I’m always searching for ways to improve club cricket net practice. The challenge is engaging players at the right level. This game is one I came up with after realising an area we rarely practice.

The net game was simple: Score as may “fives” as possible.

Of course, it’s impossible to do this perfectly, but we made some simple rules to encourage the batsman to rotate the strike after hitting a boundary: My most adored five.

In the net, batsmen bat in pairs, bowlers bowl in turn. Cones are set out to mark gaps in the field and batsmen rotate when they hit the gap. Pretty normal so far.

Here’s the variation:

  • If the batsman hits a four (by their own judgement), the same bowler must bowl another ball.
  • If the batsman rotates - as above - they get to record a successful five.
  • The pair with most fives at the end wins.

Simple, but effective at working on a specific goal without taking players too far out of their expectations of a net. This was good for the University guys I coach because they are not super focused on performance, but still care enough to want to come to nets. This drill finds a nice balance between focus and “having a go”.

Try it, adapt it. Let me know what you think!

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Here's a drill I came up with on the fly. Originally I came across this idea for helping bowlers who bowl off the wrong foot to get a feel for timing their landing.

One day, a spinner asked me if I had an ideas for helping him brace and pull better against the front side of the body. It was a timing issue the same as bowling off the wrong foot. We tried this drill and it instantly got more spin and a feeling of power through the action. Great teamwork!

I share it for others to try.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

All coaches have limited time with people. Naturally we want the best ways to help them improve. The instinct is to start telling players what to do. So, every new coach is taught not to bombard players with information. Even the most coachable take in one or two points at most. 

I think in reality that is a hopelessly optimistic view. 

My guess is that it is more like one point in a hundred that gets through.

I think a two-way method is a lot more effective. There is less telling and more trying. This makes coaching a process of self-discovery by the cricketer, guided by the coach during a session.  When the player is building their own solutions they are more likely to be able to access them in the heat of a cricket match.

Of course, all this requires a certain frame of mind from the players and coach.

Coachable cricketers

"Coachable" does not mean listening to your every instruction. It means they are aware of your knowledge, open to discussion, ready to try some things out and are mindful of the results. Every coach wants a player like this to coach.

Recently, another coach I trust mentioned coachability varies; both between and within players. You always get the stubborn players who have their way. You also get the players who just want to be told what to do. My favourite variation of this type is the person who want to be told, doesn’t listen to the answer they asked for and blames the coach for not helping (yes, this has happened to me).

None of these responses are coachable.

You also get players who get the idea quickly, buy into the method and put the work in with focus and mindfulness. These are the golden coachable players.

However, people are fickle. Depending on things like mood and time we can be more or less coachable. It can even be as simple as being a morning person or an evening person. Your brain is ready when it’s ready.

This has been a revelation to my coaching.

When I struggled to help more difficult types, I switched my thinking from “this player can’t be coached” to “this player is not coachable right now”. Instead of giving up, I spend time trying to work out what will help get people into that coachable mindset.

I have spent almost entire one-to-one hours talking to some players who prefer to do their thinking through chat. I’ve also done nothing with players other than throw a lot of Sidearm at them while they work things out by doing. Mostly it's trying to find a balance.

I’ve made the most of times when people are “on” and I’ve even abandoned the odd session when individuals are “off”. Of course in a group setting you have to get through it, but I often find myself dropping back to something that’s silly and fun instead of worrying too much about coaching people in an disengaged frame of mind.

Find that place where people are most coachable.

Lights on coaching

Occasionally, you’ll click into sync with a player or a group. The lights go on. The session flows seamlessly with fun, engagement and learning at full blast. 

They happen rarely because everyone needs to be in the right frame of mind. That said, I’m convinced you can have an influence as a coach with your language and behaviour.

I go in with energy, enthusiasm and determination. I get the feel for the room and adapt my language and behaviour to try and guide everyone to the light switch. I hope my chimp brain doesn’t sabotage me too much by putting me in a bad mood. We have all been there.

Sometimes everyone comes with you. The curtain goes up and the lights come on.

Mostly it’s fine without being great.

You just have to get through those days. You can't win every session. Sometimes, despite your valiant efforts nobody learns anything. Don't beat yourself up. People are amazing, frustrating, wonderful and different to you.

Keep searching to get everyone in the coachable mindset. Keep working to keep yourself in that adaptable frame of mind so anyone who is coachable can get coaching.

It’s really the only option.

For me, I coach better when I let my ego fall away and focus on doing my best every time despite what I get back. I know sometimes I will fail. I’m a human. I know sometimes those I coach won't pick up what I put down. They are human. But when my lights are on, and everyone I’m coaching is the same, we make some magic cricket.

What’s your perspective?

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

With the season looming, time is running out to build up your form. Take advantage of half-term with a three day preseason camp that's guaranteed to boost your skills.

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AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

We live in an Information Age. Data can be gathered on iPads. Everyone has an HD video camera in their pocket. You can spend a lot of money on gadgets that claim to use data to give you the edge. 

None of it is cricket coaching. 

However, it does have the power to inform the coach, who can deliver better coaching as a result. Computers are amazing at gathering huge amounts of information and sorting it into piles and patterns. Human beings are amazing at interpreting and translating this huge mass of ones and zeros into something tangible. Why would we not do it

Analysing data certainly informs coaching.

I have been using data with the teams I coach for years in some way or another. Here’s some of the things I found that have informed how I coach players: 

Like coaching, there is an art as well as a science to analysing data, but if you can find useful data you can use coaching to find an edge. That's a really powerful tool available to a coach.

Perhaps even more powerful than basic advice that any player can find on YouTube these days?

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I'd like to turn your attention to a new podcast series I have produced with some of my cricket coaching friends:

You Are Not Alone Coach!

I have published four 16 minute shows, each on a different cricket coaching topic. Each one gives some practical advice on the subject of the show. It's designed to be quick while also giving some practical advice you can take to your next coaching session.

If you like it, let me know I can make more. There's plenty of topics and lots of my pals wanting a run at doing the show. Get the show here:

You Are Not Alone Coach!


(Or search for it in your podcast app of choice)

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
I shall be striving to create an environment in which they can find out what they are good at, hopefully discover their own solutions to the cricketing puzzles they will be presented with, where they can find themselves part of an emerging (social) community, and, most importantly, play the game.

And I shall certainly be striving them to find out what they are good at and helping them to get better at it.
— The Teesra

To me, these thoughts of Andrew Beaven made me think about the way kids learned to play cricket back in the old days: Free play in the park, street or playground.

Jumpers for goalposts, as the saying goes.

The world has changed a great deal since those days. We can no longer rely on players who arrive at sessions with a cricket instinct, passion and purpose honed from watching and playing the game informally with their mates.

We need to coach it.

It sounds counter-intuitive to those of us who grew up this way, but now it’s the job of the coach to build this lifelong passion and excitement. That means less formal stiffness and doing things “properly” and more informal, chaotic, laugh-out-loud fun.

When at the top of their game, a coach empowers people to do their own learning. And the only way - in my mind - to do that is to let go of structure and play the game as the raw problem-solving fun mess it was when we did it in the back yard with a tennis ball, a dustbin for stumps and special rules for when you hit the ball into the old ladies’ garden.

We can’t get back to those times, but we can tap into the core of what made them so great.

It’s my purpose to guide players towards their purpose at every session, whatever level of player I coach. While I can never be sure it will accelerate performance compared to other techniques, I can be sure it keeps them coming back for more.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

If you are a cricket coach, or you want some high-class coaching for your own game, get yourself onto my new mailing list. It's got exclusive content I will never post anywhere else!


When you get on the list, I'll directly send you regular exclusive cricket coaching emails. It’s as simple, easy and commitment-free as that.

I can’t promise you the secret to runs and wickets or the one tip to defeat your crippling technical issues.

What I can do is give you plain, honest advice from over 20 years experience coaching cricket. I can also promise not to bother you so often you get fed up with me.

You might also get a warm, happy feeling inside knowing you are not alone in your struggle.

I hope you like it and I hope you subscribe. I’ll do everything I can to get useful stuff to you in a simple way. And if you don’t like it? It’s one click to never hear from me again. I’m a coach, not an animal.

No gimmicks.

No magic

No jargon.

Just things I have found to work.

And the occasional bad joke (sorry, not sorry) .

Enter your email to see if you like it.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

I love a coaching tool and use many day to day. Yet the best one remains the Sidearm because it has allowed me to transform how I coach.

This isn’t a sponsored post. Although perhaps it should be. It’s more my personal story of the Sidearm and how it became an essential cricket coaching tool for me.

I first was given Sidearm by it’s inventor years ago before it was ubiquitous in county and international cricket. I thought it had potential and tried it out to the usual problem of being hopelessly inaccurate with it. I also was a big fan of the bowling machine at the time. It could feed accurately at a pace that challenged players so there was no huge incentive to learn a new skill. I kept it around without using it much.

In April 2015 I got the Head Coach job at West of Scotland. I decided it would be more useful in coaching sessions because it’s more flexible and quicker to set up than the bowling machine. I still wasn’t very good with it, so used it sparingly. I bowled a lot of short balls!

Come winter, I decided I preferred the Sidearm, in principle, to a bowling machine. It’s much closer to actual bowling; the batsman can see the release and action. I could send it down at a good lick (certainly faster than my average meds). The barrier of the machine was gone so I could coach more quickly with shouting over the top of the whirring.

The problem was, I was still terrible.

Fortunately, I had PitchVision, indoor nets and a willing player to bowl at through the winter. I bowled in excess of 60 overs between September and January, doubling my accuracy while increasing speed. It took the first few hundred to click, but the improvements were dramatic towards the end of this period. I was confident I could get the ball down the other end reasonably well.

Now I had a tool I could use. And a world opened up.

One to one coaching sessions changed from machine and throw down drills to open net style sessions based far more on a holistic approach to batting where we would work on building game sense and technical effectiveness over perfection. My style was leaning this way already, the Sidearm both made it possible to achieve and sped this process up.

I couldn’t have done it without the Sidearm.

Fast forward to this winter. I’ve bowled thousands of balls with a Sidearm and got much better again. I have also embraced a number of modern coaching touchstones; growth mindset, CLA and TGfU, athlete-centred and NLP. While I could focus on these things without the Sidearm, it would make life a lot harder. I’ve got good enough with it to recreate most types of ball a bowling machine can deliver, up to about 80mph on a good day (about 65 on average).

Here’s the benefits as I see them,

  • Built to match my style of working with a player unobstructed in an open net environment. (No fixed unopposed drills)
  • A more realistic, lower cost, more portable bowling machine (when you get good enough).
  • Allows bowlers a rest in team nets or middle practice as the coach or batsmen can bowl (even in pads).

In short, I strongly advise it’s worth putting in the effort to learn to throw. The biggest hurdle for most is the shame of bowling terribly with it while you learn. I get that, but power through by chucking some into an empty net when you get the chance. It took me about 450 balls (five hours or so) to feel OK about it. I suspect most people will need less time.

My coaching life would be significantly harder and I would be much less effective without the Sidearm. We have five at West and I encourage everyone to practice it, especially the non-bowlers. There are several Western Warriors who are working on it too. I am getting a few disciples.

I cannot recommend the tool enough. It’s invaluable.

Get one.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

There’s no easy answer for the coach who wants to know how to handle fast bowler workloads. Some say we should return to the days of bowling all the time. The ECB, meanwhile, sets tight directives on overs bowled.

Back in the day, fast bowlers bowled all day and didn’t do any specialist fitness work. These days we encourage bowlers into the gym.

Was this change right?

Or should we go back to the golden age of pace?

It’s unclear if bowlers were really fitter and faster in the old days, but let’s assume there were more pacemen with fewer injuries. Can we go back to those days?

I’m not sure we can, not without society changing.

Think back to when the West Indies dominated speed in the 80s. The conveyor belt of quick bowlers came about for various social-economic reasons: No computers or consoles. Getting about by running and walking rather than being driven. No formal coaching. Not much other sport to choose to play professionally, and a powerful internal cultural drive to prove to the world West Indian cricketers were the best. Playing on beaches with tennis balls. An approach to injury-prevention of saying “just walk it off”.

It was an environment build to create strong fast bowlers. One that is insanely hard to recreate in, say, modern Glasgow (where I coach). Cricket is one choice of sport in a world where playing sport often comes way down the list after playing Nintendo and watching Celtic or Rangers on the TV. Kids are provably weaker than local kids from 30 years ago and provably less likely to even try cricket, let alone want to bowl fast.

Even the ones who do play are on the field less thanks to weather and other things to do. When they do practice, they practice on hard indoor surfaces a lot, even in summer. A big chunk play no other sport.

If I was to apply the “just bowl more” principle to some of the 11-16 year old talented bowlers I coach in the Western Warriors I don’t know what would happen. I worry they would break down more, be more likely to quit the game and try to slow down to conserve energy. These guys are not Malcolm Marshall. Even they were lucky enough to have his talent, they don’t have his upbringing.

Of course, in spite of all this, I could tell them to bowl more and they might become stronger, faster and better.

The point is, I just don’t know. Neither does anyone else for sure. It’s all opinion.

And with a modern culture that rightly expects us to protect each other from needless injury, it’s difficult to take the risk.

Coaching fast bowlers

Where does this leave the coach?

Here’s my three broad ideas.

First understand the context of the fast bowlers you coach. What is their upbringing, what are their motivations, what other things are they into, how much of their bowling load can you control?

As we have learned, everything in a player’s life contributes to how much they can bowl.

Second, look at the individual needs of the player. Some will be more robust: They play multiple sports for example. These are the guys that can bowl more before they break down. Others will need to get stronger. That might mean greater amounts of gym work, OU weighted ball bowling and medicine ball chucking. It might also mean bowling less.

The ECB tried to make it clear by saying how much a player can bowl before their chance of injury goes too high. But this is always an average not a rule. Some will be stronger, some will not be as strong. We can test a million times and not have the ultimate answer that applies to everyone.

That means it’s more art than science. Play as safe as you can. Err on the side of bowler safety when someone is in your charge, but get a sense for how far you can push it too. You can push stronger bowlers harder. You can push bowlers with safer techniques harder too.

And that’s the third piece of this puzzle: Technique.

Many would argue it’s also the most important part. It’s certainly the part us humble coaches have most influence over. Helping a player build a sound technique on a strong, stable and mobile frame is one of the best ways to keep them bowling and therefore improving.

So, get super-good at knowing what a strong technique looks like and how to guide players towards it. If you know how to drill out lateral flexion and a mixed action, you are well on the road. If you know how to build Ian Pont’s four tent pegs, you are golden. Technically speaking.

This stuff is tough

Going back to the original question of “should bowlers bowl more and gym less?” I will opine that it depends.

It’s not as easy as saying bowlers should bowl more these days. Neither is it as certain to say talented pacemen should bowl less and spend more time lifting weights. It depends.

This stuff is hard. It requires skilful, experienced coaching, self-aware bowlers, and strong leadership and education from the ECB. Even then it would take a lot of luck to get the balance right every time.

Be confident when you coach fast bowlers because fortune favours the brave. But don’t expect to find a simple answer that works for everyone.

That’s why coaching is an art.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Personal Cricket Trainer Glasgow.png

Everyone knows about personal trainers for fitness: Now you can have your own personal cricket coach at an amazingly great value rate.

Personal cricket coaching is for those who want more runs, wickets and a bigger impact on games.

Yet, for most, extra coaching is not a realistic option. You can get nets at your club through your fees. If you are good, you get squad work for Western Warriors, Cally Highlanders, Eastern Knights or even Cricket Scotland.

This may be enough.

So why are you still frustrated?

Do you have specific issues and an unquenchable hunger for runs and wickets that all this coaching is not filling? Are you in a rut and you feel the right mentoring can push you up a level? Do you need more personal coaching?

One to one stuff is costly. I get that. You know it's worth it because you know the impact a great coach can have. It's frustratingly out of reach when you look at the hourly rates. Your goal may be to make it as a pro or just to do better on Saturday afternoon but whatever it is you can't justify spending out. Not when that new bat is on sale!

As a coach with over 20 years experience, I recognise this frustration in players like you. In all honesty, I felt it myself as a player. I knew I could have done much better with good coaching. Even now, when I coach some players for short periods I can see they want more but can't make the sums add up. It makes me angry when I see talent unfilled because of reasons unrelated to cricket. I know it does for you too.

Don't give up.

There's another way.

Cricket coaching anytime

I wanted to make things different.

I wanted to coach in a world where I am available to you as a personal coach, trainer and mentor without barrier. This is a world where your improvements are fast, measurable and long-lasting. It's a world where you are giving yourself the best chance of reaching your dreams, playing with control and confidence, and getting slapped on the back for playing well.

Maybe, whisper it, just maybe, reaching your potential and going all the way to the top.

That's why the Coaching Retainer exists.

For a much smaller cost - about the same as a gym membership - you get full access to a professional cricket coach and mentor. You get runs. You get wickets. You get to feel great.

When you get the Coaching Retaineryou have monthly access to your own personal cricket coach in Glasgow. This includes:

  • Four one-to-one cricket coaching sessions at the Indoor School in Glasgow.
  • Access to an exclusive group of players and coaches providing discussion and advice on the latest ways to play better cricket.
  • Online (or face to face) mental game mentoring to develop your toughness on the pitch.
  • Some of the best - and by best I mean worst - banter in Scottish cricket!

Not bad for £40.

That's £8.89 a week. £1.27 a day. Less than a cup of coffee from Greggs.

And I am much, much nicer than a coffee from Greggs, I can tell you from experience.

Isn't a better average, more success on the field and a chance to move up the ladder worth that?

Even better, you don't have to commit to more than a month. This is about helping you improve at the most realistic rate possible so I want you to feel great about it. Take a month to see how you like things.

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The "office": indoor cricket nets in Glasgow.

The "office": indoor cricket nets in Glasgow.

More coaching, better value, proven results

If you don't know me, you might question how I can help. You know coaching is good for your game, but you don't know if my coaching is right for you.

All I can tell you is my record. I have coached for over 20 years at club and rep level. I have been around the world thanks to my coaching, including Australia, India and South Africa. Players of all ages, men and women, beginners to current Internationals have worked with me. In my current role as Head Coach of West of Scotland, we won promotion to the WDCU Premier League. I am coaching Western Warriors U14-U16s this season too. Here's one testimonial from my Facebook page:

World class coaching. Great analysis, and also a top bloke!

I also tell really, really bad jokes and spend too much time finding cricket drills on YouTube. If this sounds like the kind of bloke you can work with, book a trial month now.

Cricket is a tough game, especially in Scotland. Together we can make it a little easier, a lot more fun and develop a huge chance for success on the field.

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AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
The point is that Loughborough, once it existed, had to do something. It was never going to maintain the status quo, or adopt a passive, non-prescriptive approach. Perhaps its greatest discovery has been that the game has a mystery that cannot be unravalled by throwing something like Loughborough at it. Some kid with a tapeball and an alleyway for a wicket will come up with a method that you can’t map, precisely because it has never existed before.
— The Old Batsman

This cuts to a much deeper problem in coaching. Science or instinct?

Does top down, planned and centralised coaching produce better players than tapeball in an alleyway? I am not sure it's an either/or and I know throwing out blame or attacking hard-working coaches is not the answer.

Science dominated the conversation for a long time. Loughborough was established as a response to Australia’s National Academy. The system from down under coincided with one of the most successful cricket teams of all time. No wonder England copied it. 

So did South Africa. So did India, the epitome of “jumpers for goalposts” player development. Despite recent arguments, there’s some evidence of top-down success. 

There's also plenty of scientists and coaches who will tell you that a model based on centralised planning is a terrible idea. Players develop best, they argue, when they are left to solve their own issues and deal with their own problems. There was a time the best way to find a fast bowler was to whistle for one down a Yorkshire coal mine. 

Right now a lot of people are saying how obvious it is that Australia won the Ashes because they had extra pace. The result has made this conclusion inevitable. But what if England had done something unexpected? The world of politics shows that nothing is inevitable. Trump was never going to be President. Brexit was never really going to happen. Until it happened.

Loughborough style planning can’t handle this. It can only look at what went before and try to emulate better. When it fails to produce 90mph bowlers for England we say it hasn’t done the job. If it had rolled out a few nasty pacemen we would call it a success. What we don’t question is whether 90mph bowlers are the answer.

Maybe pace is the answer. Maybe a central Academy can never find one because England can’t produce those players since the country stopped coal mining. The world has changed. Controlled science is fighting a losing battle.

Maybe instead of trying to copy better, England look to copy worse and come up with their own answer. Maybe there is a creative solution out there in England. The next step forward, the next switch hitter, the next mystery bowler. Loughborough will never unearth such a player because they are building from history not exploring the future.

It's no surprise that the countries with the least formal structures produces the wildest players: Pakistan and Sri Lanka with the West Indies in third. They are coming up with their own way.

The inconsistency of these countries shows that creative instinct is not the total answer of course. Neither is highly managed science. I think we need a little of both. Let the bird fly free and offer as much financial and high tech support as we can.

At my level - club and school - I am grappling with the balance too. If a kid I coach comes to me with a unique style, do I try to coach more "efficiency"? Perhaps. What is more likely is I will not see that kid enough to have an impact. Even the guys I coach most I see twice a week at best. Most I see far, far less. Besides, their aim is to play and have fun, not have the most efficient bowling action or put on 10mph. Context rules.

At every level of coaching, we are all doing our best to have a positive impact. Yet, no one coach can make a huge difference. Not even a system has total control because we can never fully control every aspect of a players culture, environment and upbringing.

Perhaps instead of trying to find blame, we work harder and smarter to find what works at the edges and admit to ourselves that there is plenty out of our control.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

One of the biggest challenges for cricket coaches is not the "how to" coach stuff, but the part where people enjoy the sessions. We want it to be less broccoli and more ice cream. Here's a vlog I did about my experiences.

Let me know what you think.

Put smiles on faces at your cricket coaching sessions!

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Nets without nets: A customised game to develop outdoor cricket batting skills. 

Nets without nets: A customised game to develop outdoor cricket batting skills. 

One of the challenges for me as a coach is to find creative ways to use indoor practice to help players reach outdoor cricket goals. Here’s a game we played with a group of Under 16 cricketers I hoped would do just that. I hope you can find a practical use for something similar. 

I wanted the players to “just play” with minimal coach input to encourage self-discovery (one of the key principles of the constraints-led approach I am building into my coaching). However, I didn’t want the players to have a traditional game of indoor cricket as the goal was to improve strike rotation in outdoor cricket. Instead we set up a game with five a side, 15 minutes per innings, with the following way to score points: 

Batting team points: 

  • 1 = Rotate the strike.
  • 3 = Lose no wickets for 5 “rotations” .
  • 4 = Hit the ball through target cones. 

Bowling team points: 

  • 1 = Batsman hits the ball into the wall without it bouncing.
  • 2 = Batsman is caught off the wall.
  • 3 = Batsman is caught, bowled, stumped or assisted run out.
  • 4 = Batsman is run out with a direct hit. 

The team with the most points after both innings wins the game.  

To keep the game moving we rotated the batsman around when a run was scored. The non-striker became the umpire while the umpire switched with one of the two waiting batsmen.  

The game was tight up until the penultimate ball, which also - hopefully - gave the players the feeling of performaing when something is on the result. 

From my point of view the game played out as hoped, with players working out tactics, making mistakes and enjoying the situational nature of the game. Some players wanted another round instead of moving to nets.

One player felt there were not enough balls faced. Although I disagree, he is the type of player who wants a lot of volume in his sessions. I need to do a better job of making the outcomes clear alongside making sure the “volume” guys get a bit of pure time on task. For me, not the most efficient use of time but for him an important way to build confidence. I am not sure he is right, but the only way he will learn for sure is by experiencing different training types.

Some  may also argue that there was no isolated technical work with all the focus on outcomes. I am currently highly convinced by the argument that there is no need to isolated batting technique outside of decision making. Action always follows a decision. So, for me, this was a technical session too in that players had to develop a technical method to perform in the match. I have not always though this, having been brought up on the ideal of isolated drills, so this is a new experiment. However, I never really had much luck trying to force a set technique on a player in isolation. Perhaps that is just poor coaching from me, or perhaps it’s because technique is more about outcome effectiveness than movement perfection.

What are your thoughts on using this type of game? Useful and practical or otherwise? 


AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence, this argument is not going away

It could be that modern coaching has moved too far away from the orthodoxies, as if the methods honed over decades of play, passed down in MCC manuals, don’t have a place in the modern game. There is, after all, a lot of talk about encouraging players to express themselves and play their natural way. But when five batsmen with such obvious flaws fail in such a short space of time, that looks less like a coincidence, and more like a pattern.
— Andy Bull

Look, I get the temptation to go back to the good old days when everyone was working towards a technique that was perfect. It’s the warm safety blanket of nostalgia. Simpler times when deep and ancient wisdom was passed down through The MCC Coaching Manual.

The problem is, this time never existed. 

When, throughout the rich history of cricket, has one master technique dominated the game? Not today, where coaches encourage players to develop their own solution. Not in the 70s, 80s, 90s or 00s when West Indians and Australians controlled international cricket with a variety of methods and techniques. Not in the 30s and 40s when Bradman set still unbeaten records with a technique that is still considered unorthodox. Not in Victorian cricket where Ranji invented a new shot called The Leg Glance and was seriously considered a cheat in many quarters for scoring off his pads in such a blatant way.

The MCC produced a manual in the 50s to help coaches and teachers have an easy reference guide. It was written by Harry Altham, an English Army Major who was educated privately. He was a fine coach by all accounts, but certainly did not carry the wisdom of the ages when writing it. It was written from one context: English Post-Colonial, Gentleman, Mid-century. It might or might not have been the only method in that context, but the evidence shows clearly it is wrong in most cases.

In fact, this was recognised by the MCC when the MCC Masterclass book - based on varied advice from different quarters - superseded this work in the 90s. There has not been an MCC manual since. Over 60 years since it's first incarnation and over 20 years since the last, we still cling to the idea that the MCC had all the answers in 1952. 

It's just not true.

My hope is soon we can recognise technique not as a series of dogmatic rules to be applied to perfection as defined by one Englishman in the 1950s, but as it is: wholly dependent on the body, mind, upbringing and culture of each player. That's harder to coach and not as nostalgic, but it's closer to the truth.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

This is a post about bowling speed. I wanted to be clear because there has been a lot of cross-talk about fast bowling recently. This is my effort to simplify speed for the confused coach.

Why are you confused? Because it’s confusing! There’s a lot of people talking in a lot of ways.

Steffan Jones is doing crazy innovation between S&C and technical correction with school age bowlers and sharing his ideas as he goes. I think he would admit it’s pretty complex stuff!

Meanwhile, the Grandmaster of Pace, Ian Pont, has other ideas. His methods are slightly different and very much grounded in technique through drilling core positions.

Then there is the ECB. Coaching courses have long abandoned the idea of technique first. They barely touch on S&C. They focus on game-based learning and maximum fun over drills, toys and methods.

Each approach is different. There is some crossover but there are also disagreements.

It is confusing.

What if you just want to know how to coach some pace?

Here’s my effort to simplify and tell you what I find works with the players I work with on pace. It’s not set in stone. It’s not the ultimate secrets of speed. but it might give you a head start.

Commitment beats everything

By far the number one way to be a fast bowler is to commit to being a fast bowler.

Sounds simple, but 90% of the bowlers I coach don’t commit to speed. They may be committed to bowling and bowl a lot. They might be naturally nippy. They might get bounce, swing and seam movement.

Whoever they are, they do not commit to fast bowling.

Anyone can increase speed - yes, without losing accuracy before you raise an eyebrow - but pace doesn’t come from committing to bowling in nets and games. That’s only one small piece of the puzzle.

No. For real speed without comprise you need to focus on it more than just bowling and hoping. Do that first and the rest is implementation details.

Four tent pegs are best

Ian Pont came up with the four tent pegs model of coaching speed years ago and it’s marvellous in its simplicity. Study it.

Of course, understanding the best positions for pace is one thing, drilling to get it into muscle memory is quite another. That’s why it only works when you commit.

Throw medicine balls

With technical work going on, you can use medicine balls to help players generate more power from the same frame.

Med balls are great because they are cheap, portable, usable by all ages and bridge the gap between pure strength exercises and bowling a ball.

There’s a lot of science behind it but for the coach all you really need to do is pick a 1-2kg ball that bounces and a couple of drills from the internet. Don’t complicate it, just chuck that ball about!

Bowl OU balls

The next step on the path from S&C to bowling is “overweight underweight” balls. Basically, heavy and light cricket balls. They are between 250g and 100g where a standard ball is 156g. So it’s not like there is a huge difference but it works.

The science with these balls is less established. It’s shown to work in baseball and in athletics. In cricket, I see results with bowlers putting on up to 5mph in one session. Anecdotal but convincing.

They are hard to get hold of in the UK but worth the investment in an order from Somerset Sports. They are the only place I know that stock them.

Again, play about with using them. They are best suited to low volume (perhaps 15-30 balls in a session) and in conjunction with a willing bowler who wants to use them regularly.

Yes, we are back to commitment again!

Manage load

There’s a lot of chat about how much bowlers should bowl. While it’s true that bowling is the best way to get strong to bowl, it’s also the best way to get injured. It’s tough to be a really fast bowler if you are knackered from a lot of bowling.

We all have to strike a balance.

Chances are you won’t be able to manage the number of overs of the bowlers you coach. If they are talented they will be playing in a number of teams. Even those who only play under one coach will rarely be bothered about “workload management”. They just want to play cricket.

Your best bet is to create self-awareness that bowling too much will slow them down eventually. It might be injury or fatigue but pace is fastest when they are fresh, strong and firing. Then do your bit: be mindful of not asking your bowlers to toil away in nets for two hours, three times a week.

Keep it simple

For me, bowling fast is a deep and exciting area of the game. You can delve as far as you want but if you want to keep it simple then you can do that too.

Have fun with it. Build technique with tent pegs, build strong bowlers with medicine balls and OU weighted balls and keep an eye on your workload. From under 10 to senior pros, this is the simplest way to go.

If you want more ideas for improving fast bowlers, contact me for a coach development session.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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Here's another game I made up to make a fun session for some under 15 players. I reckon it could work with most ages too.

In the game, the batsman gets to choose two "safe" zones. In this game we spilt the net into four; behind and in front, off side and on side. The batsman faces 24 balls.

Points are scored by hitting the ball with a full swing of the bat:

  • 0 points: Miss the ball
  • 0 points: ball defended, pushed or tapped.
  • 0 points: ball hit on the ground into unsafe zone.
  • 1 point: Wide bowled
  • 1 point: Ball struck into the safe zone in the air.
  • 2 points: Ball struck into the safe zone along the ground (and I really mean it must bounce before hitting the net!)

Obviously you can play with the points system to encourage different tactical and technical outcomes. This one was about trying to wack the ball into safe space.

The tactical wrinkle was the Power play.

The bowlers can call a six ball power play anytime during each batsman's innings. When the power play is on, the batsman has to remove one safe zone, meaning there is only one to hit into. The same points apply.

Be warned, this can be chaotic, especially with kids. I encourage them to find safe tactics to buck the rules and ways to play the "beat the system" as much as possible. Sometimes they go a bit far and I have to reign it in for safety or sense (like bowling deliberate wides). Mainly, it's just great fun and very competitive. 

You will no doubt want to tweak it for your needs, but give it a go!

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

SPOILER ALERT: It's not a coach, a mentor, a guru or someone who played first-class cricket.

Scanning through social media, listening to podcasts, watching videos. These are all great things to do for coaches and players. I've don it for years. The only thing I have really learned during this time is that no one knows it all.

A lot of people claim to know it all. Perhaps not directly, but certainly in their confident claims about themselves and criticisms of others. The subtext is not "here are some ideas I have tried and seem to work" and more like "I have discovered the secrets, everyone else is wrong".

I get why this happens. You have to market yourself. You have to stand out. You have to pander to your own ego (and everyone has one unless they are a clinical psychopath). Social media especially favours this approach.

Even those coaches who talk about evidence-based approaches and avoid self-congratulation don't say this enough:

Nobody knows anything for sure.

Nothing is 100% effective.

We all have our pet ideas. We all have drills and games we like and think work: Then someone comes along who it doesn't work for. You have to be very self-aware to remind yourself that it's not the player at fault, it's more likely drill or method isn't right for that person.

I make that mistake all the time!

I'm constantly reminding myself that each individual player is the only person who can work out what is effective for them. And they are as flawed as we all are in our thinking too. So, we work together to work out what works. We make a lot of mistakes. We feel frustrations when we lose opportunities but we just keep going.


Coaching is a science to some extent, but it's also an art. That means it's open to interpretation and everyone has a right to an opinion whether we like it or not. When you know that, you realise no coach has the answers (despite what they might imply). It's just not very easy to market on Instagram.

And you know what?

That's OK. 


AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

At Christmas, most people relax about their cricket. So it's the perfect time to get ahead for those who really want to improve their game.

If you're a player keen to boost your game, I am available in Glasgow throughout the winter period for coaching.

If you are further afield, still contact me and we can talk about my online coaching options such as training plans and mentoring.

Contact me for cricket coaching here.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe