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Animated Fielding Drills Get Fit For Cricket


It's a brand new year and PitchVision Academy continues apace into the future that is 2010. Sadly we are not driving rocket cars and playing cricket on Mars yet, but 2010 is bound to be the year it happens.

Until then we have some vital advice for cricketers still playing on earth. Laurie Ward tells us how we can improve our batting through 'crease management', we look at how to keep your hamstrings healthy and I examine how a TV game show can win you more matches.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled to the PitchVision Academy Online Coaching section for some new courses this month packed with advice to skyrocket performance.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Cricket training secrets: How to prevent hamstring injuries

This is part three of a series of tips that are often overlooked by traditional cricket coaches. All are proven to give you the edge but because they don't originate in the cricket world have not been picked up by the mainstream of players yet. That's why we are calling the series "training secrets". This secret is about stopping hamstring problems.

A hamstring pull can have you out for weeks and it's annoying. Chances are you can still perform your skills but you can't run so you can't play. It might even mean another player gets a chance, steals your place and you languish.

All through a preventable injury.

It doesn't help that cricket seems designed to hurt your hammies.

There is a great deal of sitting and around followed by some vigorous running to bowl the ball or make a quick single. The final nail in the coffin (and the biggest problem) is the speed you have to slow to turn or catch a sharp caught and bowled.

If you are young and have hamstrings are like brand new elastic bands you might get away with it. But why risk it when you can do some simple things to reduce the chances of injury in the first place?

Know your functional anatomy (no, come back, it's not that bad)

All the ladies love a man who can talk about hamstring function.

Well, maybe not. But your hamstrings will be besotted with you for knowing what you are doing. You see, according to the textbooks your hamstring flexes your knee. Think the leg curl machine in the gym. Technically that's right.

In real life it's rubbish.

The hamstrings don't flex the knee when you are running, stopping and changing direction. They extend the hip, like in this picture:

You see how the runner's leg is kicked out behind him? That's hip extension.

Trouble is most cricketers don't train this way. Some rely on cricket itself to get fit (and we already know how risky that can be). Those who do train might do some hamstring curls and jogging and leave it at that.

It's a lack of understanding of what the hamstrings do that are leading to injuries.

Those who do know what the hamstrings do on the pitch take a different approach to training:

  • Staying away from machines in the gym: Both hamstring curls and cardio machines like steppers and treadmills.
  • Gradual warm ups that include movements for hip extension such as hip lifts.
  • All-out sprinting in practice and fielding drills.

Most importantly, cricketers who are concerned about healthy hamstrings use functional strength training to keep them strong.

Strengthening the hamstrings for cricket

Hamstrings that have had their hip extension function trained in the gym are stronger. In other words: you get less ouchies.

That means looking at your training plan and replacing poor exercise choices with exercises like:

Hyperextensions/Glute-Ham Raise - These exercises need a bit of kit that not all gyms have. However, if you have access it strengthens your lower back, hamstrings and glutes while improving flexibility. You can use your bodyweight for up to 12 reps then use a weight plate for extra resistance.

Straight Leg Deadlift - This exercise can be done with one or two legs using a barbell or dumbbells. It's an exercise with a bad reputation as when done badly it can cause back problems. However if done with good form is a great way to develop strength: Start light with weight, keep your back arched, sit back, move from the hips and stop when you feel the hamstrings stretch. You can also do a single leg version.

Deadlift - The deadlift is one of the daddy's of exercises. It trains the right patterns and there are so many variations, everyone can do it. You don't need 500lbs on a barbell to do it. You can use a trap bar, dumbbells, cables or bands. It can be done one or two legged. Technique is crucially important as always.

Don't forget the single leg options with all these exercises either. We run on one leg, so it makes sense to train that way too.

Once you know the secrets, protecting your hamstrings is simple and proven to work. What's stopping you from making the changes?

image credit: John Carleton

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How to use 'The Cube' to win cricket matches

A few months back, with little to do on a Saturday since the cricket season ended I found myself watching TV game show The Cube.

"What a load of rubbish" I thought as the show explained how contestants could win vast sums of money for doing a series of tasks. They were so easy Geoff Boycott's mum could have done them with a stick of rhubarb.

But as I watched more I realised that the tasks like bouncing a ball into a tube or counting boxes became difficult the more that was at stake. During one game that involved walking in a straight line (yes, in a straight line) the contestant used up most of his lives. As soon as the pressure was off (when given a 'trial run') he managed it without fuss.

The only difference: Pressure.

Now take a step back and think about how that applies to cricket.

For example, how many times do we see in Test matches teams collapsing under the pressure of needing to bat time to save the game? An epic rearguard is a rare exception. Few are strong enough to defeat The Cube.

The modern phrase is 'scoreboard pressure' and here are some ways you put your opposition into The Cube and crank up the pressure.

Take advantage of the final overs

No matter what format you play, the final overs of an innings are vital because they set the tone for the next innings. If you struggle through your overs (or worse, get bowled out) you hand the momentum and confidence to the other team.

Attack in the final overs without mindless slogging. Look to hit over the top down the ground or calculate the areas where you can hit with less risk (for example hitting a left arm round spinner over extra cover).

Practice final over batting with middle practice so the batsmen can all think quickly and work out their own methods to score fast. If you need help, take a look at Gary Palmer's Twenty20 batting course. Even if you don't play Twenty20 it teaches you how to score quickly at the death in any game.

Walk with a swagger

Viv Richards was the king of playing like he was the best player in the world. Most of the time he was, which helped. However, you can emulate his confidence by faking it. If you pretend you are super-confident for long enough then you end up being super-confident.

In other words: Fake it until you make it.

It's a trick that works very well when you are in the field. A team of confident fielders can make the batsman feel outnumbered and surrounded. Lots of close fielders, or fielders in front of the bat in the batsman's eye line can crank up the pressure. In limited over games, squeeze fields with enthusiastic fielding can leave a batsman wondering where he can break out.

Bowl three maidens

An extension of this in the field is to build pressure with dot balls. Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan says that if you bowl three maidens in a row one batsman will do something silly to try and break the shackles.

You don't need to bowl a Flintoff-like high speed over beating the bat every time to bowl a maiden. Most club players are limited in their shots so if you cut off their favourites and bowl a consistent line they don't like have a good chance of forcing the error. It's a lot easier to do the latter than the former anyway.

In the end, it's all about pressure. Anyone who thinks pressure makes no difference only need to look at how The Cube drives people to silly mistakes in simple tasks.

How can you add pressure to force mistakes in your games?


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How to become a better batsman through crease management

This is a guest post by Laurie Ward from The Complete Cricketer Academy in Cape Town, South Africa.

Does this scene sound familiar?

As the game goes on barely watched, your team are involved in a mini game or kicking a football around. How many times have you seen one of these players scrabbling for kit and rushing out to the middle with no idea of what is happening?

Your team are missing some serious tricks by not observing the game.

Not only can you support the batters battling in the middle, you also learn about the opposition, the state of the game and your own role.

By not getting ready you are giving away a huge advantage.

So put down the tennis ball and start taking the "crease management" advantage.

When does crease management start?

Crease management starts well before a game. You should be comfortable with your grip, stance, guard and any pre-set routine such as trigger movements or actions. Repeating these in practice or even in front of a mirror at home will make these feel natural and comfortable.

Repetition brings the feeling of control and with control we can reduce nerves. The old cliché: 'control the controllables' is never more apt as at the start of an innings.

At the match crease management can start early. Arrive in plenty of time, never be rushed. Allow time to look at the conditions and pitch. Get a feel for the ground and visualise playing positive cricket.

Take your stance at each end to get used to the background for when it is your turn to bat.

The game begins

When the game starts, keep alert and looking for clues to give you an advantage.

There are two things to examine: How your batsmen are doing and how the opposition are playing.

Watch how your team call and run between the wickets. Every team has a whippet and every team has a poor judge of a run. Know who they are. Make a mental note to talk to them about how to take control of calling and running if you are batting with them.

Don't panic if your teammates are struggling. Remember everyone’s game is different. It's more important to watch the opposition. Try to see what tactics they are incorporating.  What line and length are they bowling? What fields have they set?

  • Watch all the fielders closely. There will be one or two that are a bit sleepy or wander into bad positions. Others may not have strong arms or accurate throws. Some will be left-handed so you can take care which hand you take them on for before a quick single.
  • Take a close look at the bowlers. Try to see what they are attempting to bowl, (seam up, finger spin, leg spin) and how well or poorly they are doing it. Watch out for strange actions that might catch you out, such as a low arm action, bowling off the wrong foot or a delayed release as a spinner. You want as few surprises as possible when you face your first ball. 

What to do when you are not watching the game

Of course you can't watch every ball, but there are more productive things you can do instead of having a quick go on the Nintendo DS.

Pad up in good time. Each player should get his own routine but there is nothing worse than rushing to get ready, particularly when a couple of wickets have fallen and panic is setting in. Be prepared. When the openers go out to bat 3 and No 4 should be padded up with all kit at hand. When the first wicket falls No 5 should get ready, and so on.

Get comfortable and ready. Some players like to have throw-downs, some to tap the ball up and down on their bat; others just sit still and relax. Don’t get too relaxed and stiff, stretch your legs and have a walk now and again to keep loose and flexible. 

Keep crease management going when you get to the crease

When it comes your turn to bat try to relax and breathe deeply before walking in. As you walk out, look up and adjust your eyes to the light.

Walk out with a positive stride, even if you are trembling inside. Loosen your arms by stretching with the bat or playing positive air strokes.

You will get some form of welcome from the keeper and close fielders. Ignore their comments and use any negativity to focus yourself and increase your determination.

Take guard; take a good look at the field settings (making no direct eye contact) and note where the weak, strong and different handed fielders are positioned. Put all of this information to the back of your mind.

Now, all there is to do is keep your head still, watch the ball, judge the line and length, make the correct shot selection and move into the correct position with footwork, head and hands working in unison. 

As this is all over in generally half a second, aren’t you glad that you made the effort to implement basic crease management?

If you want to learn everything there is to know about batting, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. 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.

image credit: Bushtick

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Laws of cricket: Keeper on the move and evasive action

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 62: Senyo Nyakutse co-hosts

The New Year edition of the show sees Senyo Nyakutse in the co-host chair. Gary Palmer gives the lowdown on batting again and David interviews former England analyst Mark Garaway about coaching in Ireland.

Finally we answer your questions. Topics in the show include:


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: 80
Date: 2010-01-08