hand and I thank him for sharing his drill with me back in 2008.

It's helped many of the cricketers who I have thrown balls at over the years and could help you too!

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The Pressure Myth

Pressure is the most overused and misunderstood word in cricket.

Cricket Show S8 Episode 42: Having a Shocker

Sam Lavery, Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe answer questions on cricket. The team look at moving from soft to hard ball cricket and decent speeds for teenage fast bowlers.

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: 485
Date: 2017-11-03