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Animated Fielding Drills Get Fit For Cricket


This week's newsletter takes some all-action angles, but ends up making you a better player.

We look at Indiana Jones and Wild West gunslingers. We show you how to exploit a batting weakness to get more wickets and we bowl into the wind for you.

Plus we have the start of our series of interviews with ECB psychologist Dr. Wil James.

Strap yourself in for the ride and have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

The Indiana Jones guide to better cricket

Moments after the vehicle has plunged over the sheer cliff, taking Indiana Jones with it there is a dramatic pause and the camera cuts to a close up of the cliff edge.

No one can possibly have survived.
The very definition of a cliff hanger.

Suddenly we see a hand desperately grab the edge, then another as our hero somehow escapes certain death. What makes the whole thing so 'Indy' is that close shave leaves him hurt and grumpy: He's no superman. He's breakable, despite his heroic efforts.

I doubt you have ever plunged over a real cliff (I know I haven't), but it can feel like it sometimes on the pitch.

When you are nine down with five overs to go you would give your right arm for a man sporting a fedora and bullwhip at the crease, kicking up dust and stones and he hangs off the precipice.

Indiana Jones may not be able to bat or bowl for us, but we can all take inspiration from one lesson he teaches.

Besides, it gives me an excuse to watch the first three films again (The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't count)

World class basics

'Indiana' was the exciting alter-ego, but it was Dr. Henry Jones Jnr. that really did the hard work.

It's his knowledge as a teacher and archaeologist, built up over many years of boring old conventional education and research that leads him on his adventures and gets him out of trouble.

Without being a master of the basics under extreme pressure he would have been caught by the first trap in the first scene.

It's exactly the same for cricketers. Too many players see the glory and try to do the impossible before they can do the possible with competence.

They end up caught on spikes or run over by a giant boulder when all they needed to do was stay out of the light.

The moral is: Practice the basics long after you think you need to. Become a geek about your technique, tactics and fitness. Never be satisfied until you are perfect, and then when you are perfect, find a further imperfection.

World class basics include:

Like Indy, the best players never stop working on the basics, so when the pressure is on they can trust what they have learned.

Every boring drill in the nets, every session of bowling at a target again and again and every catching practice is one step closer to making you more like Indiana Jones on the pitch.

It's either that, or be unprepared and watch your face melt when you open the Ark.

And that has to sting.

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How to exploit batting weaknesses: Choking grip

This is part of a series on How to exploit batsman's weaknesses. To see the other weaknesses click here.

If you are looking for batting weaknesses, it's best not to highlight a technique used by Don Bradman. So just to be awkward, that's exactly what I'm about to do.

The 'choked' or 'O' grip is a common variation of the more orthodox bottom hand grip and, despite the example of the Don, causes problems for batsman at club and school level.

And you can take advantage.

How to spot the weakness

The batsman has a tighter bottom hand grip and you can see it when he lifts the bat up.

First, his palm is flat on the handle and second his back elbow is tucked in. Bob Woolmer calls this effect an inverted T shape (as opposed to the orthodox diamond shape caused by a hinged grip):


Why is it a weakness?

The problem with the choked grip is that it reduces the size of the batsman's hitting zone: the part of the swing that the ball can be struck:


As you can see from the yellow area, if you swing the bat along the line of the ball you are more likely to hit it.

However, as you can see from the picture below, if you choke the bat you tend to play across it with a more closed face and the time the bat is on the line of the ball for less time:


Unless the batter's timing is perfect, there is a much greater chance of getting bowled, an inside edge onto the stumps or a leading edge back to the bowler.

Outwitting the choked grip: Hit the stumps

Because the batsman needs perfect timing, they are especially vulnerable early in their innings to the straight ball.

So the best tactic is to bowl a line and length that the ball can hit the stumps: straight and with a full length.

Your exact line and length will vary on how much bounce and movement you are getting, but as long as the ball end up hitting the stumps the batsman will always give you a chance.

Bowling short, wide or down the leg side will play into this batter's hands, so keep it pitched up, hitting the stumps and set tight fields to cut off the areas the batsman scores.

Setting a field

The basics of field settings still apply, but because of the closed face, the ball is a little more likely to be hit through the leg side.

There is also less chance of the ball going through the off side with good timing.

That means key positions are:

  • Midwicket (short, in the ring or on the boundary)
  • Mid On (short, in the ring or on the boundary)
  • Extra Cover (in short for the leading edge)

The core six positions will be straighter than normal because your line is straight and full in order to hit the stumps.

A leg slip or leg gulley might also be handy for inside edges, while slips are less important because your line is straighter than usual.

You may find the well set batsman will be able to work the ball into the leg side, in which case you can to return to a more orthodox line: on or just outside the off stump with orthodox fields.

Want to improve your skills so you can bowl to these tactics or iron out your batting weaknesses? PitchVision Academy has an online coaching course to help you from the world's finest coaches.


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How to bowl into the wind

The sun beats down from a cloudless sky as you examine the wicket before play.

It's flat and grassless and looks like slab of baked concrete. Just as you think it can't get any worse you notice one end has a sloping run up and the wind is blowing down the hill.

You already know what the captain is going to say, but your heart sinks when he says it:

"Can you do this end please mate?" Another long spell uphill into the wind beckons.

How you react to the news goes a long way to making you a good into the wind bowler.

Do you need to?

The first question is; should you be bowling from the difficult end in the first place?

Someone has to of course, but if you are super quick and the best bowler in the team then perhaps not.

Why would the captain do such a thing?
  • He wants to give a less experienced bowler the advantage.
  • You historically bowl better from that end.
  • The pitch conditions are different at each end, and the end you are bowling from is to your advantage.
  • The other bowler is more senior or more of a prima donna (or both) and you get that end by default.

If you disagree with the logic of the decision then talk to the captain about it. If you make a good case then he or she might change his or her mind.

Most of the time he won't.
Take one for the team

So you have the ball in your hand and the gale in your face. Nothing feels right and every step is like wading through glue to get to the crease.

In short, it's a nightmare.

But doing it well means putting in a solid performance for the sake of the team.

Some bowlers react by using it as an excuse; they can't possibly bowl well when everything is against them. They go through the motions but it's nothing like their best. When they fail they say "I told you so".

Good bowlers see it as a challenge to their skills; a selfless act that if done well will lead to them being able to chose their end.

(Good bowlers also see it as an opportunity to be the fittest player who practices the hardest in the team, or club too).

After all, the skills don't change. You still need to be fast and accurate. You still need a repeatable action. You still need a plan B if all else fails.

So if it's not technical or tactical, it's that psychological difference that separates the best bowlers from the average ones.

Most people will play well when conditions are to their advantage, but if you can learn to play well by reacting positively to negative circumstances you will stand out as a bowler.

That's not really so bad after all.
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What the Wild West gunslinger can teach you about batting

A Wild West gun fight is just like going out to bat.

Like the gunslinger you stand alone against one man and you only get one chance. It's a psychological battle.

Who will flinch first as the chapel bell chimes midday?

Chances are it's the one who is most in control.

Cricket Show 69: Wil James

We delve into the realms of sport psychology this week with the first part of our interview with ECB National Lead Psychologist and consultant for Lane4; Dr. Wil James.

Wil spoke to us on a range of topics related to the psychology of playing/coaching club and school level cricket.


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: 87
Date: 2010-02-25