In part four of this review of the club cricket season, we look at how the team bowled overall.

Bowlers are less troubled by game situation than batsmen because they have the same goal most of the time: Concede as few runs as possible and take wickets. Dots and W’s are universally useful.

Let’s see how West did overall:

2018bowlingWoS.JPG

Even in these days of detailed analysis, the humble Bowling Average (BoA) and Strike Rate (SR) are still powerful indicators of good bowling. In the WDCU Premier Division, a BoA below 20.00 puts you in the top bracket, and below 17.50 puts you in the top 10 (best was 13.38). Top SR is in the 19.00-30.00 range.

As the green indicators show, three bowlers achieved a competent BoA and two SR. The spinners outperformed the seamers by this measure, which is reflective of the league overall where five of the top six wicket takers were spinners.

One way of comparing bowler’s performance without the influence of conditions and opposition strength is by Strike Rate Ratio (SRR). An SRR of 1.0 is the exact average strike rate for the team.  The higher above the worse you bowl, the lower the better. This means we can also compare strike rates over the last three seasons. Here are all the bowlers with over 200 deliveries between 2016-18:

relativeSR1718.JPG

Players in italics are no longer playing as they are overseas players. As you can see, Lowtop is the best wicket-taker over the last three seasons by this measure. You can also see the below-par wickets of both Winter and Kodak.

Speaking of wickets, there were four types of dismissal (minus one stumping and five run outs) with most wickets falling to catches, as you would expect. However, with almost 45% of wickets falling to bowled or LBW, it’s clear West attack the stumps, especially Winter.

The seamer was the best example of the above. He took 59% of wickets this way (more LBWs than anyone else despite his protests). Alongside the one wicket he had caught by the keeper or slips all season, you can see how he is effectively a stump to stump bowler. Comparably, Quicksky got 28% of his wickets by attacking the stumps but had eight of his 13 catches taken at slip or by the keeper.

The main spinners also seemed to have complimentary styles. Lowtop had more bowled and LBW (he also got the one stumping), Northflood had more caught, most often through mis-timed drives and pulls caught in the ring (six out of nine outfield catches).

Chances and false shots

Going together with actual wickets is the chances a bowler creates. Not every edge goes to hand, not every miss-hit is caught. The more opportunities for a wicket, the better the bowling.

The bowler with the most wickets also had the greatest number of dropped catches. The ratio stays about the same for all the top bowlers. Winter may consider his 63% catches unlucky and Lowtop might be happy to see fielders held the ball 78% of the time from his bowling. But that is only a difference of one drop all season.

Not every piece of bowling skill ends in a chance though. Let’s also look at false shots; play and miss, edges and shots where the batsman was not in control.

With the average opposition side playing a false shot 27% of the time (26% for West) the stand out bowler at drawing a bad shot is Kodak. He was the only bowler to “win the ball” more than 200 times with a 31% rate. However, just to show that winning the ball does not guarantee wickets, even though Kodak induced far more false shots, the conversion was one of the lowest, needing more than 11 bad shots before he got a wicket. Northflood was the reverse, converting his lower number of false shots into wickets almost twice as often. This could be because Kodak beat the bat a lot more than Northflood.

Speaking of beating the bat, we can also see a possible reason why the leg spin of Bridge was unsuccessful in 2018 (dropped after six matches). His bowling did not produce many false shots, and he was least likely to get a wicket with one. He beat the bat more but found the edge less. Of all the poor shots played to his bowling, 63% did not find the edge (compared to 48% for the other two spinners) and 5% did (compared to 13%). In short, this analysis concludes he was turning the ball past the edge without threating either the stumps – for bowled and LBW – or the edge of the bat for keeper catches (zero chances all season).  

Phase performance

Moving on, performance at different stages of the innings offers an insight into strong and weak spots in the attack.

RpOW-oppo2018.JPG

The trend line for runs is similar to West’s batting; a gradual acceleration. Wickets fall evenly through the innings, with most falling at the back end.

There is a sign of problem in the middle overs where average wickets dips to 1.08. On the plus side, the opposition rarely did well at the death, keeping the average RpO below six.

Top performers in each phase (minimum of 10 overs bowled) were:

phasebowling2018.JPG

The colour scale goes from green (best) to yellow (worst). You can quickly see who did best in each category at each phase:

  • Opening: Quicksky, Kodak

  • Early Middle: Lowtop, Northflood, Shortshock

  • Late Middle: Lowtop, Kodak

  • Death: Kodak, Northflood, Quicksky

McCallum also bowled effectively but does not appear here because he only bowled 22 overs all season.

You can also see strike rates go up in the middle overs, and with a quick comparison we can see why:

SRcomparison2018.JPG

The spinners maintain a reasonable if slightly high SR, topping at 38. The seamers, after an effective start, saw the SR go up past 100 before getting it back under control in the last 20 overs.

The faster bowlers rarely had good wicket-taking form in the early middle overs.

One solution to this is to find better seamers for that phase, but the number of false shots did not change much either, suggesting the batsmen were not dominating, merely getting out less often. Despite a similar level of false shots, there were fewer chances and more drops in these overs.

chancesbyphase2018.JPG

The lowest catch percentage was in overs 11-20 and there were zero chances in the following 10 overs. This suggests drops in the first 20 overs ended up costing West in the next 10. It also explains why paceman strike rates are so high: A severely weakened key dismissal. Perhaps the solution for the seamers is to try and hit the stumps more and rely on catching less in the middle overs.

Runs conceded

As we have touched on runs conceded, let’s go into more detail.

shotbreakdown-bowling2018.JPG

Attacking shots yield faster scoring at higher cost. The classic example is the pull shot, with the highest strike rate and RpO, but a relatively low average and Balls per Wicket (BpW).

Rotation shots like glances and pushes have a high average and are where the batsman is most in control but slow the scoring rate. You would imagine defensive shot to be the safest, and that is certainly true of the leave. However, the block is most often played when the batsman gets a good ball, meaning he often gets out to it. On the other hand, the leave is by far safest.

This means the best approach is to try to get the batsman to play pure defence as much as possible by attacking the stumps. The risk is opening the glance and flick through the leg side.  So, attacking off stump is safest.

This is not news. However, there is a secondary tactic that is possibly underused: fast short pitched bowling. This is based on two things: the effectiveness of West’s bouncers and the high risk of the pull shot. The bouncer was bowled 28 times by West – in only seven games – and took three wickets for 11 runs (two boundaries). That’s a great performance. Roughly half were attacked by the batsman but even counting just these balls, the average was 11.00. Meanwhile, the pull shot – played to short, straight balls mostly – averaged 24.60 (five wickets for the seamers).

The conclusion here is the bouncer can be used more, if the bowler is confident of getting the ball above the waist (if the ball does not bounce above the waist it can be worked off the hip at 90.25 against seam).

When wickets are hard to come by in overs 11-30 IS a good time to consider a wicket falls every nine bouncers bowled.

Going back to defensive shots, the block is a rough indicator of how well a bowler is bowling. While not always the case, it is true that a good ball is mostly met by an attempted block by the batsman. The more attempted blocks the better the bowler’s accuracy.

Kodak forced the most defensive shots, but spoiled the party with a high number of wides. The next three bowlers kept defensive shots high and wides low. This is did correlate to RpO with all three having average to excellent rates.

It seems once defensive shots drop and wides go up, so does RpO as Bridge and Shortshock dipped below 27% with a higher number of wides. Both had a redline RpO (over five). Quicksky is the outlier, looking very much like a typical wild strike bowler. He took 18 wickets at 24, but had fewest defensive shots played and bowled most wides. As a bowler who prides himself on accuracy, Quicksky certainly has work to do in the off season to get back to his best.

Returning to RpO; the measure is a good general indicator of performance for bowlers to keep the rate down. Here are the West bowlers “run saving” stats:

runsaving2018.JPG

Winter is the stand-out dry bowler here, with top scores in every category. Kodak is not far behind in comparison. Northflood stands close by, which is excellent for a spinner who bowled almost 20% of his overs at the death. Below the redline are three bowlers who failed to impress, although Shortshock will feel slightly unlucky as he bowled as many dots per over as Quicksky but went for more runs per over.

We can also get an idea of the number of bad balls a bowler is serving up by looking at Balls per Boundary (BpB). The higher the BpB, the fewer bad balls a bowler delivers. However, this stat also includes good balls that go for a boundary, such as edging the ball down to third man. A more accurate measure is the number of boundaries scored with the batsman in control of the shot. This is BpCB (Balls per Controlled Boundary).

Winter and Kodak lead the way in overall BpB. They bowl fewer four balls than any other bowler. These two also see a big jump in deliveries when you remove boundaries from poor shots. Winter sees an extra 3.34 added. The other bowlers who benefit are McCallum (5.66) and Quicksky (2.59). These bowlers bowl fewer bad balls that go for a boundary, but it looks worse than it is because more of their good balls hit the rope.

Northflood is the spinner who goes for the least boundaries. He is also one the bowlers to benefit the least from BpCB (1.34) meaning not many of his good balls go for a boundary. The other spinners have a similar story, but clearly bowled more bad balls that were put away (especially Bridge with a BpCB of 10.46, the third worst of all bowlers).

The most important conclusion from all this is to bowl as many good balls as possible.

This is not rocket science of course, but by attempting to remove the influence of fortune on bowling performance we can get a truer picture on how bowlers will achieve this.

For example, Winter is far and away the most accurate bowler in the team (most balls defended, most dots, least number of boundaries), and is about average for beating the batsman yet took wickets slower than almost any other bowler. His off-season preparation needs to focus on either becoming more of a containing bowler with the old ball or developing a new way to take wickets.

Another example is Lowtop, who tends to buy wickets more often: His run-saving numbers are all about average for West (which is slightly below average for the league). However, he has the good habit of having the chances he creates taken more often. The has led to the best BoA and SR in the team, and an especially strong performance in the middle overs. When defending a total, he has been expensive but also takes wickets. His role is a strike bowler. The development opportunity for him is to learn how to bowl more defensively when needed, or to look to ways of generating even more chances for wickets (in case his luck ever runs out).

In the next article, we move on to bowling performance in the first innings, as part of an analysis of the team’s ability to chase a target.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

This is part three of the cricket season in review. This article analyses the bowling in the 2nd innings of limited overs Premier Division cricket.

Whatever you run target you set, the flip of setting runs in limited overs is having a good defence with the ball.

In West’s two games won, the opposition were bowled out 66 runs short. This is a trend that is true across the league, where - in chases - 10 wickets occur 79% of the time, 63 runs short on average. In the losing games, West took 5.5 wickets on average. Slightly better than the 4.8 league average, but not enough to warrant an excellent performance.

Two of West’s games batting first went to the last over. Both resulted in losses that could have easily been wins by a close margin. Nevertheless, there are very few close games in the league. Most matches have a large winning margin, whoever wins. This was broadly reflected in West’s performance: The average win by 60 runs, the average loss by 5 wickets.

SO how do you measure your performance accurately in these situations?

One of the best ways to see how well you defend a target is through Win%. It’s more useful because it considers the context of the chase. Other stats can’t do that. The result is great knowledge of performance with the ball: If you can’t defend a low Win% from the opposition, you are being out-skilled:

 Win% at half time per game bowling 2nd (Clydesdale match DLS adjusted)

Win% at half time per game bowling 2nd (Clydesdale match DLS adjusted)

Five games went as Win% predicted. Two games bucked the prediction, with Stirling putting in the most outstanding chase against the halftime odds. West performed as expected in most games, with three one-sided results.

The ease of the Greenock victory should be lauded as a confident performance considering the 42% win% at the start. The tight games against Poloc and Clydesdale show the step up in standard. Last year those games would most likely have resulted in a win, this year the opposition made it over the line in a tight finish.

The loss to Stirling was the least effective defence of a score that was likely to win.

How did individual bowlers contribute to this?

RIbowlers2nd.png

This chart shows the Defence Impact (how well bowlers did in chases). Those at the top in the positive bowled better than expected, conceding fewer runs than the opposition needed to win. Those in minus numbers conceded more runs, meaning their overall impact on defending run chases was negative. This provides more context than plain averages.

The other important factor is wickets. Taking wickets prevents teams from scoring runs (both tactically as run rates slow around wickets, and in terms of getting the best batsmen out). As we know, West did slightly better than the league average. So, let’s break that down further:

bowl2ndwickets.png

Generally, an average of 15.00 or lower is considered excellent. Considering West’s average score batting first, anything below 17.60 would also be strong. A strike rate below 25.00 paints a similar picture.

Lowtop wins the prize for average and strike rate, both showing the mark of excellence. He also took 2.66 wickets per match, bowling 7.55 overs per game. He bought his wickets with a worse than average Defence Impact (above).

There was then a pack of similarly performing bowlers: Quicksky was top wicket taker. His 0.60 wickets in 6.61 overs per match were perhaps slightly unlucky as he had more drops at slip than any other bowler. Northflood took 1.40 wickets per match (with an exceptional Defence Impact, making him a dot bowler in defence) and Kodak 1.14. All solid performances.

The rest were disappointing in taking wickets. The one name to note is Winter. The seamer was somewhat unlucky, having three drops from his bowling (66% success compared to the team’s overall 78%). He also was the most effective in keeping the run rate down to put the opposition under pressure, so his role may be changing.

From here you can see a clearer development picture building.

  • Even with low scores to defend aside, defending scores is inconsistent compared to Win%

  • Taking wickets is important. West did slightly better than average, but to finish at the top requires more bowlers striking in the second half to take 10 wickets.

  • Some bowlers are measurably better at bowling second, meaning those who have struggled this season need to find a method to better bowl at a chasing side.

In the next article, we will move on to some more general analysis of bowling.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

This is part three of the cricket season in review. This article looks at collapses while batting first in 50 over Premier Club cricket.

West of Scotland had two collapses batting first (107 and 94). As we have already established, these are two of the lowest scores of the season in the league, so warrant further examination as to what happened.

The main trend was losing wickets. In both cases, early wickets lead to further wickets (no recovery):

collapse1.jpg

Was this down to bad batting, good bowling or a bit of both?

collapse2.jpg

As you can see, there were not many more edges or bat being beaten than normal in either game. However, in the games you can see a couple of clear indicators of good bowling:

  1. The number of false shots per wicket (FSpW) was higher than usual meaning West batsmen got out earlier than usual, even though they made the same number of errors as always.

  2. Defensive shots per wicket (DSpW) were much lower in the Poloc game, suggesting that the bowlers were on top of the batsmen.

  3. Rotational shots per wicket (RSpW) In both games, theses shots were more poorly executed than usual. Generally, if the stat is far below the average, it’s because the pitch has made it tricky to rotate. So, we will give this number to the conditions.

  4. When a chance came it was more likely to be taken. Poloc caught every one of seven chances, a very unlikely occurrence as a strong performance is catching three from four chances.

So, it’s clear that Poloc bowled well. caught well and punished mistakes better than average. Prestwick did not bowl as well as Poloc but still made the most of West’s mistakes. One example of this is Bluecall opening in the Prestwick game and getting caught at deep point in the first over trying to hit a six. While it was a poor shot choice, the odds of Bluecall opening with a deep point who is a reliable catcher while he is facing are low.

What can we learn from this?

Assuming the opposition are ahead by either skill or fortune, how you “get out of the hole”? In the moment - when you don’t have access to the stats – and you find yourself in a difficult situation you have two options:

  1. Try to reduce risk by playing your highest percentage shots, which are rotational shots like pushes and glances (more on this later).

  2. Try to get as many as possible by attacking more often before the inevitable happens.

West tried both approaches at different times during these games. The only one that worked at all was o counter-attack, but it’s success was still limited, as you can see from the final score. Nevertheless, I would suggest you might as well try to score a few if you lose early wickets. This is especially true on tricky wickets. However it is higher risk, so many will disagree.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

This is part two of the cricket season in review. This article looks at batting first in 50 over Premier Club cricket.

The average score for West batting first was 184: An under-par number compared to 197 overall for the league in the last two seasons. West are in ninth position from 12 teams by average score.

batting1staverage.jpg

This happened for two reasons.

First, when West scored big, the scores were relatively low. The four high scores of the season are 16th, 28th, 29th and 38th highest. Seven teams had at least one better high score, Ferguslie had five, Stirling had three, and Poloc had two. West had none of the 13 scores over 250 or four scores over 300.

topscores.jpg

Second, during under-performing innings, the scores were relatively worse. Two scores in the bottom six places show when a collapse started, it wasn’t stopped.

lowscores.jpg

Anatomy of setting a target

Looking at the better scores, working out how those runs were scored will allow us to decide how to improve next year.

Tactically, the broad approach batting first was to build an innings for 40 overs then attack in the last 10 if wickets were in hand. The aim at the start of the season was to score 216 or more, as this provided a strong chance of winning. Here is the breakdown of the biggest scores and results:

westhighscores2018.png

As you can see, there is not much relationship between overall score and the result. Losing after scoring over 225 twice, but winning scoring 195. You can also see no correlation between the result and other indicators of the innings: control%, strike rotation, runs per wicket or runs per over. Boundaries was a slight indicator of success with both games where more than 15 boundaries score resulted in a win.

So, a side note here: While it is helpful to understand ball-park figures, it’s clear that there is no help from relying on target scores. Opposition can chase down more and fail to chase fewer runs.

Breaking down the innings highlights shows the tactical approach:

phaserpo2018.jpg

On average, after a brisk opening, the score accelerates from 66-2 from 20 to 103-3 from 30, 149-5 from 40 to finish on 217. The pattern of acceleration can also be seen in rate of scoring shots and boundaries.

AveSSandboundaries2018.jpg

How does this break down to individual batsman?

batfirstaverages.png

These are the top scoring batsman, setting a target. You can see Seashot, Abacus and Mayor were the set-up men (going at under four per over) while Kodak, Northflood, Cobra and Bluecall all played increasingly attacking roles up to nearly 5.5. Lower order batsman Bridge and Winter also chipped in with 110 runs between them.

The batsmen who attack more also have a higher RpSS (Runs per Scoring Shot). The batsmen who defend more tend to try and rotate the strike to make up the difference. The difference in style between, say, Bluecall and Abacus is clear.

This also throws out some interesting individual development points. Northflood has a high RpSS (2.26) but plays fewer shots than Abacus (1.49). This suggests more of Northflood’s attacking shots go for boundaries, and Abacus rotates the strike better. The two could perhaps learn from each other about their difference of approach.

You can also start to see the seeds of an issue: 64% of runs off the bat were scored below a useful rate. Seashot and Abacus are the extreme examples of this: averaging 25 runs per game below the rate needed to get past 216 as a team. Even when you combine the efforts of Kodak, Cobra and Bluecall going at a faster rate, they are unable to catch up.

The solution?

Make up the difference. Ask attacking batsmen score more quickly and have set up batsmen face fewer dots. Or have more attacking batsmen. Either way, it’s a greater intent to score.

We can see this in action in some specific games:

  • West vs Clydesdale.

  • West vs Meigle.

  • Stirling vs West.

In the first game West scored 213 runs off the bat (the rest in extras). The top six scored 197 in 287 balls (4.11 per over). Abacus top scored with 75. He came in an expected set up position: 63-2 from 15 overs (about -7 on Runs Added) thanks to the work of Seashot, Mayor and Northflood.  

Abacus’ Runs Added chart reveals an innings of three parts: slow first 70 balls, acceleration by strike rotation for 16 balls and a big finish. This is expected and, in many ways, classic batsmanship. You can also see there is still room for additional runs without additional risk.

RAAbacus.jpg

Runs Added (or R+) is a way of measuring batting performance compared to the average batsman in the league. Higher the number, the more runs the batsman has added. You can see from the above, most of the innings the R+ was in minus numbers between -9 and -5. Then there was a jump up to around -2 for a few balls before some boundaries took the final analysis into the black.

As a comparison, West’s Scottish Cup game Meigle was very different:

RAMeigle.jpg

The innings was dominated by two attacking batsmen. This slice of the innings is when or the other was in. The R+ hovered around 0 for about 70 balls before quickly moving up to over +20. At peak it was over +47 and the final score was 263. If it had been a league game, it would have been the 10th best score of the season.

There is one more innings to compare:

RAStirling.jpg

This is Stirling’s entire innings against West at Stirling. As you can see, it is far more classical in approach, sitting at minus for the first third, having a small jump up in the second third and then a fast acceleration to the end where 122 runs were score in 94 balls. The final score was 263.

The key point with both these latter innings is the slow portion was less slow and the final push was greater than West managed.

So, there is an opportunity for West to better balance the tactical approach. Either with a Meigle style attack through the innings, or the more traditional build to a final push style done with more pace.

That is a tactical decision for the captain and batting unit to consider and practice over the winter, but as the evidence suggests, it is something that is possible with the right batsmen and mindset.

In the next part we will examine the batting collapses of the season to try and prevent future ones.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
IMG_4624.JPG

Over the last couple of years I have produced a season review for the 1st XI of the club I coach: West of Scotland Cricket Club.

Here is 2016 and here is 2017.

2018 will be more detailed again, as I gathered more information than ever before. I will post it all here for you to see. This time it's at the highest level of club cricket in Scotland: Premier Division.

As a result, it's hard to take performances from last year into this year. For example, the first target score batting first last year was 173. This year it was 216 (and it turned out to be a good summer for batting). However, as a reminder, here were the thing we were looking at from the last two seasons in Division One:

  • Maintain wicket-taking consistency in the face of much better batsmen.
  • Improve chasing with the bat.
  • Improve run scoring batting first.
  • Get more direct hit run out attempts.
  • Take more catches.
  • Get a feel for what is required to play at the higher level.

Over the next few articles, I will delve into these questions and many more and come up with my plans for 2019.

As an overview, West finished in 6th place in the Division. The XI won six and lost eight games: Two wins were setting a target and four wins chasing. This is against the general trend of the league, which saw a roughly even split (51%-49%) between setting and chasing.

In the next article I will examine the batting performance when setting a target.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I had an interesting chat yesterday about how you plan and implement a junior training programme. As we discussed it, I found myself saying one thing above all others:

"We need to know why."

That's my shorthand way of asking about a whole bunch of factors that go into a plan beyond the practicalities of coaching cricketers. Asking "why?" is a simple question but the answer gives you the culture, the aims and goals, and the indicators of success.

Unless everyone knows and agrees why, how can you be sure you did well?

Unless everyone knows and agrees why, what will stop you pulling in different directions?

When it comes to kids training, understanding why works in two directions:

  1. Coaches can coach based on clear aims and be measured on how they did. Results are better.
  2. Players can be coached with a clear mind on why they turn up every session. Performance and behaviour is better.

With a clear purpose being driven home relentlessly by everyone (including the players), you become more successful.

So, before you get into the nitty-gritty of actual coaching, make sure you know why. It will help you in the long run.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
 Proper planning prevents poor performance! Partick win the Greenwood Trophy

Proper planning prevents poor performance! Partick win the Greenwood Trophy

The season is drawing to a close, and a few very sensible cricket people have been in touch with me about winner sessions. But without a plan, those sessions will be wasted.

So, if you have any ambition to do well in 2019, now is the time to start planning your off season. Good planning leads to helpful practice leads to more runs and wickets!

With this in mind, I'm offering a planning session (either in-person or online) with any cricketer at any level . If you take this up before 3rd September 2018 you can get it for just £10.

What I can help with:

  • Reviewing your season and identifying strong and weak areas: Technically, tactically, mentally and lifestyle.
  • Deciding what kind of training will help you best over the next eight months leading up to the 2019 summer.
  • Spotting potential opportunities to add extra "bang for your buck" and spot any individual barriers to improvement.
  • Give you an ear to voice you frustrations and fears.
  • Providing a comprehensive plan to cover the period up to Christmas, or into the spring.
  • A net session (if local to Glasgow).

To get into this, message me on 07736320337 or coach@david25.com. Remember, it's £10 up to 3rd September, and it's on a first come first served basis.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
 West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow

West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow

We all love to talk about rotating the strike more. About letting the opposition bowl too many dots. About controlling the game. It's easy to mention off hand. 

But, what does effective strike rotation look like?

To give you a benchmark, Most teams in the WDCU Premier Division, where I coach, score from a third of the balls they face. Not as many as you thought perhaps? 

Generally, the team I coach - West of Scotland - are good at it compared to the opposition. West score from, on average, eight more balls than our opponent. There is a higher Scoring Ball Percentage (SB%) in half of the matches so far this season, with about two thirds won. So, while it's not a perfect indicator of success, it certainly helps.  

But to really improve strike rotation, we need to work out what we are missing, if anything

What runs are really missed?

Any ball can be a dot, rotated for runs or hit for a boundary. Clearly the optimal is to hit six from every ball. Even more clearly this is so astronomically unlikely as to be impossible.

What is more realistic?

Hitting a boundary is still a better result because you get more runs, but it is also riskier: Attacking shots like a pulls, drives or cuts will score 22 runs per wicket at 2.3 runs per shot. Rotational shots like glances, pushes and flicks get you 54 runs per wicket but at a much slower 1.4 runs per shot. That means there is balance to be made. A rotation could be a positive or a negative: An extra 1.4 runs (instead of a dot) or 0.9 runs missed (instead of a boundary).

So, to see how well we rotate, we need to look how many runs we score with:

  1. A shot that was not intended for the boundary (hitting it to long off for a single for example).
  2. A shot that was in control (not an edge or miss hit).

It's the number of these balls we are trying to increase.

In over 3000 balls this season, The XI have done this 626 times: 48 per game. In comparison, the opposition average 40 per game. So West are ahead again.

However, the better question is not "how often does this happen?", but "how many runs do we miss"?

  • There have been 2189 dots so far this year.
  • There have been 442 controlled attacking shots played that did not go for a boundary (although 65% of those balls got some runs).
  • There have been 407 controlled rotational shots played that were dots.

In other words, a potential 43 rotated runs were "missed" on average per game. That's not including the 27 extra missed runs from attacking shots as well.

Of course, this is an optimal figure. No one will ever really score from every controlled shot played; there's too many external factors. Like good fielding.

But when you know what you could have won, you can have confidence you can sneak a little bit more.

An additional six extra balls rotated would get you eight more runs a match. An additional six balls that were attacked and scored from would get 14 runs (one or two in boundaries). 

Two overs more for 22 runs sounds good to me!

And how do you do that?

Forget the stats: It's about intent

All those stats can't help you much in the middle. What they can do is give you confidence for a simple philosophy: You look to score from more balls.

Coaches call this intent to score: The idea you are looking to find a way to score from every ball. A bad one might be a boundary, a good one might be rotated.

The point is, knowing there are a lot of wasted chances every game can give you the confidence to look for them.

We all play and miss, edge the ball or miss hit it. We may do it a bit more if we are looking to push on. But these stats show there are a lot of missed runs in every game even when you take out those poor shots.

It might look like a tiny insignificant improvement to score from 12 more balls, but not only is it possible, it also makes winning significantly more likely.

Just from a bit of intent.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
"Batting in the easy net, or having throw downs that are half volleys, or even putting the bowling machine on hitting half volleys for half an hour. These aren’t going to make you better... the key to becoming a better player is to make training tough and to get out of your comfort zone."

Joel Hamilton is right

It's not a new message, yet how many players still go into a net with no clear plan, and come out with no clear idea of what's happened?

Quite a few!

This year at my club I have noticed people saying "you need to come to nets" after we lose. It's an easy thing to say, but if you come to nets and fail to challenge yourself in areas you need to improve (either making strengths stronger or reducing weaknesses) guess what happens?

Nothing!

The route to success is paved on all sides with failures. Seek them out and learn from them.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

 

 

"In recent times, [England]... knew their numbers, they were precise. They had their theories. Three maidens leads to a wicket. If a player in your top three scores a ton in an ODI game, you’ll generally win. It’s a mindset of conservative trust in your plans and in pre-determined patterns of play prevailing. Sam Curran, and particularly his display in this match, couldn’t be further from that era... Today at Edgbaston he showed he’s a gambler, and he broke the Test right open."

Sam Curran swinging England back into a Test match is a great story. But it's this above quote I'm interested in. The dicotomy set up is trusted plans versus confident gambling. And it's clear CricViz prefer the latter.


But how different are the two options?


You can have a plan that is based on precision and conservative trust and also be able to take a risk based on a hunch. To me they are not in opposition.


It's a little like driving. Here in the UK - where roads are among the safest - there are strict rules that allow you to get to your destination safely and efficiently. If you ignored those rules totally (running red lights, driving the wrong side of the road, breaking the speed limit and so on) in the hope of getting somewhere more quickly, you would likely have an accident. Reckless abandon is not a good solution in any situation. At best, you get away with doing something silly.


On the other hand, if you stick to the letter of the Highway Code totally, you will sometimes find yourself in situations that slow you down. Unusual road layouts, or safe overtaking for example, mean you have to "break the rules" to remain safe and efficient. This is mindful execution of skill. You are not shackled by premeditation. You are still largely following a plan, you are just adapting to changing situations as you go.


Remind you of batting?


I'll give you an example. You are driving on a two lane road in traffic that seems to be getting heavy up ahead. From the way the traffic moves, you get a sense for needing to change lanes early. If you wait too long you end up slowing everyone down by changing lanes in heavy traffic. But you can't be sure a lane change so early will be helpful yet. Your instincts just tell you it's time to go and you make a decision in the moment. Get it right and you reach your destination sooner. In cricket, you can have a similar sense. A bowling change brings on someone young who looks nervous. You can't be sure, but you think this could be the player to take a chance at attack. You make a decision in the moment. Get it right, and your chase looks confident as you blaze past the target.


In other words, there is room for both safety in a well-established plan, and an instinctive breaking from the plan in the moment.


To return fully to cricket, you could argue Curran took too many risks and just got lucky. He seemed to run a few red lights! Yet, more important than the level of risk, he clearly felt able to make a decision and go with his own way.


As coaches, our job is to create an environment where this can happen. There will be rules and theories and plans. Yet, there will also be a feeling of "trust your gut". If a player feels the situation requires something outside the plan, they must feel able to try.


In Curran's case, it worked. In many other cases it will not. It almost doesn't matter.


As long as the player can walk off the park - performed or failed - with their head high saying "that was my plan" then there are no recriminations from the team, the captain or the coach. That's a great culture, great mindset, great team spirit and a team with a good chance of success.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe



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Recently, we had a middle practice with a range of players at different standards from juniors to established first team cricketers.


I have written before about why I prefer middle practice over nets. The short summary is this: Practice is more realistic. Decision making expands from pure shot selection into calling and running, batting in game context and a feeling of pressure.


But alongside this huge benefit are issues. Players tend to switch off after a few overs. There is a wide range of standards that need matching up. Players don't all treat it like a game so don't feel the benefits.


These issues used to frustrate me. I used to get annoyed when players didn't "buy in" to the practice. In all honesty, I do still get a bit annoyed, but now I ignore that annoyance and see every reaction as an opportunity to learn more about the players I coach and hopefully engage them in discussion about how to improve.


This last session was a great example. Some of the things I observed:


A player taking charge of running the session, especially guiding the juniors, showing great leadership potential, and a strong personality.


The players self-organising after some pushing by me into middle practice. I suggested some rules, they customised them to match their needs and got on with it.


Some players not engaged with the session unless they were actively involved in batting or bowling. I observed this was a consequence of a certain mindset (not wanting to field).


Other players coming up with suggestions to improve things and add more critical moment feeling to the session. This shows the importance of reflection both in the moment and after the session is over.


One of the key points for me I tried to get to the players was that you get as much from these kind of sessions as you put in. If you think it's going to be rubbish then it will be. If you focus on working on key things you can't get from nets (running, bowling to a field, batting to a target) you will get something.


Whatever happens, all player responses are a chance to learn: What they think about practice, how they behave in a training environment, what inspires them, what bores them and what choices they make in the moment.


From here you can reflect with them. How can we get to a place where we can improve the things we need to improve? In the moment, did we do what was best?


Perhaps that does need the occasional "you are doing this" from the coach if the players don't self organise in the way they have previously said they want to. But the dream outcome is the players realising and adjust within and between themselves. That way they are using this struggle to learn and improve. That takes space for action, space for errors (in behaviour as well as performance) and time for reflection.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Recently, I was in a conversation with some passionate coaches, talking about parent helpers. The general gist of the chat was; 

”They are great to help but they don’t actually do any coaching. We need to have a coach or experienced player at junior games so they can tell the kids what to do.” 

Contrary to popular belief, that’s not coaching. If anything, it’s the opposite. By telling kids the answers they never learn to be creative, adaptable, problem-solvers on the pitch. They rely on advice from on high. Advice that may or may not work!

(In fact, later in the same conversation one coach was bemoaning a dad who was offering terrible advice to his son. Not all advice is equal!) 

I prefer an approach called “The Way of the Silent Coach”. It’s not really silent, but it does have far less telling, far more questioning and far more building an environment where players feel comfortable to work it out themselves. Albeit under my guidance and questioning. 

Click here to read more about it.

There are many critics to this way. I was one of them for a long time. So, I appreciate the arguement. Telling a kid what to do can be super effective. Sometimes you need to do that, but it’s a lot less often than you think.

Why? Because people love having space to play, try things, fail, try again and keep going. That’s partially why computer games are so popular. We have freedoms in those games away from people telling us what to do and how to do it. We play, learn and play again.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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I will be running West of Scotland Cricket Club's coaching camps this summer. The camps are ideal for activity-loving boys and girls aged between 9-16.

The camps run on the following weeks:

  • July 9-13
  • August 6-10

For full details contact me here.

The action-packed camps are all day cricket activity sessions come rain or shine. The emphasis of the camps are to help keen is challenging and fun sessions with the West coaching team.

The team also includes Trevor Garwe, Zimbabwe International.

West's unique indoor cricket centre means we can keep busy even when it's raining. The centre is equipped with all the tools to improve batting (bowling machine, sidearm ball throwers) and bowling (PitchVision video analysis and ball tracking).

When the sun shines we can work outdoors on all skills. The coaching and technology on hand in unrivalled anywhere in Glasgow (and far beyond)!

Either way, a week at West is guaranteed to improve your cricket, and be very enjoyable!

Camps are £150 for the full week.

The camps are open to all young players from any club, and are ideal for junior Western Warriors players and hopefuls to make the next step in the game.

For full details and to book contact me here.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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Julien Wood - power hitting coach - was passionately telling the coaches stood around him that cricket is changing. I was in the crowd at the Cricket Scotland Coaches Forum for a session with the six smashing expert.


Before we touched a bat in the practical session, we learned why this stuff is important. Because everyone loves being able to clear the ropes. Because kids love to try and wack it. Because T20 is the biggest format.


We all accepted this quickly.


But there is a question.


If hitting is not batting (and it isn't), how and when do you introduce it to players?


Hitting defies the "basics" in many ways. It's premeditated. You don't lead with head, you don't keep a straight bat or a high elbow.


You get the hands up high and away from the body in the backswing.


Your hip comes through first.


Sometimes you use your wrists for power.


Sometimes you are not even balanced (although you can be).


These things are hitting and so in direct conflict with batting.


So when little 10 year old Jessica turns up to try cricket, when is the time to develop batting, and when is the time to go with power?


The trick is not to think of power hitting as different, but additional.


You learn to power hit just like you would learn to drive, cut, pull and sweep. It's not an exact comparison because "power hitting" is not a single shot, but a set of adaptable skills. Nevertheless, you give it a go at practice, you see how it goes. You hone and enhance it based on your own way of moving.


For Jessica, that means saying "hit it as hard as you can!" And letting the fun do the rest.


For those a bit older, it means practice on the technical and the decision-making elements: How and when you go for the ropes.


But you can hit the ball straight along the ground too.


Some will gravitate naturally to big hitting. You can spot them a mile off as they swing themselves off their feet when they miss! Encourage better direction of the energy. Hone and enhance the natural.


Some will prefer to play the percentage game: Straight, along the ground, balanced. They will play that way first, but encourage them to learn the other way. It gives them an option. Grow their skills.


After all, everyone - even the biggest blocker - will have their moment where they want to hit rather than bat (six to win off the last ball), so give it a go. It's not a conflict, it's an enhancement to cricket.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
...my eagerness to get the run was in part based on a sense of entitlement, as if the fact that I deserved at least one for this shot, which would have gone for four if it hadn’t hit the fielder’s leg, was more relevant to right action than where the ball actually went.

Mike Brearley writing about being run out after playing a good shot.

This sums up a huge challenge of coaching batsmen: You can’t see a player’s sense of entitlement. If you are not aware of the possibility of invisible forces on batsmen, you might do extra running practice with the team. Sprint work for more speed, better judgement of runs and so on. While all this is helpful, it’s not the root of the issue. 

Working on invisible skills - thoughts and feelings -  is not easy to do in nets. Players mostly do not even realise its happening and seek out technical, tactical or even blame-based answers.

That’s why a good coach can also tease out more from a player than surface level excuses and justifications.

And that takes huge skill and expertise far beyond technical awareness.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Performance is a behaviour not an outcome.

That’s a line I have heard a few times, but until recently it didn’t fully click with me. It sounds like a sound bite with no real substance. Yet, looking back over some of my frustrations as a coach in the last three years, I have realised that it’s almost always behaviours at the root.

  • Players who are not bought into training.
  • Disengaged players who don’t want to do the activities I plan out.
  • Youngsters who are disruptive.
  • Team mates who ignore poor behaviours and complain about it behind each other’s backs.
  • Cricketers who show no sign of learning new skills despite trying it many times over.

And as that’s the case, I decided to get my “behaviour development” game on point with the players I coach. If the theory is correct, the outcomes should follow the behaviours. And I think it is, so I’m going to put more focus on it.

Here is my plan.

 

“How we do things here”

Last year, in conjunction with the senior players at West, we developed a Code of Conduct. It was a written set of standards that we all agreed were important in defining what we stand for as a cricket club. How we do things round here.

It crystallised what we expected of each other and what was most important. If we act like the code, we are at our best. If we don’t, we hold each other accountable.

The challenge is to keep this a real, living reference and not just an inspirational poster on the wall that means nothing. I think we can do better on that by first, reviewing it to make sure it still applies, and second, reinforcing it as much as possible.

For this I plan to pinch a trick from Mark Bennett: Asking players before practice and games and to define today’s acceptable, exceptional and unacceptable behaviour. Then relentlessly use the “rule of three” to ensure those standards are met every time we are together.

If they are consistently not met, we need to get together to adjust the standards.

This is the part where I have fallen down in the past. I have gone through anger and frustration through to acceptance that I can’t control player behaviours. Of course, this is still true, but where I can do better is to help the players realise they have a choice. They can define their own behaviours. All I need to do is remind them of their own standards when they forget to apply them.

My big question is how will this apply across the different players I coach. I have one to ones, small groups, club nets, school kids in a range of ages in PE lessons and pathway squads. Can the same model apply across the board? I’ll find out as I try.

This is especially a question around players who don’t buy in despite my efforts.

In many cases (school, club) I don’t have the luxury of removing players from the system if they refuse to fit. I can’t drop a schoolgirl from a PE lesson because she doesn’t like the culture. I can’t stop a player turning up to club nets because he is half-hearted in his training.

Yes, I can try and engage them with a relentless application of agreed standards. That will work for some. For others, they will both continue to attend and continue to be disengaged. I’ll be interested to see how many and how I deal with it.

That said, here’s the basic formula in a nutshell:

  • Identify and agree overall standards.
  • Agree acceptable, unacceptable and exceptional behaviour at every opportunity.
  • Use the Rule of Three to relentlessly apply these standards.

We often lump all behaviours into the one aim of reducing unhelpful behaviour in kids. This is one part, but behaviours are more. They are how we act at all times, and so also what we do when we are at our very best. These days a coach can’t enforce those behaviours on those we coach, but we can show our players how much we refuse to let them be at anything but their best by helping them hold themselves up to the highest standards as defined by themselves.

That’s why I’m doing this. The proof will soon make itself obvious!

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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The Preseason Cricket Performance Camp is running during the Easter break, taking full advantage of the indoor training facilities at West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow.

The camp, designed for hard ball cricketers to boost their form before the season begins, runs all week from 9th-13th April. 

Due to space, places are limited.

The camp is suitable for all ages of cricketer from 14 to senior player; anyone who has the aim of improving skills with bat and ball before the season begins.

Sessions are coaching intensive with lots of drills and skill work to take your game to the next level against challenging opposition.

The latest coaching tools are used such as PitchVision video analysis, Sidearm ball throwers, bowling machine and fielding equipment.

The indoor nets at West are the venue, and if weather allows, training will also be outside.

  • Sessions run daily 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm.
  • The cost is £20 per session or £75 for a block of five sessions (lunch not included).

Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. To book or if you have further queries, contact me here

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

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Planning is about realism, but also needs a pinch of idealism.

This is the conclusion I have come to during my recent planning of summer training for West of Scotland Cricket Club. The recent snow and cancelled sessions have got me in planning mode, as I have done for the last three summers at West.

I used to plan based on the ideal: It won’t rain much, most people will attend most sessions, match availability will be abundant, everyone will want to do exactly what I plan when I plan it. Players are happy to try new ways of training. There will be as much energy at the end of the summer as there is in April. This wasn’t realistic.

Now I plan based on these key variables: 

  • Give as many players as possible as many chances as possible to play under match conditions. However, availability for training and matches will be wildly varied.
  • Players prefer to play games than come to training, and most will choose matches over training. 
  • Training is well attended for the first few weeks, tails away as midweek matches start (West are in five midweek competitions and a Sunday cup), has a short recovery in July before tailing away to virtually nothing by the end of August.
  • Home midweek games and rain need different sessions to “normal” sessions.
  • Every playing member will get the chance to train, but those more open to being pushed at training will get more attention. Coachable players get coached!
  • Many players love the default (nets and fixed fielding drills with high volume) and rarely engage with anything else. This is especially true when deciding what to do as a group.

With these constraints, I have build a plan that is flexible. It looks complicated because it has so many options, but in reality, I will just pick the most suitable one and run with it. It’s realistic and idealistic.

Realism isn’t an excuse for pessimism though. In the past I have let the failures of sessions get to me and we end up in “default net” mode because players were not engaged with the session. Perhaps that was my fault, perhaps the players were not coachable enough that day. Whatever the reason, these things happen. My goal for the year is to work as hard as possible to inspire people to be better than the default. With that in mind, my big focus for changes to training is,

  • Building team spirit and improvement mindset into sessions as well as games.
  • Bringing training closer to matches.
  • Offering constraints-led drills and skill work, especially in the field.

Of course, these are ideals and not every box will be ticked at every session. That said, the more I can convince players do these things, the better it will be for the club. For example, I know a lot of players tend to dislike middle practice. However, also know well-run centre wicket work is one of the best ways to develop form and decision making skills.

That means I’ll try to do it as much as possible but need to understand the conditions need to be right. We need a practice wicket and the right number of players at the right standard. We need buy in from those participating, and an understanding it will be a lower volume session (which is OK). We need good weather and no home game that night. If these elements align, the session may still fail (unforeseen lack of attendance, snap shower, players not fully bought in). Or it may work like a charm and we all get something from it.

The point is, it’s my job to try, review and try again.

As a result, my plan is flexible but looking to stretch those who want to be stretched. It fights against the default “just hitting balls” mindset, but is also aware sometimes that’s the best you can do. My ideal is West are better than the default, my realism means I’m ready for when we are not. I’ll always strive to push West onward though, and this plan is the foundation of that realistic ideal. 

If you want more details about the planning process for club cricket, drop me a line for a chat. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

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Pace coach Steffan Jones recently said net bowling “is of no benefit to the pace bowler”.


While I broadly agree, I also think it’s a problem that is not easy to solve. Mainly because bowlers want to bowl in nets. Most bowlers love to bowl. They have relatively few chances, so when they get a session they tend to bowl as long as possible.


As a coach you can monitor this, but only in your sessions. What if the bowler you coach works with others? What if they go to nets with their mates and just bowl for hours because they are having fun? This happens all the time.


It’s the slightly older version of running a session with six year olds with clever designed warm up, session goals and cool down only to see them run back onto the outfield for two more hours after you finish.


Steff’s solution is great: heavy and light bowling days, combined with properly organised nets where bowlers bowl in spells that reflect game time. I encourage all coaches to build sessions like this. I’d love to see it. I also know that it is never going to happen outside my sessions. Certainly not at club or school level.


I think the best we can do as coaches is to build environments where players can work with these solutions, try them out and see how they work. We can structure sessions effectively to show players a useful path.


I think we can build a culture in the teams we coach of care for the fast bowler. We can help the team understand their own bowlers needs, and work to make sure they are met as well as possible.


But we must also remember that bowlers gonna bowl when the coaching shackles are off: Especially if they are kids, or adults with no intention of playing professionally. Bowling is fun, a way of letting off steam and a way to challenge themselves. They ask themselves, why would they bowl less or in such a restrictive way?


I’m not knocking Steff, he’s doing great work in a specific environment where he has more control and can do more like this. But I do wonder even in the most controlled situations, do all players stick totally to the plan?


Players certainly don’t stick to any plan I try for long. My conclusion after years of trying is to unclench. By all means, try it, but don’t panic if it turns out to be rejected by the players. It may work brilliantly, it may not. Only the players can decide what works for them because they are the only consistent presence in their game development.


I know some coaches will argue we know best so players should listen. I used to argue that too. Personally, I can’t hold that worldview any longer. Not with any integrity. For me it came for a place of ego and a need to control things I can’t control. For me it came from an impossible idea; that one coach can have total influence over a group of players. For me, I have realised that is impossible. For me it also came from a deep fear: If the coach can’t instruct any more, what is the job of the coach at all? Are we all just snake-oil salesmen?


Of course not.


Knowledge is still power, but I think it’s less useful for coaches than it was before because knowledge is so easy to obtain these days.


Real coaching helps players get the best from themselves not through pouring knowledge into cricket player jugs. It comes from building great relationships, mindsets, cultures and environments where players feel comfortable to build, fail and build again. That’s way more complex and difficult to grab than telling players what to do based on the latest research.


But from my viewpoint, it’s the only thing that gives you a chance to be a great coach.


And this was supposed to be an article about session design for bowlers. Sometimes you need to look deeper.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe