The future is all about fitness!

5 December 2018

We all remember the days when, even in the professional game, players had to be hidden in the field – players who were worth their place with bat or ball, but a liability the rest of the time. It still happens every week in recreational cricket but if you are someone looking to develop your cricket, then it’s time to shape up!

Cricket is inexorably heading towards shorter formats – remember the first professional limited overs competition in the UK was 65 overs in length. Then we went to 60, then 55, then 50, then 40, then 20. Soon it will be The Hundred (16.4!) and even now, there are regular 10:10 contests. That places a premium on everyone being able to contribute and every single saved, catch taken or run-out opportunity completed can prove vital to the outcome.

We coach junior players from age 3-18. At the elite performance level in recent years strength and conditioning has become a training curriculum item. No longer do players bring just their bat with them, they have to bring their resistance band and their roller too! Changing times. This development is reflected by a 15 year old junior county batter we train. After a run-filled summer he was sent off to do some indoor sessions with a first-class county academy – after two weeks they said no thanks, and he hadn’t even batted! Their decision was purely based on his level of fitness and bio-mechanics.

That changing emphasis doesn’t diminish the hours we put in to coach the core cricket skills. Players who want to develop and progress in their game need to do their strength and conditioning work away from the cricket ground or sports hall. They need to dedicate a few more hours each week to improving their core strength, which helps with every aspect of cricket, not to mention in life generally.

We’re not expecting every cricketer – adult or junior – to become a super athlete. But those who want to move up from the 2s to 1s, or those wanting to play county age group or minor counties cricket can give themselves a better chance of success by adding this important edge to their game.

If you would like some more information and some recommended Strength and conditioning programmes for them to follow, please drop me an email at

Too dangerous? Whither cricket in an H & S world?

14 November 2018

Like almost any aspect of human existence, tragic accidents do happen. In cricket, we can all remember the Euan Chatfield incident. A Walthamstow CC colleague of mine tragically died at the crease a few years back, Luke Fletcher took that horrific blow whilst bowling last season, and the awful Philip Hughes death is still fresh in the memory.


Accidents will happen, but is the Hughes death slightly different – was cricket compliant in his demise in that the game quite legally allows a potentially lethal weapon to be bowled at 90+ mph at the most vulnerable part of someone’s body?

I read a fascinating article the other day, authored by a gentleman named Lourens Steyn, who was addressing the same issue. The article proposes a solution to the problem by making the bowling of bouncers impossible. How?  Mr Steyn (presumably no relation to Dale) suggests that cricket pitches have a sand filled bunker – 11 metres long – in the middle of the pitch that will “inhibit the bouncing of a cricket ball and be a no ball zone”.


Whilst my first reaction was to check the date of the article, as I read on, I found that he has been granted patents in Australia, India and the UK, so he’s obviously pretty serious about it – patent applications aren’t cheap. But then, in Mr Steyn’s view “The ICC is presiding over a debased version of cricket in which opponents are deliberately put in danger of serious physical injury”.


In my lifetime, helmets have been introduced, umpires have developed shields to protect themselves and aggressive behaviour towards both players and umpires has increased significantly. At the same time litigation has joined the vocabulary of cricket, so perhaps Mr Steyn’s innovation is not too far-fetched.


Cricket can be dangerous, and no-one wants players hurt.The number of serious injuries over the last hundred years has been pretty small. And, by the same token crossing the road can be dangerous. Totally eliminating risk in human endeavour is in my opinion, both undesirable and impossible.


So, I suspect we won’t see ‘bunker’ pitches any time soon, but you never know!

Can Saturn help your seamers!?

23 October 2018

It’s an acknowledged fact that cricket is (increasingly) a batters’ game. They get the bigger bats, shorter boundaries, the benefit of the doubt from umpires. They even get to have a few throwdowns before they bat, checking their hand and head position and getting the feel of the ball on the middle of the bat.


By contrast, when the time comes, what do seamers do? Sure, they stretch and make sure that sides, backs, legs, shoulders are appropriately warm and suitably prepared for action. They may even bowl a couple of non-bouncing balls to mid-off, who will generally focus on catching the ball rather than examining either the bowler’s action or the seam position of the ball.


Next time your seamers are netting before they bowl, give them a ball – an old one is fine – with a piece of white tape around the seam, forming a ‘Saturn ring’ around the ball. If they then bowl that to another player, the seam position will be clear to both the bowler and the fielder. Get the bowler to bowl two or three balls and he can check his wrist position very easily – if the seam is coming out straight then the wrist position will be correct, and he is ready to bowl.


We find that with young cricketers, consistency of wrist position is one of the big differences between the good and the average.


Whilst you can’t take a Saturn ball on to the field, if your bowlers use this tip when they practice, then a good wrist position should become a matter of habit. Even before the start of a spell, if mid off can closely watch the seam position in the bowler’s warm up deliveries, then life should become a little harder for batters everywhere!

Quick, safe and cheap - the key to increased participation

26 September 2018


As I often point out to my kids, the world has become an increasingly informal place. Although it has perhaps taken the edge off some of the social niceties, increased informality is a good thing – generally empowering and creating more level playing fields in all sorts of areas.


Over the same period not much has changed in recreational cricket. Male or female, adult or child, we still play in a team uniform and on a manicured and carefully tended piece of grass. We even schedule meal breaks around the game and charge our players subscriptions and match fees to finance the ground and the equipment.


For many wanting to participate – perhaps having stopped the game after school or engaging with the game later in life - there are barriers in place. Aside from the social and financial aspects of the club scene, there is the question of safety with inexperienced players using hard cricket balls.

Enjoying football needs some space, a ball and jumpers for goalposts. Enjoying cricket can be equally straightforward. It needs some space, a bat and ball and some stumps.

Three years ago, we started coaching at a large college with a predominantly British Asian demographic. The after-college cricket club attracted (and still does) 20+ late teenagers who were incredibly passionate about cricket but only had the college sports hall (with no nets) to use and had largely shunned traditional clubs. Over that period, I have witnessed some extraordinary cricket, played with passion, skill and intensity. 

Increasingly, young cricketers are playing tape-ball, a ‘street’ version of cricket imported from South Asia. A tape-ball is a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape to give it weight and improve the flight while being less dangerous to use in the street than a conventional cricket ball (and much cheaper than an incrediball).  And it can be played in the street, on the playground, on the AstroTurf. 

In Pakistan where most young players are introduced to it, tape-ball cricket is an integral part of their development. Caring only for playing the game, it is a fantastic game to play for youngsters, and it’s quick, safe and cheap.

When we all fear for the future of our beloved game and bemoan the declining levels of participation in cricket, (particularly in the critical 15-19 age group), properly embraced tape-ball has a major role to play in turning the tide. 


If you havent seen it for yourself, click here for the video.

What's in a colour?

19 September 2018


When watching the T20 climax of the domestic season at Edgbaston on Saturday, I was struck, and not for the first time, by how cricket manages to make life difficult for itself.


Worcestershire and Sussex competed in an enthralling final and was it a spectacle? Yes, there was some excellent cricket played, great shots, clever bowling and fielding that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. But, and there is a but, why oh why were both teams competing in virtually identical clothing - blue and black outfits?


For a hundred and more years cricket has been played in whites – both teams in the same clothing – so I hear you say, why does it matter?


Cricket has been in a difficult place for many years – it does not easily fit into today’s ‘now’ society, its an uneconomic game at everything but the very top level, and with the ever-changing pattern of media consumption as the ECB are keen to point out it has become marginalised.


The cricket establishment’s answer was to glorify short-form cricket – new style team names and competitions, white balls, floodlights – all in the quest of a new audience broader than the diehards like me who would happily sit for four days watching every ball of a county game at Chelmsford.


This new audience has fewer preconceptions, and at least initially, knows little about the complexities of cricket. The crowds and the excitement at The Big Bash, IPL and even our own T20 Blast have succeeded, to a point, in engaging with new cricket (at least T20) followers and providing a financial lifejacket for the game.


And yet, on the biggest day of the short-form domestic calendar, when the game has its best chance to engage new cricket followers, both teams play in blue and black! Many of the crowd go to great lengths with their fancy dress and yet the teams (and the ECB) can’t seemingly be bothered. Many of those at Edgbaston on Saturday will next Saturday be watching football – one team in red, another in blue, or yellow, or pink, or green or another combination from the Nike designers. That’s their reference point, that’s what they have grown up with and that makes it easy to engage.


So, let’s make it easy for them to love T20 cricket by making this a visual contest, one that is easy to understand and visually identify with Surely, it’s not beyond the wits of the ECB and the counties to ensure that every team has an away kit to ensure we have no more same colour T20???


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