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You might have noticed some minor event called the IPL kicking off today (Friday). We decided to spend this week's newsletter looking at the cricket behemoth and learning lessons for the games we play.

So it's IPL Twenty20 style almost all the way through: Field settings, tactics and even an article on dealing with big match pressure.

If you prefer a different pace of the game we also look at wicketkeeping skills with Nic Northcote and the miCricketCoach Show covers batting and business techniques.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

What the IPL can teach you about dealing with pressure in cricket

Imagine for a moment you have signed for the Deccan Chargers. It's your first game and the stadium is packed to the rafters.

On TV millions more watch on hoping you will put in a match winning performance for their beloved team. Meanwhile the world's finest Twenty20 players warm up in preparation to take you on.

Succeed and you will be adored. Fail and you will be nobody.

It's that kind of pressure that can ruin your game.

But you don't have to be an IPL player to feel pressure. You be stressed in school or club cricket. You can feel under stress as a coach as well as a player.

Pressure can happen at any level.

How does this happen when cricket is supposed to be fun?

The only 3 reasons you are stressed

When you consider a game or moment in a game to be important, the pressure goes up. When you think your skills are not enough to deal with the situation, you get stressed.

We naturally tend to blame the situation such as the crowd or sledging by the opposition, but it's our response to the situation is just as important. In other words, there are three reasons you get stressed:

  1. The environment is stressful (big game, lots at stake, rep level scouts watching)
  2. Your negative reaction or perception to the situation (you are hit a skier and think "what if I drop it?")
  3. Your physical and mental response which psychologists call arousal (sweating, heart rate, worry, confusion, nail biting)

The difference between players who deal with pressure and those who crack is the former know how to manage the three causes of stress.

And that's nothing to do with how good a player you are. That's why you often see lesser talented players doing well in the IPL: they have 'mental strength'

(Which is shorthand for saying they know how to deal with pressure)

How to manage pressure

So now we know stress can only come from 3 places, it's just a matter of learning how to deal with that pressure when it happens to you.

But there is no one-size-fits-all.
You need to know where the problem lies.

For some players, getting clammy hands (arousal) leads to remembering the last time they felt stressed and failed (negative reaction) which stresses them out.

For others it's the negative thought that comes first and the physical reaction that follows.

The good news is that wherever the flow of pressure and stress is coming from there is a way of dealing with it.

  • Reducing stress in the environment: This is difficult as a big game is a big game. However you can do certain things to reduce the pressure. Be technically as good as you can be. Make sure you have a routine that you trust, be clear about your role on the day, and focus on enjoying playing for the sake of playing rather than the rewards on offer.
  • Reducing arousal: If you find your stress comes from your response to the environment such as increased heart rate, inability to concentrate, faster breathing or pacing you are having an arousal response. The most common way to deal with this is imagery, but you can use any technique that works for you. The Alexander Technique is another example.
  • Reducing negative reaction: If you spot negative thoughts popping into your head before any physical reaction you are having a perception response. There are a number of ways you can push these thoughts aside, but a popular method is the stop technique.

An environment like the IPL might seem to be a huge cause of pressure, but the real secret to playing well in that situation is how you respond.

If you can manage that response you will be able to play in any level of cricket from an IPL match at Eden Gardens to a game on the Maidan.

If you want more cricket thinking tips and lessons from the IPL don't forget to get the free PitchVision Academy coaching newsletter.


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Field setting: Off spin, Twenty20 middle overs (IPL special)

This article is part of "The complete guide to cricket field settings" series.

The middle overs of a Twenty20 game are the black sheep of cricket: unglamorous and disregarded and nobody likes talking about them.

But a loss of focus in this period is all it takes to lose a close match where every stolen single counts.

Even in short format games (be they 16 8 ball overs of traditional evening cricket or the more modern Twenty20) there is a period where the game pace changes and there is a lull before the final push for the line.

Usually this takes place between overs 6-12, but can be longer if wickets are falling (or indeed shorter if the batsmen are carving it to all parts on a flat track). It's the time for spinners to make a mark and restrict scoring.

In this field setting we are talking the IPL as a model. That means a field restriction of 4 players inside the 30 yard fielding circle and a maximum of 5 on the leg side.

We are also going to assume the pitch is a 'typical' Indian wicket with not much pace or bounce but some turn.

Bowling to this field

Your main role in the middle overs is to restrict the score and frustrate batsmen into hitting out before they are ready. For that reason your standard line needs to be straighter and you give the ball less flight than you would in longer formats.

Aim to get the batsman playing forward as if he or she can go back the have more time to work the ball into the gaps. Pitching the ball somewhere around 12-14 metres from the bowlers popping crease should do the job. Use the batsman's footwork reaction as a guide to length.

These tactics force the batsman to play straight or into the leg side where you can cut off the shots with your boundary runners.

Extra cover and mid off are key positions for you, stopping drives which will be most batsmen's escape route from the pressure. Place extra cover too square and he becomes redundant.

You can bowl to this field from over or round the wicket.

Bowling variations

As the batsman is looking to score off more deliveries than any other format, you can't let them get used to your bowling line, length or pace. To do so means they can premeditate an aggressive shot and score easily against you.

That's why it's important to vary from your stock delivery often if the batsman is on top:

  • Flight. The ability to place the ball in the same spot but with different heights on the ball is very deceptive. On slow wickets you can vary the flight of almost every ball, or just throw in the odd flatter/loopy ball if you feel the batsman is in a rhythm.
  • Arm ball. The ball that drifts away from the right hander is an excellent way to deceive the batsman and get a dot ball (or turn a boundary into a single). It's also a wicket taking ball. Pitch it further up and with a middle stump line.
  • Doosra. If you can bowl the one that goes the other way (a rare skill), bowl it at middle stump on a length and hope it catches the edge or the top of off stump.
  • Yorker. The very full ball is not just for the seamers. It's hard to hit a full and straight ball anywhere but down the ground.
  • Position on the crease. Adjusting where you deliver the ball can upset a batsman's timing. Try bowling from bowling crease instead of the popping crease, or going wider on the crease to change the angle.
Avoid bowling

Like all fields, loose bowling can be punished, but you do have protection in key areas to try and restrict the easy flow of runs.

  • Too many stock balls. If the batsman realises you are putting the ball on the same spot without variation can work the ball around for singles and twos using the pace of the ball and the gaps in the spread out field
  • Too many unpracticed variations. Variations are vital in T20, but if you bowl them without having practiced them first they just end up being bad balls. Make sure every variation you try in the middle has had plenty of work in the nets.
Field Variations
  • To add pressure to a new batsman, deep gulley can move to slip or point can go to silly point (although not for more than a couple of balls)
  • Mid off can be at orthodox or on the edge of the circle.
  • Point can move out to the boundary as an off side sweeper.
  • If the ball is turning consider a fielder saving one on the leg side behind square.
  • Fielders in the ring can be tight on the single to squeeze the batsman or on the edge of the circle giving one but more likely to save a boundary.
Batting against this field

The batters main aim in this phase of the game is to be workmanlike and disciplined. The field is spread so hitting boundaries is harder, but scoring singles and twos is easier. Six an over is a reasonable rate and can be done by rotating the strike with minimum risk.

Play straight, looking to score in an arc between mid off and midwicket, especially if the bowler drops short so you can play back foot drives and pulls with control.

The late cut to anything wide outside off can pick up runs if it beats the man at deep gulley.

Don't get tempted into going 'inside out' and driving against the spin as this is a risky path that can lead to you missing or mistiming the ball. If you need to improvise try hitting over the leg side by clearing the front leg.

The sweep is productive against over the wicket off spin, but it can be risky if the bowler is going around the wicket because the line is straightening onto the stumps.

Images supplied by PitchVision - Coach Edition software


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Don't make this mistake in the opening overs

Power plays are a terrible invention.

They make IPL games more fun to watch when Tendulkar and Jayasuriya are flailing it to all parts.

But the whole idea seems so contrived and, well... restricted (at least to a declaration loving traditionalist like me).

Nevertheless, as my own (50 over) league has brought in a fielding circle this season and it's a staple of Twenty20 cricket at every level, it's time to look how the pros do it.

Mainly because we don't want to make the same mistakes as they do.

It's not about the tactics

Pinch hitting or building a foundation, pacemen or spinners, along the ground or over the top?

All are viable tactical options.

All have been used with success by different teams at different times.

And that's the rub: There is no one tactic that is best suited to all teams in all conditions.

If you try and crowbar in a tactic you are not up to just because it's in fashion then you will end up having a disastrous first 6 (or 10, or 20) overs.

It's a mistake the England ODI side have been making on and off for years (see the long quest to try and replace the aggressive Marcus Trescothick at the top of the order).

What is a good power play about?

It's about the players.

Tactics are only as good as the player's ability to make them work. If the opening batsmen are a pair of slow plodders there is not much chance of you smashing 60 in the T20 power play.

That's why you have to adapt to what you can do.

Look at the strengths of your batsmen and bowlers and decide which tactic best fits them.

Then make sure those players are totally clear as to what their role is (according to Shane Warne and Jeremy Snape it was the secret of the Rajasthan Royals IPL success in the inaugural season).

That's far more likely to succeed because it's not the tactics that score the runs and take the wickets. It's the players.

And that's a tactic that is universal. It works at any level, in any conditions and in any country because it's adaptable.

If you want more cricket tactics and lessons from the IPL don't forget to get the free PitchVision Academy coaching newsletter.

image credit: Dan...

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Wicket-keeping tips: Positioning when standing up

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.

Cricket Show 71: Switch hits and learning from business

It's official; Kevin's team missed out on the finals this season so we catch up with how he felt the season went. Find out why it's not all bad news.

Plus, Gary Palmer returns to give us more insight into the technical side of batting. ECB psychologist Wil James also joins us for the third part of his in-depth interview on the mental side of the game.


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: 89
Date: 2010-03-12