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We travel from the elite of the South African Coach of the Year to the greens of village cricket in this week's articles.

It was a real pleasure to get to speak to Richard Pybus who gave me an interview this week about coaching, technology and the brain. And to balance it out we have some insight into the unique challenge of captaining a village or park team.

In-between there is another batting weakness any level could exploit and 3 ways to improve without even touching a cricket ball.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

How to exploit batting weaknesses: High and low grips

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

The position of the hands on the handle of a cricket bat makes a big difference to the way a batsman plays.

If you are a bowler or captain who can spot this small technical error you can come up with a plan to restrict a batsman's scoring and get a wicket.

How to spot the weakness

As the batsman takes guard, take a quick look at how he holds the bat. A low grip looks like this:

And a high grip like this:

Look in particular tall and short batsmen. The taller guys will have a higher grip, while shorter players tend to have a lower grip.

Why is it a weakness?

Whether too high or too low, the hands on the handle reveal the style of a player.

  • A low grip is good for pulling and cutting but makes it difficult to drive.
  • A high grip encourages straight bat shots but makes it hard to control the ball, especially cutting and pulling.

With some batsman it can take a while to work out their best and worst shots and adapt your plan to them. It's much easier with a grip weakness because the batsmen is showing you how to bowl to him and set a field without even facing a ball.

How to bowl to a high or low grip batsman

You main plan is to cut off the batsman's best shots and force him or her to play into their weaker areas. Do this right and you will force a wicket through frustration.

The low grip batsman will struggle with the ball pitched up and, because the grip makes him wristy, will tend to be happy flicking the ball off his legs.

To counter this, bowl a fuller length outside off stump like this:

Wickets can come from close catchers on the off side both behind (slips, gulley) and in front (short extra cover).

Set your field a little squarer as any drives will go wider. For example have mid on at wide mid on and midwicket close to square leg like in this sample field:

In this situation a medium pacer is on, and the low grip batter has just come in. Wickets are the priority so 2 slips, a gulley and a short extra cover are in place. To switch to defence a slip can go to third man and gulley can go to deep point.

The high grip batsman is the opposite.

He will be looking to get forward, and play very straight.

Push your length back a little and don't worry too much about line.

Set the field straighter: mid on/mid off and third man/fine leg get much tighter together. Catches come from close in square fielders (short leg, silly point, and gulley).

He will also have trouble controlling the hook, cut and pull meaning your square leg, midwicket and point are key positions for catches in the ring.

Here is a sample field for a high grip batter who has just come in against a medium pace bowler:

Again, it's an attacking field but the close fielders are set square and the defensive fielders are set straight. Keep that principle in mind if you need a more defensive field.

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.

image credit: PitchVision Coach Edition

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3 Ways to improve without touching a bat or ball

If you want to do well, cricket requires a lot of practice. But not all practice needs a bat and a ball.

Because the biggest challenge of cricket over every other sport is the amount of mental toughness you need to do well.

You could be the world's best batsman, but if your concentration lapses or your confidence goes you won't be able to buy a run.

Lucky for world class players they have learned the best ways to keep mentally tough.

If you had 5 minutes to ask one of those players the 3 easiest ways to improve your mental game, here is what they would say:

1. Use past successes for future gain

Before he opened an innings, Geoff Boycott used to go into a mental cocoon in the dressing room.

He would rehearse his innings, thinking about the bounce of the wicket, the troublesome and easy bowlers and where runs will come seeing his innings unfold in his mind.

It's a common trick used by modern players too. If it worked for Boycs it has to work for you.

2. Save your concentration

Ask any good bowler or batsman and he or she will tell you that they save their concentration for when it matters: the delivery. The rest of the time they are doing anything but concentrating because nobody can stay focused for an entire innings.

Your brain would melt from your ear.

So next time the coach or captain shouts at you to concentrate, try focusing your concentration in short bursts and relaxing the rest of the time.

3. Build confidence with goal setting

Everyone knows how important it is to set goals. If you are regularly achieving your goals, your confidence is sky high.

And we all know how importance confidence is to cricket.

But goal setting is a little trickier than just hoping for 100 wickets this season. Goals can de-motivate as well. So make sure when you set your goals they are something that is in your control and realistic.

Want to find out more?

It's easy to learn how to do all these things to world class levels.

Just get the course How to Use Mental Training to Boost Your Game on PitchVision Academy. It gives you proven step-by-step ways to do all three improvements.

Click here to get instant access and start improving your cricket in time for the next match.



"We have moved beyond the gobbledygook of sports psychology"

PitchVision Academy interviews South African Coach of the Year, Richard Pybus. His impressive CV includes coaching Pakistan, Border and the Titans franchise in South Africa. We chatted about cricket technology, developing players and brain-based coaching.

PV: What do you see as the coaches' job?

RP: The key thing is a structured learning environment that is specific to the level of the learner. That means of you are working with junior sides you are going to have a range of skill levels within the team and the coach has to set things up so it challenges the best players while supporting the players in the more formative development stage.

PV: How do you do that?

RP: You have to plan. When you are designing training you need to make sure that the drills you set up in practice are adaptable to stretch everyone.

For example, if you are working on the straight drive with underarm tennis ball feeds and the goal is to hit the ball through a target area. With better players you can make the gap narrower or even, as I do with professional cricketers, challenge the player to only hit tightly through mid on.

PV: Are you a fan of technology in coaching?

RP: I'm a big fan, but only as a servant and not the master of coaches. I've seen a lot of coaches become wizards at working the equipment and thinking that will make a significant difference. In my opinion, it's an add-on, not the core of coaching.

Technology can capture information and sort it for us so we can instantly look at whatever we like again. That gives players and coaches the chance to better construct game plans.

PV: What about technology in practice situations?

RP: The main thing is to keep it simple for the players. Brains like pictures and especially sportspeople's brains. They learn by seeing and feeling more than hearing.

So simply setting up a camera and showing people their technique is very effective. I like to focus on showing players getting it right rather than focusing on faults. This gives them the right image and the brain holds onto it for the future.

But it's important not to forget to work on your skills as a coach; improving your analytical eye for player improvements and developing relationships with players. I'd rather coaches did that than spend hours on technology.

PV: Let's talk about that now then, because you have been instrumental in the development of a great deal of very fine South African cricketers. What makes those players stand out?

RP: I'm always looking for players with an unbelievable passion for the game. For me, those are the guys who move on.

There is a ceiling to talent. You get players who are gifted like Ricky Ponting but most people don't have that ability. The ones who make it to international cricket are the ones who are the most coachable. They want to learn because of their incredible drive. And guys who want to learn can move very, very quickly while guys who are not open to learning get left behind.

PV: Would you say good players can also filter out the good advice from the bad to avoid becoming "overcoached"?

RP: Very much so. I think it's important that coaches set up an environment where players engage their own brains. I'm very anti coaches who have to have all the answers.

Too many coaches spend time telling the player what to do over and over again. But it doesn't work like that. All that does is make for very demotivated cricketers because they are not being asked to use their own faculties.

The human brain loves to be challenged and when you make the learning environment stimulating and motivating players will be absorbed and engrossed by it. And when that happens, learning takes place incredibly quickly.

PV: What would you say to people with a more traditional view who shy away from mental training?

RP: Good coaches and captains understand the nature of communication and motivation. We know everyone is wired differently so you need to spend time engaging and understanding your players to find out what moves, interests and excites them.

That starts with being a learner yourself. Learning about cricket and about material which is out there that can help players.

We don't need to caught up in the gobbledygook which has gone with sports psychology. We have moved beyond that. We now know all performance is brain driven. It's about understanding what's going on in the brain and helping players focus on the right things at the right time.

PV: Let's put that into a real world example. Imagine you only had a few minutes with a talented youngster. What would you say to him?

RP: The first thing I am interested in is what are the guy's goals? The brain is primarily a goal setting mechanism so if we set some goals we are tapping into a part of the brain that where he is creating his future rather than getting stuck with problems he has had in the past.

Be present and look forward.

I'd ask him what he is interested and find out his dream goal. Even at my tender age of 45 I dream of opening the bowling for England, although I know it's not going to happen.

Then we break those goals down and put a sequence of stepping stones going back to the present where we ask "what do you need to do now with your batting, bowling and fielding or anything else?"

I would ask him questions like that to engage his own brain. Like, if they are a 15 year old fast bowler, what physical requirements do they think they need? I would then let them go away and work those things out for themselves.

That relationship building and engagement, for me, is the primary part of coaching.

If you want to find out more about the brain-based model of learning and coaching cricket, visit Richard's website MyCricketGame.


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What no-one tells you about being a village cricket team captain

MS Dhoni never has to worry about who is making tea.

Mike Brearley never wondered how he was going to get 11 players a few hours before play.

Ricky Ponting has never stood scratching his head in the field because all his bowlers are rubbish and half the fielders can't catch a cold.

3 More ways to be a better village cricket captain

In part one we looked at at the common problems that village or scratch team captains face before they even get on the field.

This time we will look in more detail at the unique tactical parts of captaining at the village or park level.


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: 96
Date: 2010-04-30