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There's a rant about drills alongside some practical ideas to boost your game. Another great newsletter!

Have a superb weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Warning: Fielding Drills Don't Work

Better fielding isn't about more drills.


We all love a fielding drill at cricket practice. That rush you get when you perform it well and take the catch or hit the stumps is real and satisfying. You can see your skills improve the more you do. What could anyone possibly have against a good-old fielding drill?

The big problem is realism.

A well-run drill is efficient, sees lots of touches of the ball for everyone and has a specific aim usually based on one skill or a series of skills in a set order. There are no decisions, no critical moments.

That is not what happens in cricket.

You barely touch the ball in the field. When you do get a chance to perform a catch, stop or throw it's preceded by a decision - "is this mine? Can I get there?" - and usually requires another decision based on the game situation - "which end?", "cover the bowler or keeper?", "run in or play safe?".

A drill works on the skill and technique with a lot of volume, but also removes the important bits:

  • Decision-making
  • Tactical awareness
  • The feeling of the importance of the moment
  • Patience and focus

When you remove these things from fielding practice, you make it far less effective. Many would argue they are a waste of time completely for cricket skill development.

The fix for fielding drills

There is good news. This problem is easy to fix.

Add in decision-making to your drills.

This can be simple or complex, based on your needs, but the more you can add back these missing elements, the better your fielding will get in games.

  1. Start simple by making less accurate or more difficult feeds (like fielding on an uneven surface).
  2. Add a decision by having two or more fielders "live" in the drill and having to work together to see who performs the skill in the moment.
  3. Add another decision like backing up, choosing which stump to throw, batsmen calling as you field.
  4. Make skills more difficult by starting kneeling, lying, or spinning round. You can even just be off balance or out of position to make this work.
  5. Ask others to try and put you off with shouting, or silence. You can add distractions to slip catches.
  6. Force yourself to catch in unusual ways. Prefer to catch Aussie style? Spend a few minutes only catching English style.

You don't need to think too hard to add a little more decision to a drill. Each change adds more difficulty for sure, is harder to master and leads to a lot of failure. In the long run, you learn more and it sticks for longer than just repeating the same skill out of context.

While drills may not be ideal, you can still hang onto them.

Just apply the question "how can I make this closer to the real thing?" and you will not be wasting time at fielding practice. Quality trumps quantity!

Let me know how you go!

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Coach of the Month: Steve Jones


Steve Jones is PitchVision Coach of the Month.

Steve is the coach at Harrow School, a role he has thrived in for 15 years. But he certainly didn’t start there.

After playing cricket in South Africa in the 70s and 80s, Steve began coaching in Boland as player-coach of the B side. Soon after he went to Namibia to help rebuild cricket. He moved to Border in South Africa in 1992 and while coaching there, gained experience coaching with South Africa Under 19s and South Africa A.

With a huge amount of coaching skill developed, Steve moved to Harrow in 2003.

While Steve happily admits his coaching days are drawing to a close, he is still a vibrant and forward looking coach to the cricketers at Harrow. He also admitted he thought he knew it all going into the role, but Twenty20 quickly opened his eyes to the changing game!

With players demanding T20 skills to be a success, Steve adapted. He began to focus less on technical perfection and more on effective play, especially with batting. He started to coach players on individual strengths and weaknesses.

Through this change, Steve stayed true to his core principles: Coaching is about mentoring and helping individuals find their own way. He gave the example of some players wanting to learn through drilling while others gravitated towards game play based learning.

He also talked about the importance of reflection. Using video technology and app-based digital note-taking, Steve guides his players towards regular self-review that can be seen by coaches both in the school and in the county setup at Middlesex.

Both experienced and progressive, Steve Jones is a worthy winner of Coach of the Month.

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How to Get More Spin with Inhibitors and Enablers

Want to get more spin?

While a high number of revolutions is great to have, learning to direct those revolutions is a skill overlooked. In fact, to many, the direction they spin the ball is simply the direction they spin the ball. Either you've got it or you haven't.


Spin can be learnt. Much in the way that speed can be taught. You can make people bowl faster and you can also help them to spin the ball more and in almost all conditions. Yes, some may have a predisposed advantage. But, everyone can improve. The ceiling is a long way from the elite, never mind the masses.

The toughest conditions for a finger spinner are often found when bowling on the brand new, hard, flat pitch. While such conditions may offer light relief of some bounce, without the ability to generate turn, it can force many a spinner in a defensive mode. Not because it won't spin, but because they can't spin it. Generating turn on a quality batting surface requires top spin combined with side spin to get and real traction with the surface and the faster you bowl, the more of this top spin you'll need.

So how do we achieve this top spinning off break?


Bowl from a front on position. That may have many "side on" classicists spitting out their drink. It doesn't mean we should be front on throughout the action. It simply means that if we can get our hips and shoulders to, or beyond a square on position by the point of release, then we've got a good chance of spinning the ball forwards and subsequently gaining grip with the surface.

Just try it for yourself. Imagine you're trying to spin a ball forwards standing in a side on position and again from a squad / chest on position. It's so much easier.

But how can a spinner achieve this front on release position?

From a technical perspective, to give ourselves the best chance of rotating our body into or past this square on position, we have to understand "inhibitors" and "enablers".

What are we doing to reduce the amount of rotation we get, which is subsequently limiting our ability to get to, or beyond square on?

These things are inhibitors.

Additionally, what do we do that helps stimulate or create rotation, encouraging our body to rotate more towards, or potentially beyond that square on angle?

These are enablers.

Some of the inhibitors you should look out for:

  • Landing in a closed off angle during your delivery stride. This makes it much harder for your back leg to drive forwards and rotate your hips. Aim to keep them landing in a straight line towards where the ball is going.
  • A long delivery stride. While often useful for fast bowlers, a longer stride acts as a larger, slower, turning circle for a spinner. While also creating a lower position with flexion at the hips. Both things restrict rotation movement.
  • Falling away throughout the delivery. Good vertical alignment will always create more efficient rotation as it requires less force, so think tall and balanced with your head above your feet.
  • A bent front leg won't rotate as efficiently as a straight one, in the same way that a flexed body or trunk would be less efficient than a vertical one. So aim for a braced front leg to maximise your rotation.

A selection of enablers you should consider developing are:

  • Momentum moving forwards into the jump and delivery stride will initialise the rotation. Having your body weight forwards will also transition you onto your front foot more quickly, again aiding with rotation. So try to attack the crease with plenty of energy.
  • A powerful pulling motion with your non bowling arm. Pulling backwards drives the bowling shoulder forwards stimulating the rotation, while pulling downwards slightly can enable a shoulder angle that further enhances top spin on the ball. Consider what arm angle may help develop more rotation or a steeper shoulder angle. It's a trade off of the two combined to make you're own personalised pulling motion. Remember that a full extension of this front arm creates more potential energy on the way back, so stretch out then pull if you can.
  • Driving the bowling side knee through your delivery stimulates rotation from the hips.
  • landing with a back foot in a front on position (pointing towards the target), will encourage an opening of the hips through the delivery stride, developing rotation from the ground up. This works in a similar way to the pre turn a fast bowler should be striving to develop.

Developing a combination of these enablers, while limiting the inhibitors, can allow the hips and shoulders to achieve the square on position at the point of release we're after and from that position any finger spinner should be well set to get the ball spinning forwards. Offering them the chance to turn the ball on almost any surface.

So how should you apply all this information to your bowling?

The first thing I'd do is assess what you can achieve already.

If you can already spin the ball on every surface you play on, don't go looking for big changes. However, if you're looking for more consistent turn, a simple assessment of what you can make the ball do is easy. Get yourself a half and half, red and white ball and film yourself bowling. You should be able to see fairly quickly which direction you're spinning the ball in. You probably won't even need a camera.

If you're not managing to get the ball spinning forwards as much as you'd like, then start to assess your body position at the point of release. The best way to do this is to film yourself from side on. Think straight extra cover, level with the stumps. From here you'll be able to see how much rotation your gaining by the point of release, towards that square on position you're hoping for.

If you're not getting the ball spinning forwards and you're not getting square on, or beyond; it's time start to working through those checklists of inhibits and enablers to buy yourself some more rotation.

No longer should the finger spinner be confined to a defensive role on a flat deck, just because they're a finger spinner.

Strive to be better. Do something tomorrow you couldn't do today.

Spin can be learnt.

To many, spin bowling will always be an art rather than a science, but that doesn't mean you can't learn more about it and improve the way the ball leaves your hand.

Sam Lavery is Head of Cricket Performance at Portsmouth Grammar School

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Specialist fielding: Slips

In the slips you are always in the game.

Cricket Show S9 Episode 4: Tactics and Talent

The team get together to talk cricket coaching. The topics are tactics vs skills, starting to play and hitting the ball on the ground.

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: 497
Date: 2018-02-02