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Cricket isn't a gentleman's game. It never was. Cheating and gamesmanship is rife. Rather than bury our heads in the sand, this week we tackle the issue by looking at how people cheat and get away with it.

One side who never need to cheat are English Premier League team Manchester United. They know how to win fair and square, they also know how not to lose, which is just as important. We look at how your cricket team can learn the same lesson.

We also find out what's wrong with England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, find out what goes on at selection and have another podcast for you to download and listen to.

Finally, don't forget to put your name down for the Countdown to Summer newsletter. It's a limited edition, only running until May and when it's gone it's gone. It's also got exclusive content including a guide to running pre-season nets and an interview with Gary Palmer. You can get both newsletters.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

How to cheat at cricket (and get away with it)

Let's forget the sales pitch for a minute: Cricketers cheat.

Play or coach at any level and you already know the whole "gentleman's game" idea is about as true as San Serriffe.

Balls get tampered with, batsmen stand when they know they edged it and sledging is commonplace.

Misguided types will bury their heads in the sand and hold cricket up as king of fair play in sport. Play hard but play fair they say, swimming against a tide of sharp practice and outright cheating.

Admirable as these ideals are, they are built on foundations of sand and impossible to achieve. Just go to any cricket ground where serious matches are played at the weekend and you will soon see for yourself.

And when you know that is true the only question is: How far can you take it and get away with it?

Where is the line?

Fair play in cricket can be split into three areas. The controversial part is where you put certain practices.

The first area is things everyone considers fair, such as shining the ball on your trousers. The middle ground is the grey area that people dispute and the third area contains practices everybody finds unacceptable.

The trouble is nobody agrees where to draw those lines and players have always pushed the limits in an effort to get an advantage over the opposition.

So while a large number of players will come down hard on lifting the seam, a significant number of players will continue to do it, and get away with it.

What other practices are commonplace?

Respecting the umpire (but only to hoodwink him)

Shrewd bowlers know to respect the umpire. Not out of a sense of respect of fair play, but because they know they can lean the umpire in their direction by being nice.

Umpires are human and so are more likely to give decision to bowler's they like.

Keep appeals to a minimum and be respectful when the decision is not out. "Going down leg was it umpire?" said casually shows the official you know he won't be easily deceived (and puts you in a better light).

Sledging without words

The point of sledging in cricket is to put the batsman off by putting doubt in his mind. Old-fashioned outright abuse just doesn't work as well and is harder to get away with.

That's why really good sledgers don't need to say much, or anything at all.

The trick is subtle pressure built up over a number of balls. A well-drilled fielding team can put the squeeze on a batsman through good bowling and a wall of fielders cutting off favourite shots. There is no abuse, no staring at a play and miss, and no meaningless clapping.

The pressure builds and the batsman plays a bad shot. In the pavilion he wonders how he could have been so careless. He was sledged without even knowing it.

Walking when it suits you

Walking is almost totally gone from serious cricket now. So much so that nobody bats an eyelid when a batsman nicks it, stands his ground and is given not out.

Bad umpiring, the sages will say. Not unfair play by the batsman.

But make no mistake, it is cheating. You don't wait for the umpire's finger when you hit it to cover or are bowled middle stump. The only difference is those two dismissals are obviously out.

Batsmen will argue that the fielding side never call you back after an appeal is upheld that you didn't hit, so why should you walk?

Walking or standing your ground, mired in all this discussion is another trick a batsman can use.

If you do have a reputation for walking and are playing a big game, you can nick off but stand your ground. The umpire can be fooled into thinking you would have walked and give you not out.

Where do you draw the line?

These are just three examples of how the boundaries of the spirit of cricket can be pushed. How far do you push it?

Do you insist on nothing but fair play? Do you coach players how to sledge? Are you an outright cheat and don't care as long as you get away with it?


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What Manchester United can teach you about cricket

Premier League football club Manchester United can be envied for their glamour and success. But it's in a less obvious way that they can show your cricket team a lesson.

The last minute equaliser.

Over the years United seem to have become masters of snapping a draw from defeat: Playing badly and not losing.

It's a lesson that England seem to have taken to heart, saving three Tests in the equivalent of a last minute equaliser by blocking out for a draw.

On the surface you could argue luck or negativity were the important factors.

What these situations really have in common is the refusal to lose, even when winning is not an option and that is one of the signs of a team with a strong character.

Really good teams don't find themselves in losing situations often. But like Manchester United, you can equalise in the last minute by saving the draw.

Cutting your losses: When to stop trying to win

Many will argue that if you are playing you should always be trying to win. Even the most hopeless situation can be turned around. Sport is about winning they will argue. There is no joy in playing simply to prevent the opposition from succeeding.

More realistically, there could be points at stake in a league situation. You have to be pragmatic. We have all been in games where we know we can't win. The opposition sets a massive target and with each wicket that falls, the chances become increasingly fragile.

I have been on both sides in that situation. I would like to think the teams I play in leave it as late as possible to switch from 'winning' mode to 'saving' mode. It is depressing when the opposition openers come out looking to block. That's not the way to approach it.

(Although I would argue an opposition so hell bent on defence from ball one have been forced to do so by a bad declaration)

When do you switch to game saving mode?

It's hard to make any hard and fast rules but a good rule of thumb is the last 20 overs. An even game is usual when 80 runs are needed with 4 wickets in hand.

Conditions will alter the numbers: A couple of well set batsman or a good wicket can lead to more runs. My general cut off point would be about there.

Adopting the draw mentality

Once you have decided to try and save the game the challenge changes.

It's easy to fall into a negative mentality. You stop looking at the score and with one eye on the wicket column you fix your gaze on 'overs remaining'. You start hoping the batsmen don't get out.

All that leads to is panic and confusion.

It's far better to play the percentage game: Look to leave balls not on the stumps, defend the straight ones and score from bad balls.

That's different from the idea of playing your 'natural game'; which for many players is an excuse for impatience and lack of discipline. All batsmen in the team should know how to play out the overs through sensible cricket.

A hard fought draw shows a team has grit. Does your side have the ability to cut your losses and save matches?


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What's wrong with Matt Prior?

I hope England wicketkeeper Matt Prior has been misquoted. Because if he hasn't, he doesn't listen to his strength coach and, worse, is perpetuating myths about fitness and cricket.

Here's a line from an article about the Sussex gloveman:

"Prior reckons that he got too bulky last winter and that it affected his speed of movement. He has made a conscious effort to slim down in South Africa, changing his training routine from a weights-based programme to resistance training, including more core work. He has a lighter and more toned frame and is more agile."

Agile good, bulky bad. What's not to like? After all, he's certainly improved his wicketkeeping in the months between the tours of West Indies 2009 and South Africa 2009-10.

The subtext is this: Wicketkeepers who do weights-based training get too bulky and less skilful. All Prior's problems with the gloves can be tracked to his fitness plan.

Except for the tiny fact he is talking rubbish.

I agree 100% that you need to be agile to be a good wicketkeeper. I also agree that core work is an important part of any cricketer's training. But saying you are too bulky for cricket is like thinking you don't have enough legs to drive a stick shift.

As we have argued on this site many times: It's impossible to be too muscle-bound to play cricket.

In fact, it's preferable to be strong, because strength is a factor in speed and agility.

In using words like 'bulky' and 'toned', Prior is throwing us a red-herring. We assume there are different types of strength: The great big bodybuilders at one end and the svelte-like athletes at the other. It's not based in fact. It's not an either/or. You can be strong and agile, you just need to train like an athlete.

Also, while we are at it, what exactly is the difference between weight-training and resistance training?

As far as I know they are exactly the same thing.

Let's write this off as a bad day for Matt. He's a professional cricketer, not a strength coach. But let's get our facts straight shall we?


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Selection committee: 5 Ways to pick the right team

Throughout the summer on a Wednesday night, the selection committee of my cricket club convene to decide the fate of the men who make up the 3 sides.

The debates can be long and hard, but decisions are made and the team sheets are posted.

Often the choices spark controversy, not least in those overlooked for the 1st XI. It's a thankless task.

Cricket Show 64: The return of Kevin

Kevin returns to the show after his trip to India and gives us a full report. Gary Palmer gives us all some batting advice and we answer more cricket coaching questions from the mailbag.


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: 82
Date: 2010-01-22