Tuesday, 15 January 2013

CricketCoachApp Review

As someone whose always enjoyed watching cricket but has the natural batting prowess of Phil Tufnell and Monty Panesar combined, the rise in cricket apps for smart phones is both a blessing and a curse. The CricketCoach App uses a mixture of photographs, videos and training drills from a professional coach to improve bowling, batting and fielding skills. Each of the three areas have a separate app, priced at £1.99 each, so users can target their individual problems.

There are both advantages and disadvantages with the coach specific appearance. The app is undoubtedly aimed at coaches, which means that some of the videos and more text-based advice may go over younger users heads. The videos and photographs, however, are excellent. Dual video vantage points allow users to see batting stances and bowling grips from an array of views, and the option to overlay your own photographs over the technically sound images make for understanding. The videos are of good quality, and are accompanied by step-by-step photographs. The text sections, however, are a little lengthy; although the drills and explanations are useful, they could maybe be condensed to make it easier on the eye.

Despite being marketed as a multi-platform app, the size of the app is best suited to the smartphone. It appears too small on the iPad, which while the quality of the video is still good, some of the finer details are left out. There are also a few too many menu options; it can be a little laborious clicking through option after option to get to the specific training section. However, for those returning to the game, or those coaching larger groups of players, the apps are incredibly useful. The feedback goes down to the minute details, such as how to grip the bat correctly - all tips that come in handy for players of all techniques.

Although it is primarily focused on honing players skills, it also works for fans of the game. Using it when a game is on helps understand some of the finer points of international cricket that are harder to recognise through a TV screen. The sections on spin bowling, for example, were useful during England's recent series in India. They are also explained in a way that doesn't patronise the user, if a little lengthy.

Overall, for price and content quality, the app is a bargain. There are a few tweaks here and there but from a coaching and teaching perspective, it is spot on.

Monday, 14 January 2013

From underdogs to unacceptable

What do you do when the stereotype runs dry? Ask New Zealand. The cricketing underdogs, who history has shown love to punch above their weight, now look very much like the eight ranked nation in test cricket. The last series victory, if one counts a single test match as a "series," was against Zimbabwe in January 2012. The non-test ranked Zimbabwe, to be exact. It's a dismal record, and although there's the odd uplifting victory in Australia here and Sri Lanka there, it quite simply isn't good enough.

So what do New Zealand do? The team that was humiliated in South Africa was missing several of its key players. Vettori, whose bowling has lost some of its potency but who still remains a strong middle order batsman, and Southee, whose resurgence of form has been glorious to watch, were injured; Taylor, the best batsman in the side, was sat at home after being stitched up by the team management. They would undoubtedly have made some sort of difference. However, the inclusion of these three might not have tipped the balance back in New Zealand's favour, so shambolic was their performance.

First innings of the first test match: dismissed for 45. Steyn and Philander may be the best new ball pair in test cricket, but New Zealand should be able to stand up to them. Or at the very least, attempt to. Wickets were thrown away, there was little to no application and no-one seemed willing to hang around and try to make a score. There was no motivation. If getting rid of Taylor was supposed to improve team morale, then it's backfired spectacularly.

McCullum appears to be a decent enough captain, but he is far too flawed to be an opening batsman. His natural way of playing, described alternately as 'aggressive' and 'idiotic,' seems stymied at the top of the order. He looks unable to combine the patience of opening an innings with keeping the scoring rate going at the tempo he is used to, and he either gets bogged down into playing too defensively or he lashes out with some ill-conceived shot. Guptill's performances in South Africa were dire. A blistering T20 century at the very start of the tour, Guptill spent the test matches on auto-pilot; prod forward, edge to slips, edge to keeper, depart for low score. This meant that Williamson, who pulled New Zealand out of a hole in the series against the Proteas last year, was exposed to a relatively new ball, something which he is not used to and doesn't have the proper technique to deal with yet.

The young bowling attack failed to take 11 wickets in both tests. Boult and Bracewell, two relatively young pacemen, were left to lead the attack and managed it as well as they could. Patel, whose contribution to Warwickshire was so crucial to their title victory in 2012, is starting to develop decent control but against Amla and du Plessis, he looked out of his depth. Wagner has pace but lacks control, and Franklin's role as back up seamer should be locked in a box and never spoke about again. How New Zealand handles its youngsters will be crucial to the next few months. As a team that already has a tendency to find a winning formula and then abandon it for the next match, they need to give their more inexperienced batsman and bowlers the confidence, as well as the technical know-how, to continue at test level.

New Zealand next play England in back to back test series, one of which is billed as the warm up for England's dual Ashes defence. At this rate, the two test matches will be little more than batting practice for England's new boys. New Zealand need to show a bit of a fight, or passion, or something that will stop this slide into mediocrity. Heads go down far too quickly; even though they were rolled for 45, they needed to recollect and attack. Instead they didn't, and the result was two easy victories for South Africa, and further problem for Hesson and co.