Coaching Tips

The Invisibles of Batting

THE “INVISIBLES” OF BATIING by Laurie Ward . CSA Level 3 Coach. The Complete Cricketer Academy, Cape Town. South Africa.

If you were offered the insights and technical wisdom of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara when it comes to batting, I am guessing that you might be interested?

These gems are extremely simple and have been the cornerstone of our batting coaching at The Complete Cricketer Academy, with unbelievable results and a better understanding and “feel” for the players.

The Invisible Wall.
Sunil Gavaskar had to open the batting against some of the most deadly bowlers in history, before the advent of proper helmets. He would often have to face the likes of Michael Holding or Andy Roberts on bouncy, fast tracks with only a floppy hat to protect him from the harsh West Indian sun! Gavaskar came up with an amazingly simple solution to help him stay still and give himself the best chance to see the ball on release from the hand.
He would find a straight, smooth wall in the changing room and set himself up with his cheek touching the cool wall. When in the middle, he would imagine this wall against his face and make a sub-conscious effort to not move his head until the ball had been released. I am not suggesting that you get your players to do this before practices or a match but the concept of the invisible wall can be used with great effect in coaching.
Ricky Ponting used the peak of his helmet to try to keep his eyes level before delivery. Add this to the invisible wall and we create an invisible right angle to keep the head still and level.

In our High Performance Centre, we have a bowling machine net with a protective net in front of the feeder. With this, we can line up a player’s off side cheek with a line on the net, after a trigger or flexion, and before release of a delivery. Another way to do this would be to gauge against the back net or even put lines behind the batter for reference. When a player trusts and feels the stillness on release the results and belief are incredible. The players make better, later decisions, creating later, more positive movements and therefore creates a later contact, closer to the line of the eyes. We can track this on camera and give the player immediate visual feedback, comparing when they are still on release compared to a small head movement as the ball is released.

 This leads into the second “Invisible”……….

The Invisible Box.

This concept is again mental imagery that helps a player to feel where ball strike takes place and the difference between partial contact and hitting the sweet spot. We try to get the player to feel where the optimum strike zone is for each delivery type.
If you have played Wii Golf or a computer game that requires power and timing, there is often a power bar with a line moving up for you to stop for optimum control and power. This represents the invisible box in batting.
If you hit too early or too late on Wii Golf you can see the effects and actually feel the remote buzzing in your hand. It is the same with striking a cricket ball. We get our batters to start with an imaginary “box” the size of a shoebox say, and try to let the ball come in to that. Depending on which shot is being played, the box is in a different place but will remain close to the line of the eyes. On a front foot drive, the “box” is under the eyes and close to the front pad. If the batter strikes too early, outside the box, they will tend to toe-end the ball more than hit the middle of the bat. This also increases risk and reduces power. Once a player truly strikes a ball “in the box” they can feel that less force is required due to the timing.  Once they trust and buy in to this concept they make dramatic strides to playing tighter, yet increasing power and control through timing.

Brian Lara’s main tip for batting, when prompted by former teammate Andy Moles, was to watch the ball on to and off the bat. This, in reality, is not completely feasible, but it does tie in perfectly with the Invisible Box and playing the ball in line with or under the eyes.
The beauty of these thoughts and mental imagery are that they are so simple, yet so powerful.
Once a player is absolutely still, but flexed and balanced, at the exact release of the ball, it allows his eyes to feed clearer information for the brain to read and use in decision making. This actually increases the actual amount of time a player feels he has and they can use this additional time to make more positive, later movements, which in turn add cleaner momentum to the body, foot movements and bat path and presentation. The later movements then allow later contact and therefore increased power in attack or control in defence.

All of the greats of batting have seemed to have more time than us mere mortals. It is not superior eyesight, Hashim Amla springs to mind, but getting these simple and effective skills honed and believing in them.

Laurie Ward
September 2014.

Physical screening,core strengthening and Pilates

From January 2013, our resident Physiotherapist, Natalie, will be offering various levels of fitness, core strengthening and Pilates sessions for our young cricketers and any Moms keen to start the New Year on the right foot.


All athletes, and particularly players in the key growth phases should be aware of the importance of core stability and exercises and physical screening forms part of all elite sports programs and is filtering to all levels with its impact on improved performance and injury prevention.

Natalie will be available at these times but could be flexible should groups be required at other times.

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9.30-12.30

Tues and Friday afternoons from 14.00-17.00 (if not later)

Read more: Physical screening,core strengthening and Pilates

Positive Sport Parent

We have a guest article by Mary Ann Dove, a respected performance coach and co-founder of Positive Sport Parent. Their excellent website offers advice and knowledge on key issues within sport from the beginner to the elite athlete.

The Complete Cricketer Academy aims to work within the principles of LTPD and aims to provide the right environment for all players to develop and grow a genuine passion for the game.

Long-Term Participant/Athlete Development (LTPD)

Pathway 2

As parents we recognise that sport and physical activity play an important role in the healthy physiological and psychological growth and development of our children. Unfortunately over the past number of years there has been a decline in physical activity in South Africa resulting in an increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and obesity and our international performances have not matched the potential of our population.

If we want to inspire and encourage our children to have life-long participation in sport and physical activity as well as to provide the opportunity for those with potential to compete and achieve excellence at the highest levels, we need to build our sports programme around principles that respect the developmental needs of all our children.

Read more: Positive Sport Parent

Insights from an elite coach


      Meet the new Cape Cobras coach –
      An evening with Richard Pybus.

WPCCA recently had the honour and privilege to host the new Cape Cobras head coach and highly regarded cricketing “brain” – Richard Pybus.

Richard shared with us insights into his plans for his new franchise and how he aims to guide the Cobras to challenge for honours on all fronts.

He also offered his personal views on what we should aim to achieve from the grass roots through to elite level coaching. Richard has kindly agreed to share these thoughts with you on this forum.

Coaching and getting the most out of a player or team starts long before the first ball of a season is bowled. Preparation and planning are key, including  simple logistics and requirements to make all areas of a team function to full capacity.

Clear goals and objectives should be set individually and as a unit to create positive, realistic expectations but always looking to extend boundaries and challenge the status quo. A criteria of excellence should be set for players to aspire and work towards. To make this work, a coach needs to know his players and what motivates and stimulates them to perform at their peak.

Creating the correct squad culture is imperative. Inclusive leaderships groups across age (experience) and cultural groups foster team spirit and gives all players identity to the team ethic. Acknowledging and using peoples’ strengths builds respect and is created through active listening, constructive dialogue and common goals.

Removing fear and uncertainty, particularly in times of change (such as the introduction of a new coach) is done by setting clearly defined objectives and benchmarks for team and individual standards. This allows players to understand their roles better.

Breaking down to specifics on these thoughts, Richard outlined the
 “Key laws of Training”:

• Specificity: Situational/constructive training routines, drills and environments to clearly define actions and make them subconscious and second nature through repetition and honing.
• Goal Orientated: Training with clear objectives and understanding of what needs to be achieved and why. These should be benchmarked to underline improvement and add a competitive edge to training.
The brain can “rewire” itself after 24 hours if stimulated and fed correctly. Areas of doubt or weakness can be made strengths if the mind gives the brain the correct signals and goals.
•    Situational: Make practice match relevant and under match-like conditions and pressure. This can be built by defining situations or targets for the players to perform to and compete. E.g batsmen being given a role/target to develop concentration and assertive responses within set situational criteria.
•   Performance-based outcomes:  This takes out any relationship issues when it comes to selection. Stats speak for themselves and it is down to the players to achieve required levels of performance within a structured environment created by the coach.
Exceptionally talented individuals are often right brain dominated making them creative (almost “artistic”) but often highly disorganized with volatile emotional space. The coach creates the parameters for such a player to work within to maximize his expression but controlling emotions and thought patterns, especially under pressure.

The underlying theme of the talk revolved around the insight:
“Champions go inside”.
“This is where the coach helps create structure for a player, planning the way forward. We draw out of them the goals and the steps to achieve this, where they get stuck we assist with questions and suggestions ... this allows them to go inside and develop their own resources, create their wiring in the brain that is their thinking, not the coaches. Making them more resourceful and creating better cricketers."

Richard has kindly offered to return at a later date and members are highly recommended to take advantage of such an event, as, if you want to improve as an individual and a coach, learning from the best is a rare opportunity.
In the meantime, you can get further insight into how an elite coach works and thinks by visiting Richard’s excellent website:

Article written by Laurie Ward, with input from Richard Pybus, on behalf of the Western Province Cricket Coaches Association. 

August 2010.


Cricket For Beginners

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Richard Pybus. For more informative and high quality coaching articles please visit www.MyCricketGame.Com

In Cricket for Beginners we will look at how we learn and how this can help beginners to play better and have more fun. 
Children don't need a formal environment to play cricket. Give them a bat and ball and they will play anywhere, in fact they will make their own bat, ball and game given half a chance.
So we want to tap into this desire to play cricket, in coaching we offer structure to this learning process, that is one of the key goals of coaching.
Children know what to do, they learn through copying their heroes on TV or watching adults play. Our goal is to accelerate this learning process.

In Beginners Cricket we give direction on what to pay attention to and offer stimulating and challenging drills to grow new, more advanced skills.
Beginners Brain
As we see in the sections in MyCricketGame.Com on the mental game and cricket coaching, we are working with the brain, yours and the young cricketers you are coaching.
For the cricket beginner to learn faster, to play better cricket and to have more fun it helps if we know what we are working with, so lets have a quick look at the beginners brain.

The brain is a goal setting mechanism, it is designed to set and fulfill goals, helping our cricketers to understand this, makes learning go quickly and for them to play better.
We are our brains, so whilst you are reading this, it is your brain that is reading, when you laugh at a joke, it is your brain that is laughing, when you cry at something sad, yes, you got it, its our brains that are crying.
Brains love simplicity, it helps with learning, it allows the brain to pay attention to one thing at a time which makes the learning go faster.
In working with the cricket beginner it is important to look and listen for the cricketer's potential and to have positive expectations of the players ability to learn.
There is lots of research around this, but positive expectation sets up the learner's parameters of achievement.
If as coaches or parents we believe the beginning cricketer is of average ability or below, then they they will work to meet our expectation, conversely when we look and listen for limitless potential then we open up that possibility for our young cricketers.

Connection Machines
Not only are brains goal setting mechanisms, they are also connection machines, they learn best when they are doing it without too much interference.
Brains connect everything that comes in through the five senses, what you see, how you feel and all the associated bits of info like smells, tastes, sounds.
The beginner's cricket brain wants to learn and they love to be stimulated and challenged.
Brains need direction, the mind gives this, so we need to program them for positive outcomes.
The mind chooses a positive goal and then focus's the brain on achieving it.

Repetition is the Mother of Learning
For cricket beginners to learn they need lots of repetition, not only of their technical skills in hitting, bowling, catching, throwing, but also in paying attention.
So we repeat cricket drills and skills over and over and we gently and patiently raise the level of the challenge. We continue with this and repeat again until the skills and drills are overlearnt, to the point where the player no longer has to consciously think about them.
Helping cricket beginners to be patient is an important life lesson as they start to build their skills base,
Emotional Control is another important lesson as they work on their skills, paying attention with a calm mind assists in the process of wiring in good decision making.

Cricket For Beginners: Part One
As we continue to learn about cricket for beginners, we need to understand the difference between the cricketers mind and the cricketers brain.
The brain is an organ, the mind is a function of the brain.
Another example to help you understand, the heart is an organ, the function of the heart is to pump blood.
We use the mind to choose goals and then we let the brain work out how to achieve the goal.
For the beginning cricketer, learning to use the mind to choose goals and to focus on them is essential and very powerful.
We ask the beginning cricketer to choose a goal in a skill drill:
To practice the off drive, to do this they hit the ball off a tee through two targets. The goal is the target, the intention is to hit the ball through them.
Focus on Simplicity
The mind is simple, what ever you think about and focus on, the brain and body follow, so we need to pay attention to what we want, not what we don't want.

Throw at the stumps, focus on the stumps.
Hit the ball, focus on the ball.
Catch the ball, focus on the ball.

Focus on what you want, not on what you dont !
So it is essential that players learn to pay attention, to direct their focus on the right thing at the right time.
As batters we focus on the ball and hitting it, not on not getting out.
The brain follows this literally and even if the batter doesn't get out, it makes it very difficult to score runs.
In doing this we are beginning to shape the cricket players mental game.
Kids will play and the more fun they can have whilst they are doing it the better.
This allows them to make positive connections and to create wiring in the brain that is all associated with the joy of cricket and learning to play it
The goal is to get them to have fun and to learn as effortlessly as possible.


Cricket for Beginners: Part Two
Following on from Part One in Cricket for Beginners, one of the key concepts is to focus the cricketers brain, their attention on a new goal, with positive intention.
To train the beginner's focus of attention on what they want to make happen when they play cricket.
Learning to pay attention to the positive opportunity that each ball bowled, brings.
In doing this, it is establishing goal orientation for each ball.
Intention and Goals
The intention is the thought behind a movement, this needs to be positive. The thought shapes the goal, so when working with young players we want to establish wiring that is setting up positive outcomes.
I am going to hit this short ball for four
I am going to bowl a yorker to hit the stumps
I am going to defend this ball
So it is essential that players learn to pay attention, to direct their focus on the right thing at the right time.
As batters we focus on the ball and hitting it, not on, not getting out.
The brain follows this literally and even if the batter doesn't get out, it makes it very difficult to score runs.
In getting the beginning cricketer to pay attention and to set goals with positive intent we are beginning to shape the players mental game with excellent wiring.
Kids will play and the more fun they can have whilst they are doing it the better, this allows them to make positive connections and to create wiring in the brain that is all associated with the joy of the game and learning to play it.
The goal is to get the beginner and all players to have fun and to learn as effortlessly as possible.
Examples of Positive Intention and Attention
Ex. The batter hits the ball and there is an opportunity for a run out.
Goal for Fielder: Gather ball, throw at the stumps, focus on the stumps.
Ex. The batter is waiting to face the next ball, the bowler is running in to bowl the ball.
Goal for Batter: Watch ball, judge line and length of the ball, decide what stroke to play, hit the ball.
Ex. The batter hits the ball in the air, there is a chance of a catch.
Goal for Fielder: Focus on the ball, catch the ball.
Ex. There is a new batter in, bowl straight to hit the stumps before they have got their eye in.
Goal for Bowler: Look at the stumps, bowl at the stumps, hit the stumps.

What is Success and Failure for the beginning cricketer ?
Success and Failure are two sides of the same coin.
To learn, the brain chooses a goal, to achieve that goal we are either on track or off track, neither is good or bad, it is how the brain learns, so learning is trial and error.
When we learn to walk we stand up, fall over, stand up, fall over, as this continues we learn to balance and take our first steps.
And we continue to fall over, but the gaps between the falls get longer as we become more proficient in balancing and walking.
No parent in their right mind criticizes their baby for falling over when learning to walk, we need to remember this because 'trial and error' is the foundation of all learning.
They don't say 'you are failure' ..... 'you are no good' , because the child stumbled, we intuitively know that that this is part of the learning process.
It is no different in learning cricket.
Yet when the child gets older there is the tendency to start framing what they do as being successful or failing.
There is only learning, so long as we remember this and pay attention to positively re-inforcing the learning, we will be on the right track.
We are generous with our encouragement whilst the cricket player is building new skills, mental, physical and technical.This creates good wiring and keeps the beginner in a good part of the brain for learning.



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