Sunday, 18 May 2014

FITNESS : Match-Winning Cricket Teas

We need the right food to fuel our bodies. Despite working hard in nets, spending time with a coach and hitting the gym your improvements will stall if you overlook what you eat.


Ask yourself this question, what food do you normally eat during the tea break?


Sausage rolls, pies, scones, biscuits, chips, crisps, cakes, chocolate?


Eating these foods in the middle of a game will adversely affect your performance. This is because such foods release energy too quickly, converting to fat and causing your blood sugar to crash.


Plus, foods that contain large amounts of dairy can upset the digestive tract (particularly during physical exertion), causing discomfort and hampered game play. 

If you ever wondered why you were not at your best after tea, you can turn to your traditional cup of tea and slice of cake tea as the answer.

So why is our food choice important during the tea break?

Whether you’ve batted during the first innings or have fielded, your body will need to be refuelled with energy, ready to resume play. This is important as you and your team will be looking to put in a match winning performance during the second innings.

So what should we be eating during the tea break?

First of all you will need to rest for a few minutes, allowing your digestive track to prepare itself for the receiving of nutrients. During a tea break it is most beneficial to eat foods that are high in nutrients, low in artificial ingredients and, most importantly, give you a release of energy you can use. According to Woolmer et al (2008) such foods include:

  • raisins
  • dates
  • oatcakes
  • carrots
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • chilled melon (high water content and full of natural fruit sugars with release energy ergonomically).

After the match is a good time to get whole starchy carbohydrates to assist your recovery time. Potatoes, quinoa or rice combined with a protein source from lean meat works perfectly.

Its fine to consume some fatty foods provided the fats are not trans-fats. These foods will help you to stay warmer in cold weather, whilst avoiding discomfort during play. Again, look for whole foods that combine ‘healthy’ fats with other nutrients. Nuts, avocado, olives, hummus and fresh fish are solid options.

If you are prepared to change what you eat during the tea break then you can expect to experience an improved aerobic system for the remainder of the game, as the energy release will be more gradual. This will help you to stay focused and maintain concentration throughout the game.

Concentration and focus is the difference between winning and losing!



COACHING : How to Bridge the Gap Between Junior and Senior Cricket

Do you remember the first game of adult cricket you played?

It’s quite a shock to the system. One day a youngster brought up on 20 over evening cricket against teenagers is asked to play for 50 or more overs in the afternoon sunshine. It takes time to adapt physically and mentally.

Often, players asked to make this jump take one look at the chasm (the time it takes, the snarling full grown men) and decide not to even try. They are lost to the game. It’s all the more sad when you see talented players fall by the wayside.

The system doesn’t work, and it’s costing clubs as they lose players.

That’s why I was delighted when I heard from a club who are taking a different approach and building a bridge between youth and senior cricket.

Harrow in north west London might be more famous for its school, but it’s also the location of Panyes Folly; home ground of Harrow Cricket Club.

The club has a thriving youth section. They spotted that it wasn’t always producing as many cricket-ready youngsters as it should. So the coaches developed a plan called the ‘Player Pathway’ to changes things.

Talented Player Programme - Not Just for Elite

The new system revolves around finding the best youngsters from every age group and putting them into a ‘talented player programme’ (TPP).

These players then get attention focused on moving them up to the next level as quickly as possible. This may be playing representative level cricket, or senior cricket, or even both.

The extra coaching is vital, but the real kicker is the games these players are asked to play in the summer. Players are selected on ability to play (not on age) and play 35 over cricket at the weekends.

These 35 over matches against good opponents serve as a confidence bridge to the adult game. In the past if a 15 year old was selected for an adult game he would be out of his depth, especially after 45 overs in the field! With TPP games the same boy can perform against boys 2 years older in a 35 over match. He will feel he has a chance in adult cricket.

Plus, TPP players are also given time to improve their fitness levels and become mentally tougher by learning how to deal with pressure and mistakes. These elements are ignored by coaches of young players at club level.

How to setup a TPP at your club

So what do you need to do to follow the example of Harrow and start a production line of talented, enthusiastic club cricketers?

Firstly, you need a large base of young players. If your club struggles to raise an under-15 side you can’t exactly select the best players for a TPP squad. I would suggest that you need 3-4 players per youth side aged 15-17 who you can select.

Some programmes keep players in the system after they finish youth cricket to top up numbers. You could have 18-21 year olds in the programme but without that base of talent you can’t separate out a talent programme.

Second, it takes time and passion yourself. A TPP coach needs to be well organised, knowledgeable and have plenty of time on his hands. You will be identifying talent, planning and coaching in the winter.

 A typical week in the summer would include:

  • 1-2 coaching sessions a week
  • Organising and running the weekend match
  • Learning ways to coach fitness, mental skills and tactical awareness as well as technical skills

It’s not a task to enter into lightly. The cost in time and effort is high, but the rewards are great.

Once you have decided you can create a programme you need to plan how, when and where you will put it into practice. Then with your players selected and plan in place you can get to action.

If you want to squeeze even more from the players you also need to learn how to coach physical and mental skills. Resources on this are light, but we do have sections on PitchVision Academy to help you improve your skills in this area:

  • Mental Skills
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Strategy



SCORING : Scoring is Dead

With her flask of tea, well sharpened pencils and unflinching concentration, the scorer is a cornerstone of club cricket. Despite her loyalty, a cricket team bent on success needs more than a tidy book and timely averages at the end of the season.

Scoring is dead. Long live analysis.

Top club sides are looking increasingly professional. They have a coach who put them through sessions a couple of times a week. They have agreements with local gyms to handle cricket-specific strength and conditioning programmes. Preseason training includes weeks of nets and several warm up matches.

Alongside this is the growing trend for using statistics to aid with coaching and developing players. The old fashioned scorebook is no longer enough. Top sides have started to employ analysts to watch and record every ball.

Unlike the scorer, analysts are tactically and technically savvy. They take details like a scorer would, but they also analyse trends in play to feedback to the coach and captain so they can work on weaker aspects.

Want some examples?

Here are some key areas the traditional scorer either doesn’t record or ignores:

  • Contacts: It’s a statistical fact (and common sense) that the more a batsman plays at a ball the more likely he is to get out. A scorer records a dot as a dot. An analyst records what happened (the ball was struck cleanly, the ball was edged, the ball was played and missed and so on).
  • Scoring Percentage: Most scorers present batting averages, some even during the season. The analyst will know batting average and strike rate. He or she will also know what percentage of balls a batsman makes a scoring shot. It’s also handy to know what percentage of scoring shots are boundaries.
  • Bowling Partnerships: Modern coaches talk a lot about bowling in partnerships. Unlike batting partnerships the scorer never looks at how well bowlers bowl in pairs. Analysts look at rates per over, averages and strike rates of bowling partnerships.

But these stats are just the start. The real job of the analyst is to provide more than raw numbers.

An analyst links stats to real life cricket improvements

To illustrate what I mean, let’s take a typical example of an analyst in a club situation.

The captain wants his side to be better at running between the wickets. The team have a tendency to want to score with boundaries in a blaze of glory and it’s leaving the side short of runs with opportunities missed.

The analyst, captain and coach get together. The analyst demonstrates that the side score a lot of runs in boundaries but also pat back a lot of balls that could be worked as singles. This is especially true in the first 20 overs. The analyst suggests setting a target of 40 singles in the first 20 overs and 40 singles in the last 30 overs.

The coach and captain agree. The coach goes away and designs a training plan to coach players to reach the newly set target.

As time passes the analyst watches the result and reports back, allowing the coach to see how well his training is working while the captain can decide if the targets are realistic and testing but still achievable.

At club level analysts won’t have access to equipment to video and notate every ball, but a knowledgeable person in the scorebox is just the edge your team needs to spot problems and deal with them in training. 



BOWLING : 6 Proven Bowling Practices that are Better than Having Nets

Despite the fact that nets are a multifunctional tool for improving bowling skills, they are used poorly by bowlers.

The net is the Swiss Army knife of cricket training aids. Players who stick to just using the knife are ignoring the screwdriver, corkscrew and bottle opener at their cost. With the right drills nets develop technical, tactical and mental skills as a bowler.

So don’t waste net sessions. Use the right tool for the job.   

1. Target practice

As you already know, there is nothing simpler, easier or more effective than good old target practice. Bowling well means bowling accurately and the way to improve your accuracy is by trying to hit the area on the pitch that you consider accurate. Not rocket surgery.

Without a batsman, place or draw a target on the point in the net you want to hit. Run up and bowl at the target. Repeat.

You can do this practice for any type of delivery:

  • Hitting the top of off stump
  • 4/5/6 stump line
  • Back of a length to ‘hit the deck’
  • Fuller to allow for swing
  • Yorkers
  • Bouncers
  • Slower balls/variations

The golden rule is to practice your stock ball 80% of the time with variations making up the rest. In these days of Twenty20 you may almost consider the yorker as your stock ball. It will certainly make you a few quid

The more you bowl the better (although remember the fast bowling guidelines if you are a young pace bowler).

The size of the target can be varied but you should be looking to make it as small as possible to improve your accuracy. Start with a big area to hit and gradually reduce the size as your accuracy improves.

2. Double target practice

A variation on traditional target practice is to place two targets on the pitch instead of one. This is designed to improve your ability to adjust your line and length. Good bowlers are able to do this to set a batsman up, for example a bouncer followed by a yorker.

Your job in this practice is to bowl to hit one target then change length and hit the other consistently. This is much harder than hitting the same target over and over.

This practice is less useful for spinners who rely more on flight and turn while hitting the same area.

3. Play and leave game

This game brings the batsman back into play. It’s designed more to improve tactical awareness and mental strength in a specific way.

In this game your job is to make the batsman play (stats have shown that the more a batsman plays, the more likely he is to get out). The batsman is trying to leave as many balls as possible.

You bowl to a pair of batsmen in 6 ball overs per bowler. The batsmen get 4 runs for every leave and lose 4 runs if they get out. Pairs of batsmen compete against each other while the bowlers compete individually for the most economical overs.

You can do this in nets or as a middle practice with fielders.

It’s an effective practice because it forces you to focus on making the batsman play the ball, a very useful way of getting wickets.

4. Perfect over

This is a more exciting version of target practice, designed less for technical and more for tactical development.

Perform the drill by planning out an over beforehand, then trying to bowl it. The idea is to think about how you are going to set a batsman up in a set of six balls, then see how well you can do it (you don’t need a batsman).

5. Gate bowling

This is an outcome-based drill for working on technique. The drill lets you practice spinning or swinging the ball.

Set it up by putting ‘gates’ on the pitch and trying to get the ball to swing or spin through them. The exact location will vary depending on how much movement you get and which way the ball moves.

6. Middle practice

Finally, you can get out of the nets altogether and work on your tactical and mental game against a batsman in the middle.

The limitation of bowling in nets is lost when you practice in the middle, but it’s not a place to work on technique, so forget target practice and start thinking about how you respond to and deal with pressure.

Some bowlers use friendly or low importance games for middle practice, but you can also set it up in your practice sessions if you have something specific to work on (like bowling at the death).



Saturday, 17 May 2014

FIELDING : Improve Your Wicketkeeper and Improve Your Cricket Team

You never see a good side with a bad wicketkeeper.

By definition a team that is taking wickets has to have a brave, alert and vocal gloveman who holds his catches and keeps fielding standards high. Despite this, wicketkeeping skills are often ignored at practice.

It takes some effort from the coach, captain or keeper to set wicketkeeping practice work up. Feeding balls is boring for someone who could be bowling or batting instead, so nobody volunteers and the keeper feels too guilty to say anything.

Yet keeping is so important to the health of a cricket team. If you want to get an advantage this summer it’s time to recognise how important your keeper is to success in the field and make sure he is getting the practice he needs.

So how much practice is right for a keeper?

No wicketkeeper can catch too many balls, but time is always limited. A simple rule applies despite the exact time varying from team to team:

The golden rule of wicketkeeping practice

A specialist keeper spends at least a third, if not a half, of his practice time working on wicketkeeping (glove work, footwork and reactions).

So if a typical club net session is 60 minutes, your keeper needs at least 20 minutes working with someone to throw him balls. Half an hour is even better.

How much are you doing at the moment?

Of course, to do this well you need to know the drills that give the biggest ‘bang for your buck’. Luckily these drills require no more specialist equipment than some cricket and tennis balls. If you are feeling extravagant you can use a Katchet, but it’s not vital.

Coming soon we will be showing you the exact drills you need. These are the proven drills from a former first-class wicketkeeper who now coaches keepers at first class level.



BOWLING : 3 Reasons Why Good Bowlers Want the Keeper to Stand Up

Ego has been the downfall of many a cricketer. Consider the good batsman who gets himself out against a part-time bowler. The bowler doesn’t have to do much because the batter loses concentration against someone with lesser skills.

It’s just the same for club seamers.

A decent league cricket keeper can easily stand up to the average medium pace bowler on the average club wicket. Yet time and time again ego gets in the way.

The captain and senior players say, “are you sure that’s a good idea?”

The bowler grumbles about it, saying it’s putting him off.

In the worst case, the bowler deliberately sends one down the leg side in an effort to push the keeper back.

Ego combined with a fear of letting too many runs go in byes is stopping logical attacking cricket. Young keepers often go with the bowlers and captains wishes so here are three huge reasons to encourage the keeper to stand up more, not less:

1. Standing up gets more wickets

It’s a fact that bowler’s get more wickets when the wicketkeeper is up to the stumps.

The obvious reason is the stumping chance. This is far less frequent than an increase in wickets taken by LBW. The batsman is stuck in his crease and so when the ball hits the pads the umpire knows he is not too far down the wicket. With less doubt in his mind the umpire can be more confident.

And the bowler ends up with an extra wicket from an LBW shout that would have been turned down with the keeper standing back.

Over the course of a season a regular bowler will see a dramatic increase in wickets, mainly from LBW but also from the odd stumping.

Who wouldn’t want that?

2. Standing up makes the batsman nervous

When the keeper is up to the stumps there is an extra close fielder right behind the batsman. If you have ever batted with the keeper up you know how cramped you feel.

You know you have to keep your foot behind the crease, and it becomes much harder to play tip-and-run tactics because the keeper is onto anything you block. Runs dry up and the batter is more likely to try a big shot to a ball that is not there.

3. Standing up is easier for the keeper

Finally, most people assume standing up to pace bowling is the most difficult skill for a keeper. In fact, it’s slightly easier than standing up to spin because you have less time. It’s also easier than standing back because you can get away with average footwork. The ball just hits you and it’s a matter of reactions.

That means the keeper up to the stumps will keep better.

And when the keeper is doing well, the bowler’s are more confident and the team wins more games.

It may seem a subtle difference because it’s hard to measure success but standing up to seamers is a crucial skill for all keepers and everyone in the team should be there to support it.



Thursday, 15 May 2014

BOWLING : 4 (+2) Tools All Spinners Can Use to Get Wickets

When you combine topspin and backspin with subtle changes of pace you have four new tools with which to dismiss the batsman:

  1. Topspin, slightly slower: This is the classic flighted delivery. It will hang in the air, bringing the batsman forward, before dipping and bouncing and giving the ball enough time to spin to beat the bat or find the edge. This will frequently lead to stumpings against a batsman intent on using his feet.
  2. Topspin, slightly quicker: This is the delivery to use for extra bounce. The ball will dip fiercely and leap up towards the splice of the bat, particularly on harder pitches. A good delivery to use both if you're looking for a close catch off a defensive batsman or an unintentional aerial shot off an aggressive batsman.
  3. Backspin: slightly slower: This ball will appear to hang in the air and then keep very low on bouncing. A good method of dismissing a batsman intent playing aggressively off the back foot, as he will often play over the top of the delivery, possibly resulting in a bottom edge and his dismissal.
  4. Backspin, slightly quicker: The classic skiddy delivery that traps the batsman on the back foot, only to surprise him by landing on a full length. Chances are it will then crash into the pads or stumps before the hapless batsman is able to get his bat down.

 It's also useful to note that a higher arm action increases the effect of the extra bounce of the top spinner. A lower arm action keeps the backspinner skidding through nice and low.

Adding Drift

Both the Magnus force and conventional swing can be used to make the ball move sideways, or drift, in the air.

A hard spun leg break or off break will drift sideways in the latter half of their flight in the opposite direction to their eventual turn. This is well known to accentuate the efficacy of the delivery, as the ball first moves one way in the air and then the other way off the pitch. Watch the drift that Shane Warne gets here.

In time the batsman becomes accustomed to this combination. When he sees the ball drifting sideways in the air he anticipates the turn.

To counter this, the spinner makes the ball drift sideways but then not turn.

This is achieved in two ways:

  • With a newish ball and on a damp or green pitch, the best method is the arm ball: here the ball is held with the seam upright, and the first finger rolls down the seam at release. The ball swings in the air away from the outside edge.
  • The undercutter: Returned to prominence by England spinner Graeme Swann. Here the ball is spun like a conventional off break, but with the wrist tilted back so that the ball is released spinning horizontally, or as Swann himself described it "like a flying saucer". This delivery will drift sideways in exactly the same way as the off break, but will then carry on without spinning.

Whereas the ability to turn the ball a huge amount will impress the fans, it is mastering the art of flight by understanding and including the subtle uses of topspin, backspin and sidespin into your bowling repertoire that will give you the full set of tools required to unpick the defences of the best batsmen.

Get in the nets and experiment with different types of spin, and remember it takes time to master each different type of flight.



COACHING : You Don't Have To Be Captain to Be an Influential Leader

Cricket is supremely unpredictable. It’s the players who can take responsibility under pressure that turn difficult situations into measured wins. These players are the true leaders of a side, whether they are captain or not.

Sometimes chasing 150, you crumble. Other times you chase down 260 when at one stage you were 22-3. These things happen so often in this exciting game that they are hardly seen as abnormalities. This is just cricket. But this is what defines good teams and players. They don’t let a bunch of quick wickets take the game away from them.

I remember once a team mate showed the sense of leadership and set an example for everyone. That day I saw a young boy become a genuine cricketer.

We were playing a competitive college cricket match. Our team had a balanced combination. The game was played on a placid track. We lost the toss and the opposition captain batted first. We bowled well and restricted them for 210 in 40 overs. We required a run rate of just over five which was very manageable given our batting lineup and condition of the pitch.

We started brightly and were soon 35-0 in six overs. It was the ideal start as I watched from the dressing room waiting to come at three. Against the run of play we lost two wickets and both the openers were back in the pavilion. That brought me and my captain to the crease.

Pressure was building up.


Shortly, my captain also departed leaving us with the score of 49-3 in ten overs. We were suddenly under pressure. Out walked a batsman who was aggressive in nature. He came to me and said that skipper had asked him to occupy the crease no matter what.

I watched him play down a couple of overs without much scoring. Meanwhile I also got out rather carelessly.

But that guy was solid as a rock

Wickets kept tumbling and we were six down for 90 odd runs and were soon seven.

The defeat looked inevitable.


Except nobody had told our hero. He kept calm and carried the batting. He was ice cool, solid and patient. He occupied the crease and put away only loose balls.


At that age and stage, having such temperament was the first of its kind. I have never seen a kid so young play so responsibly. This was doubly impressive as the rest of the batting order kept letting him down.


It was a nail biting encounter which left me realising that you don’t have to be a captain to lead by example. He had won us the game almost single-handed.


You just have to do whatever is best of the team, play one ball at a time and set an excellent example for the rest of your team mates.



BOWLING : The Art of Flight: How to Deceive the Batsman with More than Spin

What spin bowler hasn't heard these clichés in his cricketing career?

"Toss it up" the young spin bowler is so often told. "You've got to flight the ball, give it some air, and get it above the batsman's eye line".

The problem is that experience soon teaches that simply lobbing the ball up in the air does not suddenly make a competent batsman turn into a tail end bunny. Whilst the advice may be well meaning, it completely misses the point. Flight is about deception. There is nothing deceptive about simply bowling the same ball but slower and with a higher trajectory.

So what is flight then?


The art of spin bowling is the art of deceiving the batsman as to what the ball will do. This comes in two parts: we are able to confuse him when the ball pitches by making it turn. It might turn a small amount, it might turn a large amount or it might turn the other direction entirely.

We are also able to use the same set of techniques to deceive him as to where the ball will pitch in the first place.

This is flight: the art of deceiving the batsman as to the exact location where the ball will pitch.

How do we do this?

Well, first and foremost we use the same technique we use to make the ball turn: by spinning it hard. In the case of flighting the ball, this primarily means using topspin and backspin.

These make use of the Magnus effect to change the trajectory of the ball as it travels towards the batsman.

Top spin will make the ball drop more quickly and land further away from the batsman than expected. Imagine a tennis player playing a top spin shot with his racquet, hitting over the top of the ball. You can apply this same spin on a cricket ball. How you do it will depend on whether you are a finger spinner or wrist spinner but the effect of spinning “over the top” is the same.

Back spin will make the ball carry further and land closer to the batsman.  Our tennis player would slice underneath the ball to make the shot. Again your method for doing this will vary but think ‘slicing under the ball’ to create the effect.

Using the two in combination makes batsman completely clueless as to whether to play forward or back to any given delivery.

Friday, 9 May 2014

AWARDS to be distributed during 56th ANNUAL DAY on 10.05.2014 at RPT Hall, Salem.



I Division










II Division










III Division






I Div Batsman : V.Saravanan (Thirve Chevrolet CC)

I Div Bowler : S Boopalan (Students Senior CC)


II Div Batsman : Anand Jagathrinath (Gopalan MCC)

II Div Bowler : M.Riyaz (Maratha CC)


III Div Batsman : S.Kaliappan (Universal CC)

III Div Bowler  T Kesavan (JSW RC)




V.Shanthi Boosan

S Siva Raj


K Ashraf Khan

M Deepan Chakravarthi




Under 19

State Probable : Promoth M S

Combined Districts : S Pravahan, S Deepak Siddarth


Under 16

State Probable : S Sharun Kumar, S S Jasvanth

Combined Districts : Guru Ragavendhar


Under 14

State : Musharaf Sheriff

Combined Districts : R.Nishath


Buchi Babu Tournament



Thursday, 8 May 2014

BATTING : 5 Ways to Bowl Against Blacksmith Batting

The blacksmith is the clichéd image of the burly guy in the village team who goes out to smash everything from beginning to end.

Mostly he fails and it’s a mess. He swipes across a straight ball and is sent packing.

Sometimes he succeeds, especially if he has a reasonable technique to go with the power. When that happens you have to outsmart and out-skill the batsman.

Here is how:


1. A do-or-die attitude

When you begin a spell with the blacksmith at the crease you have to kill or be killed; bowl well or you will leak runs.

Throw everything you have. Bowl your heart out. Gear up and be on top of your game. Put more energy, effort and thought into you’re bowling. If you have the do-or-die attitude and you put everything you have, you will become a lethal weapon for your captain.

2. Observe the batsman

To outdo a blacksmith you first have to know what he is doing.

  • What are his technical limitations?
  • Does he favour leg or off side?
  • Does he calculate his hitting or he is slogging blindly?

When you know all these things, it becomes easy for you to script out your bowling strategy. You start bowling to the batsman in his least favourite area and get him out in no time.

3. Surprise and outplay the batsman

After the observing the batsman, when you get to know his strengths and weaknesses, it time for you to take your shots. Make life hard for him by bowling in the areas he doesn’t want you to bowl.

If a batsman favours hitting over long on and long off, drop in short and limit his shot making. Similarly if he is good in hooking, pulling or cutting, bowl fuller lengths to him.

4. Play the yorker/bouncer card

No matter how skilled a batsman is accurate yorkers and bouncers make them tremble. These two deliveries are ideal against slogging blacksmiths. They not only bog the batsman down but multiply the chances of him getting out.

5. Vary your speed

If you are bowling accurate lines according to batsman’s weaknesses, throwing in yorkers and bouncers, it’s not a bad idea to slip a slower ball every now and then to surprise the batsman. Also If he doesn’t know what’s coming next: a slower ball or at regular speed, he cannot pre-meditate a shot. 

All the great bowlers in the world like Dale Styen, Umar Gul and Shaun Tait etc, bowl exceedingly well against slogging. If you develop the skill of countering the slogs, you not only become a plus point for your team’s bowling attack you also sit in the heads of the opposition.

If they know that they won’t be able to score when they need to, they will obviously become very nervous and more likely to fail.

For more tips on bowling against aggressive batsmen get Beating the Odds: How to Succeed As a Twenty20 Fast Bowler The online coaching course from Ian Pont featuring videos, drills and worksheets on how to keep your figures looking good against big hitters.



COACHING : Use Your Inner Hobgoblin to Have a Consistently Good Cricket Season

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 Being a consistent cricketer isn’t always as good as we imagine.

As decent level players we search for better consistency. We have had good performances in the past. We dream the purple patches will come again. Every shot you play beats the in-field and every ball you bowl finds the outside edge to a pair of safe hands.

Ironically, it’s the ‘hobgoblin’ of consistency that prevents many of us from achieving those dreams.

Take the typical preseason of a typical club side.

This imaginary team have been doing the same thing for at least 20 winters. Half the team turn up at nets, full of intent. The other half can’t be bothered. The do the same routine of bowling in turn and batting for 10 minutes each.

If anyone suggests trying something new the idea is tossed aside. Sometimes the keen man is laughed at for “trying too hard”.

They have been consistent alright.

And they have been utterly miserable on the field.

One week the star batsman scores a chanceless 80 not out to win the match, the next 3 weeks he can’t buy a run. Meanwhile the team’s key leg spinner is fizzing balls past the outside edge and watching long hops vanish into the cow field all in the same over.

It’s this type of consistency that is the “hobgoblin” that Emerson was talking about.

Be inconsistent

The solution is to be more inconsistent, which will lead to the opposite result: A better run of form in the summer.

This inconsistency means throwing away the old ways that don’t work and embracing a new type of preseason training. Preseason nets can be run in a better way; a way that leads you away from the hobgoblin and towards more runs and wickets.

It’s just a matter of being open to new ideas:

  • Don’t bowl in turns
  • Don’t ignore tactical planning
  • Don’t bat aimlessly for 10 minutes hoping it will ‘get your eye in’
  • Don’t think 5 minutes of slip catching is fielding practice
  • Don’t think a quick hamstring stretch is injury prevention
  • Don’t let the nets run themselves

These methods are tried and tested to cause failure. Yet teams and players do what they always did because they don’t know anything else.

New ideas don’t need to be ground-breaking. You can adapt a lot of what first-class teams do to prepare. That alone will put you ahead of everyone else in the league.

You just need to have the intent to do something inconsistent with the past because you want more consistency in the future.

Use that fear of the hobgoblin to motivate you to make the change you need.



BATTING : How to Choose a Bat You Are Proud Enough to Sleep With

The cricket bat is more than a lump of willow with a rubber handle. It is your only weapon in the quest for the runs you need to succeed.

No wonder so many batsmen love their blade so much they can’t even be parted with it at bedtime. It‘s like losing a beloved family pet when the time comes to replace it. Sometimes it has to be done. Sometimes tape and sandpaper and oil are no longer enough.

Take a deep breath and buy a new bat.


Selecting a cricket bat is tricky. Walk into any shop and look at the range of bats. They don’t seem too different. It’s easy to make a mistake. In my days I’ve been tricked into buying the wrong bats a few times. There are plenty of things to look out for.



A bat either too big or small will not to your batting any favours. When you are buying a bat, stand into stance and play an imaginary straight drive. This will give you an idea if the bat is according to your size or not. If it is small you’ll notice when you take your stance. If it is big it will hinder the straight drive. You’ll know without much effort if the bat is the right size or not.

As a rule of thumb, if you are 5’9” or over (174cm) you can use a short handle/full size bat.

Shape of the handle

There are two shapes of bat’s handles. Some are round, others are oval. Both are fine as long as they are not misshaped. Before buying a bat, carefully examine the shape at the end of its handle. A misshaped handle will cause the bat to rotate in your hands after you play a shot.

The type of wood used

The cricket bat wood is categorised in grades (willow quality). Grade 1 plus is the highest quality of wood with all the necessarily oiling and polishing. It is normally used by professionals as it is expensive. In contrast Grade 4 is a rather roughly made willow without much lubricant treatment. The important thing to remember here is your budget. If you cannot buy G1 plus, do not sweat over it. Buy the quality you can afford. With the passage of time when the standard of your cricket goes up, you can go for higher quality.

Brand name


This is more of a personal liking thing than a technical one. All the quality brands have little difference in their products. If you buy a brand that you like, you will be extra proud of your stick. That is when brand name comes in.



The weight of the bat is the most important for you. Young players often buy too heavy bats. Your priority should be to buy the most light weight bat possible. Heavy bat won’t allow you to swing freely and you’ll shoulders will be stiff after a long stay at the crease.

By keeping these things in mind, you can buy a bat that can serve you for a long time to come. When you have a bat make sure you take good care of it. His cricket equipment is like a best friend to a cricketer. Just as teachers tell you to respect books to be knowledgeable, coaches tell you to respect your equipment to be a good cricketer.



BOWLING : How to Use Your Hive Mind to Take Wickets

The captain is the all powerful dictator of a cricket team. At first glance it’s his tactical nous that makes a group of individuals into a team and wins matches.

Despite this appearance, good teams operate with a collective consciousness that is greater than even the captain. It’s almost like the Borg. Just like the science-fiction hive mind race, when you are all working together, resistance is futile.

This type of cooperative cricket intelligence requires effective communication.

The information relayed by your wicketkeeper and first slip, to the bowler, captain and rest of the team is crucial.

The more planning, preparation and thought that you put into selecting this combination, the greater success you will have developing key channels of on-field communication.

Both the ‘keeper and the slip should consider it their duty to be the hub of the fielding side. Not in the traditional ‘throw every ball back to the wicketkeeper’ mantra of modern cricket teams. This hub is all about information: It flows through them to everyone else.

Encourage your keeper and first slip to focus on:

• Is the ball moving in the air or off the wicket?

• How much is the ball bouncing or spinning?

• What are the flaws in the batsman’s technique?

• Encourage good bowling and fielding.

• Watch out for fielders who are not ‘walking in’ or wandering out of position.

• Judge the state of mind of the batsman.

• Make sure they appeal loudly, together and not as an afterthought.

Once you select this partnership, give it time to flourish and be a success. Don’t rush into changing on the back of one or two dropped catches, fielding errors or difference of opinion. Honest, clear and confident communication channels will contribute to your team’s hive mind and make you a formidable unit in the field.


BOWLING : Where Do High Class Spinners Pitch the Ball?

We all know the key to top quality spin bowling is to bowl a consistent line and length. But what does that actually mean?

First we need to figure out where is the best length to bowl.

We want a length that is full enough that the batsman is forced to come forward, but not so full that he is able to reach the ball on the half volley without mis-hitting it.

Consider that the average spin bowler delivers the ball at approximately 50mph, and that after bouncing the speed of the ball is reduced by about 50%. This translates to a speed of about 10metres a second. The average reaction time of a human is 0.2s. If we pitch the ball within 2 metres of the batsman, then he will be unable to play back as he would simply not have time to react to any movement off the pitch.

Therefore the maximum distance away from the batsman's stumps that we should land the ball, given that he will move back one foot when playing back, is approximately 11 foot. Anything shorter than 11 foot and the batsman will be able to play comfortably off the back foot.

 How about minimum distance?

A batsman playing on the front foot normally plays the ball about 3 feet in front of his crease. The ideal location to pitch the ball is the one at which the ball has just turned enough to hit or just miss the edge of the bat. On a normal pitch, we will find the ball turning something in the order of 5 degrees, which translates to about 1 inch sideways for each foot after bouncing.

Therefore we need to pitch the ball between 2 and 4 foot in front of the bat (8 to 10 foot from the stumps)in order to take the edge.

On a turning track, a ball pitching only a foot in front of the bat would be sufficient to threaten the edge.

The best length on this pitch would therefore be between 7 and 9 foot from the batsman's stumps. So the spin bowler has an area of about 4 feet, or just over a metre, in which to aim: anything inside this will pose the batsman problems.

Spinner’s line

No matter the pitch, the ball will not always turn a consistent amount. This variability of turn is major positive factor for the spinner. If he can't predict what will happen, how can the batsman be expected to?

A competent batsman will most likely play the percentages and play for a small amount of turn when defending off the front foot, reducing the likelihood of a ball that turns just 1 or 2 inches catching the edge. However, the inadvertent result of this is that now both the big turning delivery and the straight ball are the potential wicket taking deliveries. The spinner must always take advantage of this by ensuring that every time the ball beats the bat, whether the inside edge or outside edge, then there is a decent probability that the batsman will be dismissed.

Batsmen are able to play more assertively when they feel comfortable that they are able to use their pad as a second line of defence without the risk of being dismissed lbw. This is why it’s important for a spin bowler to constantly attack the stumps with either the big spinning delivery, the straight ball, or both.

We therefore want to keep as many deliveries as possible ending up in the danger zone: either on the stumps for a chance of bowled or lbw or within 6 inches of off stump for a likely caught behind chance.

On a spinning pitch, then 10 degrees of turn will translate to a difference of about 15 inches between the straight ball and the big turning delivery. So we need to take this into consideration when planning our line of attack.

 If the ball is turning away from the batsman, the ideal stock line is to pitch the ball on middle and leg, with the straight delivery angled in towards leg stump. Spin the ball hard enough for the spinning delivery to hit or go past the top of off stump.

The batsman will then be forced to play down a middle stump line to defend against the spin, and this will mean that both the straight delivery and the big spinner will have a good chance of dismissing him.

The off spinner should ensure that his big spinning delivery is not wasted by constantly turning down the leg side. This means that he needs to pitch the ball just outside off stump. A sensible batsman will then play down the line of off stump to defend against the spin, leaving both the big spinner and the straight ball as wicket-taking options.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

COACHING : Pride Before a Fall: A Lesson in How to Play Cricket With Your Head

When you play a team you’ve beaten before you relax. You have figured them out.

You don’t need special strategies you can play the cookie-cutter way: win the toss and bat first. It’s in the bag.

Or is it?

I was the captain of my college team for about a year. During this time we played matches against teams over and over again. On one day we were set to play an away game against a team we knew well. We had played them twice and had emerged victorious on both occasions.

I knew well that their pitch was placid with lot of runs to offer. This time around the climatic conditions were overcast. Being ridden by over confidence I looked passed them. Despite indications by some team mates, I decided to stick to the plan. Bat first.

In the back of my head I knew that the ball will swing and seam but I knew we had beaten them twice by batting first, why change the previously successful strategy?

I won the toss and batted.

I fancied a big score that day. I don’t know how I couldn’t see what was coming. Naturally in the conditions the ball started moving early on. After being tied down we lost our opener and I had to walk in.

I remember I was nervous. My stomach was in knots. I had realised this wasn’t the same pitch as last time. I was kicking myself. If I had taken a moment to read the pitch and conditions, my team and I wouldn’t have been on back foot.   

With these mixed thoughts of uncertainty and disbelief in my abilities as a batsman and leader I walked out. After being all over the place for a while I got dismissed, only scoring three runs.

My team collapsed like a pack of cards, posting only 109 in a 35 over game.

You must know as a cricketer that when you are mentally shaken, all gets lost. We were similarly hopeless in the field as well and were beaten by nine wickets.

When congratulating the other captain I told him that his side completely outplayed us and were better on that day. But in my heart I believed only if I had calculated the situation rightly, things would’ve been very different.

Fortunately, this was a learning curve for me as I want it to be one for you.

From that day onwards we planned about each game as it came. We analysed the playing conditions before the start, varied our strategies and played by our heads, not only with bats and balls. 



BATTING : How to Look Like a Batsman

Looking, thinking and acting like a batsman will give you the confidence to bat well, whatever your batting skills.

Jonathan Trott averaged 89 with the bat in the 2010-11 Ashes series in Australia, rising to number four in the Test rankings. He's become famous for his pre-shot batting routine, making a mark with his bat, and then marking the same spot with his foot. He looks over his left shoulder before getting into position to face the bowler.

Here's his reasoning for these idiosyncrasies:

“There are things I do to get my mind clear and focused on the delivery ahead.”

“I just tell myself to back myself and be confident, little mind checks.

“It also keeps my concentration going and my mind does not wander. It is something I have done for a long time and I find works.”

I was asked by a player, at the beginning of last season, for some tips about batting. He hadn't played since his school days, where he was known to be a middle-order slogger.

Instead of showing him how to play an expansive cover drive or exquisite pull shot, I focused on his batting routine. What he did, and thought, before he hit the ball. This is simple, easy to remember, and applies to all batsman.

Like England's Jonathan Trott, find a routine that works for you. Once you've decided on a routine, stick to it. Every ball you face in practice, every shot you visualise, every delivery you face in the match.

Decide your best shots. Then decide which shots you prefer to avoid. Based on these selections, select the guard you want to take

Another crucial reason for selecting a specific guard is to increase your sense of where the stumps are behind you as the ball is bowled. You're more likely to leave the ball and judge the line correctly if your eyes are above off stump as the ball is released.

In the club game you often see tail-end batsman stroll in, refuse to take guard, and get bowled soon afterwards.  Don’t make the same mistake.

Here's the basic tips I gave to my team mate:

  • Always wear the correct batting equipment (if you can't be a good cricketer, at least look like one).
  • Decide which shots you will and will not play.
  • Assess the pitch and bowling before you go into bat.
  • When you get the wicket, ask the other batsman for any advice about the pitch.
  • Ask the umpire for your guard.
  • Check out the field and decide the best areas to score for your range of shots.
  • Take your stance.
  • Try and keep your head still.
  • Watch the ball.
  • Judge the line and length.

All batsman need to create a routine for themselves, and most successful batsman already have a routine that works for them. Ask the successful batsman at your club what they do, why they do it and what they're thinking about when they're batting.

Every player on every team can contribute with that bat, creating and implementing your own routine will help you look and play more like a top batsman. 


BATTING : How to be a Good Starter

Everyone is a bad starter at the crease. Nerves jangle, the feet are not moving as fast as the brain and you are keen to get off the dreaded duck.

But some batsmen are better than others at getting off the mark. Have you ever wondered why players like  Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar and Jonathan Trott look so composed right from the off?

Here are the 3 main reasons, and how you can employ them in your games:

Unflappable Temperament

Players like Sachin seem at home at the crease. Whatever goes on around them makes no difference. They could cream a ball for a boundary or be dropped at slip. It’s all the same to them. They are in the middle doing a job.

In this mindset certain things just stop happening. You don’t rush into shots. You are not desperate score off every ball. You wait for bad balls and put them away ruthlessly. Having a good temperament will keep you from throwing your wicket away and stay at the crease for a very long time.

But you can’t change your personality. Not everyone is built to ruthlessly grind out scores. Some people want to smash their way to victory in a blaze of glory.

Actually, it doesn’t matter which way you are inclined. You can still use simple mental tricks to get into the zone and put distractions out of your mind. That way whether you are a Boycott or a Botham you can get on with playing in your style without distraction.

Start to eliminate distractions today by enrolling on the online coaching course “How to Use Mental Training to Boost Your Game”.

Hand-Eye Coordination

While you are new at the crease, you are rusty. You don’t have the exact idea of how the wicket is playing; therefore many deliveries will surprise you. To counter that you must develop your hand-eye coordination and ability to read both the bowler and pitch.

The better your hand-eye coordination gets the less likely you are to be surprised by odd bounce or turn.  The best way to do this is through hitting a lot of balls in the nets (and in middle practice). You can accelerate it further through highly specific batting drills designed to get you watching the ball closely. You can find these as videos in Gary Palmer’s online coaching courses, specifically this introductory course on playing front foot drive.

Strong Defensive Technique

Even the most extravagant stroke-makers need to block the odd ball if they want to pile up runs. When you are fresh at the crease, you cannot score runs every ball. That will just get you out sooner than later.

Most players assume they have a sound defence but still make basic mistakes like playing at balls that can be left or getting bowled through the gate.

But if you accomplish a solid defensive technique you can bat at any position and win matches for your team in multiple roles.

Good defence is as much a mental approach as a technical one though. You have to be able to make spilt second decisions and that take work and sound technical awareness. However, once you have practiced you defence in pressured environments you will be aable to employ the same skills in the middle.

Then, your average will soar, you will become the rock of every innings (be it as the anchor role, the finisher or the slogger) and you can move on to higher levels and better successes. You can find out the exact practice drills to do this by clicking here and buying Gary Palmer’s online coaching course.

Putting it All Together...

The moment you walk out there to bat, start watching and observing the ball. Even from the non-strikers end. This would help you in picking out movement of the ball and behaviour of the pitch.

Naturally you are far less likely to be dismissed by a loose ball if you watch the ball onto the bat. If you have good defence, you know where your off stump is and you watch the ball you become very hard to be dismissed. And once you are settled in you can start playing your strokes, scoring runs and improving your batting average so you get noticed.