Pitchvision Academy


Cricket has a unique position in sport.

It's a team game played by individuals which can lead to more clique forming, back stabbing and politics that any other sport. Not something you want if you have plans on your side doing well. So, in the latest 2 part series I discuss ways anyone can help overcome this through building up trust.

Cricket is also unique in the extreme mental demands of the game over long periods. Something guest writer John Hurley looks into in his latest article.

Plus, Geoff Boycott spoke out this week about the role of fitness in cricket. Is he right? We examine how important it is to be fit for this unique and challenging game.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Practice makes perfect – but what happens when things are less than perfect?

Most athletes arrive at a coaching session enthusiastic and ready to have a good, strong, focused and intense training session.

Sometimes it doesn't work out like that.

Nets are double booked, our training partners are running late or can't get there at all. Maybe the coach is sick. So many little things can and do go wrong all the time.

Rather than a challenge, this is a great opportunity: You can use it to become stronger mentally.

When training plans are going pear shaped or conditions are less than perfect, take the opportunity to identify this as a time to train your mind to go through hardship. Accept the challenge. Realise that conditions are not perfect. Understand that this makes training more like a game situation and train accordingly.
You have a choice.

Don't be one of the many who fail to perform at their best because "conditions just weren't right for them on the day." It's the mentally strong player who manages to perform on these days.

Let's face it: conditions are never really perfect for anyone. Look at the experiences of the Olympic athletes having to deal with smog and heat at the Beijing games.
In times like this, you need to focus harder, play conservatively, tighten up your technique and keep trying. It's all about attitude.

So what specifically should you be doing to perform when conditions are tough? Here are some ideas that apply to both practices and games.

  • Watch the ball harder. Look for the seam. This is the key to success in just about any situation.
  • Work at getting a good strong movement to the ball either back or forward. This allows you to play later and therefore watch the ball longer.
  • Play with soft hands. This will often get you out of trouble.
  • Keep telling yourself to be patient. Realise the situation is tough and settle in to occupy the crease rather than dominate the bowling.
  • Specifically in games, keep looking for opportunities to break free. Bowlers get tired and fielders go to sleep. Chances are always arising. 
  • In tough situations, your ability to control your stock delivery is terribly important! By definition it should be the ball you can bowl with most confidence and as such, you should do so as often as 20 or more times in a 4 over set.
  • Be patient and realise that your natural variations in line and length will always challenge the batsman. You are always in with a chance of getting a wicket!
  • Bowl every ball through the batsman to you keeper. If the wicket is not helpful, this will at least make the batsman hurry and give you every opportunity to nip them out.
  • Bowl to your field. If you bowl with control, this will limit the batsman’s scoring opportunities and encourage him to take risks.
 In general terms always appear to be positive, confident and interested in contesting the result of every contest. This is where training to use positive body language, positive talk and positive thinking comes in handy. An individual who is doing this is a force to be reckoned with. 

Imagine what a team doing this would be like to play against.

Always train as you intend to play. Conditions are never perfect so accept this as a given and train accordingly. The benefits will flow.

Most people would be happy to finish their careers and have people say of them:

"He was always good when the going got tough!"

You can be that player.

Photo Credit: higgott

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How to stop cliques forming in your cricket club and build unstoppable team spirit (part 1)

Studies have shown that footballers pass the ball to their friends more than less liked team members. Even if the latter player is in a better position. The real shock is that this can still happen at professional level.

The conclusion? Cliques are not good if you want a successful team.

It's common in cricket too. Reader Warren recently commented about a divide between the 1st XI and 2nd XI in his club leading to players not wanting to be selected for the higher level!

You can see how this causes a problem on the field.

The secret is trust

Almost every issue with a team not bonded together boils down to trust. If there is no trust there is no team cohesion.

For example, new players coming into teams are not trusted by existing players to do the job. Especially if a popular member has been dropped for them.

Trust is such a strong factor that players who clash personalities off the pitch can perform well together as long as they trust each other's ability on the pitch.

However this can be difficult to achieve, especially in a squad of players who don't play together every game.

How do you build up trust?

The key is the captain, who has several important jobs to do to ensure players trust one another.

1. Be fair and consistent

Our sense of fair play is highly tuned. If we feel someone in the team is getting unfair treatment we will not trust that person.  We might feel someone is in the team on reputation, or friendships with influential people. Mostly this feeling remains unspoken, or murmured in quiet corners, building distrust.

It's difficult for captains and coaches to be fair because players may often have different values, experiences and expectations through which they interpret what they believe is fair.

You may have a dour blocker in your team who has opened the batting for years. Younger players might start to wonder why he is in the side. You know he always sees off the better bowlers with the new ball so the stroke makers can score quickly later on. He has a vital role.

While everyone may not agree, as long as they understand they will consider it fair. Everyone on the team must understand their own and everyone else's roles so trust and fairness is developed.

2. Avoid blame and foster loyalty

When something goes wrong it's easy to assign blame. Players who did not get runs or wickets can be accused of costing the team. Trust can never be built on blame. A successful team culture is built on sharing responsibility as a team rather than creating factions within it.

The captain has a key role here. He or she must be supportive of every member of the team to set the example. A few words of encouragement after a dropped catch or golden duck can make a huge difference to the feeling of trust in a team.

It's much easier to avoid blame if your team is winning. The real test is when your side is losing games. If senior players show loyalty at this point you will be able to build trust and gel the team together.

3. Recognise success

It's equally easy to ignore success because the person has done what you expect them to do.  A team where every success is recognised naturally builds up trust.

This recognition depends on the team and the individual involved so needs to be adaptable. Some players expect nothing but a knowing nod from the skipper. Others are not satisfied with anything less than the entire side applauding their skills in a formal presentation of a large trophy.

It takes time to find out how much praise each individual needs and giving them that without upsetting other members of the team. This is another delicate balance for captains. If you get it right players will trust each other more because they see their team mates doing the job.

If these three elements of fairness, loyalty and recognition can be brought together your team will start to gel together successfully, even when others come in.

One way to create an environment like this is to set the ground rules of the team, agreed by every member. This can be as in depth or brief as you like, but anyone who could possibly be involved should help decide.

Rules could include:
  • Individuals look to themselves before blaming others.
  • Everyone has a job to do, recognise when others are doing it well.
  • Team members will always defend the team to outsiders.
  • All failures are considered team failures, not individual ones.
  • Success is always recognised and shared.
  • When one person fails, another team member must take responsibility to make up the slack.
  • Team member will never indulge in gossip or back biting.
  • Recognise we all make mistakes and put them aside when they happen.

It's also important to do as much as possible to foster trust between team players. There are many ways to do this including making sure everyone in a squad train together, team nights out and regular team meetings. While these are not essential elements, the more you can do the more chance you have of success.

However, there are times when all these tricks and tactics still don't foster the key elements of fairness, loyalty and recognition.

It's at these times you probably need to start looking for difficult individuals within a team or squad.

In part 2 we look at how you deal with some of the common difficult people you come across in a cricket team. Click here to go there now.

Photo credit: Fenners1984

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How to stop cliques forming in your cricket club and build unstoppable team spirit (part 2)

In part one we found out the building blocks of trust. Today we tackle the difficult people who want to break it all down again.

Most club cricketers play for the fun and camaraderie they game brings, at least in part.

Some people, whether they mean it or not, can behave in ways that make this difficult. If you are looking at it from a 'team building' point of view, they are often the source of your trouble.

The problem is, their behaviour does not warrant formal action. It's irritating and clique forming but seemingly impossible to change. After all how do you change someone's personality?

Changing behaviour

The simple answer is to find ways to change disruptive people's behaviour, not who they are. The latter is impossible anyway.

According to Ros Jay, most cases will need to be dealt with on a one-to-one basis. This means it's important for the captain (or coach) to be sure the problem is down to an individual and to find the time to speak informally but privately.

The purpose of the meeting is to point out disruptive behaviour without exaggeration, judgement or who they are as a person. Use real examples and show how the team is being impaired by something they are doing.

Most importantly, be ready with a solution that involves changing certain behaviours at certain times. Here are some of the common problems you may encounter and solutions you can offer them:

  • Lack of communication. Get this person more involved by asking specific and open questions (ones where you can't answer yes or no). They will rarely be comfortable offering their opinion, so be prepared to drag it out of them by force of questioning.
  • Doesn't listen. Always clarify what you have asked of them by asking them to clarify. A good fielder can avoid drifting by making a mark for example. Ask open questions to make sure they are still on track.
  • Daydreams. Daydreaming leads to mistakes, especially in the field. Let daydreamers decide what they want to do as much as possible. Avoid making them do things they don't want to as they will switch off.
  • Loner. Batsmen who are happy playing on their own game are often accused of playing for their average and not being team players. Sometimes they can seem remote and above others. Don't put them under pressure as they can withdraw more. Instead let them do what they do best and help the team better understand the importance of their skills.
  • Sulking. Everyone sulks sometimes, it's a way of making our feelings known. If it happens often and over minor issues it can become a problem. If that happens, listen to concerns of the sulker and respond in a friendly, reasonable way. If the sulker doesn't want to talk leave it until they do then try again.
  • Over sensitive. Some people simply take every criticism as a personal slur. Recognise this and make sure the team go easy on them. If you do have to criticise, make it private and be as specific as possible. Back this up with praising good performance to the rest of the team.
  • Moaning. Be careful that moaning is not a genuine issue before dealing with it. If you have a serial moaner never do something that affects them without speaking to them first. Make a note of when they moan and always ask them for their opinion before the act. It also helps to avoid putting them under pressure.
  • Pessimism. Taking the view that failure is inevitable from the outset can bring a whole team down. If someone is doing this, get them to be as specific as possible. Why will things not work out? How can the problem be resolved? What's the worst that could happen? Often this line of questioning will get their views into perspective.
  • Racism/Snobbery. People who dislike playing with other races or social backgrounds will mostly be impossible to convince otherwise. The best you can do is show them they are wrong through good performances from those they dislike. You must also be careful not to reinforce their prejudice.
  • Control freak. Players who want to open the batting and bowling, keep wicket and make the teas all at once fear being let down by others. Often they are the captain of the side so they can take control of the game when they want. Show them how others can be trusted by putting in good performances and how important it is to learn from mistakes.
  • Prima donna. For these people, creating a scene gets them what they want. All you have to do is show them that is doesn't work in your cricket team. Simple do not respond to this behaviour and carry on as if nothing has happened.
  • Bullying. Bullies pick on the weakest member of the team. Stand up for this person until they learn to stand up for themselves. Don't do it in an aggressive way yourself. Stay calm and focus on the task at hand, not the bullying behaviour.
  • Blaming. This person is always making excuses, often at the expense of other team members. Make sure you are setting very specific targets and roles for this person in the team. If the excuses continue simply reiterate the job you need them to do.

All teams will experience some of these to some level. It's the role of the captain and coach to judge what effect these negatives are having on team spirit. You must act quickly and sensitively to the situation.

This will stop cliques forming and help bring the side together.

What are your experiences at dealing with difficult characters, and how did you solve it?

Photo credit: ufopilot


Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.


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Can you improve your cricket fitness in 15 minutes?

Everyone is busy these days. It's tough enough to find enough time to play cricket, let alone train.

But you already know how important it is to be fit for cricket.

How can you do it all?

One simple solution might be to cut back how long your workouts last. If you can get a full workout in a few minutes why bother going into the gym for an hour?

Experts agree: exercise doesn't work for cricket

In the last few days, three giants in their fields all made statements about the role of exercise that put together couldn't be ignored.

First, batting great Geoff Boycott found himself agreeing that training in the gym is too disconnected from playing cricket to be effective.


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: 9
Date: 2008-08-22