There’s a few changes coming up here, and while I can’t talk about anything yet I am keen to hear from you if you like my stuff, coach or play cricket. 

 

Please email me or get me on twitter for a proper badger chat about cricket and a couple of questions about what you like to see to help your coaching or playing. 

 

If you do reach out, thanks for your time. I will make it useful! 

 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

One of the easiest ways to turn off enthusiasm is to use unhelpful language.  

This occurred to me during the ECBCA Conference. There was a lot of practical stuff, but there was also tonnes of theory delivered quickly and often out of context. If I struggled to keep up with talk of “talent journeys” and the like, players will too.

In a conference context, this was not an error. But what would be an error would be taking the complex language and directly using it with the players we coach. I’m constantly checking myself to make sure that I don’t tip into words that are unclear with players.

Here are a few that I need to be careful around:

  • Constraint
  • Outcome
  • Pathway
  • Mindset
  • Pressure

All these are useful words in the right context of course. But I am a professional communicator so I need to build a language that can be understood to develop players, not turn them off through confusion or worse, deliver a different message from intended.

 ”Pressure” is my favourite example because I use it all the time but really it’s unhelpful. Pressure is a feeling generated from the inside. We can manage that so it doesn’t change performance.

By shouting to a kid “10 to win from the last six balls, no pressure!” I am pushing the player to think pressure is caused by something external like tight cricket situations.

What I am trying to do now is not use the word pressure at all. I prefer “critical moment”. Which still makes sense to most people. Then I can build in questioning like “what do you do differently in critical moments to stay in control?”, or “How can you control how you feel?”. It creates a space to learn the difference between external pressure and internal pressure and deal with it.  

I’m still learning this art but I am fascinated by it. 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I was talking with a coach today about the style and structure of sessions and kept coming back to a net session I tried this week that worked well despite my lack of planning.

I was with a small group of 12-15 year olds. They are club level kids and some of them are challenging to work with. It's my long term mission to engage them fully.

So, with that in mind, I went into their session without a plan other than to ask them "what do you want to work on".

This might have backfired spectacularly, but in reality they outperformed my expectations and took us through a session that was fun, engaging and nothing to do with what I thought it would be!

 Here's how it went.

Me: "So, what do you think we need to work on to be better by summer?"

Kids: "er. how about teamwork?"

Me: "Wow. OK! So how do we work on that when we only have nets to work in?

Kids: "um... *pause* running between the wickets?"

Me: "sounds fun! How do we make it a game?"

They then proceeded, to come up with a game where you had to run when you hit the ball in certain areas.

I added a bonus incentive, saying that if they called and ran as if it were in a game (yes and no, walking not running) I would do 20 press ups. But only if they whole team did it the whole session.

They were motivated, working hard and trying to make it a realistic outcome based game. All from a couple of questions and some constraints from me, then letting them get on with it.

They didnt quite make me do the press ups, but they almost did. I bet they will try even harder next time!

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Fielding was improved for West in 2017 mainly with the introduction of three very good out fielders and a full time wicketkeeper into the side. This was as targeted, but we did make some chances to fielding measurement and preparation that are worth discussing in detail.

Here's what we found.

Fielding Targets

The targets for 2017 were:

  • Improve percentage of catches taken from 57%.
  • Hit the stumps more than 25% of attempts.
  • Make fewer than five ground fielding mistakes.

These are based on last year's performance. And tracked every game, as per last year.

We also introduced a new standard called "Fielding Impact" (FI). This is a way of working out roughly how many runs the team lost and saved through fielding. We had no metrics for this, so it was a season of working out what was acceptable. More on that later.

Catches and chances

Catching was improved vastly on last season with 70% of chances held: 74 balls went to hand and West clung on to 52 of them.

This broke down into 31 chances in close (slips, close catchers, wicketkeeper, and caught and bowled), 35 chances in the ring and 8 chances on the boundary:

chances.jpg

It was pleasing to see that close and inner ring catching had a high catch percentage as we have never tracked these stats before. Infield catching was especially good with 74% held.

Boundary catches were more rare and more likely to be dropped. It's hard to know how much this is an issue because of the small number of chances on the rope. That said, it's worth looking at how we practice based on the information we see.

For the first time we were also able to breakdown catches by player.

15 players had at least one chance. the average chances per season for outfielders (excluding wicketkeepers) was 3.9 (for the two keepers used it was 11.5). The low number of chances, even for regulars shows how important it is to be able to take those chances when they come under pressure!

Individual success varied. Five players held every chance. Another two were above the 70% mark. Four more were above 60%. That's 11 of 15 who met the target for the season. Of course, these percentages are from low numbers, but you work with what you have.

Next year the target will be higher. Nevertheless, these are good signs of improvement. With this information we can tailor training to make sure players get better at holding chances in the right areas and get more over 70%. We can also target the guys who catch less than 60% at the moment and work on improving the numbers of the less effective guys this season.

For example, one player - a good fielder - dropped four from eight chances. Looking at his stats we can see he dropped two caught and bowled while his outfield catching was four from six (67%). We can see he needs more work on catching from his own bowling than catching in his favoured position at point.

One small thing to note here is we changed the way we measured a chance this year, grading them as either standard (G1) or world-class (G2). World-class drops were not counted to encourage players to go for them (and West got 4 absolute worldies this season as a result).

This was slightly different to last year where all drops were counted the same. However, we think this grading system is both fairer and more motivating for players. Even adjusting for last year's method, catches exceeded 60% and so there was improvement.

How did performance change over the season?

Catches and drops: dotted lines are the rolling average.

Catches and drops: dotted lines are the rolling average.

As you can see, catching was a little wobbly at the start, but settled into a much better ratio by the end of the year. We are constantly searching for consistency, but it does stand to reason that catch percentages will improve as volume of practice goes up.

Ground fielding and run outs

The other key indicator of good fielding is ground work: stopping and throwing.

We wanted to measure this to give a benchmark. We had a broad idea from last year (less than five misfields). In 2017 we tracked it in more detail and by fielder as well as by team:

  • Good stops that likely saved runs.
  • Misfields that cost runs.
  • Good throws that lead to a run out or run out appeal (direct hit or assist).
  • Poor throws that we likely to have cost a run out (missing a direct hit or out of reach for an assist).

While there is a lot of interpretation about this, there are also clear moments that can be recorded. So we did.

In terms of raw performance, ground fielding looked like this as a team:

Number of ground fielding chances, split by stops and misfields

Number of ground fielding chances, split by stops and misfields

This chart is totals for the season across all fielding positions. It works out as 3 misfields per match, well below target.

Per player it looked like this:

Percentage of stops to misfields for the 9 fielders with several chances

Percentage of stops to misfields for the 9 fielders with several chances

We can see a sharp variation in the standards by fielders. The best fielder did not make a mistake in five chances, the worst had four misfields in six chances. A tiny dataset, but clearer that the feeling someone is "good" or not.

This allows us to see exactly who is fielding well and give far more specific coaching. So, the player who made three world-class stops but also had four misfields (in 14 chances) would have a different training plan to one who made eight good stops (but no world-class ones) in 10 chances.

We are also able to sift this by position (close, ring, boundary) to see even more granular ground fielding skills on show and further personalise training.

When it comes to run outs, there were very few chances across the season. There were 21 run out chances, nine resulted in either a run out or a close appeal for a run out: A 42% success rate. That is well above the 25% target so very pleasing.

Of course that number can be improved further with practice, but it is well on target and enough to put doubt in the mind of any opposition batsman trying a sharp single: His chances are close to fifty-fifty!

Also, a side point here here is how important focus is on fielding.

The average outfielder averages less than one fielding effort a match (keepers had 1.2). Even the out fielder with the most chances had 1.5 per match.

The opportunity to save runs is small individually but can make a huge difference on a team level (8.6 opportunities to save runs per game, leading to an average runs saved of around 17, enough to win most games.

Which brings us onto our grand fielding unification theory: Fielding Impact.

Fielding Impact

We brought these stats together into one number called Fielding Impact (FI). At a glance, it allows us to see how the team is doing and how individuals compare.

The idea of FI is to put a runs number on fielding.

Every fielding act had an impact on the score: Run out a batsman and you save runs he was likely to get. Drop him and you cost runs. This all feeds into one number.

We had no expectations on what was a good performance in FI, other than it is ideal to be in the positive (saved runs overall rather than cost runs).

On average, West's FI was 5.1 (runs saved per match)

On average opposition teams FI was -2.1 (runs cost per match).

However, the variation was great. West's best FI was 32 and the worst was -32. Opposition scores had simlair wide variance (24 to -28). Off the back of this, one aim may be to work on consistency of fielding. It should really gradually improve through the season as player's practice more. Here is the detailed breakdown by match:

Fielding Impact per match, rolling average is the dotted line.

Fielding Impact per match, rolling average is the dotted line.

Now we have a broad number, it opens up other such as what effect FI has on overall scores. This is hard to measure as fielding is only one part of a bowling performance, but we can look at some raw numbers.

There was no correlation between a better FI and a lower opposition score. Also, if you adjust each game to include the FI in the final scores, no games would have had a reversal in outcome. However, the margin of victory was larger in every case.

Catches may not have won West matches this year, but in closer run games, I can see how a game where 20 or 30 runs are saved will make the difference in 2018. We will see.

We also now know what standard we are at and work on improving team performances by tracking results next year. We can increase the team average FI target and get to work improving it.

The other benefit of FI is to inspire some competion between players. Here is the FI list for the main fielders:

FI-player.jpg

You can see a huge difference in FI between fielders. It seems saving more than 50 runs is a good target, and keeping the number of errors to a minimum is also useful.

The overall FI of a good fielder seems to be more than 10, and this correlates to the guys who are considered the best fielders in the side just by general opinion.

It also seems that the less skilled fielders can probably still shoot for a positive FI, as only four fielders were in the negative.

Speaking of which, two of the fielders at the bottom of the table are generally considered excellent in the field. So, why are they low down and does this show FI up?

I think the system still works because it removes the emotions from fielding. Both numbers 8 and 11 in the list are brilliant; fast, athletic, good hands and strong arms. However, 8 missed two simple run outs and dropped two simple catches. 11 dropped four straight-forward catches so while he barelay made a mistake all year, those catches killed his score. Neither did anything world-class like a diving catch or direct hit run out with one stump to aim at.

Those simple outcomes (what happened, not what looks good) proved that looking good and doing it when it counts are different things.

To prove the point, two fielders who are not considered as good as 8 and 11 finished in the positive. One did not make an error all season.

This lead to the challenge this year of "proving" that FI is a good thing to track for the players. Most like the competition, but some found it easy to say "well, 11 is at the bottom and we all know he is a gun fielder, so that average must be flawed".

In fact, it's important we press home the stat merely reports outcomes in an easy to digest way. So if you see yourself at the bottom of the table, it's not the table at fault, you need to hold more catches and hit the stumps more often!

Like all stats, FI is just a tool by which you can plan tactics and practice, and for that we are very pleased to have it. It will continue in 2018.

Areas of improvement

There is no doubt West improved their fielding in 2017. Even by the simple stat of fewer drops and misfields the difference is clear.

This year we have had much more information to work with to poinpoint how to improve further. It seems we are on the right track, but will look at further improvements:

  • Balancing catching volume to reflect chances that come. More close catching, less (but more intense) boundary catching.
  • Improving concentration and focus skills by training basic skills under fatigue and pressure. Fielders have precious few chances and each error is costly.
  • Giving individual players ways they can improve FI by pinpointing weaker areas to improve and strengths to focus on (for example, a good ground fielder in the ring but poor catching on the rope should spend as much time as possible in their strongest position while also spending some practice time taking high catches under pressure)
  • Working on "worldie" skills that may lead to just one extra chance taken per year. For example, weak side pickup and throwing at one stump.

As always, the focus at West is never on using information to prove someone worthy or unworthy, but as grist for the mill to further development. In the Premier League we will need to make as few errors as possible, so now is the time to start tweaking skills upwards further and make FI even better in 2018.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

In the second part of my review of the 2017 cricket season, batting is examined.

2017 was a dramatic improvement with the bat over the previous year, although there is still some work to do now promotion is secured.

Due to all the extra analysis, the work can be identified very specifically and we can look to add extra dimensions in the knowledge we will be up against stronger bowling attacks next year.

Let's go through it now.

Tactically, the aim was to bat first, build a total we knew we could bowl at and win with the ball. This worked in every game that we reached our goals.

Sadly, on the few occasions West chased, it looked far less convincing, winning two and losing two despite chasing low scores. More on that later.

Setting a target

At the start of the season we identified three scores as targets when batting first:

  • 130: Minimum score that gives at least a 50% chance of winning.
  • 173: Par score, giving an 80% chance of winning
  • As many as possible: No limit once moving past par to prevent a feeling of restriction.

West went about this in a traditional manner, accelerating through the innings. Broadly the aim was to get 35 in the first 10, be on at least 90 by over 30, score 50 between overs 31-40 (predeath) and look to hit out in the last 10 if wickets were in hand. As you can see this worked well:

Average RpO at each 10 over phase

Average RpO at each 10 over phase

Every phase exceeded expectations except the death overs where performance was mixed. That is certainly an area of focus for next year.

The average score batting first was 211.

bat2017-avescore.jpg

This was exactly according to plan. The highlights were 347 (admittedly against a very weak side), 260 and 270 against league opposition and 202 against a Premier side in the Scottish Cup. There was also an exceptional rain affected performance, getting 170 in 30 overs which the DLS told us was worth almost 200.

The only real lowlight was struggling to 135 against Heriot's in the Scottish Cup. Even though conditions were difficult and the bowling was exceptional, 173 was still a viable target.

This target setting worked well as a way of focusing the mind for players. It will be repeated next year, but the targets will need to go up as Premier League scores are generally higher.

Chasing Runs

West's chasing skills were less effective in 2017, although this was based on fewer games. If we include a preseason friendly against a local Premier League team, two matches were won and two were lost.

Clearly, it's hard to read much into such a small number of games, but the two losses chasing 166 and 141 are a concern when you consider West blazed past 200 several times batting first, and only got less than 170 once. The highest successful chase was 133.

Why did this happen?

And how can it be prevented?

The plan, as with setting a target, was to score in phases. The first 30 overs can be played exactly the same: Score 35 in the first 10, be at 90 by over 30. West know that 90-5 can reach past 200 if we stay calm and play the game. This happened in the one win, scoring at 32-2 (10) to 125-5 (30) setting up a win on a flat pitch.

In the other games things were not much different:

  • Chasing 166: 33-2 (10), 96-6 (30).
  • Chasing 141: 28-0 (10), 91-6 (30).

So the difference boils down to one or two wickets too many falling in the first 30 overs. The rate was fine (slightly better than strictly needed) but those extra couple of wickets show the difference.

In both those games we were one or two top batsman lighter than usual, but this does expose what happens when no one takes the game by the scruff of the neck as we did in other matches (Kelburne and GHK were examples of a collapse and recovery).

To prevent the chances of this in future, we are going to work on two things. First, make sure that we head into the last 20 overs with five or fewer wickets down. This will help build confidence.

Second - for those times when backs are against the wall - develop a "never say die" approach to chasing runs. West have the ability to keep up with the rate, even when wickets fall. The mentality of "keep going and we will get this" needs to be ingrained even in the face of climbing run rate and falling wickets.

Next year, scores will be higher with 170 the new 130, and 210+ a par score. That can only be done if the mindset is one of determined fight, even when times are tough.

Individual contributions

It's worth examining how these runs were scored both setting and chasing.

West used 18 players with the bat in 2017. 13 faced more than 30 balls to be included as a "regular". 10 of those batted in the top seven which makes them a top order batsman. The others we will call the lower order (not in for their batting specifically).

Notably, one player from this started as a lower order batsman, did well and moved up to the top order, mostly at seven. He spent more games at six or seven than eight so we will count his runs as top order.

The top seven scored 92% of the runs - up from 72% last year - at an average of 24 per game. One batsman passed 400 run, three were in the 300 bracket (I'm counting one who got 290), and two passed 100.

This is a huge improvement on 2016, where the lower order had a much bigger role in recovering the team several times. This year they did not have as much of a chance, but it is a testament to those guys skills that one broke through as a batsman and another still managed to score over 100 runs in seven innings at 19.33.

For the record, that's 10 players breaking the 100 run mark.

We set the target of five more runs per batsman, and it was done. A great team effort.

Strike Rotation

One of the stated targets in 2017 was to improve strike rotation and get more runs from the same number of balls. The simplest measure is Scoring Ball Pecentage (SB%) which is the number of balls a run is scored from.

SB% was up on last year from 32% to 36%.

Breakdown of % of balls scored from

Breakdown of % of balls scored from

Even better, When an innings exceeded 36% SB% the average score rose to 236. When it dropped below the the mean, the score dipped to 196. This is still exceptional but highlights the importance of good strike rotation, and something else that can be maintained in a higher division with hard work in the winter.

For the first time, we also tracked how SB% changed over the innings. As you can see, it also tracked along with RpO:

bat2017-SBPrpo.jpg

Naturally, we wanted to see how much of SB% was caused by pure strike rotation skill of the batsman.

First we looked at Balls Rotated (a subset of SB% made up of non-boundary runs scored from shots like pushes, flicks, nudges and drop and runs). The average was 48 balls per innings (18%). This was compared to the oppositions 23 (11%).

Balls rotated per game, with a rolling average

Balls rotated per game, with a rolling average

In above average scores the average BR went up to 66, showing the benefit of rotating the strike on final score.

This was also examined per batsman. Here's how the top batsman did this year at rotating:

Breakdown of rotation, SB% and stolen single averages

Breakdown of rotation, SB% and stolen single averages

You can also see in this table we have tracked "stolen runs". These are the classic drop and run, taking on the arm to get a second or other cheeky runs the opposition are not expecting.

These are the first time we have looked at these numbers, so we did not have any targets, but now we know the benchmarks, we can work to improving all batsmen's ability to turn dots into runs, and push average scores up.

We can also use these stats to show batsmen their style (more rotation or more hit out). From here we can get best practices from those who are better than others at hitting the gaps and running hard. It's a great skill and one that is not often measured and tried to improve.

It looks like SB% can be considered great over 35% and acceptable over 30%. Rotation is fine over 15% and stolen average is OK over 2.00.

Boundary hitting

This year, boundaries became more important. Last year it was all about strike rotation to boost scores, but looking at boundary numbers, it seems they have crept ahead in the priority list slightly.

West hit a boundary every 18.67 balls against seamers and 19.11 balls against spinners.

When the RpO was below the mean, there were an average of 11.33 boundaries (26.46 Balls per Boundary). When RpO was above the mean there were 23.25 boundaries (12.31 BpB). This clearly shows a difference to last year, when boundary numbers hardly changed and strike rotation was the biggest driver in getting higher scores.

bat2017-bpb.jpg

Our guess is this is because of more boundary focused batsmen getting more runs this year. Three of the top order are much happier hitting the rope than pinching four singles. The other main batters (including the pro) strike a balance but can all hit a long ball as well as rotate with skill.

BpB and Runs per Scoring Shot give a picture of how much batsmen rely on boundaries to score.

BpB and Runs per Scoring Shot give a picture of how much batsmen rely on boundaries to score.

This was an unexpected but welcome development. A balanced side presents a range of challenges to the fielding team. A couple of boundary hitters cause headlines, meanwhile the strike rotation guys can pick up more runs in the gaps left.

It seems a BpB of 12 or lower is a good target for most batsmen, however if the batsman is a "hitter" that number needs to be lower to account for fewer runs scored with rotation.

Moving forward, we will work on developing boundary options for all batsmen, especially in the death overs where West underperformed: Either more shots for the guys who already do it well, or better execution for the guys who prefer to rotate.

There's always a way if you ask "how do we make 17 BpB this year into 15 next year?" Two extra boundaries is 8-12 more runs and would put West in the top average score for Premier cricket!

Control

Last year we started to look at Control % (C%) for the team as a way of predicting wins.

C% is a judgement on the batsman: did they play a shot under control or not. Beaten on the outside edge or nicking off is not in control, hitting a four over the bowlers head is usually in control! The most useful point was that if the team C% was above 77.7%, West won most games.

This year we expanded the metric to also include individual batsmen and what type of control we saw: on the ground, in the air, beaten and so on. This lead to an overall drop in C% for the team as we could track what was controlled more accurately.

The most notable point from this is that C% and RpO had an almost perfect correlation (batting first):

bat2017-conpgame.jpg

This is not a huge surprise: The more balls you control, the more likely you are to score runs. However, for it to track quite so closely is interesting. It shows us that luck is not as important as skill (in team run scoring at least).

We also noted that the old rule of 77% did not apply here. Partially because the overall C% dropped as we fine-tuned the metric, but mainly because West won all but one game batting first regardless of control.

C% for the year was 75.54% which did not track closely to wins.

Games were won with C% as low as 71% and lost with as high as 76%. You might think that these numbers depend on conditions, so we looked at comparing C% with the opposition. A higher C% than the opposition did correlate to a higher chance of winning, but it was not a guarantee.

Comparison of C% per game (red bars are lost matches)

Comparison of C% per game (red bars are lost matches)

C% is a good measure of consistency. The smaller the gap between the best and worst, the better the consistency of the team. West saw a difference of 14% between top and bottom C%. Opposition C% varied by 35%. Our sense is, on better wickets in the Premier League, this consistency has every chance to improve (and the opposition's will certainly not be as bad).

C% against different types of bowling is also useful to see how the team did against seam and spin bowling

bat2017-cvsbowling.jpg

As you can see, control was different between seam and spin. The ball was left more and the bat was beaten more against seam. The ball was hit more under control against spin but overall control (leaving the ball counts as in control) against both are good: 80.81% and 84.15%

We learned that the overall C% is useful, because it focuses the mind on playing with fewer errors. However, it is not a magic metric that reveals every secret about scoring runs and winning games. It's merely a guide that reveals more about your performed than the runs alone.

C% also allows you to see at a glance how well you are doing during the game.

If you are keeping up with the run rate but at a much lower C% than the opposition, you are still likely to lose unless you get lucky or turn that control around. For this reason, C% is updated live during West games to keep eyes locked on how well the batting is going.

A useful addition this year has been individual control stats for players:

bat2017-cvperbat.jpg

The headline is as you would expect; more control means more runs for individual batsmen. We also found it a motivational metric for batsmen. We can see which batsmen stayed in control and built innings, which ones rode their luck with lower control and more runs, and which batsmen were unlucky, having good control but a lower average.

You can combine this by looking at what kind of control the batsman had. For example, if you are getting beaten a lot more than average and leaving the ball less (as one of the batsman above) you can look at why this is. Perhaps judgement of off stump needs work, for example. It's a strong way to further assess performance.

We are also able to look at C% of different shot types. As with the bowling, we had four shot categories and can see how well the team did:

C% for front and back foot shots

C% for front and back foot shots

SB% for front and back foot: back foot is more productive by a significant amount

SB% for front and back foot: back foot is more productive by a significant amount

Strike Rate (balls per Wicket) of each shot type: back foot play is much safer.

Strike Rate (balls per Wicket) of each shot type: back foot play is much safer.

The only surprise here is how much better West batsmen are off the back foot. With most balls played on the front foot, you might imagine back foot shots might not be as efficient. That was certainly the case with opposition batsmen who were much worse on the back foot. For West, when the ball was shorter, the batsmen played better.

One explanation of this could be the practice nets. They are fast, bouncy and good to practice off the back foot. In the past many have criticised the difference between indoor nets and Scottish wickets, but if the results of years of indoor practice on concrete makes a team of great back foot players then perhaps it's not so bad after all.

Summary

Division One opposition top bowlers are generally better than the batsmen, and bowling depth is better too. So, while West bowlers will take the headlines for not dropping a game, the batsmen should take some quiet applause for consistently putting a plan into action in difficult circumstances.

A couple of slip ups aside (and even those where more about wickets falling than intent to score) the batting consistently beat scoring targets, passing 173 seven times from 10 and never scoring less than the minimum aim of 130. In most cases this was done with confidence even in the face of wickets falling.

While chasing was more of a concern, the performances were almost there and with some more work over the winter on chasing, West batsmen will feel confident of going into any match with the skills to take down the best.

It may be a tougher season to be consistent with the bat in 2018 because of better bowling and confidence needing to be built that the team are able to compete, but getting over that hump will see this group of players become formidable in the next few season.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

This is the first in a series looking at the 2017 season for McCrea West of Scotland. This section analyses the bowling performance.

There's no doubt that bowling is West's best skill set. Partially this is due to bowler friendly conditions, but the bowling unit is also well-established and balanced.

Tactically, West built on the good work of last year. The template was to open with real pace, turn to the spinners and bowl opposition out for a below par total. This worked a treat with West's opposition averaging 106 when chasing (143 batting first) and the game finishing inside 32 overs.

This was mainly caused by,

  • A high number of dots: 4.42 Dots per Over (DpO).
  • Fewer errors: 62 fewer wides than the opposition in 2017.
  • Fewer boundary balls: West bowled a boundary ball every 59.84 balls, but hit a boundary every 17.32 balls.

This broke down slightly differently than last year

Fewer wickets fell in the first 10 overs, with an average score of 30-2. This was more than made up for in the following 20 overs, with opposition on 91-7 after 30 overs.

Here is the breakdown of runs and wickets by 10 over phase:

Average RpO for each 10 over stage.

Average RpO for each 10 over stage.

% of balls scored (and dots bowled) by spinners and seamers.

% of balls scored (and dots bowled) by spinners and seamers.

Average wickets falling at each 10 over stage.

Average wickets falling at each 10 over stage.

This was caused by six main bowlers: Four seamers took 67 wickets in 305 overs at 13.12. Two spinners took 40 wickets in 108 overs at 14.03 (under 15 is excellent).

Most wickets were out caught, as you can see below, although not as many as you might imagine. Bowled and LBW combined made up about the same number of dismissals, which reveals West bowlers are very good at sticking to the "bowl at the stumps" tactic:

WicketsBreakdown2017.jpg

We will look in more detail at how catches were taken in the fielding analysis.

Innings breakdown

The same two pace bowlers were used up front in the first 10 all season. Their performance last year was stellar, but in 2017 it was a touch more containing than wicket taking. Bowling average was 19.81 in the opening overs, which is higher than hoped because our main strike bowler took fewer wickets (7 at 24.14).

However, the containment stats speak for themselves:

  • 4.58 DpO
  • Opposition Control Percentage (C%) at 62%, with the bat beaten every 4.09 balls.
  • At least two chances created every game (72% taken).

With the aim to have an average below 15, DpO above 4.1 and C% below 71%, it was a start that kept the runs below 30.

Averages for overs 1-10 (DB% = Percentage of Dot Balls, C% = Batting Control Percentage)

Averages for overs 1-10 (DB% = Percentage of Dot Balls, C% = Batting Control Percentage)

This work was followed up in the next 20 overs with some outstanding bowling from a trio of bowlers.

The overseas fast bowler took 18 wickets in this phase averaging just over eight. He was kept honest by the left arm spinner who took 21 wickets at just over nine.

The other main bowler was a nippy medium pacer who had up and down form. However, he caused trouble bowling early (overs 11-20), when he averaged 12 in 21 overs bowled in this phase. His form later in the innings was less convincing, which we put down to losing a bit of confidence after a technical flaw crept in. We will work on this over the winter.

Despite less control over the run rate (RpO crept over 3), creating chances and taking wickets (74% of chances taken) in this phase of the game allowed West to control matches. 

Overall the numbers were impressive, with the most dominant phase between 11-20 overs:

Overs 11-20

  • Average 9.91
  • Strike Rate 21.64
  • RpO 2.75
  • DpO 4.42
  • C% 70%
  • Beat the bat every 6.38 balls.
Averages for overs 11-20 (M1 Phase)

Averages for overs 11-20 (M1 Phase)

Overs 21-30

  • Average 14.50
  • Strike Rate 27.82
  • RpO 3.13
  • DpO 4.26
  • C% 70%
  • Beat the bat every 6.80 balls.

This dominant phase led into the "predeath" overs from 31-40, where West were almost always totally in control of the game by this point.

The dominance of this phase is overblown because so many wickets had usually fallen, but West's bowlers at this point did not release the pressure and the game was often over before the 41st over.

The same bowlers also did damage here, as did a new bowler, a leg spinner, in his first season. He took 9 wickets at an average of 9.22 with C% down at 62%. This was mostly against weaker batsmen, but nevertheless it was an outstanding return (beaten only by the left arm spinner who was even more astonishing, taking 9 wickets at 5.33 in the pre-death).

The leggie also showed he could do it earlier in the piece, taking 7 wickets at 12.14. His RpO was a little high but he also created a lot of chances, as you would expect from an wrist spinner.

At the end, West did not have many death overs to bowl: 35 all season. No one bowled more than 60 balls in the death all year, so it's hard to judge performance. The RpO of well under 5 shows it was a done deal in most games.
 

Shot analysis

The final element is a breakdown of the types of shots that were played, and what we can learn about West's bowling.

This year, games included analysis of shot type for each bowler in four broad categories: Front and back foot defence, and front and back foot attack. The former is shots like the forward defence, back foot punch and flick off the legs. The latter is drives, cuts, sweeps and pulls.

This was an experiment to see if we could work out what kind of shots were most and least effective against West bowlers. It also shows (roughly) what kind of lengths each bowler bowled.

As you can see in the chart below, the most dismissals came from defensive shots on the front foot. There was a fairly even balance between bowled, caught and LBW. This is interesting because we generally assume catches will always be the largest by some margin, but West bowlers seem to be better at bowling at the stumps on a good length leading to three main dismissals:

WpS2017.jpg
Breakdown of what show was played to each dismsissal. 

Breakdown of what show was played to each dismsissal. 

As expected, catches were more dominant in the other shots, especially when batsmen attack. It shows how important it is to bowl at the stumps to almost triple your chances of a wicket.

We can build on this by looking at the Strike Rate of each shot type. Remember the overall SR was 22.76:

SRpShot2017.jpg

The most likely form of dismissal is the back foot attacking shots (BFA), which are mostly played to bad balls (long hops). Bouncers are an exception and, while we did not record the number of bouncers bowled, there were not so many to account for this. 

Individual SR, showing how bowlers differed in type of shot per dismissal.

Individual SR, showing how bowlers differed in type of shot per dismissal.

The lesson here is that a bad ball can get a wicket too, and this season it did it very well! 

A word of caution is that back foot attack shots were West's strength, second only to back foot defence in strike rate (39.80 and 58.50). Perhaps it reflects poorly on opposition batsmen's ability to hit long hops and short balls from the seamers on the ground; certainly an indicator that Premier League teams will not be so willing to waste the chance of a bad ball by getting out.

The SR certainly doesn't stop the opposition scoring from short balls, as the SB% for BFA is 56.44% and for front foot attacking shots (FFA) is 53.65%:

SBPbyShot.jpg

All this leads to an interesting tactical discussion: Clearly pitching the ball up at the stumps gets a lot of wickets at an excellent strike rate around 20. It's also clear that bowling shorter is not as effective for wicket taking when the batter defends. When they attack, a wicket falls every 13 balls! Can this be exploited? We will consider the possibilities over the winter.

Bowling accuracy

It's handy to record bowling accuracy to compare it to the line and length figures we get from PitchVision. However, this was not done directly because I don't trust judgement of length from the edge of the boundary!

We did look at an alternative: counting a good ball as one that resulted in a dot from a FFD. Imperfect as it was, it seemed to be a good rough guide. However, the results it spat out did not correlate to other measures of bowling skill like RpO, SB% and C%, and we could not work out why. We gave up on the idea and instead present an overall set of stats that contribute clues to accuracy based on outcomes:

Accuracy2017.jpg

This season it did not matter much, as even the bottom bowler in the list had a decent season in every category. The top couple of places were interchangeable with four bowlers. Next year we may look at other ways to measure length and line stats. It's important to remember that the outcomes matter most, rather than if you hit your lengths (one tends to lead to the other anyway).

We can be sure of a few things:

  • Bowling a good ball does not automatically result in a favourable outcome.
  • Bowling a bad ball certainly does not result in a bad outcome (and can result in a wicket).
  • Improving these figures by bowling more good deliveries (stock balls and variations) is a solid aim.
  • Tracking accuracy in games - as well as training - makes sense because players are under game pressure and not just running in at nets.

Moving forward

With the ball, the season was so dominant it's hard to find lessons to learn. 

Even against strong opposition, the bowling was superb, never going for more than 179 all year. Even against the might of Heriot's in the cup; West kept them to 3.3 per over and had them 9 down. Against weak opponents, the bowling was incredibly overpowered, bowling teams out for under 100 five times.

That said, West could do better upfront, as the main strike bowler was out of form (by his standards). We have already started the process of getting him back on track for next year. 

The fourth seamer was inconsistent and he needs to work on a technical issue. He needs to improve to become more consistent and find a role in the team. The balance of the side could do with a third spinner who turns the ball in to right hand bats. There are a couple of potential recruitment options in the works there. But that is all still in the air for a while.

We also need to be mindful that overs 30-50 saw no real challenge to the bowlers all year. We can look to focus on bowling under pressure at this stage over the winter.

The realistic challenge over the winter is to impress on the core bowlers the need to maintain and improve good lengths with no loss of focus on pace and rip: They will get away with fewer bad balls.

It's a possible option to look at ways of taking wickets with shorter balls. Bouncers show some potential as the data has show a great strike rate when batsmen go for shorter balls. That is for discussion rather than a sure thing.

Nevertheless, the unit is a great combination of control, raw pace, big ripping spin and good seam movement. As it is right now, I am confident they will win matches next year.
 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
One thing we can’t argue about is this; trying your best always works.

If you put in full effort you will learn something, no matter what the practice. It’s all about your attitude. Go into practice with a focus on something you want to develop then try to develop it. Your efforts might fail, but as we know, failure is an essential part of the learning process. You can’t progress unless you have learned through failure. So get learning and get stuck in.

Ask yourself what the alternative is: To complain will get no nowhere. To put in low effort or leave the session is no help to you. Even your favourite pet practice needs a rest now and again.So, why not get stuck into the practice that is on instead? At least you give yourself a chance for success.
Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I'm sitting on my sofa on a summer Saturday morning. There's no cricket today because the game was called off last night. This makes West champions of the WDCU Division One by default.

Despite feeling flat about such a rubbish way to win the league, we still won the league, and that's great work. Time for some reflections (even though there is a game to go).

  1. We had a plan this year and stuck to it well: Bat first, score more than 173 then bowl the opposition out for under 130.
  2. When we strayed from this plan, we did much worse, losing games against weaker opposition.
  3. Almost everyone had a good season, the overseas pro is excellent but not streets ahead. One exception was the captain who had a shocker with the bat. 
  4. We had more stat analysis and this seemed to help focus minds, especially in fielding.
  5. Training session quality is still very much dependant on the mindset of the players. I still have work to do to encourage a growth mindset with everyone.
  6. That said, I have also seen some great strides forward in positive, self-sufficiency in players at all levels. No one is "just hitting balls" any more.
  7. Training started well-attended for a couple of months, got sidetracked mid-season by a lot of T20 cricket and has seen patchy attendance in August. I need to work out what to do about that next year. 
  8. This included two of our new coaches who started with gusto and totally stopped coming by the the end of the summer. Coaching is not all glamour! I realise I could have done more to help motivate and inspire then and perhaps they tailed away because I wasn't leading well enough (this was my first year leading a group of coaches). That said, I hope the lads can find a way to stay enthused next season when they are fully qualified. 
  9. Cup cricket is great for team morale.
  10. T20 cricket is a strange creature with weaker sides and rushed or ignored preparations. I need more thought about how we manage it.
  11. We rewrote the dry, rubbish code of conduct and made it more reflective of our aims as a club, especially the first team. I will continue to lead the review of it and keep it relevant, realistic but also aspirational. 

I'll do a longer post on all the analysis and averages later, but it looks good!

The next challenge is the Premier League. I have already started planning what improvements we need to make over the winter to get up to scratch (including recruitment). Again, this will be another post in future.

As we stand - assuming the side is unchanged - I think we would finish mid table with some big scalps but also some heavy defeats. The good news is I think we can thrive in the Prem and develop into a league-challenging side within a couple seasons. It all rests on building a culture where players work hard, stick together and keep developing.

Well played West!

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

As the season progresses, I am keeping my eye on how we are doing against better sides to gauge how ready we are to play Premier League cricket.

 

We have played Premier opposition a few times this season and competed in most games despite results being mixed.

 

It's hard to gauge things exactly due to the nature of the matches: midweek T20 (four games), Scottish Cup (two games) and a preseason friendly mean no opposition was at full strength, but often neither were we. Nevertheless, here's what we have learned.

 

  • Tactics. Our tactical approach has worked well against Division One teams but has only really succeeded a couple of times at higher levels. We need to think about; how to bowl to set professional batsmen (more variety), and how to rotate the strike against better bowling and fielding units.
  • Fielding. Fielding has been good in places but still too many catches dropped at key times, most notably in the slips where we only catch half our chances. One opening bowler has had just 33% of his chances snaffled. An area to work on.
  • Bowling. We have been on point with both seam and spin this year.  The attack has skill and variety with both dot ball and wicket taking bowling. If we maintain these levels, we will continue to bowl sides out in Premier cricket.
  • Runs. Run scoring is vastly improved this year, but we still have had a few sub-par moments against better sides. We recovered well in one cup game - which should give us confidence - but fell apart in another. I will work with individuals to build confidence. On game days, I try to build a confident atmosphere in the side that a couple of wickets falling does not wreck everyone's nerves.
  • Depth. Squad depth has not been tested much against better teams. We much have a plan for playing second string guys when we come up against strong opposition.

Overall, I feel we are in a strong position so far. We do not lean on any one player too much and all the key players are Premier League ready with both skills and confidence. The rest of the season is about continuing to develop those skills so we feel as ready as we can. If we do that we will go up as champions and stay in the top division easily.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

West have played much better with the bat in 2017 than last summer. Average score is still about 200 (compared to 154 last year). And while that is overpriced due to a big score (346) and batting first in full length games, we are still clearly more confident with the bat.  

 

I still think we are on for adding 25+ to the team average compared to last year because of this. 

 

But there are still signs of the old team now and again. 

 

In a high-emotional finish in the Scottish Cup, we lost by one wicket to, on paper, a strong Edinburgh side. It was close because we bowled and fielded brilliantly to almost defend 135, which we know we can do when we go well.

 

The batting was some of the old stuff though. We lost wickets regularly, unable to build partnerships, and went a little into our shells to try and dig out a total. We did face good bowling, but we also lost the strike rotation option, picking up only 5 quick singles (we average 15) and rotating only 10% of the balls we face (average is 19%). I'd estimate the loss of confidence cost us about 30 runs. And scoring 165 would have put us as favourites rather that at fifty/fifty of 135.

 

This was following on from last few games where SB% has dipped under 30%. (One of my goals for the season is to get SB% above 35%).

 

We still have intent to score more quickly, but a combination of factors has knocked confidence in this, which we need to address:

  • Our best strike rotation exponent has made just one big score, meaning overall SB% has been knocked in most games. He did score at an incredible 63% SB% and rotated 44% of balls he faced in his ton though! More please!
  • Two other deft runners have not fired at all this season.  If any of these three batters get going, the SB% will shoot up.
  • The bulk (75%) of the runs have come from four guys who prefer boundary options. These batsmen only rotate 12% of the time (10% less than the rotator batsmen), but hit 8% for a boundary (3% more).
  • In the cup game, we were slightly intimidated by a "big" side and let them bowl at us a little too much, rather than wrestling control. This was not totally true but it happened in places. 

 

So while I am not worried too much about the dip in rotation, we do need to focus on staying confident and batting with intent. The way I see doing this is to work with the "hitters" to get them to push rotation up a little alongside maintaining their boundary rate. Also, I'd like to build the form of the rotators as getting them facing more balls will push up the overall average.

 

As I said at the end of last year, rotation is vital. It shows confidence and skill of a batting side, so I monitor it in detail. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

It was a 307 run win on Saturday. The result was insane, getting 347 without trying very hard then bowling St Michael's out for 40. My question is this; what can we learn? 

 

  • West are capable of crushing weaker opponents, rather than just winning comfortably but unconvincingly (as we did a couple of times last year)
  • The pro got a hundred but so did our left handed opener, and our number four got fifty, so it wasn't a one man show. 
  • Fielding was on point but somehow two catches were still dropped and we are still below last year's catch percentage. 
  • The bowlers just had to bowl straight, and the openers took all the wickets (most bowled or LBW) so it was not exactly hard, but ther was also no messing about, we did what was needed with little fuss. 

 

We did what was needed with focus and intensity despite being clear favourites from the first over (they didn't even bother with one slip).

Obviously bigger challenges lay before us.

But for now the key message for me is: 1. Don't get complacent, we have not "completed cricket" and 2. Use this time of form to strive for further improvements. Learn a new shot, practice your yorkers, work out how to turn a hundred into 150, practice playing under pressure when the score is 40-4, as it will be sometime in the future (although not for a while I am hoping). 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

In all honesty I won't have time to provide full reports on matches over the summer.

 

However I hope to drop a few notes in now and again as much as a way of processing my own thinking. Here's game one:

 

  • West scored 260 batting first and it could have been 300. The intent was bang on, we just kept going hard even as wickets fell. I would prefer to see us go for 300 and fall short than be terrified of getting out and making 150.
  • Bowling was great, winning by 105 runs.
  • Ground fielding was good.
  • Four dropped catches was bad considering how much work we put in, however two were by a usual very safe hands, so it might be a one off.
  • We didn't need the pro who barely got a run and didn't take a wicket.
  • My new stat tracking this year is harder, but just about manageable, it should throw up some interesting stuff.
Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Celebrating a preseason win

Celebrating a preseason win

The results of these games were just part of the process of getting back into cricket. We won won easily and lost the other badly, but with nothing at stake I stressed to the guys it was a chance to learn.

The overseas guys both came out of the games with things to work on. Not least the Aussie keeper learning how to keep his hands warm in Scottish spring conditions!

We learned we could make a positive intent work with the bat. We scored 133 in short time to win the first game, picking up runs quickly with no risks. We also scored 50 runs in eight overs against a very strong team on Sunday.

This did not pan out as well, with five first team batsmen failing to capitalise on the start. We still have a bit of work to do around staying confident when things go awry.

In the field, we fielded very well in both games. A couple of rusty errors aside, I am pleased to see almost no weaknesses in the fielding. The energy was good through the first game. It was harder to stay upbeat in the second game as the openers went about knocking the runs off with little ceremony. However, we kept pushing and a second string bowler took his chance to bowl with pace and knocking hard on the door of selection.

Our overseas pro also learned the right length to bowl in Scottish club cricket, which is not the same length as Sri Lankan first-class cricket!

Another learning point is how to make something happen when we are failing to do much in the field with plan A.

As solid and workmanlike as we were, we could not take a wicket and we got into a little rut of going through the motions. Everyone was still trying hard but you need a little magic or creativity or luck in those moments. We didn't strive for those things. We can learn to try something crazy now and again.

The first league game is on Saturday and training is well attended. I hope the weather holds.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
"Instructing is: 'I know, let me tell you what to do'. Advising is: 'I know. Let me make a suggestion and leave the decision up to you'. In the modern day when people talk about empowering players and saying, 'Well you figure it out and do what you need to do', that's abdicating. "Coaching is a process where I help you find your own best answer for yourself through a process of questioning, testing your thinking, maybe giving you information and asking how you make sense of it. So I coach. Whereas most coaches today are actually instructors. They tell people what to do, when to practice, when to bat, for how long, where to bowl, etc."

I love this clarification. I know I have both instructed and abdicated thinking that it's coaching. I know many players think coaching is nothing but instruction. Hopefully we are changing that.

"As soon as there is a coach in place telling players what to do, it stops players having to think. For a lot of players that's quite alluring because you don't have to do the thinking, and if something goes wrong you have someone else to blame."

 

For all of us, disengaging the brain is easy and natural. You run on instinct. Humans are amazing at doing this because you can't live in a complex world without it. You have to work to stay engaged. As a coach, I need to work to keep people engaged.

 

"I will sit with the player and the analyst and ask, 'What is it that you want that will leave you prepared?'"

Like that. Because the alternative is to tell someone your amazing advice because you know it works every time.

Or do you?

"Players who have had an extended career will say anywhere between one and three out of 100 things that they have been told by an expert actually makes a point. So I know that if I give a player a piece of input, there is a 99 per cent chance it is going to be useless."

99%!

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Setting up cricket fielding practice at West of Scotland CC.. 

Setting up cricket fielding practice at West of Scotland CC.. 

This week things were typically spring-like. It was cold (as low as 5 degrees) and murky. The rain stayed away mostly.

 

We focused again on the basics. We did some fielding based around ground work, hitting the stumps and low catching. It was cold and dank so we did what we could there to stay focused. I'm still pushing the idea of moving beyond volume and into quality.

 

My master plan for nets was "first 20 balls".

 

In nets batsman get four overs to bat and must play in a match scenario of their choosing. Bowlers bowl in pairs, two overs each to each batsman. The other bowler acts as umpire and run-decider.

 

It broadly worked because it had a combative element.

 

We split into two groups of comparable standards. I put the scores on the board as an quick external motivation, but it wasn't needed as the guys looked to take each other on with the added frisson of wickets and runs counting for something.

 

It was fun, engaging and useful. All positive. 

 

That said, there were a couple of minor less positive moments.

 

One player decided to slightly undermine the activity by doing his own thing. He is the type to not train with much focus. 

 

Another player turned up over 20 minutes late and said he just wanted to bat. When I told him he would need to wait until later, and he would be better off doing some fielding while he waited, he went home. This is a senior player who I would hope would be a leader in setting the standards. Instead he claimed (afterwards) that no one had told him what to do. Even if this was right (it wasn't) there were four coaches to ask. That was a plain fixed mindset excuse.

 

I need to get better at reminding people to stay in a growth mindset. 

 

To help me get the message across, I have decided to use the phrase "game head on" to denote when someone is not leading, being self-sufficient or taking training as seriously as they take a match. For me, this focus is essential to growth. I'll see how it goes.

 

Also, there is still precious little reflection after the net. People tend to do their thing and walk away. I'd like to see more discussion between players, and guys approaching me. This is tough in group nets but not impossible. I'm reluctant to formalise it too much but may experiment with asking guys to write down goals from time to time as a reminder.

 

These things aside, the general approach is more focused and based around specific goals and needs. Standards match up and players compete with each other with intensity. It's as good as it has ever been.

 

The next challenge is switching to grass pitches, which (sadly) is happening as close to the season as always. We won't have much time before the season to get into full run ups and balls not coming on to the bat. Fortunately, the guys are experienced and we have a lot of early season games lined up so should be able to deal with this quickly.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I've been thinking a lot recently about what makes a winning team. Here's something interesting:

Are the habits you have today on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow? Becoming a champion is not something you become when you win an award. It is not that medal around your neck or the plaque on your mantel. Becoming a champion is a way of being

I see cricketers with dreams that don't match their actions every day at club level. Most people wish they could be successful but then don't put in the work.

If this is you, you either readjust your ambitions, or you do the work it takes to reach your dreams.

Trying to justify failure with excuses about other priorities in life is deceiving yourself. Saying "I could have been better if it wasn't for my job/family/dog" is a waste of effort. Perhaps it's true, perhaps not. Either way, the sooner you accept reality and match your ambitions to your habits to keep you at the learning edge, the better off you will be.

 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Rolling the square: Spring preparation at West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow. 

Rolling the square: Spring preparation at West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow. 

This week, we focused on fielding in every session. Three sessions, almost six hours!


The theme was blowing away cobwebs. Some people embraced it, others were less engaged by it but everyone got on with it with gusto.


The big benefit this year is the extra coaches. We have four guys who can coach seniors now instead of one and a bit last year. This itself is a huge help, but as the coaches are current players, it has also served as a catalyst for others to be empowered.


I have been pushing the "take responsibility" idea hard this week. What I have learned from previous years is the best way to do this is:


1. Define a broad theme for the session.

2. Have selected leaders run drills around this theme in small groups.

3. Tell the players that they have the power to adjust the drill if it's not working for them.


This way, everyone in the system feels they can get something from it. There is no excuse for standing around doing nothing, or getting upset that any particular drill is a waste of time or effort.


It worked well as we progressed through technical work on catching, stopping and throwing in specific ways. We had zero complaining, zero slacking and a few occasions where practice adjusted as we went along to make needs more suitable.


We started with simple drills, like throwing at three stumps from 20 yards and trying simple inner ring catching with fingers up and down. By the end of the week we were working on more advanced techniques, like picking up and throwing from different angles. We also increased the difficulty, volume and intensity.


One of my favourite moments was a "finisher" drill we were doing with four people. It started a little half-hearted so we stopped, talked about it and decided to set a points target. When we get to 15 points, the drill is done. Suddenly the intensity shot up and we got to 15 points in no time. It was a real collaborative win!


I also liked this week as it got the guys out of the mindset of having to bat and bowl. It focused on fielding technique more than volume, which broke another big assumption we had last year. Naturally volume is important, but volume alone without development is just wheel spinning. We pushed hard to develop this week rather than play safe.


Another of my mantras this year is "improving not proving" and I pressed this home again. I often said things like "I don't mind if you make mistakes, I do mind if you are playing safe." And "training is the place to learn how far you can push your limits". It will take time for everyone to get this, but people are listening.


I have noted a few excuses floating around (like "the ground was uneven so I couldn't be at my best"). I need to get better at pointing out these comments and making it clear we see those difficult moments as opportunities to learn, not excuses to explain away mistakes.


Next week, the fielding dips a little as we switch to a theme of World-Class Basics. We will add nets back into the mix, focusing mainly on how you approach the first 20 balls (three overs for bowlers) in a match scenario. The batting will be short and sharp as as to focus the mind.


Preseason games start on 22nd April.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
The West of Scotland Cricket Club outfield gets a spring haircut.

The West of Scotland Cricket Club outfield gets a spring haircut.

Wonderfully, the weather had held long enough for us to do some impromptu fielding outside this week.

The importance of getting outside and holding a real cricket ball on a real pitch is vital to me. You cannot do it too early. I know other coaches who have players willingly outside on tennis courts and hockey pitches in January, so March training is hardly an achievement!

But it is important to get as much fielding as you can in before the season. Rain will get in the way a few times I am sure, yet we have a full month to "blow away the cobwebs" get a few technical things in and try to hone catching, throwing and stopping skills.

Firstly, it's about volume. Harden up the hands, get a feel for your best ways of moving, build confidence that you can still do it.

Second, it's about technique. Learn methods that work for you and try new things thing that might make you look stupid in the short term but have a good pay off.

One example of this is the blind side pick up and throw. When the ball goes to your weaker hand it is very hard to pick up and throw down the stumps. Even the best in the world only manage it one in three goes. The tendency with club guys is to never practice it as failure rate is huge. However, working on it a bit will see an improvement. If someone does it once in the whole season, surely that's worth the effort. It's fear of failure that stops us, not desire to improve.

Third, it's about fitness. Not just getting the heart rate up either, but getting shoulders and core stronger.

Overall, they real key to fielding practice is the same as batting and bowling practice: Go in with an intention. This might be a specific, measureable and realistic goal. This might be the idea to experiment with something new. Whatever it is, focus on a single intention.

71A967D2-4CF9-4347-A416-7D059675EAFA.JPG

Naturally, you want to cover all the basics. However it's easy in a group setting to do a few easy drills, the default to loads of high catching. That's fine if you want to improve high catching, but if you dropped five catches in the ring last week, surely you should focus on that.

I'll b delivering that message every time we get outside.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Steffan Jones' epic article on coaching bowlers can be applied to any cricket skill,

"The aim of any bowling coach is to create anti-fragile bowlers and not fragile bowlers. Bowlers who perform strength sessions and bowl in indoor centers all off-season become fragile bowlers. They... break down when things are constantly changing."

At club level, I see a lot of guys training to be fragile.


Not just bowlers, but especially bowlers. They spend all their net time bowling. Some hit the gym. They don't play another other sport. They have no crossover drills either technical or based on developing specific strength and power.


Some are super-resilient naturally and never break down despite this. Others are terrified of too much training because their body is so grooved into cricket it might burst doing anything else.


I'm hoping to push a little more activity in the middle this summer with heavy ball bowling, med ball work, technical drilling and training under stress.


That last point is developed further by Steff,

"The common mantra is that perfect practice makes perfect performance, but in reality movement is improved not by exploring its core (i.e. perfect technique), but by exploring its limits (i.e. where it breaks down). You have to constantly test and push the body to its limits in order to improve. Fast bowlers will fail in this zone, but in the right environment they can also learn to do things better in the process."

Failure is part of success! 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe