Shortcut to success – are young cricketers playing on pitches that are too long?

Very interesting short article in the current issue of the ECB Coaches Association’s annual Coaching Insight*, from Martyn Kiel, on an experiment with shortened pitches for young players.

With U11s (club) and U10s (County age group), playing on pitches just 16 yards long, the study reported:

  • increased numbers of back foot shots to short pitched deliveries (and more deliveries reaching the wicket keeper on the full);
  • more running between the wickets (more running, more run-out opportunities);
  • fewer shots fielded at mid-wicket (so more players involved in the field);
  • and an overall increase in playable deliveries in club matches.

The findings are certainly in line with those being reported by Cricket Australia (CA) after a season-long trial Down Under – more play, better skills, generally better involvement.

It will be very interesting to hear how CA take this forward, and whether the Shortcut to Success will be adopted elsewhere.

I (inadvertently) carried out a similar experiment myself – set out a practice pitch appropriate to the youngest players in a group (ranging from highly competent 8 year olds to 12 year olds with just one summer of cricket experience to call on) only to see that the eldest looked disturbingly quick.

But the boys (young and older) seemed to enjoy the challenge (they all came back the next week), and the level of skills and concentration on display was impressive.

I can certainly see shorter pitches being introduced as an element of a constraints-led approach to coaching skills, for batters and bowlers.

How it might work in match settings, I am not sure – unless the new pitch lengths are widely adopted, players will have to learn to play on whatever length pitch they are given (which might well be good for developing adaptability, but could be challenging when trying to develop repeatable skills).

Of slight concern (to me, at least) was a stat quoted by CA – “more than 269,476 wides and no balls recorded” in junior cricket u9-u15 in 2015-16.  Who really bothers to record every wide at this level?

From an analytical perspective, having this number as a base is helpful (I expect to read that “x% fewer wides were recorded when playing on shorter pitches”) but to have these stats posted for the world to see?

* “Shortcut to Success?”, Coaching Insight vol 7 (2017); available to ECB CA members in their annual membership pack and (soon) online at

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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  1. There will always be a conflict between suitable cricket for development and “proper” cricket. Beginners want to be eased in, but boys (it’s still mostly boys) who grow to love the game want to reach parity with the men as fast as possible. That’s why we get huge bats, kids bowling with full size balls, a distaste for pairs cricket and many other things.

    Finding the sweet spot between what is best for fun/Development and what kids want is the hardest part.

    1. Very true, David – finding that balance will be the challenge.

      But feedback from a colleague in Aus suggests that the _players_ have enjoyed the new shorter format (shorter pitches, shorter games), so it might be possible to win them over.

      Convincing competition administrators (and groundsmen) could be harder!

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