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Part of what makes cricket such a delight is the way decent players can fall to pieces under pressure.

Mental collapse is fun when you see the opposition doing it, but desperate when it's happening to you. To help you avoid falling into the trap, this week we focus on three different areas that are common causes of pressure: Playing off spin, batting collapses and getting dropped. In all three, a subtle change of thinking will make a huge boost to your game.

We also look at some unusual situations for players and umpires. Plus this week's miCricketCoach show is guest packed covering spin bowling, batting trigger moves and playing for India.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

How to bat well against off spin

Does good off spin bowling baffle you? It probably should. Even if you are confident against spinners, you can never really relax. Ask Ricky Ponting.

What you can do is learn to play better against off spin by making small changes to your technique and tactics.

Let's look at some of these now:

Keep your head

Your head is particularly important against spinners. Where your head goes, your body follows so it's vital that you keep it well forward. This starts in your stance, leaning forward as you raise your bat. It also means leading with your head when playing forward. The more you lean back the smaller the hitting zone (the area you can hit the ball safely).




Pick your scoring areas

Tactically, the first thing to consider is where the ball is safest to hit. For the off spinner to a right hander this is 'with the spin': fairly straight between mid off and midwicket. If the off spinner goes around the wicket the arc moves a little more leg side, cutting out mid off.

This diagram shows you the safest scoring areas:

Line up your hips

As you will be playing the ball straight and through the leg side a lot, you need to align your body to this area. This is against the normal coaching advice of staying sideways on.

Forget that.

In order to have a free swing with the full face of the bat your only option is to turn you back foot inwards when going forward. This will also turn your hips and your bat can come down towards the ball. As shown here:

Look to dominate

The good spinner's currency is to upset the batsman's rhythm. He does this through control of turn, flight and pace. If he or she is getting you to bat the way they want, they are winning. Your best way to prevent this is by counter-attacking.

Some players think this means blocking a series of good balls before trying to smash one over cow corner. This may work, but a more sensible approach is to get a feel for how the spinner is bowling before choosing a shot that is low risk but can get you runs.

For some players this might mean moving down the wicket, for others it means sweeping. It depends on your strengths and the line the off spinner is using. Whichever shot you choose, it's important to keep your technique tight and lead the shot with the head.

This method will make the spinner vary his approach and allow you to play more shots. For example, if he is bowling a good length and you are moving down the wicket he may drop the ball shot. This will allow you to go on the back foot, pulling or cutting.

Practice, practice and practice

The biggest problem batsmen face is getting up against quality spin in the nets. The way most net practice is set up doesn't allow for you to play like you do in the middle. Spinners bowl in turn with seamers and you usually have so little time you can't think about building an innings.

But practicing against spin is critical if you are to put these techniques and tactics into practice. You can't wait until a spinner comes on in a match. It's too late and too risky. So where possible get spinners to bowl in overs to you. Also, don't make the common mistake of trying to hit spinners in the nets from the first ball. Play yourself in, pretend it's a game and you only get one chance.

But best of all is middle practice. It's far more realistic and so you learn more.

Without proper practice all the other tips are pretty worthless. When in doubt, get in the nets.

image credit: jess-sxm

Scoring areas image supplied by PitchVision - Coach Edition. Available to purchase now for clubs, schools and cricket centres.


For more more tips on playing spin playing spin, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching course: The Complete Guide to Effectively Playing Spin Bowling. 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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Building the wall: The 1 sure-fire way to prevent a batting collapse

Geoff Boycott has a simple formula: If you think your innings is doing well, just add two wickets and see how it looks. 80-1 sounds good. 80-3 is shaky. It's a nice idea but that safety-first approach can only lead to a batting collapse.

As you know, batting collapses start in the mind. Change your mindset and you build an indestructible wall around your team's innings. Only the very best bowling performances can penetrate it. Let's be honest, how many times does that happen? Club and school bowlers are not as good as first-class ones. Teams rarely get bowled out; they bowl themselves out.

If you don't have to fear the bowling, you really only need to keep one thing in mind to prevent the collapse:

You can always turn it around.

But when a batsman is out in the middle, surrounded by a team of motivated fielders it's easy to get into a negative mind. We all know how playing without confidence is a recipe for failure.

The good teams have the mental strength to ignore the distraction of wickets and get on with playing the ball on its merits.

But this is easier said than done.

How to stop a wobble turning into a collapse

Fortunately there are some practical things that can be done to keep genuinely positive (false positivity is as useless as Phil Tufnell's batting).

It starts with the batsmen in the middle taking responsibility. If the bowling team are on top, your job is get you back there instead. You can only do that by being out in the middle.

So keep talking to your partner at the other end. Make sure the conversation is one of two things. The first is nothing to do with cricket at all. Talk about what you are having for dinner or a good film you have seen. This relaxes your mind and allows you to concentrate harder when the game is back on. The second method is to discuss practical positive elements:

  • Where the gaps are to steal extra runs
  • What tactics to employ
  • Which fielders are weaker

On top of talking to your batting partner, it's also good to talk to yourself. Your internal conversation can be positive or negative. Learn to keep it positive and the match situation barely matters anymore. You are simply batting in the zone.

Stopping a collapse from the sidelines

You can extend this thinking beyond the boundary too.

Imagine the scene: Your side lose a couple of quick wickets. The batsmen who are out complaining about the pitch or the brilliant bowling while the next man in sits biting his nails. Opposition bowlers reputations are discussed in detail making them seem all the better than they really are.

Everybody is thinking "I hope we don't collapse again". The very thought making the possibility more likely.

Now imagine the same situation where the team are discussing ways to play better. The out batsmen, although upset, are talking about the best way to play to the next players in. The opposition tactics are analysed and weaknesses are found. There is a general feeling that whatever the situation, we can outplay the opposition. When they are not talking tactics they are talking about anything but the loss of wickets and how indestructible the opposition are.

The latter team have far less collapses than the former.

A lot of this can be driven by the captain, playing down negative talk and encouraging discussion. However, anyone in the team can just start talking tactics. Even saying something stupid will relax players and stop them worrying about the imminent collapse.

With these simple tactics a change of mindset insulates you against all but the very best bowlers. Use them and watch your team improve.

image credit: viZZZual.com

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Why getting dropped will make you a better cricketer

It could be going from representative level back to grade cricket or simply being selected for the 2nd XI. For some players getting dropped is a cricketing disaster. It's a dramatic demonstration that they are not up to the task.

They steel themselves to get straight back in the team and end up trying so hard their performance and confidence drops even further. But it doesn't have to be like that. When you deal with it in the right way, getting dropped can end up making you a better player.

Even the greats have been dropped at some point. What marked them out was the way they bounced back.

How dropping a level can boost your confidence

Playing against weaker opposition gives you more room to breathe.

Mistakes that would be punished by better players are missed. You can find an average game turning into a good one. Once you are feeling good about yourself, the good performances come more easily and before you know it your stats are making a stir in selection meetings.

How to bounce back from getting dropped

But getting dropped and getting back into the team needs some work on your part. Fortunately it's a simple three step process:

  1. Find out why you were dropped. You can't begin to fight back until you know exactly why you were dropped. Ask the captain, coach or selectors their reasons. Perhaps they feel you are out of form or maybe they just wanted to make a tactical change.
  2. Ask what you need to do to get back in the team. If it's a form problem you may be told all you need to do is score runs and take wickets. A tactical change can also be overcome by weight of numbers, although you may have to bide your time. Don't guess; make sure you are set a realistic goal from those who decide.
  3. Take advantage of the situation. The final step is to make the most of your chance. You can have a lot of fun plundering players a step below your normal standard, but they won't have runs and wickets to you on a plate. Look to put in as good a performance as you always do and never back off the gas if you are serious about getting back up a level.

How playing a lower level can improve your game

It's not just about getting form back though. You chance at a lower grade or standard can also teach you some things about your game.

Players will look to you as an experienced or even star player; a responsibility that, if you allow it, will make you better. It's all about focus. If you see the extra responsibility as pressure you may crack. If you see it as a way to get focused on your goal you will be able to stay in the moment with greater consistency.

And that's the most important part of getting dropped. It's a chance to take responsibility, show your character and face the problem head on.

If you plan to be a decent player, it's the only way to deal with it.

image credit: Gone-Walkabout

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Laws of cricket: One run cost a century and recording a no ball

This edition of Laws of Cricket, in association with the International Institute of Cricket Umpiring and Scoring, covers some more tricky questions of the Laws.

Cricket Show 52: Spin bowling tips, batting triggers and playing for India

Guests Menno Gazendam and Gary Palmer join David and Kevin in this week's show. Kevin talks us through an exciting finish to his Saturday club match and the start of his Twenty20 campaign. We also answer a wide range of questions including:


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: 70
Date: 2009-10-30