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We take a technical angle this week, looking at more ways to outwit unsuspecting batsmen and the key aspects of wicketkeeping with PitchVision Academy coach Nic Northcote.

Seeing as we are talking technical, we also have more tips from Gary Palmer on batting and a complete guide to cricket coaching: every PitchVision Academy coaching article and podcast in one place.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Wicket-keeping tips: The basics of catching

This guest article by first-class and international 'keeper Nic Northcote is an extract from his new book "Wicket-Keeping: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Art": Available now on PitchVision Academy.

A wicket-keeper is required to catch hundreds of balls in a match. These catches can take the form of balls passing the batsman’s bat, edges, high catches or throws from the fielders. The wicket-keeper needs to be able to safely catch with both of his hands - individually and simultaneously -when standing still, running and diving. It is therefore absolutely essential that a wicket-keeper has an excellent basic catching technique. Furthermore, a good catching technique will help reduce the frequency of hand or finger injuries.

Some key points relating to the general catching technique of a wicket-keeper:

Two Hands

As the old cliché goes, two is always better than one, and the wicket-keeper should at all times attempt to catch the ball with two hands and preferably without diving. Swift footwork alone will often enable the wicket-keeper to get his body into a position to catch the ball with two hands and without having to dive.

Watch the Ball

The most important rule when catching is that the wicket-keeper must keep his eye on the ball from its point of departure until it has safely come to rest in his gloves. If possible, the keeper’s head and eyes must be directly above the line of the ball when catching.

Head Still

Another absolutely essential consideration when catching is that the keeper must keep his head as still as possible. If his head is moving, so are his eyes, and the relative position of the ball to his eyes is therefore constantly changing. This is similar to catching a ball that is constantly changing direction, and makes pulling off a successful catch so much more difficult.

Soft Hands

When catching the ball, the wicket-keeper must have what is commonly referred to as “soft-hands. The keeper must try to extend the time of contact between the ball and his hands for as long as possible. By catching with relaxed elbows and moving the gloves in the same direction as the path of the ball (riding the ball), the keeper can soften the impact of the ball on the gloves, thereby preventing the ball from popping out of the gloves.

The opposite of catching with soft hands is referred to as “snatching” at the ball. Snatching at the ball occurs when the keeper goes at the ball rather than letting the ball come to him. Attempting to catch the ball with rigid (or “hard”) elbows and hands often results in dropped catches and bruised or injured hands.

Coaching tip

Catching tennis balls is an excellent way to practice catching with soft hands. Due to the elasticity of the tennis balls, they tend to bounce out of rigid or hard hands far easier than a hard leather cricket ball, and they therefore provide a clear indication of whether or not a wicket-keeper is snatching at the ball. A coach can use a tennis racket to hit tennis balls at the wicket-keeper, who can practice catching them with and without gloves.

Want to know the secrets of how to change a game with a moment of wicket-keeping brilliance? Pick up a copy of "Wicket-Keeping: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Art" and become a better keeper today.


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How to exploit batting weaknesses: Width of stance

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

Every good coach will tell their players to stand ready with their feet a comfortable distance apart. While this is usually about shoulder width, some players will stand differently.

The modern trend is to stand with a wider stance than the coaching book recommends (like Chris Gayle or Graeme Smith), but there are also players who follow the Jack Hobbs method of keeping the feet close together.

At club and school level, these technical flaws lead to errors.

Why is it a weakness?

In his course: "Improve Your Batting With Simple Changes to Your Setup", Gary Palmer explains why the having a wide or narrow stance is a weakness.

You can view that portion of the video and see what the side and narrow stances look like by clicking here.

In the video Gary explains:
  • A wide stance makes it difficult to move your feet quickly.
  • A narrow stance makes it difficult to stay balanced, increasing your chances of toppling over.
Outwitting the wide stance

A wide stance is a batsman's way of hedging his or her bets. It allows you to play with less footwork because you have gone both forwards and back without moving. As a result it's favoured by big hitters who like to 'stand and deliver'.

If you are bowling to one of these players, the way to take advantage is to get the batsman 'feeling' for the ball.

This means extracting as much movement as possible through the air or off the pitch. The sluggish footwork means the batter is slow to get in position which increases the chances of edging the ball.

Outswing and the ball spinning away from the bat is the best way of doing this as the feet of the batsman don't move, but the bat follows the ball leading to the bat moving sideways away from the body and a loss of control (this is sometimes called "curtain-railing").

You can see the batsman in the wrong position on the back foot here:

As you can see, the full face of the bat is not at the ball and it hit being hit square, allowing you to set squarer fields and plenty of off side catchers behind the bat.

Inswing and the ball spinning in can exploit the slow feet for catching batsmen LBW.

Spinners have a special advantage over the wide stance player. As they are more likely to get stuck flat footed they are especially vulnerable to the ball above the eye-line that dips late in flight.

Outwitting the narrow stance

Although less popular these days, the narrow stance batsman can survive in lower level cricket where the bowling is slower and the wickets less bouncy.

However, the base is less stable meaning the batter will favour playing on the back foot (because it's easier to sit back than lean forward and topple over).

So as bowler your best approach is to pitch the ball up a fuller length on or just outside off stump.

The unbalanced position going forward makes it harder for the batsman to know where the off stump is. He ends up playing at wide balls or getting closed off when playing at straighter balls and playing with half a bat.

Also, it's much harder for him to drive the ball along the ground from this unstable position, so close catchers in front of the wicket (short extra cover and short midwicket) are excellent fielding positions.

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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Respect is dead
Disrespect is part of cricket nowadays.
And that's a good thing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about swearing at batsmen and arguing with the umpire. But respect is too often fear in disguise.

Good players don't waste time on that.
Why respect is overrated

At the peak of his powers Shane Warne was a great spin bowler in Test cricket. Towards the end of his career as an Australian international he became a great user of respect.

With a reduced armoury of just a leg break and slider to call on, he used a clever combination of supreme confidence, dominant personality, reputation and bluff to scare batsmen out. He was a master of such tactics and it got him a lot of wickets a bowler with a lesser reputation would have missed out on.

And this happens every week at lower levels too.

You must have played in the game where the whisper goes round that the opposition have a star ringer in the side. Perhaps frighteningly quick bowler is having a game at your level to come back after injury, or you remember last year's game where the star batsman hit your bowlers to all parts.

You give these players too much respect.

You start playing the reputation and not the ball.

And when you do that you give the opponent the advantage.

Be disrespectful

The alternative to respect, of course, is to disrespect everyone.

If you are a bowler, you hate every batsman and want to send them on your way so you can get your feet up. If you are a batsman you consider every bowler to be unworthy to deliver to you.

You know it's only a matter of time until you show how much better you are.

You see, this kind of disrespect is born from self-confidence.

And confidence comes from knowing your game. From knowing what works for you and knowing what your job is.

That way there is no fear and no need to give respect to anyone, whether they really deserve it or not.

image credit: rosswebsdale


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The complete guide to cricket coaching

Coaching has never been more important, or more competitive.

For you to survive as a coach you need to be able to draw the best from players better than anyone else. And we at PitchVision Academy want to help you with that.

So here is a list of all our best cricket coaching articles and podcasts separated by category, as a single reference point for you to improve your coaching, improve your players and make a difference.

Cricket Show 70: Pull shots and team interference

More on applying sport psychology in the nets and in the middle this week as we have the second part of our interview with Dr. Wil James.

Gary Palmer is back talking about batting and Kevin tells us about his team's late rally for the finals. You have to be in it to win it.


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: 88
Date: 2010-03-05