Pitchvision Academy
Get Fit For Cricket


With the Champion's Trophy in full swing there has been plenty of talent on show for us club players to try and emulate. But is copying the stars the best way to play like them? We examine the question this week.

There is also a feature on a little-known exercise that will give you great strides forward in your fitness, a comprehensive guide to the dark art of rotating the strike and a breakdown of some of the popular coaching materials that are available both online and offline.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

How to Rotate the Strike

How would you like to add an extra run per over to your team's score?

Running between the wickets is one of the few genuine moments of teamwork in cricket. You have to work closely with your batting partner and have an understanding between each other. While this can happen naturally (you are probably thinking now of a batting partner that you run well with) it often fails. This leads to missed run chances or even run outs.

Both can be avoided.

Escaping the net mentality

Think back to your last team practice session. How many chances did it give you for really practicing running with a partner? You were stuck in a net, playing your shots and not having to work with a partner.

Because of this net practice, rotating the strike is a skill that is not often developed. Naturally, chances to score extra runs are missed and teams settle for far fewer runs. It's especially true of sides with a player or two who slows the rate through lack of confidence in playing their shots. No amount of netting is going to help these problems.

So let's assume you are staying out of the nets and working on strike rotation. What do you do?

1. Think about the simple tricks first

Let's assume you know the basics of running between the wickets: Calling, turning and the like. Sit down as a team before you start your practice session and talk about the more advanced common sense tricks you can use to steal runs and frustrate bowlers who are looking to keep the score down.

The idea of these tips is to develop the fast and simple tactical things you can start on right away. There is no lag time between practice and matches and they can start making an instant different to your score.

  • If it hits the pads, it's usually a run. Most of the time a ball deflecting off the pads goes into an area with no fielders. If the non-striker is aware they can call the striker through for an easy run before keeper, fielder or bowler can get to the ball.
  • Always look for another run. The trick with this is just to change mentality. If you are always looking for the extra run you will get it when the chance comes. You never know when a simple return will turn into an overthrow. Stay alert for another run until the ball is dead every time.
  • Play tip and run. A classic mistake a club level is to assume tip and run is a specific tactic for when a batting team is getting tied down. What's stopping you from using the tactic throughout an innings? If you have a good defence all you need to do is think, "quick single" after you have played the shot. Defend the good balls and set off.
  • Pick out the poor fielders. Every side has better and worse fielders. If you are in the middle you should know who the ones are who stand a little too deep to save a single, collapse in key moments or are always surprised when the ball comes to them. It's these fielders you can exploit and make it home easily.
  • Decide when to run. Although you can play the hit the gap game through an entire innings, it most efective early on. If the going is tough early on, your running can keep you in the game. Towards the death of an innings you might be looking to hit more boundaries and so stealing becomes less effective.
Practice finding the gaps

Once you have your mentality sorted you can move the training session on to a simple batting drill in the nets.

Put different coloured cones at various fielding positions such as point, square leg, mid on, mid off, midwicket and cover. Hit the ball to each cone in turn. Do this adjusting the angle of the bat and your body position to find a way to get the ball in position. More about this drill here.

The drill is very flexible and can be done with bowling machine, sidearm or bowlers. The more you do it the better you get at learning how to play the ball away from fielders and through the gaps. You can also enhance it greatly with smart-nets as you can see what balls are most likely to give you the best outcomes, and review the videos.

Practice judging a run

Judgement skill is one of the best ways to improve running and run rate. Most club players sensibly err on the side of safety, not taking runs that might be a little tight. However, with a little practice you can get your own team's judgement up to a much higher standard.

This game (you will need a few players to make this work) shows you how to do this:

  • Set up the fielders and coach in the same positions as the 360 degree fielding drill.
  • Add in two batsmen to run (ideally the pairs will be put together in a way that they are likely to bat together in games, for example the regular openers should be a pair).
  • The batsman hit a coach feed out the fielders with the am of hitting a gap for a single. Score as many as possible.
  • Initially the pairs should try to run for everything. This will lead to run outs but will also show the batsmen that there are perhaps more runs available than they think.
  • Once every pair has had a go, do the same drill but allow the players to judge runs. You can make it competitive by keeping score; the pair with the most runs is the winner.

You can also play middle practice. I recommend Battle Zone cricket for one of the best games to improve strike rotation.

By the way, you can use PV/VIDEO or PV/MATCH in these scenarios too. Recording these sessions gives everyone such focus and intensity as they know their actions are all on camera and counting to the "net average".

These elements will put your team far ahead of most others at the level you play.

Certainly more than another hit in the nets would. It just takes a little bit of creative thinking but it's a fun way to spend a training session as well as providing a valuable lesson.

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Here's a simple exercise to improve your cricket specific core stability

There are so many ways to train the 'core' you could spend all day working those abs to destruction, but who has time?

We already know how important a strong core is to power and injury prevention. The trouble is that with limited time available to spend in the gym, we need exercises that do exactly the right thing. No time wasted.

That's why the Pallof press is such a good tool.

Why should I care about the Pallof press?

This is one exercise that cuts through the rubbish and gets to the core of your core. The problem with traditional ab style exercises like crunches or sit-ups is they work your muscles in a different way to the way they work on the pitch.

When you bat, bowl or throw your core is working hard to stabilise your spine and resist the rotational force you are putting on it. In other words, if you didn't have core muscles the force of playing cricket would snap your spine. So you could say a strong core would be handy for avoiding the ouchies.

The Pallof press does exactly the same thing: Forces you to resist rotation by using the muscles in your midsection.

The results:
  • Healthier backs (sound interesting to the fast bowlers?)
  • The ability to generate more power and speed into bat or ball by transferring weight efficiently.
  • Abs all the ladies will love.
So dump the sit-ups and get pressing.

How to do the beginners Pallof press

It's a very simple movement that has a number of progressions to keep you interested for as long as you want.

Most beginners will need nothing more than a resistance band (I recommend the versatile Dura-Band Cricket). You can do the exercise anywhere with a band (before cricket training, during a gym session or at home).

  1. Attach the band at chest height from a kneeling position
  2. Kneel down facing sideways to the band (as shown in the video)
  3. Brace your abs as if someone is about to hit you in the stomach
  4. Press the band away from your chest and hold it out in front of you for 10 seconds.
  5. Do this for 3 sets of 3 reps and repeat for the other side.
  6. Don't let the band pull you, resist the twisting
  7. If you can do 3x3 easily, increase the strength of the resistance band or progress onto a cable machine.
Here is what that looks like courtesy of Mike Robertson:

The reason you start from a kneeling position is to teach you to use your core to stabilise against resistance rather than your legs. If you do it from a standing position you may compensate.

How to progress the Pallof press

Once you are comfortable with the movement from a tall kneeling position, (and even the most advance trainees are best starting from kneeling as you need to get the feel for it), you can progress in two ways:

  • Move to a standing position. This makes the exercise feel easier but the challenge is to keep only using your core to stabilise against the weight.
  • Use a cable machine/functional trainer. These machines are found in most modern gyms. The have adjustable cables and a weight stack so you can increase the weight.

You can see both these progressions in this video from Tony Gentilecore:

The take home point? If you only do one 'core' exercise, do this one. It's highly specific, easy to do and will lead to fast results.


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Why it's a bad idea to copy your cricket idols

Who the heck wouldn't want to have a batting record like Kevin Pietersen or want to bowl with Lasith Maliga's pace? I would happily take either.

The irony is, in trying to copy KP or Malinga we are going against one of the reasons they became successful in the first place: Pietersen says poo to the copybook and smashes everything through midwicket off the front foot. Malinga puts everything into the side netting as soon as he tries to bowl with an upright arm. Both men found their own way to play and neither tried to copy anyone else.

Not that either developed their style in total isolation either. Pietersen in particular is known for his constant tinkering with coaches he trusts to improve technique and become even better. I'll bet you at no point has he said to his coaches: "You know, I know I'm good, but what I really think will make me a great player is if I bat a bit more like Bradman. Make it so."

In the same way on a lower level, the challenge for us mortal cricketers trying to improve our games is not to copy our idol's techniques, but to take the best parts of what the great players do and find our own way.

The difference between copying and learning

A while back I joined up with some other local coaches and we were given some advice on how to improve our coaching of batters. One part of the course had us watching a video of a young cricketer with an average technique. We then discussed what changes we would try and make to that player.

As you can imagine, with 8 coaches in the room there were at least 9 opinions on what should be done, starting with the joke: "Tell him to take up rugby". The senior coach leading things let us discuss in great detail the technical elements before asking us what we would actually do to improve his technical weaknesses.

The conclusion we arrived at was to encourage the player with one or two simple technical points (possibly based on the ABC system) and get him to work out the right feel for himself with some target practice. As the senior coach pointed out, with a player with so many technical errors and so little time to correct them, it's important to give the player the feeling he can work it out himself.

And it's this feel that's all important. We don't have time to think about all the body parts that go into playing a shot or bowling the ball. We need to create a 'blueprint' of what feels right in our mind so we can refer back to it. Until such a time as we can scan the brain of top players and insert their blueprints into our brains in a Matrix "I know kung-fu" style, we need to work them out for ourselves.

Coaches can help player's do this by working from a blueprint of the perfect technique and comparing that technique to what you are doing. However, really good coaches know when to leave an imperfect technique that is working perfectly.

In short, if you copy you end up looking a little bit like your idol but using a method that may not work for you: Like gluing feathers on to be more like a bird. If you learn for yourself you are better grounded and more likely to succeed.

You just need to know where to draw the line. And that's something you have to work out for yourself. So get to the nets!

image credit: Gone-Walkabout


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Cricket coaching bestseller list

It's been almost a year since we looked at the popular books and coaching materials available through miCricketCoach and PitchVision Academy so here is the latest list.

Cricket Show 48: Interview with Richard Welch

 It's a special interview show for episode 48. David talks to the man behind the idea for PitchVision: Richard Welch.

The story of the problem that Richard had that led him to come up with PitchVision will doubtless be one you recognise if you play club or school cricket at any level.


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: 66
Date: 2009-10-02