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Cricket My Way
Cricket My Way

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Cricket My Way

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2019
Добавлена: 21.04.2020
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There is one technical advantage in a wider stance: it cuts down unnecessary movement. Most batting errors stem from incorrect movement of either feet or head, or both. For instance, if the feet are together against a really fast bowler the great majority of strokes will have to be off the back foot. So as well as valuable split seconds being lost in getting back on to the stumps, the whole body is on the move, and a ball coming at around 85 miles an hour over about 19 yards is difficult enough to keep out, even if you are in a correct position.

The position and alignment of the feet are aimed at producing a sideways stance, with the batting crease the ideal dividing line between the feet.

Standing ‘spread’, with the head still, cuts movement down to a minimum, as I soon worked out for myself – all because it felt comfortable. That magic word again.

In my opinion, the big disadvantage of standing with feet too close together is that the batsman has little balance. For instance, if you stand with both feet together it won’t take a strong person to push you off balance with just a forefinger; but if you spread your feet you have a solid base to resist much more pressure.

The other thing to remember is not to stand too rigid. If you do, all sorts of movements have to take place before contact is attempted. To illustrate the point, there is another valid comparison to make in golf, which I think has a lot in common with batting, although one game involves a moving ball and the other does not. All the top pros go through the same routine in setting up for each shot, and they have a key which releases the backswing. Jack Nicklaus, for instance, has that slight turn of the head to the right. There are players like Sam Torrance and Greg Norman who sometimes do not ground their club, because that makes their body too rigid.

The same with batting. Flex the knees slightly and make sure the body weight is evenly distributed, so that you can either play forward or back, dependent upon the length of the ball.

Try not to crouch; although there again there are plenty of successful batsmen in top cricket who don’t ‘stand tall’ at the crease, and it works for them, crouching is not ideal.

A lot of nonsense is talked about a ‘two-eyed’ stance, which is supposed to mean that the batsman is too square on and therefore likely to play across the ball.

The temptation in trying to concentrate on a perfect sideways stance is not to allow the head to look straight down the pitch at the bowler, and so the batsman finds himself really only looking with one and a half eyes.

Both eyes should face the bowler, on a level keel with the head still. It sounds obvious, but batsmen forget that once the head moves, the rest of the body follows suit.

To sum up, make sure the feet are spread wide enough to suit you, with the knees slightly bent. Make sure both eyes are watching the bowler, and keep that head still.

That deals with everything, except the rather important matter of the position of the toe of the bat. It can either be grounded or not, and I change according to type of pitch conditions and the pace of the bowlers.

Assuming that I can ground it, I always do so behind my right foot. Some batsmen ground the bat away from them, but that only increases the possibility of picking it up crookedly, so I would advise against that.

The great Sir Donald Bradman apparently used to ground his bat between his feet. Again I would never tell a batsman to copy him because somehow the bat has to be taken outside the back foot, and that can only be done by taking it out towards gully. But, as the record books show, ‘The Don’ was hardly a failure, which only proves once again that no matter how peculiar some part of your technique may look, as long as it works for you, never change because some coach wants you to look more elegant.

The face of the bat open to point, with the eyes facing the bowler and the head held still. This photo was taken as I was about to ‘step into’ a drive.

Prolific run scorer Peter Willey here demonstrates everything that is wrong in a stance – but it has not prevented him playing many fine innings over the years.


Now to the last part of the set-up before the ball arrives – the pick-up. Everything I have said so far is aimed at helping you to hold the bat properly and stand at the crease in the manner most likely to produce a straight, correct back-lift of the bat.

Remember that although this vital part of your technique can be individualistic, if a bat is picked up incorrectly, it is probable it will also be presented to the ball wrongly. I tend to take the bat back towards slip, instead of the classical takeaway back over leg stump, and in this way I adopt the same technique as some West Indians. Notably Rohan Kanhai, who although he used to pick up towards gully invariably managed to drop inside from the top and come down in a beautifully straight line.

Again, don’t worry if what works for you does not suit your coach, because the game is full of players who have made the most unlikely looking methods work successfully. I have already mentioned the stances of Peter Willey and Graham Gooch. Peter stands so front-on that both feet point straight down the pitch, his left shoulder faces square leg, and it seems impossible for him ever to score on the off side. But he shuffles round just as the ball is delivered, and consequently his pick-up is not so much off line as most people think.

As for Graham Gooch, he stands sideways with the bat raised well above shoulder height, and although I think too much can go wrong from that static position, his career performances speak for themselves. Besides, both he and Peter Willey have fine records against the West Indies’ fast bowlers.

Unless I am on a quick pitch and against a genuine fast bowler, I know that I tend to pick up towards the slips, and so I concentrate on whipping it into that Caribbean arc so that I bring the bat down straight.

As in golf, the important thing is to present the club or the bat square and straight to the ball through the hitting area, that is before, during and after contact.

One simple exercise will show you the perfect line of pick-up. Stand at the crease with the bat held normally in both hands. Then take away the bottom hand – right hand for right-handers – and clamp it around the other elbow. Bend that elbow 90 degrees, and the bat will be taken back towards your stumps to give you the proper line of back-lift. Remember that most players bring the bat down on the same line they take it up on, so try to cut down on the margin of error by developing a length of back-lift you can keep under control.

Don’t take it back the same distance all the time, because you should vary it according to conditions. Particularly against the faster bowlers on grassy pitches – Barbados, for instance – I try to play with as little movement as possible when I first go in, and so I reduce the back-lift. Sometimes, although I don’t go as far as Graham Gooch, I will stand waiting with the bat a couple of feet off the ground.

Against the slow bowlers, you can let out a notch or two because presumably you will be looking to stroke the ball around more in front of the wicket than is possible against the quicks.

Whatever your pick-up, it will work so much better if the top hand is in complete control of the bat at the beginning, and stays in charge for as long as possible during the stroke.

So many things in the stance and pick-up are inter-related, but all are important, and none more so than the head remaining still. It is a fundamental basic in all sports to keep the head still, and yet most players forget the elementary point that once the head moves, other body movements are inevitably going to follow.

A good spread of the feet, ensuring proper balance, eyes on the ball and the back-lift in progress.

The best players I’ve ever seen – Allan Border, Barry Richards and Viv – keep their heads rocklike while picking up their bats and playing the ball.

The best illustration I can give is how the best use is gained from a pair of binoculars. You fix them on the target and keep as still as possible, otherwise any movement distorts the image. It is exactly the same with batting, particularly against the fast bowlers when there is just no time to remedy any basic errors made in grip, stance or back-lift.

The other thing about the position of the head is to ensure that both eyes are looking on a level plane down the pitch. I have already explained that if you don’t stand sideways, the pick-up line is almost bound to go wrong.

Because it is so vital that both eyes are used properly against the faster bowlers, perhaps I’ll get a little square on without disturbing the sideways structure too much. In any case, the back-lift will be shorter under those circumstances, and so there is less to go wrong.


Just to round off my advice on the best ways of preparing for the business part of the game – when you actually have to play the ball – let me explain about the weight of bat I use and the different forms of protective gear that are now available.

Until about 1980, I used a normal weight bat, around two and a half pounds; but after trying a heavier one as an experiment, I immediately loved it and those made for me now by the Worcestershire Chairman, Duncan Fearnley, are nearly three pounds in weight.

But again, everyone should find out for themselves what is most suitable. As a general rule, most young players start off with a bat that is too heavy for them, because they are given their first bat when they are growing up.

Only try the heavy bats, therefore, when you have more or less finished your physical development. Undoubtedly, more players nowadays favour the bigger bats, and cricket has followed golf and tennis in this respect.

Racquets now have bigger heads for more power, and golf clubs are designed to hit the ball further. In the same way the bigger cricket bat is so much more destructive than the old-fashioned lightweight ones.

It is not the weight of the bat which is important: it is how balanced the pick-up is which settles which is the better bat, and sometimes I tinker around with one or two extra rubber grips to achieve a better balance.

Usually I have a couple of grips on, but although it can be one, or even on occasions three, it is very rare nowadays that I have to change one of Duncan’s bats. He usually presents them to me at about an ounce or so under three pounds, and then if necessary I vary the number of grips.

At the start of an innings on a quick pitch, I will usually take out the lighter bat when I am not looking to play too many shots; so don’t be afraid to change, even in the middle of an innings. Some players develop superstitions about their cricket in general and their bats in particular, but I don’t go along with that.

I always believe that I can make my own luck. So if I find out any of the opposition are superstitious, I try all the harder to convince them how unlucky they are.

Regarding protective equipment, I only use either a helmet or a forearm guard if the pitch is dodgy, because in normal conditions I reckon I should never get hit if I keep both eyes on the ball. But on a pitch like, for instance, Headingley in 1987 in the Test match we lost to Pakistan, I did use an arm guard and a helmet because of the variable bounce – but that is the exception for me.

It is not because I share the view that a player’s reactions are subconsciously slower if he is wearing a helmet, because the risk of serious injury is reduced. I suppose my dislike of using that sort of visible protection is the same as my good friend Viv Richards, who never ever wears a helmet. It is another way of saying to the bowler that he is not that quick or dangerous, and I will never ignore any opportunity to score a psychological point.


To sum up my tips on grip, stance and back-lift – anything within reason will suffice, providing that whatever you do that is different from the normal methods, is not detrimental to your batting.

If things start to go wrong, and a string of low scores follow, go right back and re-examine your basics. Often, a tiny little adjustment is all that is necessary, and sometimes the most unlikely people can spot it for you.

All that I have explained so far is to show how simple the game is, once a repetitive method has been found.

Plenty of power from my Duncan Fearnley custom manufactured bat.
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