View Full Version : A reservoir thread of articles on cricket's technical issues
May 22, 2005, 09:44 PM
The thread title is self-explanatory. Here is the first article. I will post more.
The art of Dravid
December 20, 2003
In Adelaide this week, a serene batsman turned Australia's cricketing summer on its head. Rohit Brijnath spoke to Rahul Dravid about how it was done.
Dusk descended gently and soon a scoreboard that told an improbable tale would be obscured. Seagulls loitered as sprinklers hiccuped. The team bus had gone home and the Adelaide Oval echoed with silence. But inside the dressing room, amidst the detritus of empty Gatorade bottles and sandwich wrappers, he was still there, tired smile on drawn face, cold beer in limp hand, the hero contemplating his finest moment.
Above him, as he craned to look, high on the wall hung a whiteboard, on which the names of travellers who had taken five wickets or scored a century were inscribed. His name had not been written yet, the 233 beside it, but his eyes told you he could already read it. Maybe Rahul Dravid just wanted to slowly inhale the last remaining scent of victory, take one last look at this foreign place where he and his team had imprinted its greatness. His team had owned this stadium briefly, and he was not ready to leave just yet.
It wasn’t unusual for him, this lingering, it is part of why he plays. "I do that quite often," he says. "I like the warmth of the dressing room. After you’ve done five days of battle it feels like home, to share so many emotions with so many different people, it’s fantastic to stay and soak it in."
Those innings in Adelaide, the 233 and the 72 not out, were essays in concentration, studies in craftsmanship, treatises in courage. They were the most compelling advertisement of the truth that he is one of finest batsmen of his generation. They are also, not wholly but partially, an education in him as player and man.
Last month in Wisden Asia Cricket, he wrote an article on books. He remembered his days as a young player, curled up on the wooden bunk as the train rattled its way to another match, soaking in To Kill a Mockingbird. In Adelaide, Racers , the story of the dramatic 1996 formula one season, rested on his table.
But there is one book he identifies with powerfully, perhaps because the tale has some of him in it. David Halberstam’s The Amateurs studies in detail the quest of American rowers for Olympic selection, dissecting their pain, their rage, the obsession of their journey. Down the phone from Hobart, Dravid explains: "It shows you true passion and true drive. It’s what sport is about for people who play it. It’s not about the accolades or the money, but about the personal battles, the sacrifice. It’s about the process, and I enjoy that."
His process, as in Adelaide, commences in the morning. The silent warrior awakes, then in his room he visualises — the portrait of an artist in boxer shorts. As his batting suggests, this man prefers method to chance. He will see the bowler in his mind, envision his action, and then barefoot, with bat in hand, take stance and meet the imaginary ball.
In the first innings, he is there in total for 594 minutes, searching for harmony between mind and feet, discovering a way to stay in concentration’s embrace. He does not care for statistics, he is not distracted by his nation spellbound, for he says "you can’t be thinking, 'What if I fail?'".
"You can’t concentrate for 10 hours, you switch on and off, you push yourself, your mind wanders, you bring it back, you steel yourself. That’s the real beauty, when you win the battle against yourself," he explains.
This is the essence of Dravid, waging his silent, private war. He is occasionally bewildered that after he is done, the pleasure of what he has accomplished is not that powerful; for him, "more joy" is found while completing the task.
He is in an inward-looking player, an analyser, constantly scrutinising his art, dismembering his innings and emotions into pieces for study. Predictably, he is too intelligent to be at ease with this hero business; he finds it discomforting, exaggerated. He says: "I don’t really feel like a hero, my only qualification is that I come on television more than a nurse or a soldier or a teacher. Anyway, I don’t think sportsmen can really be considered heroes."
At the crease in Adelaide, his brain will register heat, applause, scoreboard, partner, but it is the specific bowler of the moment that he is attuned to. That this is Gillespie running in, hair askew, awakens the warrior in him. "The Australians always come hard at you, you’re always in a contest and this makes it easier to concentrate. In fact, when change bowlers like (Simon) Katich come on, you have to focus harder."
His second innings, India chasing 230, is more valuable, more arduous; the pressure is stifling and his fine form of earlier days initially deserts him. "I didn’t feel in much control, I had to fight through periods, refocus, reminding myself of what I wanted to achieve. My goal was to not get out, to make it as difficult as I could."
He is both calm and desperate, driven by emotion yet aware it is dangerous. "I’ve been playing for seven years and we’ve lost a lot of games, and I was just fed up, and during many periods on Tuesday I kept telling myself I didn’t want to go through that again."
His batting is evidence of a careful work ethic, of a player who shares a comfortable companionship with discipline. After the Test, his captain Sourav Ganguly will say on television: "He’s the best role model you can have, because he works so hard, thinks so much." But this is also genetics, this willfulness written into some invisible chromosome. He says his mother, an artist, "is a very determined woman, when she sets her mind to something she does it". Mother does her doctorate in art in her mid-50s and the son takes photographs at her ceremony; of these innings, mother would approve.
In the first innings, he plays 446 balls, in the second, 170, so many just watched and left as if unworthy of his bat’s attention. Monks are less circumspect than him, and indeed when he plays it appears he is delivering a sermon on batsmanship. Yet his carefully calibrated approach has a powerful reason. "As much as I get confidence from playing shots, I also sometimes gain confidence from leaving balls, because it gives me an idea of where my off stump is."
His batting is not, for some, immediately appealing; it is like a painting, it requires a second look, a considered appreciation. Soon its beauty is revealed, its simple elegance, its clean, classical lines, its divorce from awkwardness, its stylish symmetry. He plays to his own wondrous sheet music. He is owner of more shots than some believe, he is merely fastidious about what to play, but when he delivers, in Adelaide, cover drives of such precise sophistication, it is worth any wait.
Polished, fussy, batsmen like him are often eclipsed by the quicker scorers, those with flair and flourish. It scarcely bothers him. "People like to come and watch great shots, and players playing attractively. That’s natural, so would I."
But this unpretentious, engaging man is an owner of different virtues, just as precious. As he says: "I don’t have some of the gifts of a Tendulkar or a Lara, but I have other things. I’d like very much to be respected as someone who is courageous and fights and does his best. I enjoy an innings (like the 233 and 72), for it brings out different facets of my character that are dear to me — commitment and discipline and courage." But he knows gifts themselves mean little, in themselves they are inadequate.
"The challenge," he says, "is making the best of the gifts you have got. I have learnt this from Tendulkar, who has worked extremely hard to make best use of his gifts."
All his life, even when belittled, Dravid has stayed faithful to these gifts. Years ago, when considered unfit for the one-day team, even told to sandpaper his off spin because it might help selection — a time of great humiliation for him — his response was classic. Then, he told me, he could have either moped and moaned and believed the world was against him, or he could go to the nets and find a way to get better. He chose well.
But let us not believe he is all seriousness, some swotting student with no time to look and smell life, because that is not him. Mostly, in fact, if you meet him for dinner, there is a charm and roundness to him that is appealing.
Indeed, of all the moments at Adelaide, the one he enjoys more than most points to a man who delights at cricket’s charming surprises.
It came around tea on the third day. He had begun the day at 43, V.V.S.Laxman on 55, yet late in the day when he looked at the scoreboard, he noticed with amusement that he, impossibly, had outpaced his usually more fluent friend. You don’t need to see the grin on his face, because he is laughing down the phone when he talks of this: "Yeah, jeez, not a bad effort for a blocker, huh?"
No, not bad at all.
May 22, 2005, 09:46 PM
Secrets of Batting Champions
When watching international cricket it is easy to be mistaken into thinking that there is an unlimited number of initial movements that work because each player seems to have a unique method. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
I know that I tried a number of initial movements during my cricket career but the one with which I achieved the most success was a slight movement across the crease in which I shifted the weight onto the ball of the back foot to enable me to move forward easily. During the World Series Cricket revolution in the late 70’s the rise of the great West Indian fast bowling quartet provoked me into changing this movement.
Because I was not getting many balls pitched up I changed the method to putting the weight onto the ball of the front foot to allow me to get ready to play back. What followed was one of the leanest periods of my career. It was only when I reverted to my original method that I began to feel comfortable again and what followed was a very successful series against the West Indies in the Caribbean. I never considered changing my method again.
The thing that I noticed during my career was that most of the better-performed players had a similar initial movement pattern to mine. No one, including myself, could explain why this was so.
The batting stars of the modern era are no more able to explain why they do it either but they are all doing exactly the same thing as the champions of the past. It just looks different because of their physiological and psychological make-up. Brian Lara has an extravagant initial movement compared with Sachin Tendulkar while Virender Sehwag is different again, but they all finish up in a similar position at the moment when the bowler prepares to release the ball.
The reason that they do this is that they have found through years of experience that this active, but neutral, position allows for the widest range of responses to any type of delivery that comes their way. The movement is no different whether they are facing fast or slow bowlers but the timing of when they start the movement is.
Through the years of playing and, especially, during my coaching career I have heard a number of theories about what is the best method of preparation for a batsman. These have ranged from pre-cocked backlifts and so-called ‘ready’ positions that have a batsman planted on one foot or the other before the ball is bowled. None of the proponents could give me an explanation that made much sense to me. None of the methods appeared to give a very wide range of post-delivery options to the player.
A few years ago I was reintroduced to a former first-class cricketer, Ian Frazer. Ian had represented Victoria and subsequently had gone on to work and study in different fields including sports science. Ian was then coaching juniors and was as frustrated as I with some of the theories that were passing as fact in the cricket community. We decided to get together and do some research on the best players of the past and present.
When Ian and I sat down to watch the film of the best batsmen of the past 50 years, from Bradman to the current champions, Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Hayden and Gilchrist we saw a pattern begin to emerge. All but a few of them had exactly the same initial movement pattern. Sure, each had their own idiosyncratic way of doing it but the basic pattern was the same.
As the bowler loaded up into the delivery each of them levered the bat to a position parallel to the ground, toe pointing toward the slip cordon with the face of the bat slightly inclined to the off side with arms relaxed and slightly bent. At the same time they shifted their weight onto the ball of the back foot and inclined the body toward the bowler with the front foot hovering above the ground or lightly brushing the ground.
This was fascinating. Maybe we were onto something! What was it that caused all of these champion players to do the same thing? Then it occurred to us. They all must have had the same intention. If that was the case, then what was that intention? That too became obvious when we thought about it. They all intended to move toward the ball. How, you might ask, did we know that?
All movement patterns are organised by the unconscious brain. Once we intend to move in a certain direction, the brain automatically arranges the body so that the most efficient movements occur in an orderly, fluid fashion. If we change our mind about the direction in mid movement, the brain automatically makes the necessary adjustments. We do not have to think about each step in the chain.
The same process takes place when we are batting. Having an intention to move in one direction or the other is enough to trigger the brain to arrange the movements that are required to match the intention.
Try it for yourself. Stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet with a magazine on the floor immediately to your left. Now move to step over the magazine to your left and observe what this intention triggers in the brain to allow this to happen. Now step back over the magazine to your right and observe once again.
What you should have noticed is that as you intended to move to the left the brain organised for a subtle shift of weight from the left foot onto the ball of the right foot with a slight bending of the right knee to allow you to push off to the left. The reverse will have happened as you went back to the starting position.
These same actions are taking place unconsciously all day long whether you are walking, gardening, stepping over puddles or playing sport. Your intention to move is enough to trigger the brain into action. You do not have to control each movement. In fact if you are thinking about each action you will actually interfere with the process.
So why do the best batters intend to move forward rather than prepare to play back? Wouldn’t it be just as efficient to prepare to play back as I tried against the West Indian fast bowlers? The answer is an emphatic no!
Why it works best to intend to play forward until you are forced back is because the first point of release from the bowler’s hand will be a full-pitched ball. If you prepare for the full ball you will still have time to adjust and push back if the ball stays in the hand longer and is short. In fact, the subconscious brain will begin to adjust before you are consciously aware that the ball will be short.
If you prepare for the short ball first you will not have enough time to adjust if the ball comes out of the hand early. In fact, you will most probably miss the ball coming out of the hand because the brain will be focussing on the expected later point of release.
This then is the ‘Secret of the batting Champions.
If, as coaches, we can encourage this mind set in our players this movement pattern will occur naturally. What a player thinks about will decide how efficient the movement patterns are, so the correct thought processes are critical to a player’s chance of success. This is why as coaches we cannot afford to cause our players to be focussed on their own movements. They must be focussed on the ball with a clear intention to play forward and let the brain do the rest.
May 22, 2005, 09:48 PM
At the end of their recent Test series in South Africa, West Indies captain Brian Lara cited his team’s failure to cope with pressure as one of the principal reasons for the 3-0 defeat.
“If you can’t handle pressure situations things go wrong and I feel most of the time, the pressure situations are what caused the lapses in many departments of our game.”
DR. RUDI WEBSTER, head of the West Indies Shell Cricket Academy at St. George’s University, a former performance enhancer with the West Indies team and author of “Winning Ways” an award-winning book on the subject, explains what is pressure and how best to manage it.
In 1976, Clive Lloyd and I sat in a pub in Melbourne and attempted to drown our sorrows and dejection with Australia’s most famous beer.
We had just been beaten 5-1 by Australia in a series of battles that left us mortally wounded - or so I thought.
As we drank, our gloom started to disappear and our mood improved. After two hours of fluid intake, Clive looked at me and said: “We are going to be the best cricket team in the world for the next ten years.”
Not unreasonably, I asked how he proposed to do that, given the outcome of the contest that had just ended.
Clive thought for a while, then observed that the West Indies had dropped over 50 catches in the six Tests and noted that they wouldn’t win matches if they didn’t hold their catches.
He was adamant that he would see to it that the West Indies became the best fielding team in the world. In future, he said, he wanted only players who could take up any position in the field.
Clive noted how uncomfortable the Australians were against the two young West Indies’ fast bowlers, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, in Perth where the West Indies won their only Test by an innings.
His point was that he wanted two more bowlers like Holding and Roberts to compromise a four pronged attack that would put the opposition under constant pressure and give them no quarter.
But there was more.
“We must become tougher mentally, to outthink and outplay our opponents,” he said.
Clive had taken a lot of flak for the defeat, even more than losing captains usually do, but he insisted that he intended to become the “most successful captain in the game”.
These were some powerful goals and the way he articulated them dispelled my doubts about his original statement. Suddenly, I was able to see those outcomes in my mind.
The rest, as they say, is history. Clive Lloyd achieved all his goals and the West Indies team dominated cricket, not for 10, but for 17 years.
A famous Russian scientist once said that performance is influenced by a combination of history or past experiences and goals and plans formulating the future.
Clive understood West Indies cricket history. He was conscious of the culture, experiences and style of play that brought success to the teams led by Frank Worrell and Garry Sobers.
It was from that platform that he launched his team towards his clear and powerful goals and created the future that he articulated so eloquently in a Melbourne pub.
To return to those heady days, almost 20 years after Clive Lloyd played his last test, West Indies cricket needs to go back to its roots and establish solid foundations at youth, school and club levels, on which we can build later on.
In the early stages, it must ensure that players (and coaches) understand the importance of the areas outlined above and those itemised below and that they get adequate exposure to them.
Sir Garry Sobers once said to me that, while having a clear picture of what you want to achieve and a strong belief that you can achieve it do not guarantee success, they give you a 70% chance of having success.
The first lesson to be learned from these examples is that we ignore our history at our peril.
We cannot replace our cricket culture and style of play with transplants and insensitive personnel from other countries and expect to get the best out of our systems or players.
What we can do is adapt our systems and style of play, where necessary, to meet the demands and challenges in today’s cricket environment.
We must have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and where we want to be in the future. Having done that we must set long-term and short-term goals and priorities, and formulate plans to achieve those goals with clear standards and expectations.
Everyone involved in performance enhancement must be able to see, understand and believe in those goals, abandoning the disturbing modern feature of attempting to “intellectualise” sport.
The parts of the brain that deal with sport, music, dancing and art are different from those areas that deal with intellectual and academic activities.
Most development and performance improvement programmes in sport revolve around four areas identified by the great track and field athlete, Michael Johnson, in a BBC television interview.
The first is fitness, conditioning and the prevention of injury (strength, power, endurance, flexibility, speed, agility, coordination, balance and stability).
The second is technique (mastery of the basics of technique), the third, tactics and strategy (how to compete, how to score, how to outthink, outplan and outplay the opponents) and the fourth, the mental skills (self-discipline, how to think, concentrate, cope with pressure and play a good inner ‘game’).
Priorities in these four areas differ from sport to sport, but all of them are necessary for success.
In golf, and other sports, players are always searching for that magic tip or magic move to transform their game and just about every year a new fad takes root. Cricket is now going down a similar path.
The new fad in cricket is biomechanics.
It is an important science but, like any other specialty, it must be put in its rightful place in the performance equation.
Its main objectives are to improve the efficiency of movement (technique) and to prevent injury. It is a relative newcomer to cricket and, assuming that it is being used correctly, one has to ponder whether it is achieving its goals.
Regarding technique, all great batsmen have certain things in common. They see the ball very early and, from its trajectory, determine its line, length and bounce. That helps them to get into position early.
Their other attribute is their placement of the ball. In some cases the actual mechanics of batting vary considerably. Just look at Sobers and Viv Richards, Lara and Hayden, Tendulkar and Steve Waugh.
Instead of just focusing on body movements (biomechanics) when teaching batting technique, coaches would be well advised to spend more time improving the two areas I just mentioned. After all, they are the strengths of the great players.
Those obsessed with biomechanics should ponder the following verse:
A centipede was happy and quiet until a toad in fun
Asked, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This set his mind in such a pitch
He lay distracted in the ditch
Thinking how to run.
This is a classic case of paralysis by analysis.
Sir Garry once told me that the proper use of the mind is the one thing that separates champions from merely good players. He said that he had come across lots of players who had more natural skill than some of the great players but they never made it, because they couldn’t think clearly and sensibly. He stressed that top players know how to think, how to concentrate and what to do in tough situations.
When I ask players what percentage the mind plays in competition and performance, most say about 50 to 80 percent. But when I ask them how much training time they spend on the mental aspects of their game, the answer is less than five percent.
Considering that the mental condition can be trained just as much as the physical condition, why is there such a discrepancy in what the players say and what they do?
In every game, the player has two opponents, one on the outside and one on the inside.
The outer opponent is the other team and conditions in the game they must overcome.
The inner opponent is very cunning. It will play all sorts of tricks to upset your game. He knows exactly how to upset you, break your concentration and diminish your confidence.
In fact, many times when he is finished with you, you are half way to defeat before you meet your opponent on the field.
To win the game on the field, players must first win the game in their head. If they don’t cope with their inner opponent, the outer one will cause them even more problems.
Perhaps the best example I can give of mental toughness and winning the inner game is an experience Desmond Haynes and I shared on a golf course in Hampshire with Malcolm Marshall in the last few months of his life.
At that time, Malcolm’s body was ravaged by cancer. He was weak, frail and suffering excruciating pain. He played very badly because he could hardly hit the ball.
On several occasions we asked him if he wanted to abandon the game but he refused to quit. On the 14th tee he said, “What am I doing out here? I can’t even hit the ball,” to which Desmond replied, “Stop complaining and take your lashes like a man.”
Malcolm went silent for a while. He then turned to us and declared rather confidently that he was going to win the last five holes. We laughed, told him he was dreaming, and then tried to lift our own games.
Almost miraculously, Malcolm’s swing and ball striking improved and his will to win became evident as new energy appeared in his movements and body language. He won the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th holes and only a lucky chip by Desmond on the last hole prevented him from winning.
I was dumfounded. I suddenly realized that I had just seen a triumph of mind and spirit over body, physical limitations and extreme pain.
When I asked him how he did it he told me that in spite of his problems he knew he could beat us. He said that he saw the victory in his mind very clearly and it was just a matter of carrying it out on the course.
Later that evening, I remembered the words of the famous NBA champion Bill Russell about courage in champions. He said: “Heart in champions has to do with the depth of their motivation and persistence, how well their mind and body react to pressure. It is concentration – that is being able to do the best under maximum stress, fatigue and pain.”
One final thought.
The team that wins the Cable and Wireless series between England and West Indies will most likely be the one that executes the basics better and uses its head more sensibly.
May 22, 2005, 09:51 PM
Bradman’s secret: all done with leverage
April 28, 2000
The British sports scientists who have begun analysing Don Bradman’s technique in the hope that it may contain the secrets of success for future English batsman apparently believe they have stolen a march on the rest of the cricketing world.
Not so. Among certain Australian coaches, too, there has been a growing realisation that what Bradman did was mechanically correct, however unorthodox it may have seemed at the time, and should be used as a model for young batsman.
Greg Chappell, Australia’s most successful batsman since Bradman, is one such coach. For some years Chappell, now South Australian coach, has taken a special interest in Bradman’s ‘unorthodox” backlift and is convinced that it had a lot to do with his phenomenal success.
Bradman’s backlift is also the main focus of the new research in Britain. Biomechanists at Liverpool John Moores University have produced three-dimensional computer images that seem to show that a Bradman-type backlift gives the batsman a fraction longer to play the ball and automatically puts the batsman on his toes.
Bradman did not place his bat behind his back toe and lift it straight behind him in the classical fashion. Rather he placed it between his feet and raised it, baseball-style, in front of his body so that the blade was pointing upwards towards gully.
Chappell has studied the Bradman method on newsreel footage and experimented with it at length. This is his conclusion:
“Basically Bradman didn’t lift the bat at all - he levered it up. He just pushed down with his top hand and used the thumb and forefinger of his bottom hand as a fulcrum. There was no lifting as such: it was a pure lever action. The result was that the batsman weighed nothing because it was pointing straight up.
The need for a backlift is a fallacy. You don’t need a backlift. All you need to do is get the bat into a neutral position so you can move quickly to play the ball, both forwards and back.
Once he had levered the bat up, Bradman’s hands were in the middle of the body and his balance was perfect. The reason he’s the best player ever is that he was the best balanced player ever. He was a bit like a boxer who carries his hands low, like Muhammad Ali. He was on the balls of his feet, light as a feather. He never took the bat out of the perimeter of his feet.”
In Chappell’s view, this was the other big advantage of the Bradman method:
“The weight of his bat and arms was over his feet rather then projected behind him beyond his centre of gravity. This avoided the shift in weight to the back foot produced by a straighter backlift.
Bradman was just so loose. Because he had levered the bat up, it was almost weightless, so it didn’t take much effort to hold it. His arms, hands, everything was very relaxed. If you try to lift the bat straight back, all of a sudden you are using a lot of muscles in your hands, forearms, upper arms, chest, and once you engage those muscles, it requires effort from your legs to keep you balanced.”
Chappell’s research suggests that, regardless of what the textbook says, most good players over the years have tended towards the Bradman pickup, although none has done it quite as he did. The closest to it that Chappell has seen is India’s Sachin Tendulkar, a short man like Bradman.
According to Chappell, tall batsman find it harder to pick up the bat like Bradman.
“The taller you are, the harder it is to get into the position of balance that he was in. I would’ve had to stand straight up to be in the same position. I didn’t do that - I did what everyone else did: learnt over and tapped that bat on the ground. If I was starting out now, I’d probably adopt a more upright stance.”
May 22, 2005, 09:53 PM
Unweighting is the act of accessing the ground forces effectively and efficiently.
It describes the act of the ground pushing back the weight that has been applied to it. As more weight, either through total mass or through the velocity of the movement (mass/time), is applied to the ground the more the ground pushes back. This describes how humans walk, run and jump. It also describes how batsmen must act to use their feet to move into position to strike the ball.
To be able to jump to the left or the right the human body must be unweighted by loading one foot or the other. If you want to jump to the left you must load the right foot by shifting weight over the right leg onto the ball of the foot. Should you wish to jump to the right the weight of the body must be unweighted by loading onto the left leg in the same manner. If both feet are carrying significant weight, movement becomes laboured and difficult.
The timing of any movement is critical to its effectiveness. What is forgotten is that the ground only pushes back at the time of the exposure to the weight. After that point it takes considerable strength and energy to push out of a set position. This explains the problem with total mass plants that are taught by many cricket coaches. These initial movements often weight the ground over a long period of time. To move quickly the body must be unloaded and reloaded quickly at the critical time.
Forces are generated in the vertical, horizontal and rotation planes. Ideally we want to unweight as much into the vertical plane while remaining on balance. Interestingly by loading the unweighting leg vertically we also allow the leg to be loaded rotationally. This same technique is used by ice skaters. These forces are then passed up through the body to set up the top half.
A batsman can do a mini dance on the balls of the feet as the bowler approaches, (have a look at the effect on the bat load as the weight shifts occur. Players like Border even Tendulkar (above) who move around pre ball have to time the bat loading and reloading. It’s another complexity that players often struggle with), as long as at the time for movement the batsman is in a position to push into the ground with the appropriate loading. That is the key! For cricket this requires we push off one leg to set up the other. The simpler it is kept the easier it is for most.
The simplest way to start the movement is with the top hand take away of the bat, to load it, triggering the unweighting onto one foot for push off. For most players it is best to load the back leg as the ball is leaving the bowlers hand to be in position to push forward if the ball is pitched up. The front foot is carrying no weight at this point and is virtually hovering above the ground. If the delivery is too short to push forward to comfortably, then the front foot can be planted onto the ball of the foot to push the body back into the best position to access the ball.
May 22, 2005, 09:55 PM
The Mystery of the Wrist Cock in Batting
Perhaps no other area in sport has been discussed or analyzed as thoroughly as the golf swing. Just about everyone who plays golf can carry on a reasonable conversation about the mechanics of the swing. Golf is a very precise and demanding game and minor mistakes often result in major disasters.
One of the moves most talked about in golf is the cocking of the wrist. In the last few years, this has been receiving more and more attention in cricket and is now part of the batting lingo.
In the right handed golfer, proper cocking of the left wrist is a key move in the golf swing. Cocking the wrist correctly and getting the clubface in a good position at the top of the backswing enable the top golfers to move freely, smoothly and correctly into the downswing. This helps them to get good contact with the ball and to control its flight, direction and distance. This is also the case in cricket.
But, cocking of the wrist in the backswing is one of the most misunderstood and poorly executed parts of the golf swing and bat swing. When you ask golfers or batsmen to cock their wrist and hold their position at the top of the backswing, invariably you will notice that their wrist is not cocked at all. Instead, it is extended - the back of the hand is closer to the forearm and forms an angle of just over 90 degrees.
What does the wrist look like when it is cocked?
Place the palm of your hand, fingers and forearm on a flat surface and move your hand from side to side (radial and ulnar deviation). Now move your hand in the direction of the thumb and hold it in that position. Your wrist is now in the cocked position – radial deviation.
In this position you will notice that there is a slight backward bend (slight extension) or no backward bend of your wrist. The line along back of your forearm and the back of your hand is either straight or forms a gentle backward curve. You will also notice a gentle concave curve between the radius, wrist and thumb and three or four fine converging lines or wrinkles intersecting that curve.
Keep your hand and forearm flat on the surface and then bend your wrist backward so that the back of your hand moves towards your forearm (extension). Take it back as far as it will go. You will notice a tighter curve between the back of the hand and forearm and large wrinkles across the back of the wrist. This position of extension is often mistaken for the cocking of the wrist.
When a weighted object like a bat or golf club is swung to the top of the backswing, its weight and the generated forces tend to bend the wrist backward into extension rather than into radial deviation. In that extended position, the grip pressure in the last two fingers might decrease and the club handle might move away from the palm of the hand. This can cause problems in the downswing.
I have noticed that batsmen who are taught to cock their wrist invariably end up with the wrist quite extended at the top of the backswing. As the top hand grip loosens, the bottom hand frequently compensates by gripping the handle tighter. If the power grip (palm grip) is maintained in the top hand throughout the backswing with constant pressure between the palm and the last three fingers, this is unlikely to happen. When the backswing ends incorrectly, the downswing is likely to start incorrectly.
Anatomists will tell you that cocking of the wrist or radial deviation – the creation of a gentle concave curve between the thumb and radius - and ulnar deviation are easiest and most effective when the wrist is in a neutral flexion/extension position – when the back of the hand and forearm are in line or form a slight backward curve with each other. Cocking the wrist becomes more difficult and less effective as extension of the wrist increases and the backward curve gets tighter. That is why good golfers are so careful, almost obsessive, about keeping their wrist in a neutral flexion/extension position at the top of the backswing.
Many amateur golfers spend countless hours with their coaches, and at practice, learning how to cock their wrist. Alas, not many of them succeed in doing so correctly or consistently, particularly under pressure.
Years ago, I did some mental work with Greg Norman, the great Australian golfer, who became the number one golfer in the world. Sometimes we spoke about technique and about how it is affected by the mind. There were two technical points that I stressed to him. In putting, he should feel as though his fingers were making gentle love to the club handle. That was to encourage him to use the precision grip and to get a better feel and awareness for the movement of the putter. The second was the cocking of the wrist. I asked him to take his normal grip, start his backswing by making a fist with his top hand, and feel the pressure between the palm of his hand and the last three fingers. He was to maintain that fist at least to the top of the backswing.
Why did I ask him to make a fist? When you do so, your wrist automatically goes into the cocked position. Try it and see. Make a fist and feel the pressure between the palm and the last three fingers. In this position, your hand will deviate to the side of the thumb to make a gentle concave curve with the radius, small converging wrinkles will intersect that curve, and the wrist will go into a neutral flexion/extension position
What does the correct wrist cock feel like in the backswing? Place your right hand behind your back and swing the bat or club with your left arm to the top of the backswing and stop. Now make a fist. Your wrist is now cocked.
Another way to feel this sensation in the backswing is to make a fist around an imaginary bat handle and swing your left fist and arm backward to the top of the backswing a few times. A third way is to place your right hand behind your back, take a power grip on the bat handle with the left hand, make a fist, and swing the bat backwards a few times to get the feel and awareness of the wrist cock. As you cock your wrist in both of the above exercises notice how the weight of your body tends to shift towards the ball of your right foot.
Cocking the wrist is one of the fundamentals of batting. Cricket coaches should emphasize it and explain it plainly to their batsmen. They should then show them how to do so correctly and how to get the right feel of it. In addition, they should encourage them to pay attention to what is happening to the weight on the bottom of their feet during the backswing. They will then be in a better position to enhance batting performance.
Edited on, May 23, 2005, 2:57 AM GMT, by Arnab.
May 22, 2005, 09:59 PM
Tempo, the Forgotten Factor
Rudi V. Webster
May 13, 2005
During the Clive Lloyd and Gary Sobers eras, West Indies cricketers thrilled cricket lovers around the world with their natural, exciting and often reflexive style of cricket. The purists of the day often complained that the players’ mechanics or techniques were wrong. And yet, under Lloyd and Viv Richards, the West Indies team dominated cricket for seventeen consecutive years, consistently outscoring and outplaying all opponents.
In the case of the batsmen, these critics, like many of today’s cricket coaches, were so preoccupied with body positions and the conscious control of those positions that they missed one of the most important fundamentals of the sport - tempo. While those West Indies players had different and distinctive techniques, they all shared good tempo (timing) and rhythm. The body positions that these coaches espouse are the effects of a good bat swing and not the cause of it. And conscious control of body positions during the very short time between the start of the backswing and the impact of bat with ball is very difficult. It is not only difficult; it can distract the player from watching and hitting the ball.
If you are a player with reasonably sound mechanics, good tempo will take you to a higher level of performance. With good tempo, you won’t have to worry about the mechanics of the swing. They will happen instinctively and reflexively. Hardly any of today’s cricket coaches focus on tempo. Conventional coaching therefore ignores one of the most important fundamentals of the game.
In his book, “I Can’t Accept Not Trying” Michael Jordan the basketball player stressed: “The fundamentals are the basic building blocks or principles that make everything work. I don’t care what you’re doing or trying to accomplish: you can’t skip the fundamentals if you want to be the best.”
Tom Watson, the great golfer, once said that good tempo lets your mechanics work for you during the swing. He added that good tempo could compensate to some extent for poor mechanics since it allows your movements to take place in the correct sequence. He stressed that one of the first casualties of poor tempo is balance. And when your balance goes, you automatically lose your ability to strike the ball well.
The word paradigm has become quite common. But what does it mean? It can be regarded as a set of rules that defines boundaries and tells you how to behave within those boundaries in order to be successful.
When teaching batting skills, today’s coaches often break down batting into its constituent parts and try to improve each component. Once this is done they assume that the individual parts will blend automatically to produce a more efficient whole. But, this is not altogether a rational assumption. That is the paradigm that most of today’s coaches employ. I believe that it is time for coaches and players to look at a different paradigm because in batting the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Let’s consider the metaphor of the bicycle and the frog. You can break down a bicycle into its parts, clean and oil them and then put them back together to produce a well functioning bicycle. When you remove a part of the frog, the rest of the body might compensate to keep the frog alive. However, if you remove other parts the frog will lose its life force and die, and no matter how well you put back those parts in the body, the frog will not live again. The difference is that the bicycle is an inanimate object and the frog is a living organism.
The golf swing and the bat swing are not inanimate. Like the frog, they are complex living systems. Good tempo gives life to the swing. It is the force that blends the component parts of the swing into a cohesive, flowing, efficient and living whole.
What is tempo? How can it be learnt?
Cricket can learn a lot from other sports. Bismarck when discussing military strategy once said: “Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit from other peoples’ experience.” He probably said this because soldiers often don’t get a second chance to learn from their experiences.
John Novosel, an American sports writer, recently did extensive research on the tempo of professional golfers and he claims that there are two parts to tempo in golf.
1. The time it takes the club to travel from the start of the backswing to the impact of the club head with the ball. In good players this time varied between 1.06 seconds and 1.20 seconds and in less skilled players 1.3 to 3.0 seconds;
2. The ratio of the time it takes to execute the backswing to the time it takes to execute the downswing to the point of impact. He found that regardless of style or form this ratio was 3 to 1 in professional golfers. In other words, the backswing took three times as long as the downswing. Less skilled players usually have a different ratio. But even among professionals, poor shots resulted whenever that 3 to 1 ratio changed.
Perhaps researchers should do similar studies on the best batsmen in cricket. The demands and circumstances might be different from those in golf but the findings could help us to better understand and improve tempo in batting.
In golf, the club head strikes a stationary ball. But, in cricket, the batsman reacts to the bowler and the movement of the ball as it leaves his hand. His bat swing is triggered by his visual, cognitive and perceptual skills, which also help him to judge the line, length, bounce, spin and speed of the ball.
Good tempo is one of the first casualties of tension, anxiety, loss of confidence, pressure, and poor concentration. Effective management of the mental skills is therefore critical in preserving good tempo.
I have my own ideas about how tempo can be learned in cricket. But, I wish to engage the reader in generating his own ideas and finding his own solutions to this important but forgotten factor in the game.
May 22, 2005, 10:03 PM
India holds its breath every time Sachin Tendulkar walks to the crease. It prays for yet another century, a flood of fours and a shower of sixers, even dropped catches. The heart is in the throat as the ball climbs towards the clouds and, when it crashes on the stands, there is a surge of pride. Why is Sachin so compelling? Here is an observation of his life by Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist in Mumbai, who talked to the cricketer's close friends and acquaintances to trace the dominant influences on his mind.
Dr Harish Shetty
In an era of painful social change Sachin Tendulkar's persona has an inspiring incandescence: it lends hope and meaning in life for millions of Indians who rejoice in his triumphs and console themselves, whenever he fails, that he would surely do better next time. It is a cathartic experience for them.
All attempts to understand Sachin's 'being' would be woefully incomplete without his cathartic sharing. Since I have had no occasion for that, this article is an attempt to explain the essential characteristics of a young man from my interaction with his friends and neighbours at Sahitya Sahawas.
Sachin as a child explored the environment around him unlike today's children who live in structured surroundings most of the time. He had uninhibited access to homes, trees and playgrounds, and the freedom was tempered by the intellectual culture at Sahitya Sahawas Colony, his home in Bandra, Mumbai.
Sachin, photographer Avinash Gowariker and contractor Sunil Harshe were a terrible trio of uncontrollable energy at Sahitya Sahawas two decades ago. "One Sunday while everyone was watching the movie Guide Sachin and I found each other on the same branch of a mango tree," says Sunil. "It broke sending us down with a thud, which alerted an elderly neighbour, and we ran for our lives."
During summer vacations the trio was irrepressible from early morning till late night, playing cricket and a host of other games like viti dandi and shigrupi. Sachin lay
in wait for the kill while playing hide-and-seek: he would hide when it was his turn to seek, waiting for the others to come out, so he could catch them.
Sahitya Sahawas was still being built those days and the boys delighted in making booby-traps in the heaps of sand and bricks lying around. They also flitted around on a rented bicycle but there were still extra calories to be burnt. And this Sachin did with physical fights: whenever he was introduced to a new friend Sachin would challenge him to beat him. Few could.
He has always been positively aggressive, raring to spar with a mightier opponent all the time, but never displaying a destructive trait. He was mischievous but capable of deep affection, says Laxmibai Gije, his nanny for 11 years. He enjoyed every minute of his childhood, and his family and friends provided him with security which probably is the sole factor behind his sense of freedom at the crease.
He could be tough but not insensitive. Sunil gives an instance of the abundant caring quality in him: "Playing 'dummy' on a summer evening in Sachin's house we were hiding under blankets and he was to identify us by touch. He wouldn't let us switch on the fan even though it was very hot. He was afraid that the pigeons in the nest there would get hurt."
A year ago while the Indian team was practising at the Wankhede Stadium, Sachin spent much time bowling underarm to a child who was suffering from a fatal illness. "His last wish was to play with Sachin," says Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association. Sports journalist Makarand Waingankar recently invited Sachin to be the chief guest at an under-14 Elf tournament. He turned up half an hour early, and was extremely friendly with the kids. "Not many cricketers would do that," says Waingankar.
Sachin's toughness emanates from the training by his coach Ramakant Achrekar: it is an attitude practised over the years and now it is a part of him. He is at his best when he is natural and free of all shackles. He does not have to grimace, stare or shout but just be what he is, enjoying every moment, and that is what the people view as toughness. He is toughest when he is enjoying the most.
For him toughness means fulfilment, fun, shouldering responsibility and not being reckless. It indicates the inner peace he enjoys as a result of fulfilling relationships with friends, teammates and family.
Family support and values have contributed much to the making of Sachin. "He is realistic, simple and sincere. Money has not gone to his head. He is caring and jealously guards his private life," says a very close relative. Even after Sachin became a legend his father continued his association with his old cultural associations, and his mother retained her job with the LIC. The family has practised a value system with rigour.
When someone asked Sachin why he did not move from the middle-class Sahitya Sahawas, he replied that it was where he grew up and where he could be close to his family. Sahitya Sahawas also affords him the freedom to move around in shorts without being mobbed; here he can have his private emotional space and feel secure. His wife Anjali attends all functions in Sahitya Sahawas and daughter Sara's first birthday on October 12 drew all the children and their mothers in the colony to the Tendulkar home.
Sachin's parents gave a room to a family friend in their small house for a whole year as he had no place to live at that time. There are many such instances which reveal the family's sound value system which has had a deep impact on Sachin. Even today when he comes to play table tennis, he waits for his turn; and while playing cricket in the colony he is prepared to field and bowl with the kids there.
This was one kid who was really determined. As Sahitya Sahawas was a writers' colony there was a strong temptation to keep him away from cricket. But by the time he was 10 he had a cricket bag bigger than him and he would start for his practice at 6 a.m. When he was 11 he moved in with his paternal uncle to concentrate on cricket. The commitment to the game never weakened. "Last May he practised alone at the nets for three days to prepare for a match against a team of the calibre of Bangladesh," says Shetty.
Faith is central to Sachin's psyche. A firm believer in himself and in God, he frequents the Shivaji Park Ganesh mandir, and his cricketing kit has an embossed image of the Lord. "After we had done badly in Sri Lanka Sachin and I had planned to visit the Ganapati Temple at the G.S.B. Hall at Wadala," says Shetty. "As he had to go to Toronto to play against Pakistan I visited the temple on our behalf. When India won 4-0 Sachin called up from Canada and thanked me for visiting the temple."
Sachin's faith in India is there for all to see. He is the only cricketer who sports the tricolour on his helmet and he wants all others to do so. He was terribly upset when someone inverted the tricolour during the Asia Cup at Colombo. He touches the soul of India. He is our best anti-depressant.
It is his faith in values, God and the country that makes him a clean cricketer untouched by controversies. It is one reason why he is reluctant to appear on liquor ads. He stands apart, giving of his best. And the best of his contributions is being a national unifier at a time when cynicism and divisive mentality are gaining ground. He acts as a great binder, a superglue.
With his flair on the field Sachin reminds us of our self-esteem. Each century of his proves his conviction that Indians are no way inferior to anyone. When riches are becoming the only mark of success in a country that has cherished austerity, he shows that wealth and good values can co-exist.
He offers solace through his innocence, talent and ability to take on the world's best. He is warm yet aggressive, friendly but fiercely competitive, enlightened but approachable. He may not love to debate about Amartya Sen but he is emotionally intelligent. His state of being is more powerful than the tallest intellectuals of the country.
He learnt art of poise from the other little master. At age 14 when Sachin was disappointed on not getting the prize of the best school cricketer of the year, Sunil Gavaskar soothed him with a letter whose gist was, 'When you see the records of cricketers who have won the prize, you will see one name is missing, one who has proved everybody wrong. Hence do not worry.' He has not forgotten the lesson and never makes a mistake twice.
A constant learner, Sachin is also a good guide. Amit Pagnis, who captained the under-19 team for the World Cup 1997, says, "Sachin clarifies our doubts gently as an equal and not from a pedestal." Veteran cricketer Hemant Kanitkar relates how his son Hrishikesh found Sachin inspiring: "Sachin kept saying, 'We can do it, and we will do it,' after Pakistan had scored 313 against India at a one-dayer in Dhaka."
Most achievers build their cerebral software early in life and do not greatly modify it later. Sachin is a constant learner, who does not hesitate to change the chips. He competes with himself all the time, teasing and quarrelling with Sachin of the previous day.
Early in life he learnt the importance of being human. The dehumanising environment that envelops celebrities has had little impact on him as he is surrounded by people who are equally human. He is himself in their presence: he can be vulnerable before them, shed tears and replenish his emotional energy bank.
Sachin does not carry the burden of being politically correct. This is not because he is a genius but because he is genuine. It is not part of his cerebral software. Though courteous, he focuses his energies on the chosen field of activity and allows records to tumble on their own. Like Arjun, he only sees the eye of the fish.
Edited on, May 23, 2005, 3:03 AM GMT, by Arnab.
May 22, 2005, 10:09 PM
Technique is variable
Indian cricket continues to revolve around him. Sachin Tendulkar, even if not at the helm, raises hopes among the younger lot of providing clean cricket. The youngsters look up to him and the master too believes in the youth - the strength of the Indian team.
The latest scandals have saddened him, but the motivation to excel comes from within as Tendulkar sets himself goals and looks ahead with a lot of expectations from a team which is going through a transition phase.
In this exclusive interview to The Sportstar, Tendulkar speaks on the various aspects of his cricket, particularly his batting.
How much are you enjoying your batting today?
I am enjoying it really well. There are new challenges in the sense that you learn a few tricks about batting everytime you go to the middle. I feel the destination never changes, but you tend to discover more avenues to reach the same destination. That is getting to be interesting. It has always been a challenge, where I wanted to go out and score big runs. I am focussed on this aspect.
Why do you feel this challenge at this stage of your career?
Batting has always been a challenge. Always. The bowler is trying to get me out and I am trying to score runs. It has been like that for nearly 11 years now. It's always been great fun. To put it short I am enjoying it thoroughly.
We get the impression that you are not focussing hard enough. How would you look at it?
It's not true. I am focussing hard. I was very focussed in Dhaka in the Test against Bangladesh. If it was a stronger opposition the focus would have been much harder. I have always wanted to score runs against all opposition. I was very determined to score runs against Bangladesh and the concentration required there was immense.
Why was your effort to focus so hard against Bangladesh?
When it comes to top bowling attacks you are naturally determined to score runs. You are always on your toes, but then Bangladesh was, in comparison, a weaker opposition, playing its first Test. Everyone was expecting India to thrash Bangladesh and that was the time to pull up your socks and tell yourself that the runs were not going to come easily. It takes one good ball to end your dreams. I felt at that stage that it was important to focus hard and concentrate more on what I had to do in that game.
Your best runs have come against the best of attacks. Is there a sense of complacency when you play against weaker teams?
No, I don't think there is any sense of complacency at all. I will score runs sometimes and get out cheaply sometimes. I don't think that means I am complacent. It just happens. I don't think the level of my concentration has come down. Whoever is thinking in these terms is surely wrong.
These days you seem to be curbing your attacking instincts?
I think it (the approach) keeps changing. I am not going to be the same player for 15-20 years, whatever I play. It's going to keep changing. As long as I develop changes for the good I am happy. Batsmanship is not mechanical, that you set it in motion and it keeps going forever. It's a matter of body language and coordination of several movements. There will be a marginal difference in two or three years from now. There is bound to be a difference.
What kind of changes do you foresee?
The stance may change a little bit, the backlift may change a little bit, the feet movement might change. I don't think there has been a fast bowler who would have started and finished his career with the same kind of action. I am talking of great fast bowlers, great spinners for that matter. It's the same with great batsmen I think. Even players like Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards, who have been my heroes, must have changed a lot of things compared to the time they played their first Test. Compare that with things at the halfway stage and maybe 15 years after they made their debut, I am sure things would have changed, and changed for the better. We got to accept that certain things will change and hope they change for the good.
Your range of strokes may not have reduced, but the frequency of playing them has come down. Would you agree?
Maybe. The way I study the opposition, the opposition also studies me. It's very simple.
Do you believe your game has changed because others are doing well to sort of ease the pressure on you?
Sourav (Ganguly) is doing a good job. Rahul (Dravid) is doing a good job. There are eight other players in the team who are doing well. I don't think it has made any difference to my style of play. Maybe 80 yards away from the stumps it looks a little different, but as far as I am concerned I have always gone to the middle to score runs and I'll continue to do that. If the others are performing they are contributing towards the team's success. From my side I am also trying to contribute towards the team's success. Even if others are doing well I'll also try to do well, come what may. I have to contribute always. I have not changed my attitude.
Has scoring runs become a difficult job in international cricket now?
I wouldn't say it was ever an easy job. I am someone who wouldn't want to make tall claims. The best option is to keep quiet and let the bat do the talking. I am not the one to sit on top and make sweeping statements. I think even if someone is scoring runs or not, you must remember that it takes just one ball to dismiss you. It is important that when you are in good form you make the most of it. When you are not, you want to overcome those obstacles as early as possible. Scoring runs has never been easy. It has always been hard work. It requires a lot of concentration, dedication and application.
So the bowlers have become more skilful...
I feel as the opposition gets to know you it becomes slightly more difficult. In a similar manner I would say the player also gets to know the opposition. We are both working at each other's game. Things become more and more competitive I feel.
With so much technical inputs available these days, does it help in improving your line of tactics?
I am sure it does. The bowlers have always been studying batsmen. These days it is something you can actually see on the screen, analyse, see the graph, express yourself in a better manner to explain a few things. Earlier it used to be imaginary when we would plan with fielders at this point and at that point. All these modern equipment do help improve the game.
But all this seems to help the bowlers more than batsmen?
I am sure it would help both equally. It might help the bowler a little more than the batsman. Technology does help the bowler in identifying the strong points of a batsman, identifying the area where he scores more runs. The batsman can also study the bowler and identify the area where he lands the ball strongly. I think it is 60-40 in favour of bowlers.
How long does it take to adapt?
It's all about analysing the game and you can do that even without the computers. I always analyse and I haven't needed a computer. Presence of mind counts a lot. You may face a planned line of attack outside the off stump and then you begin to assess to counter that line. You can't wait for the computer to help you always.
Do you feel you have a lot to contribute? You have been taking your bowling also seriously...
If you have seen, in the last 11 years, I have always been bowling in the 'nets'. Even though I had back problems I would still bowl in the 'nets'. I have always enjoyed it and it is one way to remain fit. I am doing something all the time. Why not, if it helps the team I should. Now I am bowling 10 overs in limited overs matches. It's a great feeling.
Are you looking at developing yourself into an all-rounder?
I am close to getting 100 wickets in one-dayers. I think I do fit in as an all-rounder in one-dayers, if not Test cricket. The odd break-through in Tests is fine, but I don't think I am good enough to bowl 25 overs in a Test match.
You have often gone out of the way to guide the newcomers in the team. You always make inquiries about good players around. What motivates you to do this?
It excites me. If I can contribute, why not. I feel it thrills me to share a few ideas with my colleagues if it can help. It is up to him to accept my ideas and suggestions. By talking about cricket one can only broaden one's knowledge. It only helps.
How will you react if a newcomer comes and makes a suggestion to you?
Why not? I will always welcome such suggestions. If someone can figure out something wrong I am open to it. Knock on my door and tell me if I am going wrong.
How do you look at the batting trends in the last decade and how have you been analysing it?
I have learnt to analyse the game better. That probably happens with time. We all know time is the greatest healer, and it teaches you so much. I used to be aggresive earlier, but not so good at analysing the game. I am not saying that I am very good, but I am better than I was five years back. That helps the most.
How can we prepare our batsmen to be good on all kinds of pitches?
By playing on good pitches. I have always said in the past we have to play our domestic cricket on good tracks. There should be help for seamers early on, the batsmen should be able to play their shots and then the spinners take over. That is what I call a sporting wicket. We have to have good tracks and not dusty tracks.
What is it that fires you? That charge you gave Glenn McGrath at Nairobi. It was a very different Tendulkar we saw that day...
That particular innings, I felt the wicket had a lot of bounce and dampness. If I had not adopted an aggressive approach it would have been a different story. That innings I think I took them by surprise. They didn't expect me to do that at all. This will tell you about how the pitch was. McGrath didn't have a mid-on to start with. He had a square-leg, a fine-leg, mid-off, point, three slips and a gully and a third man. It reflects on the state of the pitch for a one-day game. If I had tried to hang around he would have attacked at the same spot and I didn't want them to be at the top. Counter-attack was the best thing. Scoring runs was important and not killing time on that pitch.
There was another similar innings you played at Port of Spain against the West Indies. Wet pitch and fiery attack and you gave them the charge...
There also I felt the same. I didn't start off in the first over. In the second over also they attacked outside the off-stump. I realised hanging around was no good. The odd ball was bound to do some damage. I felt the same way against Australia that day at Nairobi.
How do you assess the state of Indian cricket today? The recent scandals and also the fact that the team is going through a transition period?
It's a very tricky situation. We are just getting back on the right track. Whatever has happened was not in good taste, not just for the public but the cricketers too. We have played with the same guys.
What about the youngsters who have come into the team this season?
These youngsters have shown a lot of promise. It is nice to see them display a lot of aggression and positive energy. It is all so important and naturally lifts the team and that is what one expects from the youngsters who give a good feeling to the team and the spectators. I think Indian cricket is heading in the right direction and we need support from all quarters.
May 22, 2005, 10:11 PM
Inside the mind of the world’s leading batsman
12 July 1997
Just before Australia embarked for England, Steve Waugh completed two years as the No.1 batsman in the world on the Coopers and Lybrand ratings, by far the longest tenure for anyone in the 10 years since their inception.
It was a modest milestone, likely to have been celebrated only by the fanatics who submit to the “Steve Waugh is God” page to the Internet and converse in “Steve-isms” as they roam blissfully about in “Stevedom”.
But if there were doubters still that Waugh deserved to be acclaimed as World’s best, the third test was surely their road to Damascus.
Few batsman in the world could have made Waugh’s first innings century, and he alone could have made another in the second innings with his right hand so badly bruised that he was still wearing a bandage on it the day after the match. It was the ultimate Waugh wound.
Intrinsically, each hundred was a worthy achievement. In their wider context, they were masterpieces. In the first innings, the pitch was so spiteful that both sides estimated 200 would be a good team score. In both innings, Australia was in deep trouble upon Waugh’s entrance.
Further, England had made intricate plans for Waugh. For a start, it was particularly and pointedly quiet when he was batting. It was not the silence of reverence, but of a concerted effort to unnerve him. England knew too well how he thrived on confrontation.
“I think they had a team meeting and said not to fire me up in this series. They haven’t said a word to me out there,” he said.
England also made a point of pitching up to Waugh, with two purposes in mind. One was deny him his favourite cut shot: Waugh scarcely played one in either innings. The other was to draw him into an error on the front foot, such as his first ball LBW trying to work a full delivery to mid wicket in the second Test at Lords.
Waugh, of course, was ready. He would play his minimalist’s game. He had already tailored it to meet the circumstances. He had spent two weeks in the nets with coach Geoff Marsh on playing in the “V”. A feature of both innings was his on-driving.
“You’ve got to adapt your game to how they’re bowling. I think I can play all the shots,” he said.
“It’s a matter of pulling them out when they are needed or where they are bowling to you.”
As for the silence, Waugh closed his mind to it as he had learned to close it to all other provocation.
“You can fire up for a minute, but you can’t cross that line where you are out of control”, he said. “When the next ball is bowled, you’ve got to be in control. If you can’t handle it, it can wreck your game.”
Australia can never have had a cricketer like Waugh. He spans the ages, from a time when he and Australia were, if not amateurish – and it showed in their results – to a time when they are polished, professional and the best in the World.
In the beginning he was not even his own man, for he was really aboy. He had no design, no method, no vision.
“I played a lot more shots, and really didn’t play to a plan”, he said. “If it happened, it happened. I used to go out to bat not sure whether I was going to do well or not. Now I’m more sure that I’m going to do well.”
Now he is not only his own man, but all things to all men in this team and coterie. To Mark Taylor, he is tactical adviser and co-conspirator. To the other senior players he is friend and confidante (not to mention brother). To the junior batsman, he is counsellor. To the bowlers, he is batting coach.
To them all, he is shop steward. To his family, he is husband and father, even on tour, for one of the advances he has agitated for and won is to have them with him on his nearly constant travel.
He finds their company reassuring rather than disruptive and in the case of almost-one-year-old daughter Rosalie, probably no less infantile than some of his roommates over the years. Cherubic Rosalie awoke three times on the night before the third Test. Waugh, far from disturbed, made a century the next day.
Two days later, with another vital innings in the offing, wife Lynette offered to move to another room. Waugh would not have it. “You’ve got to make life as normal as you can,” he said. Next day, he made another century.
To himself, he is a broader person for availing himself of the opportunities of cricket has given him to explore the world and not merely it’s golf courses, to further his knowledge and appreciation of cricket history, and latterly to give voice to another side of his personality as a diarist.
“I like to check everything out and see what’s happening. I like to get away from cricket, too,” he said. “It’s a big help to my game to forget about cricket and do something else. You can’t be immersed in cricket all the time. If it doesn’t go well you become a mess.”
Above all, Waugh is to all an inspiration as a cricketer, for by mastering his own game he has mastered the greater game, or at least learned enough of it to know that it cannot ever be mastered wholly, and so to seek ways to stay constantly ahead of it and its vicissitudes.
He has done it by harnessing the power of the mind like few cricketers before him, so much that he has become an evangelist for the cause of mental training.
“It’s something that is definitely underdone in cricket. Everyone’s going for fitness work these days, but something that hasn’t really been touched on is the mental side,” he said.
“It’s strange because everyone says cricket’s a mental game, yet you don’t get any coaching for it. Everyone says cricket is 95 per cent mental. Yet you do 95 per cent physical skills work.”
For a guy who prides himself on mental indomitability, Waugh often expresses suprising paranoia about security of his place in the team. This, he says, is not a contradiction.
“I think it’s pretty healthy to say it rather than keep it all in. I don’t mind saying that sometimes I’m fragile,” he said. “It’s no big worry for my ego. Some blokes keep it in and it builds up and gets too much for them.
“I tell young guys that. Before every game, I feel nervous and edgy and a bit fragile. I don’t feel 100 per cent sure of myself every game.”
It’s the sort of advice he could once have used himself. He was a precocious talent, picked for NSW at 19 and Australia at 20. It was a selection that was three-quarters desperation and a quarter inspiration, downtrodden Australia giving youth its head but not much else by way of guidance or support.
He was bold enough to win Australia a World Cup,, and brazen enough to bowl three successive bumpers to Viv Richards at their first meeting. He was called the Iceman, but within he was often at rage.
Without understanding his game declined and at length he was dropped for more than a year.
It was a watershed of his career. Within months of his recall, he began a run of form to compare with few others in history.
Since (and including) Australia’s last tour of England, he has averaged more than 72 in Test cricket and scored 10 of his 14 Test hundreds. His average in England is 84, second only to Bradman in all Test cricket in this country.
Waugh's transformation, he said, was more about maturity and evolution than sudden and blinding insight. “It’s all about concentration in the middle”, he said. “Just block everything out and watch the next ball. It is really simple, but it’s hard to keep doing.
“It’s easy to be distracted for one ball, and when you do, you’re out. You talk to batsman, 95 per cent of the times they get out, it’s because they’re thinking of something else and not the next ball.”
Waugh says he did not watch himself on videotape, preferring instinct to analysis. “I know my own game pretty well. It’s more that you’ve got to get out there and do it, and when you do it right, it gives you the confidence to keep doing it”, he said.
“If you’re going badly, you get worse. But if you just get a bit of confidence from somewhere – maybe just one shot – you blossom from there. That’s what happened in my cricket. I started to play OK and I thought: “I can play this OK. It went from there”
Even in the West Indies in 1995, when Australia became World Champion largely on the strength of Waugh’s brilliant batting, he had to conquer himself as well as them.
“I had doubts about facing four quicks on bouncy wickets. I didn’t go over there thinking I was going to do really well,” he said. “I think sometimes you build players up to be better than they are.
“When I got there, I thought: “It's not that hard after all. If I dig in, I’m going to score runs”. It’s self-belief, that’s what it is.”
This four-year outpouring of runs has coincided with a decline in his workload as a bowler. Waugh says it is incidental and notes that although he has bowled less, it has been with more effect. Before 1993, he took 49 wickets at 45: since he has taken 31 at 19.
He says he would like to bowl more even now, but accepts that as injuries turn his body brittle, he will not.
It is probably because of all this legacy of Waugh as notional all-rounder that he has always batted down the list for Australia. His stature as a batsman and Australia’s need for a No.3 to succeed David Boon have grown apace for nearly 2 years. Waugh famously thrives on challenges. Yet he would and will not be budged from No.5.
He sees no incongruity. Whoever first insisted that the best batsman in the side ought to bat at No.3 was probably himself a No.3, said Waugh. He sees himself as a specialist lower-order batsman. “I don’t think it’s valid to say you haven’t made it unless you bat in the top three,” he said
“The top three probably wouldn’t score as many runs batting five or six, because they would prefer to face the new ball, they don’t like waiting around and they might not like coming into bat when the field is set and bowlers have had time to get their rhythm.”
Waugh dares not look to far into the future, since the future is coming towards him at a rush anyway.
“I don’t know if four years of continuous cricket will be too much or if I’m still going to be scoring runs in four years. I mightn’t be scoring runs in four weeks,” he said.
“While I’m really enjoying the competitive side of it, I’m going to keep going. I get a thrill out of playing a Test match and putting myself up against the best bowlers and seeing whether I can beat them.”
As they say on the Internet: “May the Steve be with you.”
May 22, 2005, 10:13 PM
Facing the West Indian Pace Attack
The biggest thing to come to grips with facing an awesome quartet of pace bowlers such as the West Indies boasted in the second half of my career was that it was going to take a long time to make runs. On average, they bowled around 12 overs per hour with a high percentage of balls being short of a length, often head high. If you faced half the balls bowled and half of those were difficult to score from you were effectively facing 3 overs per hour. This made it difficult to build up any momentum with your innings. Even with the best will in the world it was hard to force the pace and get on top of the attack.
I decided that if I was going to score runs against them then I had to be prepared to bat all day and not get distracted by the frustration of not being able to score quickly. To achieve this I had to develop my mental techniques to give support to my physical techniques.
I had always prided myself on my ability to concentrate for long periods but I had to take it to a higher level during the period of World Series Cricket in the late 70's. What I learnt at this time was that to develop a mental routine I had to have a strict physical routine. Similar to a golfers pre shot routine I found it important to have a consistent routine between balls and between overs. This helped me to mentally relax between balls to conserve my mental and emotional energy. It also provided me with check points so that I knew I was concentrating before I faced each ball.
My routine allowed me to switch in and out of the different levels of concentration. I developed three levels of concentration. The first being the level of
Awareness was the state of being aware of what was happening around you but not being acutely focussed on any one thing. It was used while waiting to go into bat, in between balls and in between overs.
I switched from awareness to fine focus when the bowler reached the top of his bowling mark. At this point I switched my focus to the bowlers face which gave me an insight into his emotional state as well as his body language via my peripheral vision. All of this helped give me valuable information and cues from the bowler. As the bowler reached his delivery point I switched my focus to the point from which the ball would be delivered and I narrowed my visual field as I switched to fierce focus.
Fierce Focus was only used for the shortest time possible because it required a lot of mental energy. As the ball left the bowlers hand all I saw was the ball and the bowlers hand. This gave me all the cues I needed to gauge the line, length and type of delivery. Once that play was finished I looked to the crowd momentarily to give my mind a rest as I switched to the state of awareness. This was important to conserve mental energy. The cue to bring my mind back to the game was to count the fielders then switch to the bowlers face as he reached his mark as I cycled through to the state of fine focus.
I went through this process for every ball I faced because if I didn't it was possible to get stuck at one level and either use up too much energy too quickly or face balls without being properly focussed. Each time I got back to the strikers end having been away from strike I remarked my crease as a signal to my brain to begin the cycle once again. These physical actions triggered signals to my brain that it was time to start the process over again. They were also check points for me to know that I was in the necessary state of mind to give me the best chance of success.
Each time I went through a lean period in my career I was able to trace it back to the fact that I had got away from this routine. As soon as I got back to the routine my output of runs increased. What I learnt early in my career was that 99 time out of 100 I would get myself out. It may have been contributed to by the pressure built up by the bowlers but it was a mental error that invariably brought about my dismissal. I also realised that no matter how good my technique this ratio would never change. What I decided was that I had to improve my mental skills so that I could delay the inevitable for as long as possible to give me a greater chance of making runs.
May 22, 2005, 10:18 PM
We’re talking about mind games in cricket here. Champions know how to think clearly, respond to situations and stimulate themselves mentally to just the right levels.
Dr.Rudi Webster talks to Rahul Bhattacharya - Wisden Asian Cricket March 2003
The Art of Arousal
Dr Rudi Webster is best known as the sports psychologist who has influenced the careers of such players as Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Brian Lara and a host of champions from other sports, most notably Greg Norman. Not many are aware, however that Dr Webster himself had a sparkling First Class career worth 272 wickets at 19.44, most taken for Warwickshire in the early 1960’s. Dr Webster is also the author of the acclaimed book “Winning Ways”, a study of champions mind through interviews and observations, a modified version of which is to be reissued later this year. He has served West Indian cricket in several roles -as manager in the late 1970’s, intermittently as a performance consultant, and now as a full time director of the board’s Shell Cricket Academy in Grenada. The difference between the good and the great is often in the mind, he tells Wisden Asian cricket.
We keep hearing about the mental side of sport. How important is the mind really in physical activities?
Gary Sobers once said to me, “A lot of talented people never make it to the top because they are poor thinkers. The good players can identify the important priorities in the situations they face and can tailor their skills to deal with them. The lesser players don’t know how to do these things.”
To get the best out of yourself on the field you must be able to blend your mind, body and eyes. One without the other is no good. During competition, the mental skills - thinking, concentration, visualisation, self confidence, making decisions, coping with pressure, self control etc - determine how well you express your physical and technical skills. You can have the best technical skills but if your confidence deserts you or your concentration falters during the game your performance is likely to suffer. Consider the importance of mental skills it is surprising that most players spend less than 10% of their time practising them.
Greg Chappell knew this well. He told me, “My technique is not as good as that of many other players, but I outperformed them because I learnt how to concentrate really well and maintain it under pressure.”
There’s a school of thought that cricket is probably the most mental sport of all.....
Yes, cricket does present special challenges. Like golf, it goes on for a long time and there are many periods of waiting and inactivity. So the mind has a lot of time to get up to mischief and creates all sorts of negative thoughts and images that sabotage performance. Cricket is a great mind game because the bowler is always trying to outthink, outwit, deceive, intimidate and dismiss the batsman who counters with his own plan of attack or defence. In many respects its a game of psychological warfare against your opponents and alas against yourself.
Can you give us a tour of the champion’s mind?
Champions are proud and talented people who are highly motivated to be the best. They have great confidence, think clearly, and have wonderful visions of what they want to achieve. They concentrate well and maintain their focus under great pressure when the others around them are losing theirs.
I’m just watching Shane Bond bowl at 150kph and the batsman facing him has much less than a second to respond. Sixty or seventy percent of that time is used in picking up the line and length of the ball. Then the correct movements need to be made and the bat needs to be swung. This is a lot of work, and mentally you have to not complicate things.
Champions control their thinking, emotions and actions and make good decisions when their opponents are struggling to do so. Importantly, they keep things simple and do not turn the game of cricket into an academic or intellectual exercise.
Mastery of the basics is one of their most important priorities because they know that the basics form the fabric of their performance. Champions can see things as they really are without distorting or magnifying them. When lesser players are challenged they often magnify the difficulty of the task or the reputation of their opponent and at the same time put themselves down and underestimate their ability to cope. This type of perceptual distortion creates pressure.
One of the things that champions do well during competition is to keep their concentration in the present on the task at hand. Less talented players allow their minds to wonder into the future, to imaginary difficulties and failures. Or they allow their minds to return to the past to previous mistakes and setbacks. Instead of staying in the present where the action is they go to the future or past where the action is not. This is one of the most common mental mistakes in cricket. Why do so many batsman get out in the nineties? They do so because they think about the hundred instead of the next ball.
But there are players who say it is the end result that motivates them. Isn’t that looking into the future?
Goals motivate you to action but you must know what action to take and how to take it.
Let me give you an example. If I put a narrow plank on the ground and ask you to walk it, you won’t have any problem doing so. You would just take one step at a time till you reached the end. But if I then place the same plank across to high roofs and ask you to walk it you would have second thoughts because you would start to think of what could go wrong and what might happen to you. Thoughts about falling and injuring, or even killing yourself immediately flash through your mind. Fear and anxiety then sweep in as you become tense and tight. The task in both cases is the same, but in one case you stay in the present and focus on the process and in the other you go into the future and think about the awful things that might happen to you.
One of the things we hear most in today’s sports-speak is the term “positive thinking”. What does this really mean?
Ian Chappell once told me that there are two ways you can think. You can think about the things that can go wrong, the things you fear, or the things you want to avoid. On the other hand you can think about the things you want to happen and the things you want to achieve. The first is negative thinking and the second is positive thinking. He added that far to many dwell on the former.
Negative thinking can be quite damaging, but Ian found a way to deal with it. “Negative thoughts can be very difficult to handle”, he said, “They mess up your concentration. I would often say, “Get rid of them and make them go away”, and they wouldn’t. Later, I adopted another tactic and would say to myself, “Don’t fight them”, but I would fight them harder. After a while I allowed them to come, go through my mind and pass out. I thought, “It is normal to get negative thoughts. No matter what happens, I am always going to get them. Other people have the same problems, so I am not alone.” This approach often got rid of them, I always followed a negative thought with a positive one.”
Yet I was reading in your book, that Dennis Lillee says that he is a negative thinker. And Lillee did fine.
Lillee said that if he had to bowl on a good batting wicket the first thoughts that would go through his mind were; “How can I bowl and get wickets on this perfect batting wicket? I could end up with no wickets for a hundred runs! And if that happens people will criticise me and make fun of me. I can’t let them do that. I must therefore stick to the basics, concentrate on bowling a good line and length and make the batsman earn every run.” Sobers would see the challenge in a different way and adopt a positive attitude. He would say, “This is a great challenge that will separate the men from the boys. The wicket is a good one for batting but I know that I can get seven wickets on it. I will stick to the basics, concentrate on bowling a good line and length and making the batsman earn every run. Psychologists would call Lillee’s actions avoidance behaviour - avoiding failure and ridicule - and Sober’s actions, approaching behaviour - going after success.
But even though Sobers used approaching motivation on the field he sometimes used avoidance motivation off it. He enjoyed dancing and partying and spent a lot of time in nightclubs. He said that when people saw him out until four in the morning they would say, “Look at Sobers. He is partying to four in the morning. How can he expect to play well and give his best?” To avoid this criticism he would apply himself harder during the game.
The other interesting thing that Sobers says that when he was batting he would sometimes get a bit tense - but not nervous. What does he mean by that?
I think he was talking about his “arousal level.” if your engine was idling too fast or too slowly its performance would be substandard. This is also true for the human body. If your arousal level was too low your performance would be substandard because you would be lethargic, bored and poorly motivated. And if your arousal level were too high your performance level would also suffer because you would be over-alert, fearful and anxious. When your arousal level is in the optimal range, you are primed for good performance and might enter a state that people refer to as the “zone”. What Sobers is saying is that he seldom allowed himself to become over-aroused.
The optimal arousal level varies from person to person and from one situation to the next. Players must learn how to detect when their arousal level is outside the optimal range and be able to correct that deviation when it occurs.
I suppose players regulate their arousal levels in different ways. One person may go into a shell and the other might become confrontational.
Yes. Before Gordon Greenidge went in to open the innings he would sit quietly in his own area in the dressing room and go through his preparation routine. He hardly talked to anyone and his colleagues did not talk to him unless it was absolutely necessary. They left him alone to do his own thing. Desmond Haynes, his opening partner, behaved differently. He liked to mix with other players and would talk to anyone who came close to him. If Gordon was forced to go through Desmond’s routine, and Desmond’s Gordon’s, they feel unnecessary pressure. Here are two great players in the same situation, preparing for the same task and challenges and yet they behave in totally different ways.
Greg Chappell, as you say, is one of the people who focussed on the mental side of cricket. Can you tell us a little about him?
In 1971 Greg played poorly in a game for Australia against the Rest of the World. After the match he examined his game and made a firm resolution to improve it. He said that his technique was reasonably sound and that he couldn’t see himself making any major improvements in that area, so he started to look at other things, particularly the mental part of his game. Suddenly he realised that he had to improve and control his concentration. That then became his most important goal. He knew that if he achieved that goal he would become one of the best players in the world. Greg also placed great emphasis on mastery of the basics, physical, technical and mental. He said that to get the best out of yourself you must find out the basics of your game, learn them well, practise them regularly under the same physical and psychological conditions you would face in a game and learn to execute them sensibly. Never go too far away from the basics. If you do your game will fall apart.
Did you ever help Greg?
Yes, with simple things. In the early 1980’s he had a horror run against the West Indies scoring seven ducks in a summer. At that stage he was one of the two best batsmen in the world but he became so despondent and depressed that he considered quitting the game. I went to speak to him at this time and quickly got to the point. I asked him if he was watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand. He said he was. I told him that I thought he was getting out because he was not moving into the correct position to play his shots and that I believed this was happening because he was not seeing the ball early enough in its flight. He said, “You know, I think you could be right. The last few times when I was walking back to the pavilion I realised that I hadn’t seen the ball.” Immediately after the West Indies tour, Australia went to New Zealand and Greg batted exceptionally well. When the reporters ask him what was responsible for his quick and dramatic reversal of form, he told them that a friend had reminded him to watch the ball. I don’t think they believed him; it seemed too simple.
Was Viv Richard’s problem in 1975 in Australia similar to Greg’s?
Yes, in that they were both suffering from anxiety and were ignoring the most important fundamental of batting - watching the ball and getting into position. I showed Viv how to relax and lower his arousal level and taught him how to increase his confidence and focus on the ball. Clive Lloyd recognised this problem and promoted him in the batting order to open the innings. This move helped to relieve some of the pressure.
There is another West Indian player whose mental toughness you rated very highly - Malcolm Marshall
Malcolm was a great champion. During the last World Cup in England Malcolm received devastating news that he had an aggressive cancer in his colon. He had surgery and chemotherapy in Birmingham and then returned to Hampshire to recuperate. At that time he was in excruciating pain, but he never complained. It was in that painful state that he played he played his last game of golf with Desmond Haynes and me. Each time he swung the golf club he was in great pain and you could see the agony on his face. He played terrible, until the 14th hole. On the 14th tee he said, “What am I doing here? I can hardly hit the ball.” Desmond chipped in immediately and said, “Stop complaining and take your lashes like a man. You were never any good at golf anyway.” Malcolm went quiet for a while and then he declared, “I am going to win the next five holes.” We laughed at him and told him he was dreaming. He then proceeded to win the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes. He didn’t win the last on because Desmond had a few lucky shots on that hole. I was astonished by the turn of events and realised that I had just witnessed a major triumph of mind and spirit over body, pain and physical limitation. I then understood why Malcolm was such a fierce warrior and champion.
In a way it is a heightened example of what Lillee says about the mind-body connection. That when you get tired it is your mind that gives in first.
That is true. I try to get athletes to change their interpretation of tiredness. I tell them that when they start to feel the signs of tiredness they still have a lot in reserve. When you get tired the natural reaction is to slow down or stop. But the signs of tiredness should not be seen as an amber light or red light. You should look at it as a green light, which tells you that you are approaching your maximum effort and performance and if you continue, the tiredness will pass. This change in perception can be very effective in improving persistence.
I know that you have worked closely with Brian Lara. How do you think he compares mentally with Sachin Tendulkar? They are both able to motivate themselves to an extraordinary level but it seems Tendulkar finds it easier to stay there.
I think Tendulkar manages his mental skills a little better. But Lara is more Brilliant and plays many match-winning innings. Being superstars, both players are exposed to great pressure and extremely high expectations. But I think that Lara has to deal with more pressure than Tendulkar. Tendulkar is a great hero in India and is loved, respected, admired and supported by just about everyone there. Furthermore, the press is comparatively kind to him. I suspect that he has a great support network of people around him to help him cope with the pressures of being a superstar.
Brian on the other hand never had a support network. Moreover his people in the Caribbean either love or hate him and he often has to face venomous criticism. Recently there were strong views that he should not have been included in the West Indies World Cup team in South Africa. Having to deal with these off-field pressures has taken a toll on him. But he is a true champion and each time his critic’s think he is down and out he returns to play a great innings. He did so against Australia in the West Indies after his disastrous tour of South Africa and in Sri Lanka after being sidelined by injury. He is now beginning to do the same thing in the World Cup after returning from a chronic and debilitating illness that kept him out of the game for a long time. If he can learn to manage his mental skills better he would rival Tendulkar in the area of consistency.
Let’s talk a bit about India. They have a lot of talent and yet as a team they often less than the sum of their parts. What are the dynamics behind something like this?
West Indies had a similar problem years ago but Lloyd sorted it out and created a team that dominated world cricket for 17 years. I have not seen enough of the Indian team to hazard a guess about the cause of the problem you just describe. Blending individual talent and getting players to work co-operatively to achieve a common purpose or goal can be difficult. Sometimes it requires major changes and restructuring and at other times minor adjustments and interventions.
During Kerry Packer’s World Series in Australia, West Indies went through a mental revolution that transformed the team from a collection of talented individuals to a tight, highly motivated and closely-knit unit that went on to become one of the best teams ever. Early in the series, Clive said that he thought that discipline would be a key factor in that change. We put some simple things in place – to improve discipline off the field, and soon we saw the discipline being transferred to the game. When that happened it started off a process that improved confidence, motivation, commitment, trust, pride and teamwork.
Peter Brock, one of Australia’s most successful race car drivers, reveals the “help your mates” philosophy for team success in my book. Selfishness is the greatest enemy of teamwork, he says. Like a cancer in the human body, it must be prevented or stamped out before it takes root and grows.
How does one get out of a slump?
There are a lot of things that can initiate a slump but in the end it is always due to poor mental functioning. Your confidence and concentration are severely disturbed when you are in a slump. The stress is scientifically proven to effect vision and reflexes. You often do a thorough analysis of your technique and pick it apart bit by bit. But in those people who have had reasonable success, the slump is caused by poor mental skills rather than any great technical fault. To get out of a slump you must clear your mind and think simply, rationally and positively. You must set yourself reasonable goals and go back to the basics of your game. You must sort out your priorities and decide what is important and what is not. You must also be very patient. Too many players try to get back to the top in one great leap. This works occasionally but it is an exception rather than the rule.
So how do you go about helping players to improve their mind skills?
I try to act as a catalyst. My goal is to help them find their own solutions. By the time a player reaches first-class cricket he usually has fairly well developed mental skills. Like his technical skills, there are areas where he is strong and areas where he is weak. I encourage him to capitalise on his strengths and improve on his weaknesses. I then identify the type and pattern of mental mistakes that he makes and situations in which he makes them. I help him to refine his mental techniques and teach him a few new ones to help him cope better. I teach him how to recognise common and destructive emotions like fear, anxiety, impatience and disappointment, and show him how to prevent them and deal with them when they are present. I keep things as simple as I can and avoid making my interventions an academic or intellectual exercise.
There must be several techniques to achieve an improvement.
Yes. There are a wide variety of techniques such as thinking techniques, breathing techniques, relaxation, visualisation, mental rehearsal, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis. But be should be always mindful that these techniques should be our servant not our master. As I said before, I try to act as a catalyst. To develop game fully you must build it on four relaxed pillars: fitness and conditioning, technique and motor skills, tactics and strategy and mental skills. How well you develop and integrate them will determine how well you play.
How does the counselling actually take place? Is it like we see in the movies – sessions on the couch?
[Laughs] No, that rarely happens. Most of the time I just engage the players in conversation and try to explore their thinking. When you have a bit of experience you are able to see the sort of things that could be detrimental to their performance. You have to know what to interfere with and what to leave out. That’s probably the hardest part of my job. Francis Bourke, the Aussie Rules superstar, once said to me, “Doctor you haven’t made me a better player. But you have helped me understand myself better and made me see things more clearly.” It was the greatest compliment of my life.
May 22, 2005, 10:21 PM
The Mechanics of Bowling
Greg Chappell and Ian Frazer
Recent research has shown that very few fast bowlers pass the scrutiny of the slow motion camera. In secret tests many leading fast bowlers were filmed while bowling in games and even some who were considered to be ‘squeaky clean’ have failed to come in under the 10% flex of the bowling arm permitted by law.
The laws of physics could have told us this but it is interesting to have it confirmed. I am not really sure what that tells us other than it is difficult, if not impossible, to bowl the ball with a perfectly straight arm.
The sad thing is that much that has passed as good coaching theory in recent times has exacerbated the problem of suspect actions and has not worked to overcome the injury problem that it was designed to do. Some high-profile fast bowlers have had to undergo remedial work on their action in recent years because of reports by match referees. Others may get the tap on the shoulder following the secret filming.
Two bowlers who have undergone remedial work in the past because of referee reports are Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar. Brett Lee is considered to be a front on bowler while Akhtar is very side-on. How is it that they have been accused of having suspect bowling actions?
Brett Lee modified his action some years ago in the hope that he could overcome back problems. He was supposed to have a ‘mixed action’ and the suggested remedy was to keep ‘straight lines’ with the bowling arm, from set-up to the target, and in the process he changed his bowling arm ‘load up’ position to keep the arm closer to, and in front of, his body.
What this did was to cause him to have to use a lot of shoulder strength in his action to generate the same arm speed. With this adjustment came variations in his bowling stride length that in turn changed the point of landing pressure to the heel of his front foot. This has subsequently led to his ankle problems.
To allow for the generation of arm speed it required that he speed up the opening out of his front side in the delivery action. That, in turn, caused a need for the arc of the bowling arm to be shortened so that it could keep up with the fast releasing hips and shoulders, to avoid over-rotation of the body at the point of delivery. The end result of this is that the only way the bowling arm can catch up is for the elbow to bend during the bowling motion.
Shoaib Akhtar has a similar problem but for different reasons. Because he is moving with so much forward momentum from his run-up, his ability to create a timely degree of separation between the hip and shoulder angle in the jump is often compromised. This leads to uncoiling issues out of back foot touchdown from which his rapidly spinning upper torso is often in danger of over-rotating at point of release. This creates the same problem for the bowling arm as it tries to keep up. As with Brett Lee, the only way for it to do so is for the arc to be shortened by flexing the elbow.
So while Brett and Shoaib appear to be very different in style the bowling arm is just an expression of what is occurring with hips and shoulders. Unless these are loaded appropriately in the jump then the body will compensate in some way. For many bowlers the “flexed and rotated spine” at release (the greatest danger to the lumbar spine) may have been modified, but the super intelligence of the human nervous system has achieved this by contravening the laws of cricket!
As Newton pointed out so many years ago, in movement we are an “action/reaction” system. If we set the body up appropriately for the task and let it happen the nervous system will reward you. If, on the other hand, we try to manipulate parts of the “reaction” the nervous system will be forced to modify the ‘action’!
The most efficient bowling actions, such as Glenn McGrath’s, are set up by the run up, leading into the leap. The run up and the leap are the only parts of the action worth training consciously. After that it becomes a series of explosive reactions, so get the run up and leap right, and the rest will follow naturally.
The run up is used to provide momentum. How this momentum is used is then the key. The energy generated must be stored in the body, and this is achieved by coiling the body. The transition from the predominately forward momentum into predominately angular momentum describes this process termed coil.
The coil is similar to the action of wringing a cloth – the body is, in effect, twisted. The shoulders rotate past the line of the hips, to create a degree of separation. Once the body is wound up it can be unwound quickly generating bowling arm and, subsequently, ball speed. This is why small men can hit hard and bowl fast. It is all about coiling and uncoiling with momentum.
In bowling, this act of coiling is best achieved in the leap. The bowling arm drives up to begin the leap.
As the bowler leaves the ground and the bowling arm continues its arc back towards the head the front shoulder comes round towards the bowling arm in response. This sets up the critical degree of separation between shoulders and hips.
The degree of separation in the coil in the leap, set up by Dennis Lillee. Note how the shoulders have rotated more side on than the hips.
As the bowler comes out of the leap, the front arm extends as a balancing mechanism. This is a balancing act, and a reaction to the downward movement of the body as it comes in to land. This is why front arm coaching is a waste of time. It happens instinctively if set up right. If it is inappropriate it is just reflecting the inappropriateness of a previous action!
If the coil hasn’t been achieved in the leap, the bowler will be forced to coil at landing. Landing while the top half is still coiling can cause injuries and this is what is referred to in the ECB coaching manual as a ‘mixed action’ and was what happened to Brett Lee with his original action. If the bowler, such as Glenn McGrath, rotates the shoulders past the hips into a coiled position while in the air, a ‘mixed action’ cannot occur.
The action of the lower half of the body coming around in the jump triggers the top half to begin opening out for back foot touchdown. It is essential that the back foot landing should be on the ball of the foot to further optimise the forces generated through the run-up and coil. The bowler then has the forward momentum to come out of the landing up, over and around his front leg. At touchdown the ground reaction forces add to the drive of the front leg out and the front foot touchdown results in the arm accelerating out to release.
The key to an efficient and safe bowling action is to wind up the body properly in the first place. This is achieved by the setting up of a degree of separation in the leap. The use of the bowling arm in starting the leap is the key. A good running action with sufficient momentum generated into the jump will help the drive upward of the bowling arm as an extension of the arm action in the run up.
One of the fallacious theories on bowling preaches that young bowlers should ‘keep straight lines to their target’ as happened with Brett Lee. It is true that a bowler needs to be square on to the target at release, but they need to get there by rotating the shoulders to the bowling hand side and then opening them, and the hips, to the target as they uncoil. The result is that they end up facing the target.
Even the supposed ‘front on bowlers’ such as Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose have to create a degree of separation between the shoulders and the hips. Without this rotation a bowler must use shoulder and arm strength to bowl the ball. And no matter how strong they are they will struggle to avoid over rotation! All movement depends on some degree of rotation.
If the front foot plants prematurely because of an inappropriate loading, the bowler will be forced to release the shoulders early by falling away. Another option for the bowler is to bend the elbow to shorten the arc so that the arm can catch up with the quickly rotating torso. Often, bowlers are not even aware this is happening until someone accuses them of ‘chucking’.
Technology and science is an important tool for the betterment of understanding of how we can make bowling more efficient and safe, but it is essential that the science that supports this research is well founded. Without this we are likely to continue to complicate the teaching of the art and fail in our aim of making fast bowling safer for its young and vulnerable practitioners. In fact we are likely to contribute to what we are attempting to avoid!
May 22, 2005, 10:22 PM
Making the ball talk
For Erapalli Prasanna cricket is more than a simple duel. It travels way beyond that, to the game's very soul.
"A bowler has to put some life into the ball to make the batsmen put some life into the bat," he says with a sparkle in his eyes, and these are words loaded with significance.
That wickets and runs do not count unless there is a fair contest. Numbers do not matter, quality does.
Press Prasanna further on the subject and more wisdom gushes out. "Mentally, if a bowler does not know how to convert his art into craft, he will not go far. You got to animate the ball. I could do that. There is some life in the ball when I bowl even today." He is 61 now!
It is not just a battle of skills, but a clash of wits as well, and Prasanna is again candid. "The bowler has the six balls of an over to study a batsman and plot his downfall. Maybe it would take two overs, three overs, four overs or beyond. It is here that the game becomes interesting. Once this feature is missing, it becomes boring."
There was never a dull moment when Prasanna held the cherry, drawing the batsmen out with his flight, and deceiving them with his loop and turn, bounce and nip. More than his 189 victims in 49 Tests, it was the manner in which he first set them up, and then delightfully consumed them, that marked him out as one of the greatest spinners of all-time. His control was awesome.
Not someone to be defeated by the conditions, Prasanna grabbed an astonishing 49 wickets in eight Tests, on the back-to-back tours of Australia and New Zealand in 1967-68, and when the Indians defeated the Kiwis, it was their first away series Test win. In other words, he did not require the dusty home surfaces to cast his spell of magic.
In fact, he could run through sides on a green-top, like when he ambushed the Kiwis in the Auckland Test of 1976-77, with innings figures of eight for 76. "There is a lot that a genuine spinner can do even on a green top."
These days, Prasanna is giving something back to the game as a celebrated coach in Chennai's MAC Spin Foundation. Prasanna was guiding aspirants from the West Indies when The Sportstar
caught up with him..
How did he achieve the loop, such a vital element in deception? Times without number, the batsmen would jump out to him, only to miscue their drives or the pushes. "I was a vicious spinner of the ball, both in the air and off the wicket. And, it is an acceptable theory that more the ball spins in the air, it creates a sort of vacuum around the ball. And it enhances the floating qualities of the ball. It stays in the air longer and once the spin reduces it drops," reveals the wizard from Karnataka.
He elaborates further. "It is the same principle that you see in a frisbee. How does the frisbee work? Once the rotation slows down, it wobbles and falls. Same theory in cricket. If you are a spinner, you got to spin the ball. And when you really spin the ball, things like loop can be achieved, the ball will dip once the spin subsides. But spinning the ball viciously is the bottom-line. The other variations revolve around that."
Naturally, the topic shifts to his famous conquests on the cricket field. "A bowler has to plan his dismissals. No batsman will give his wicket away just like that. The bowler has to set up a trap."
Indeed, he was adept at the mind game, reading the batsman, the situation, and the conditions in a flash and adjusting his game-plan accordingly. He required all this and more to get the better of a formidable Australian, Ian Chappell.
A clash of the titans it certainly was. "It was my first tour of Australia in 1967-68, under Tiger Pataudi. Tiger was not able to play in the opening Test at Adelaide because he had pulled his hamstring. So Borde, the vice-captain led us. Ian came into bat and I realised quickly that here was a batsman who was too intelligent."
Chappell was using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball and smother the spin, and Prasanna knew he was up against a canny customer. "I had to work a way out of this, set up a trap."
Prasanna's razor sharp cricketing mind was at work."I tested Chappell with well flighted deliveries, he used to smother it and suddenly I realised he was ahead of the forward short leg. Now, we had a scenario where forward short-leg became the backward short-leg literally. So, the backward short-leg became superfluous."
He realised an urgent need for a change in the field setting. A request that Borde agreed to rather reluctantly with Prasanna managing to convince his stand-in captain. "So I asked Borde, can I take out the backward short-leg and place him in the short mid-on region. We could get him out that way. Borde was used to the English field placements of forward and backward short-legs, slip, point. He finally said yes. I sent down a delivery that tempted Chappell to cover-drive, the ball had a lot of spin. He tried to drive, and was caught by Borde at short mid-on! Borde couldn't believe his eyes, that I had set a trap and it had worked! He came over and asked me, 'How did you do it?' One of the instances where I trapped Ian Chappell." A gleaming insight into Prasanna's methods.
Ian Chappell, an attacking batsman and a great Australian leader, calls Prasanna the finest off-spinner he ever faced, while the Indian picks Chappell as a great player of spin. The respect is mutual. "I have admiration for the man. Very attractive, very positive," states Prasanna.
Not surprisingly, Prasanna has special memories about castling the legendary Sir Gary Sobers in Barbados. "When I bowled at Sir Gary Sobers, it was only the second Test of my career, and it was on a shining Jamaican wicket. First day, I sent down about 30 odd overs, got four wickets, including that of Rohan Kanhai and Clive Lloyd, and I contained Sir Gary Sobers. The following day though he hit me."
The cricket caravan shifted to Sobers' homeground, Bridgetown, Barbados. And Prasanna had his revenge. "I had Sir Gary Sobers bowled, because he tried to dominate me from where he had left in Jamaica. I brought the ball in from the off-stump on to his middle-stump, choked him a bit. It had worked according to my game-plan. The next morning some newspapers carried the heading, 'Prasanna bowls Sobers.' Why I picked the examples of Ian Chappell and Gary Sobers is that they were supposed to hit me, but I could win over them. You have to induce them to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Even they could make mistakes. Being a bowler you have to invite them to go after you."
He indeed was the quintessentially aggressive spinner, who would flight the ball even more if the batsmen were dancing out to him. "If you don't concede the fact that you have to concede runs to take wickets, bowling becomes monotonous. And you will not eventually turn out to be a winner."
With the ball, he loved calling the shots, was seldom intimidated by reputations. When he was parading his skills with Bishan Bedi or Bhagwat Chandrasekar at the other end, it was the ball that dictated the course of play. "I always wanted to bowl, the way in which I wanted them to bat. My line of thinking was 'I have the ball, I have to let go the ball before they attempt to play,' so that 90 to 95 per cent of the times, they played a shot that I wanted them to play. They may play all along the carpet or they may get a few runs, but still, I believed that since I was an attacking bowler, I would attack." Did someone say cricket was a batsman's game?
Even defensive players were often sold the dummy. Ken Barrington, who could frustrate the best of spinners with an iron-clad defence and endless patience, was in ominous form during the tour of the sub-continent with Ted Dexter's side. Prasanna managed to fox the tenacious Englishman. "I got him. He was playing all right, playing down the line. Then, just to change his line of thinking, I bowled a delivery that drifted away, and he was caught trying to cut. He had been tempted into committing an error."
Mike Denness, a more aggressive customer, met with a similar fate, bamboozled by Prasanna's deadly amalgam of mind and skill.
"England was going well in Madras ('72). Denness played forward, completed the shot, the ball dropped, and went through the bat and pad. He had played early, he was deceived in the air. The 'dip' did him in. He was one of the best players of spin."
In fact, Madras was his favourite hunting ground. The crowd adored him, and he responded with glittering displays of his guile and craft. India was 1-2 down in the 1974-75 home series against the West Indies, when Prasanna scalped nine in the fourth Test at Chepauk to level the scores.
And there are a couple of dismissals that have stayed in his mind. "Bernard Julien was caught and bowled by me in Chennai. It was a floater and I kept the whole on-side open. He played early again, and I waited for him on the follow-through. I knew he would scoop the catch back to me. Then Clive Lloyd was stumped in the second innings. The ball was flighted invitingly, and I held it back. He jumped down, and I could shake hands with him when Engineer whipped off the bails."
In fact, given his tantalising flight and sharp turn, stumpings were a common sight when Prasanna operated. The off-spinner takes another trip down memory lane, to the 1976-77 Test in Bombay against England. "Roger Tolchard was charging at me all the time to pad up or smother the spin. I had planned with Kirmani to have him stumped. The ball drifted through his pads, went on the on-side, and Kiri did the rest."
And there was one team-mate to whom he particularly relished bowling at - the masterly Sunil Gavaskar. Over to Prasanna. "We were playing the Ranji semifinals in '74. He was bowled by a genuine drifter. Pitched on the middle-stump, played down the line. That was the turning point for Karnataka. I will always cherish this as among my top-most wickets. We eventually became champions. In whatever form we used to play, somehow or the other I always used to get Gavaskar's wicket."
An attacking spinner requires the backing of the captain and Prasanna was lucky to have Tiger Pataudi, a fantastic reader of the game, as his skipper. The two jelled wonderfully well, and it was a famous partnership. "Pataudi had a very positive approach that suited me. He was attacking. He could think about my field placements, before I could ask him something. He had a lot of faith in me, because he knew I could rise to any level of excellence. He gave responsibility to me. He knew that what he said, I could do."
Again, Prasanna recalls an incident when Pataudi kept the right man for him at the right place. It's once again the Madras Test of 1974-75 against the West Indies. "He introduced me into the attack when Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge were batting. Within my first two balls, he knew that I would have them. He brought Eknath Solkar to forward short-leg. I made Fredericks come forward. Soon, he walked back, caught Solkar bowled Prasanna. He knew I would do it."
He is frank and forthright about his other captains. "Bishan was attacking, and his line of leadership was good too. Gavaskar might have appeared defensive but he wanted to win. Wadekar was the one who wanted to save and he won the maximum!"
Prasanna has a word of praise for Eknath Solkar, that fearless fielder at short-leg, who plucked catches out of nowhere.
" Solkar was extraordinary. Out of the world. But when we were bowling, he did not get hit even once, despite the fact that we were all supposed to be bowling lollipops, and people expected us to get pulled."
Well, they were not lollipops, but sugar-coated, viciously spinning missiles! Prasanna indeed was the Master of Deception.
May 22, 2005, 10:24 PM
Mind Games: Think positive – and the rest will follow
I was told very early in life practice makes perfect. But I since learnt perfect practice makes perfect.
If you practice the correct techniques often enough, you should matter of course, bring them into operation under the pressure of match conditions.
And as may have heard from time to time, it’s all in the mind. At the top level the physical fitness is very important, but even more important is mental fitness. Anyone who has played international cricket has the physical abiltiies to succeed at that level; the players who excel are those whose mental attitude towards the game and themselves is positive.
Two months before the start of the season is sufficient to reach physical fitness provided the mental approach is right. This will determine how successful your physical preparation will be. And mental preparation should be going on all year round.
There is a reason for everything we do in preparation: Physical fitness to help concentration, net practice to polish the physical skills, and match practice to stimulate game conditions. All of these are wasted though, if the individuals attitude to any one of these facets is wrong.
The physical preparation is pretty simple. Get yourself fit and then practice the fundamentals and physical skills at every opportunity.
Successful innings are built on discipline, footwork, and being able to stay at the crease; the bulk of each session should be spent on these facets. If you perfect these the ability to play scoring shots will come with increased confidence gained by getting through the tough periods with your wicket intact.
Batting is a battle – you against the bowlers and the fielding side. But the biggest battle is on the mental level, and resolves around your approach to your innings.
Think back on all your successful innings and, in each of them, there have been tough periods which, on the average, last from three to ten overs. Then, usually with a bowling change, things become easier.
If you approach each net session with the feeling that it is one of the tough periods, and are determined not to get out in the first three quarters of your stint, you will more easily get through these periods in the middle.
But the most important pre-season preparation is the preparation of the mind. The physical preparation will all but take care of itself if the mental approach is positive.
Much has been written about the powers of positive thinking. But how many of us actually practice the simple technique of thinking success?
If you really want to, and believe you can play as well as the next bloke – and you can – you are halfway towards doing just that. Just to think it would be nice to play as well as the top players is not going to prove successful.
You have to desire that end result with every muscle in your body, and then be prepared to back it up with the physical courage it takes to succeed consistently.
And how do you achieve this state of mind?
The most straight-forward way is to be positive in everything you do and say each day – in all walks of life. This will flow over into your cricket.
Our first target is to discipline your mind, as this is what really controls our destiny. If you can control your mind, and be positive, you are in charge of your success……or failure.
Firstly, write down a list of the things you don’t like about your game, be they mental or mental. Then, list the things with which you would like to replace these faults – and forget about the things you wish to be rid of.
By continually thinking about the negative or bad things you will only make it hard to be rid of them. Concentrate on the positives and correct techniques and you’re well on the way to making them part of your physical make-up.
By writing things down and continually reviewing them , you firmly imprint them on your mind.
Secondly, set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, somewhere by yourself and start to programme these SUCCESS ideas into your mind.
Try to find a secluded spot where you can relax completely, and imagine yourself doing the things you want to do successfully.
Don’t allow any negative thoughts to enter your mind during this time for, whether you believe it or not, if you think negatively, you will act negatively. Conversely, should you be able to programme yourself positively, you will act positively.
Having written down a list od things to work on pick one of them and, in your daily “preparation” period work on one item at a time for say, three to four days.
For example, if you would like to improve your footwork, spend your 15 minutes a day for four days mentally using your footwork, you want to use. You will then find the physical job of achieving the change far simpler.
If you want to improve your skill against spin bowling, spend your 15minutes for four days imagining yourself playing spin bowling successfully – and your attitude will change.
Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively, stop and spend a few moments thinking about it positively. This will re-endorse your “preparation” period.
Should the negative thought be about something not on your list, write it down, and add it to your list of things to work on.
This may sound a little far fetched but, believe me, if you can adopt these techniques, you will be amazed at the results.
To use this technique to improve your approach to the game requires a lot of self discipline – but that’s exactly what it takes to succeed.
Many of you are probably using some form of this technique already – thus your success. But it’s probably not regular enough. By actually planning your season mentally, you are bound to produce better results more consistently.
If you doubt what I say, think back on your successful days, I’ll be surprised if you weren’t thinking positively at the start of the day. And probably more importantly, think back on your unsuccessful days, I’ll bet the mental attitude was negative.
May 22, 2005, 10:26 PM
Recognizing The Past In Order to Enhance the Future
I often hear it said in New Zealand we have a lot of cricket in a short space of time and there are insufficient breaks between matches. Workloads, particularly on bowlers, are often considered to be unreasonable and unsustainable. There will always be debate and varying opinion as to what is, or is not reasonable, but what I can say with certainty is that much more is physically possible than is currently seen as too tough. Historical evidence proves it.
Currently, in New Zealand 1st class cricketers play 42 days of cricket over a period of 13 weeks. In England they are playing 91 days cricket over 22 weeks. As a matter of interest, in the 1970’s in England they played 93 days cricket within 17 weeks.
In comparing current player workloads in both countries, NZ’s 1st class programme represents 46% of England’s. In England their professionals play cricket on 59% of the days in the course of their 22 week season, whereas in NZ our players play on 46% of the days set aside.
It is interesting to look at the workloads of some of the better-known international bowlers down the years. In the 1920’s Maurice Tait bowled around 1500 overs in an English county season and another 600 if he toured with England during their winter. In the early 60’s, Fred Trueman bowled around 1100 overs per county season alone. The South African Mike Proctor, when playing for Gloucestershire in the late 1970’s, bowled 800-900 overs in county cricket and batted at number 4 in the order. In 1981-82 Richard Hadlee bowled 1131 overs. In the 1998-99 season the England Seamers generally had higher workloads than other international players. For example, Andrew Caddick bowled 910 overs and Dean Headley 792. Compare them with Sean Pollock (515); Glen McGrath (740), Courtney Walsh 437 overs for the West Indies and another 600 overs for Gloucestershire. During this period, 1998-99, the most overs by NZ seamers were bowled by Shayne O’Connor (533) and Chris Cairns (497).
Nowadays, with bowlers, it is alleged by many, that their workloads are too high and that more of them are breaking down as a consequence. But is it true?
What evidence is there to say that some of the newly-adopted training methods are reducing injuries and improving performance? Has any research been done to tell us if bowlers of the past spent less, or more time injured, than many of their counterparts today? Moreover, did they have what is now considered to be safer bowling actions? One thing is for certain, training and preparation methods are markedly different today. How well researched and proven are these methods, and how do they compare with past practices?
As for batsmen, who knows what suggestions may come forward soon about their workloads? Although the physical dangers are considered to be less for batsmen than for bowlers, what about psychological damage? Perhaps, expecting a batsman to concentrate for longer than, say, 3hrs is harmful to his psychological well-being? Am I being a smart-arse? Probably, but I think the point of comparison is at a similar level of preciousness.
When preparing cricketers today, there is a much greater emphasis on gym-based work for strength and conditioning with less cardiovascular work. Practice sessions have become less skill specific ( meaning less % of time is devoted to batting, bowling, catching and throwing ), with more time than previously spent on warm-ups, warm-downs and unrelated group games. And time is given over to briefings, debriefings and sports science information.
There are full-time coaches at the elite level who feel it is part of their job description to change bowling actions well formed or otherwise. What research or evidence has been produced on the risks involved in changing well formed bowling actions? Does a bowler bowl with a particular action because it naturally follows a path of least resistance? To make a significant change, what should the timelines be and what are safe workloads in getting back to match fitness? Are egos well in advance of current knowledge and capabilities? What is fact is that bigger and better indoor facilities are available and more extensively used than previously. These surfaces are generally much harder under foot than turf and may well add to wear and tear on the body.
Perceptions that over-use is the root cause of injuries must be causing anxiety amongst bowlers. Perhaps this has created a psychological environment fraught with Hypochondria, which brings an expectation of injury and an over- cautious approach to preparation. Anxieties affect behaviour which, in turn, can seriously affect the nature of players’ performance.
All players are reminded constantly of the need to drink plenty of fluids. It has reached the stage in cricket, whereby the fielding side has drinks brought out at the fall of every wicket, or whenever possible that is, as long as it doesn’t hold up play. Batsmen receive the same treatment. Bowlers have an on going supply of cold drinks and in some cases food, supplied to them at the edge of the boundary where they are fielding. This is all in addition to the traditional drinks break at the mid-point of each session. It had been decided by someone in higher authority, that sweets should be provided to lift the sugar levels of the players. An unforeseen difficulty arose when players argued over whether there was enough of their favourite colour ( flavour ) in the party mix bag. Is this excessive? My experience more than suggests it is.
When I toured the West Indies with NZ in 1972, I spent a lot of time at the crease in two of the hottest places, Jamaica and Guyana. In scoring four double hundreds, on each occasion I spent between nine and eleven and a half hours at the crease. In so doing, I had first hand experience of coping with a number of challenges. Apart from the opposition, I had to overcome mental and physical fatigue in trying conditions. Each innings involved the best part of two days, bringing into play the problems associated with relaxing ( switching off ) one’s mind sufficiently to get enough sleep. In those days little if any attention was paid to hydrating or to the effects of alcohol in this process. During the game, drinks were taken once per 2hr session ( after 1 hr ), although during the middle session ( the hottest part of the day ) two drinks breaks were permitted. At no other stage were drinks brought onto the field, nor did bowlers have refreshments around the edge of the boundary. I’m not suggesting that this was an ideal situation. However, looking at it in retrospect, I think it was a blessing in disguise, or at least it had some advantage. In fighting the odds it made me more determined and forced me to concentrate harder. I knew I had no props to help me and nobody to blame if I failed. I had to solve the problem, be mentally tough enough to overcome adversity in order to succeed.
With the benefit of hindsight I can see that my approach to solving the sleeping problem part way through these innings made my task even more difficult. I had been unsuccessful in relaxing my mind enough to get to sleep, hence, on the second occasion I resorted to drinking alcohol. Although I still got to bed quite early ( around 9.30--10.00pm ), I had consumed enough to be in a state of unconsciousness, rather than sleep. Waking up at 3am, with the dry horrors, did nothing towards improving my physical condition come start-time.
In addition, I proved conclusively that the human body and mind could perform well for a lot longer than many of the spin doctors would have us believe today. It reminds me of what happened during the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur when the NZ race walker Craig Barrett collapsed within sight of a gold medal. It was initially assumed that he had suffered from dehydration, but in fact it was hydration intoxication. He had taken on board too much fluid!
One could argue that players have been given too many things to think about these days, and that some of them distract players from focusing upon what really counts. They have become too dependent, have developed an attitude that someone else will solve their problems for them. If advice doesn’t appear to work for them, it’s not their fault, it’s someone else’s. A blame mentality takes the place of personal responsibility.
My thesis is that there are far more distractions today. Players are apt to be too concerned about, for example: labels (clothing, shoes, sun glasses, cell-phones, watches etc); hair-style (colour ); body piercing, and so on. On match days, drinks (their availability and variety), food (choice and availability ), playing uniform, how much time is allowed for warm-ups when starts are delayed, numbers of complementary tickets, Physio (availability). Others matters might be, food allowance (how much and timing of payments), accommodation (standard and size of rooms ), travel (cars or mini vans and length of journey). It goes on and on. Individually, these examples may appear to be trivial, unimportant. But put them all together and they can have a negative collective effect on the positive attitude needed to be successful. Compare the travel with the English County Cricket scene, where it was not considered a problem to travel all around the country by car during a county season. In fact, it was the accepted norm to make a return journey (a couple of hours away) for a Sunday limited overs game, between days 2 and 3 of a county match.
The difficulty arises convincing players with limited previous experience, from which to form comparisons, to accept that there might be a better way. One hears comments such as, these things haven’t been a problem for me in the past, so isn’t bringing it to my attention creating a problem? Those who played in previous eras can face difficulties in convincing players that some of what is on offer today may be excessive, unhelpful and, at times, counterproductive. One hopes that open minds will accept the logic that the greater the number of distractions the more difficult it is to focus on what makes a good player.
What do I want in a player? Someone who is
* open, honest, principled, dedicated and hard working;
* someone with the mental strength to reproduce their skills in the hotbed of competition. The ability to make decisions, judgments and act on them;
* someone able to deal with adversity and believe that problems are solvable;
* someone who is resilient disciplined and well organized;
* one willing to be personally responsible for their actions;
* one with the courage to express an opinion and argue the case. Having done so, to accept that others or another may be charged with responsibility to make a decision that is contrary to their view;
* one willing to put the team’s good ahead of their personal wishes or ambitions.
* One who understands that their demeanour can infect the whole team in a negative or a positive way.
Many improvements for players that have occurred in recent times are largely comfort rather than performance related. Some of the latter, when used intelligently, are very helpful, particularly the improvements to Video Camera equipment and the development of the computer programme called E-cricket. More money in the game in NZ and better payment to players has also been very helpful, in increasing the amount of cricket played and the paid time for practice. Indoor and outdoor practice facilities have improved; so have the outfields and, to a lesser extent, the pitches. The involvement of the Turf Culture Institute, better covering and modern equipment has made a difference. Other more comfort-related improvements are to changing rooms, hotel/motel accommodation, transport (vehicles, aircraft ), and to a lesser degree, cricket equipment. There was a time in the sixties and earlier, when most 1st class players shared a team kit (i.e bats, pads, gloves, boxes, thigh pads etc., ) and had all their evening meals at the hotel where they were staying. Today a meal allowance is provided for flexibility and lunches at the ground are of a far higher standard.
To look deeper is to realize that not much of this has a lot to do with higher levels of performance. So much more can be done to truly take advantage of advances if procedures for solid research and analysis were established. The money needed to provide more and more material comforts is gobbling up much of what it takes to be a better cricketer. The degree of inconsistency in team performances appears to be greater than ever.
If I may make some comparisons, in general terms, with the past, there is a lack of patience and a bubbling desire to play the brilliant shot, bowl the magic ball, or take the spectacular catch. Attemps at extravagant spontaneous streaks of genius, more often than not, result in erratic and a less effective performance. There is a developing recognition of the need to bat for longer periods of time and to bowl maidens. However, the approach often taken shows itself in an exaggerated form. Batsmen become excessively defensive, almost strokeless, looking to let the ball go as much as possible and bowlers bowl wide of off stump to a packed off-side field to contain their opponent. On the other hand, batsmen, when looking to be aggressive, attack to the point of recklessness, playing high risk shots, and bowlers cut loose with a variety of deliveries that look as if they’ve been plucked out of cricket’s equivalent of a bag of liquorice all sorts.
The ability of batsmen to play boundary shots has certainly improved over the years, but their ability to defend and collect runs has deteriorated. It is as though the art of batting through mastering the basic skills is too boring, not cool and too time consuming. A similar comment can be made about bowlers when it comes to following the fundamental strategy of mastering line and length, and being excited about the challenges that presents. Having achieved that, developing the art of swing and seam can be compared to a batsman being able to manouvre the ball into gaps or space and learning how to precisely weight the ball in order to collect ones and twos with regularity. Ground fielding and throwing have improved considerably, and there is an expectation, that everyone has to work on their fielding skills, irrespective of their status in the team.
In recent years a lot of time money and effort has gone into trying to produce fast bowlers and the pitch conditions to assist. This macho approach has largely failed and is likely to continue to do so unless selective breeding becomes a fashion. Hurting a batsman does not necessarily result in getting him out. One only needs to look at our annual 1st class bowling statistics to realize that.
In conclusion, we may have gone from a famine to a feast, but has more food meant better food? Might our bellies be getting bigger, making us less efficient? To draw on another analogy, our heads may be filled with more information, but is it clogging our minds? Can we filter out what is really important and do it quickly enough to be more effective? The most rapid improvement an individual and a team can make, is to get their attitude right. Overcoming distractions and adversity can result in a significant psychological edge. It is so important to keep on top of things like poor umpiring decisions, bad pitches and an unsavoury opposition. It pays to remember that an eye for an eye blinds everyone. It is also very helpful for us all to learn from the mistakes of the past, retain what is good and add it to today’s advantages.
Edited on, May 23, 2005, 3:26 AM GMT, by Arnab.
May 22, 2005, 10:29 PM
Modern willows make well seasoned bowlers weep
Today's bats are as disposable as Bic razors
Saturday May 21, 2005
All old cricketers know the irresistible compulsion. See a bat lying around and you have to just pick it up and knock a ball on it. Barry Richards, the great South African batsman, was in the home dressing room last winter and did just that.
It was a blade belonging to Herschelle Gibbs, and Richards's tentative bounce of the ball off it would have sent that ball shooting into orbit had not the ceiling intervened. He could scarcely believe what he had seen.
Richards, of course, came from an era where you had a favourite bat, played it in and it lasted. Two or three a season maybe, but not more. Gibbs, though, numbers his bats meticulously, just as Pete Townshend did his guitars, and this, said Richards, was number 47. For the year, that is.
For the pros anyway, these bats are not meant to last, they are meant to go like the clappers for a short while and then give up the ghost, as disposable as Bic razors.
Quite how spectacularly efficient they are was rammed home to me a couple of weeks ago by one shot in the thousand upon thousand that I have seen in the past few years. A medium-pacer for a minor county was bowling to the Lancashire batsman Stuart Law, a player from the top drawer. Law leaned into a good-length ball and with little more than a forward prod played it past the bowler. It was nicely timed and deserved a couple, or maybe three on a quick outfield, and a ripple of applause. But this rifled outrageously to the boundary.
Now Law is a supreme timer of the ball but this was reward well beyond the value of the shot. Of course he hits hard but not to that degree (once I saw Clive Lloyd almost decapitate Wayne Daniel in his follow-through, the ball travelling no more than 12 feet from the ground before splintering the sightscreen on the full: that is hitting) and the reason is in the technology of the bat.
Manufacturers have always been attempting innovation: sloping shoulders, scoop back, a sort of mallet with all the wood at the bottom that Viv Richards used. For a brief while the Warwickshire and England opener Dennis Amiss used something called the Run Reaper, with conical holes drilled through the face from the back so that when he played an attacking shot it actually whistled, opening no end of possibilities.
Around that time a lack of properly seasoned caerulea - the cricket bat willow - meant that manufacturers lumped on more weight to achieve the same level of performance and it is a wonder that the truss did not become a standard piece of batting equipment.
Now we are hearing about graphite inserts in the bats of Ricky Ponting, while other blades are hollowed out and filled with cork. Whatever next? Semtex? GSP to help locate the ball? The MCC's recommendation that the bat should be made wholly of a single piece of wood is sound. Last week the International Cricket Council recognised the problem and its cricket committee, meeting in Dubai, opted to set up a sub-committee to look into such things, although sadly not in time for the Ashes.
But this, I think, should be only the starting point, for the modern bat is the equivalent of the trampoline driver that reduces the great golf courses to a pitch-and-putt outing. Ponting's bat is cricket's Big Bertha.
They have to be curbed, not least because as well as club medium-pacers, they are, in my view, hitting the spinner out of the game. In an article in the recent Surrey club magazine the leggie Ian Salisbury states his belief that it is the English ball that is killing his breed. Use a Kookaburra, he says, and the seamers are out of it once it goes soft and loses its shine.
He has a point but surely it is the bat that needs more attention. I would make this two-fold. Firstly, restrict its weight, although oddly, given the apparent size of some of them, this is less an issue. They are generally lighter than once they were. Secondly, I would insist on a minimum pressing significantly more than that currently used.
Back in Richards's day, bats were hard pressed, simply to make them last. Then they were played in: last they did. Nowadays it is the lack of pressing that gives the blade its thickness relative to its weight - less density in other words - and the elasticity that Richards found so pronounced in Gibbs's bat. Some of that rebound needs reining in.
The spinner should feel that if he deceives a batsman into a rash half-hit shot, it could result in a catch for an outfielder rather than a spectator. But in a batsman's game, I fear the worst.
May 22, 2005, 10:30 PM
What happens and what makes it happen are two different things
"We’ve had extensive discussion about biomechanics, (what is actually happening with successful sprinting) but, this is less important than a discussion of how, when, or even if to “cue” the athlete on what to focus on to MAKE IT HAPPEN.” --- Charlie Francis 2002
Since beginning of time humans have been quite adept at identifying and treating the symptoms, but it has only been the very best in their fields who have recognised and understood cause.
This ability to determine the “What makes it happen” is a distnguishing factor of both renowned coaches and athletes.
The 100 metre sprint is an amazingly complex event. On the outside, along with walking, the most basic of human movements seems pretty simple. The starters gun goes off and the athlete runs as fast as they can. Physiologists now know that no athlete can generate their maximum speed over the whole distance and therefore they have to utilise individual tactical understanding to optimise their performance.
John Smith, head coach of the “High Speed Institute” in America and coach to a stable of athletes made up of the names of Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon, Jon Drummond and Inger Miller writes, “Objectively, we work on the different phases, it’s like in the theatre. You rehearse pieces of stuff and put them back together and see what you have got. Then you go back and critique it. Everyday you make a new discovery.”
The very basic fundamental for sprinting optimisation is each ground contact point and this is the area that the top sprint coaches concentrate on developing first. The key to generating speed is the ability to maximise forces on foot impact and do this very quickly. Sports scientists call this generation of force the “Ground Reaction Forces”. This is the force that is created by the reaction of the ground to the body weight pushing into it.
As humans we rely on these forces to load our bodies for movement and it is the reason footwork is so important in sport.
The knowledge is to understand that as Charlie Francis points out, “Ground Reaction Forces can’t be increased by any voluntary action during ground contact support”.
So what you see happening and what generates the ability for it to happen are two different things.
Michael Johnson (below) was the undisputed superstar of the 200 and 400 metres running events. Michael’s coach Clyde Hart worked with Michael to optimise the creation of the ground reaction forces. He knew that while the striking of the leg against the ground was the force generator it was the positioning and optimisation of the rest of the body pre strike that was the key.
Charlie Francis in his wonderful book “Speed Trap” refers to front side mechanics, that is the maximising of the hip height allowing the swing leg to optomise knee lift, the pulling up of the toe of the swing leg as it passes over the hip of the stance leg allowing the appropriate muscles to be placed on stretch for impact and the maximising of the opposite elbow in front of the body to optimise knee lift and avoid rear side mechanics. What makes it happen cues to ensure that it happens for sprinting.
It is interesting to note that when top sprinters are in the race they have a feeling of moving up and down, not forward and it is this feel that they concentrate on. John Smith, “But when Maurice is racing, he’s not thinking about the separate phases. He’s not thinking about anything at all. He’s feeling”. So even the feel may be different from what is actually happening. A very important point and we need to understand this in our training programs.
Another important learning from John Smith is the point about differences between individuals in physique and background. Here he discusses Boldon and Greene.
“They weigh the same, and they’re the same height but they are completely different. They have different levers. The feet, femur, from ankle to knee, from knee to hip, from hip to shoulder, all different sizes. They have to move different parts of their bodies in order to accomplish the same thing.”
Added to this Boldon played soccer until he was 17 whereas Greene was running since 7. John Smith, “Ato (Boldon) can take a soccer ball and look at the net and he can feel the sweet spot in his foot when he hits it. There’s connection. Maurice can feel the sweet spot when he runs. He can feel the movement under him when he has to explode. And the faster he runs, the more precise he is. Ato is learning that. It takes years.”
I trust that you are now starting to develop an understanding of why I created “The Chappell Way” and the concepts of “Unstructured learning” and the “4 principles”
The shot of me on-driving below [pic not provided here] is a perfect illustration in cricket. I have managed to assume a position which was approprate to the requirements of the situation and I found the gap wide of mid- on for four. The visual indicates an optimisation for my individual characteristics, level of experience and demands of the situation.
However it was the initial setup that was the “What makes it happen”. Working on the Unweighting, Coiling and Lever phases and applying them to different external requirements is the key to developing the “What happens”. But don’t confuse the two!
And remember as the player changes whether it be physically, emotionally, level of competition etc the “What makes it happen” need to be constantly revisited. And as John Smith points out no two people are the same!
Marion Jones (World No 1 100 metre sprinter) summed it up beautifully when she made the comment, “ Eventually, though, if you learn everything there is to know about the physics of what your asking your body to do, it becomes like writing your name.”
And this is the requirement of competition!
Edited on, May 23, 2005, 3:31 AM GMT, by Arnab.
May 22, 2005, 10:45 PM
Uncovering the secrets of The Don: Bradman reassessed
By Paul Glazier, Keith Davids, Ian Renshaw and & Chris Button
Across the world, sport science support programmes have been set up to help world-class sportsmen
and women develop their skills and surpass the performances of their peers. But how did athletes of
bygone generations cope without this support? What can modern-day athletes, and their coaches, learn
from the early experiences and activities of past greats? In this article, we consider whether or not sport
science can provide some answers to these questions by examining the factors underpinning the unique batting ability of one of the truly great performers of relatively modern times, Sir Donald Bradman. We also consider some of the training
equipment and practice strategies used by today’s leading cricketers, and question whether they are
more advantageous than those of Bradman’s era. In attempting to piece together understanding of the iconic Australian’s cricketing development, we blend a mix of theoretical principles, experimental data and
anecdotal evidence from the sport science and coaching literatures.
Contextualising Bradman’s record-breaking career
Bradman finished his international career with a batting average of 99.94 runs per innings, a record that is still at least 40-50% better than any other batsman in the history of the game. Comparing player performances across eras, however, is fraught with difficulty and answering questions like: ‘How do current Test batsmen measure up to the legends of yesteryear?’ and ‘Can there ever be another Don Bradman?’ provides science with a complex challenge.
Recently, statisticians have attempted cross-generational performance comparisons of legendary sportsmen and women and, in cricket, Dickson et al(1) undertook a statistical analysis of all Test batsmen over a 120-year period between 1877-1997. By plotting the coefficient of variation of batting averages across eras (eg, pre-World War I, pre-World War II, 1946-65, 1965-1979, the 1980s and the 1990s), Dickson et al1 showed that variability had decreased over time and that a modern player would need to average approximately 77 runs per innings to match Bradman’s
career batting average statistically. An analysis of modern players, however, shows that no current Test batsman is able to boast this figure, with the
highest averages currently belonging to Matthew Hayden (Australia) 58.14, Rahul Dravid (India) 58.09 and Sachin Tendulkar (India) 57.39.
Dickson et al(1) invoked the ideas of the eminent evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, for interpreting their modelling work. Gould(2) developed the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium to describe how long periods of evolutionary stability for biological organisms are broken by sudden, shorter spurts of dramatic evolutionary change, the latter resulting from external perturbing forces. Gould’s2 theory contrasts with Darwin’s traditional perspective that portrays evolution as a slow, steady process occurring at a relatively constant rate and, as
we note below, is precisely the sort of framework that may be able to explain sudden jumps of 40-50% in
cricket batting performance. Indeed, Gould(2) alluded to the baseball hitting average of 0.400 to exemplify
these theoretical ideas and sport is littered with examples of punctuated equilibrium from Fosbury’s flop technique in the high jump, to Bjorn Borg’s heavy top-spin forehand drive and the double-hitch kick long jump. In the context of this article, these ideas lead to key questions such as: Why was Bradman so much more successful than anyone else? What was his secret? Was he simply a ‘one-off genius’ or is it possible that a cricketer of a future generation could
emulate his amazing achievements?
The modelling of Dickson et al1 raises the question whether or not another Bradman will ever emerge
in the modern era, but reference to the theory of punctuated equilibrium suggests that this possibility is
likely to occur as a result of sudden technical innovations produced by an individual performer. For this reason, it may be useful to gain an insight into Bradman’s own technical development and practice strategies to ascertain what innovative, perturbing
forces were at work.
What made Bradman great?
Since his retirement from the game, many explanations for the Don’s expert batting and vast statistical superiority have been posited in the
‘popular’ press, media and coaching literature, but science is revealing that many of these claims are erroneous or unsubstantiated. For example,
it has often been suggested that Bradman had better eyesight and faster reactions than his nearest
rivals. However, he was discharged prematurely from the Australian Army during World War II for having
defective eyesight – according to Hutchins3, his release was due to fibrositis – and when he submitted
himself for psychophysical tests at the University of Adelaide, it was found that he had a slightly slower reaction time than the average University student4. These facts are unsurprising given the well-documented findings that top-class athletes do not have exceptional perceptual systems and visual reaction times compared to their less accomplished counterparts5. Moreover, it has been reported that high-calibre athletes have the same incidence of visual defects as the normal population; about 10% suffer from problems of short- and longsightedness
and other weaknesses6. Other psychological factors have been implicated in Bradman’s success, such as his supreme powers of concentration and mental toughness, but, although clearly important, these factors alone are unlikely to explain the large gulf between him and other batsmen.
Bradman’s ‘rotary’ technique
Perhaps a more likely explanation for Bradman’s success, gaining favour with top coaches, resides in his ‘unorthodox’ batting technique – a possible disequilibrating perturbation in the sport. Indeed, on the basis of the insights of Bradman himself and eyewitness accounts of keen observers, combined with original film and video footage, and a study
conducted by sport scientists at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, Shillinglaw7 concluded
that the single most important factor underlying Bradman’s outstanding run scoring record was his unique ‘rotary’ technique.
Most coaches emphasise the importance of grip, stance and back-lift as being the foundations for successful batting. Traditional coaching emphasises that the standard grip is one where the bat handle is held with the hands together, with the firmer top hand about 25 mm from the top of the handle. The hands are positioned so that the ‘vees’ formed by the thumb and forefinger of each hand are in line with each other, pointing between the splice and the outside edge of the bat. During the stance, the bat should be placed just behind the back foot. The conventional back-lift should enable the bat to be taken back in a line from wicket to wicket with the top hand taking control. The front arm should be extended backwards to give a wide sweep with minimum flex of the elbow8.
In comparison, the key differences between these basics and Bradman’s batting technique are highlighted by Bradman in his coaching book, The
Art of Cricket(4). Bradman adopted a grip that was not consistent with the coaching manual, having the ‘vee’ of his left hand in line with the splice of the bat. Bradman’s stance was also unconventional, involving closure of the face of the bat and positioning it between his feet. Similar differences were observed in his back-lift as he levered the bat up by pushing down with the top hand, whilst using the bottom hand as a fulcrum. As it neared the top of the back-lift, Bradman manoeuvred the bat through a continuous arc and back towards the plane of the ball during the downswing in preparation for impact.
According to Shillinglaw(7), this technique, which was putatively developed through long hours practicing his childhood game of striking a fast-moving golf ball with
a cricket stump, afforded Bradman superior balance, shorter movement times and enhanced bat speed
through the striking zone than more conventional batting techniques. It is also interesting to note that Sir
Jack Hobbs, arguably the greatest English batsman ever, extensively practiced a similar game during his formative years7. Thus, although the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ carries some weight in the quest to acquire skill, it seems that what you do during practice counts for far more than merely time serving the long hours needed.
Why did this type of unorthodox practice regime lead to such outstanding success and can talent development programs across the world learn anything from these experiences in developing the
future world-class stars of sports? It seems that creating the right type of practice environment is important for developing the Bradmans of the
future. What does the scientific subdiscipline of motor learning tell us about how to structure and organise
practice environments for efficient and effective learning?
It seems that dynamical systems theory, allied to the insights of the Russian physiologist and biomechanist, Nicolai Bernstein, whose research accounts and stimulating ideas were translated
into English in 1967, are proving invaluable9. His ideas, combined with powerful theoretical paradigms
in science such as chaos theory and the sciences of complexity, have been integrated with concepts and
tools from dynamical systems theory to re-shape our understanding of movement behaviour10.
Dynamical systems are examples of nonlinear systems operating in regions of state space far from equilibrium, providing them with an appropriate amount of metastability. Dynamical systems theory has been successfully applied to the study of coordination in nervous systems and movement
control11,12, movement development13, 14 and skill acquisition15. In particular, the dynamical systems framework has influenced the way that movement scientists view inter- and intra-individual variability in motor performance, as a function of learning and development across the lifespan. Bernstein9 focused attention on processes of movement coordination
and also noted the incredible amount of variability exhibited over performance repetitions as individuals
engaged in even the most repetitive of tasks such as hammering a nail.
May 22, 2005, 10:51 PM
continued from above...
The role of constraints in structuring technique variability
Traditionally, the study of motor behaviour has seen a tendency to operationalise variability with measures of variance in motor output (eg, standard deviation around the distribution mean of a dependent variable measured over repeated trials). From a cognitive science perspective, scientists seeking support for the concept of motor invariance provided a narrow interpretation of variability in movement as evidence
of noise or random fluctuations at different levels of the movement system (eg, anatomical, mechanical,
This traditional emphasis led to the idealising of the notion of ‘common optimal movement patterns’ towards which all athletes should aspire, typically a performance model provided by a leading performer of
the day. For example, the search for motor invariance implies that all cricketers should adopt a single optimal batting stance and technique, with the distinct possibility that the precious individualised practice
solution of Bradman would have been ‘coached out’ of his repertoire at an early age.
Rather than being undesirable, variability of technique can be viewed as exemplifying functional adaptive
behaviours of athletes, since a consistent outcome can be achieved by different patterns of joint relations
owing to the dynamics of the joint biomechanical degrees of freedom.
Ideas from chaos theory indicate that a defining feature of a chaotic system is that deterministic processes can drive fluctuations in system output
that apparently seems random. With such a view, noise may have a positive role in preventing a system
from becoming too stable in complex environments so that functional movement solutions may be found.
For example, Bradman has reported adapting his technique when playing defensive strokes from outside the line of ball flight to lessen the chances of edging the ball to the slips against swing and seam
bowlers4. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that the nature of movement variability is driven by the
interaction of the various sources of constraint on action, and this leads to the uniqueness of system dynamics for a particular performer under a specific set of task constraints. This task-specific view may provide a better framework for understanding the role of inter- and intra-individual variability in the provision of
feedback, diagnoses and treatment interventions in human movement by sport medicine specialists16.
Movement scientists have also revealed the important role of perception in shaping and guiding sports techniques. In achieving successful coordination solutions, it is clear that various sources of perceptual information can act as degrees of constraint on the many motor system degrees of freedom. Obviously, the relationship between perceptual degrees of constraint and the motor system degrees of freedom
can change quite dramatically in dynamic sports environments, emphasising how the coupling of information and movement needs to vary functionally during performance.
Owing to the mutually dependent relationship between the perceptual and motor sub-systems, unambiguous
task-specific perceptual variables such as time-to-contact and place-of-contact can act as degrees of constraint and can be used to make fine-grained adjustments; for example, as required during cricket batting strokes17. Even under the most severe spatiotemporal constraints, the formation of perception-movement couplings enables batsmen to get the bat in the right place at the right time to
intercept the flight path of the ball. Acquiring these functional perceptionmovement couplings also enables grip forces to be modulated right up to the
point of bat-ball impact, thus ensuring that the ball is struck at the right speed into gaps in the field18.
Past vs. present: Bradman v. Tendulkar
From this theoretical backdrop, it becomes clear that the specific constraints of his childhood game encouraged Bradman to adopt a technique that enabled the bat to remain highly manoeuvrable, therefore minimising lags in the way that his perceptual-motor system dealt with rapid environmental changes and ensuring that the ball could be played as late as possible.
With this in mind, it may be more useful to compare the technique and style of Bradman with those of modern players. Bradman himself identified Tendulkar as the batsman who resembled him most in technique (ie, his compactness, technique, stroke production). Bradman was renowned for his efficiency of play and was said to pay particular attention to the balance of risk and reward in his shot selection. Given the perceived similarities in the play of Bradman and Tendulkar, it would be of interest to examine the cricketing development of these two so-called ‘child prodigies’.
Despite the generally-held view that both players were great players due to ‘natural talent’, a common feature of both players’ development is their extraordinary emphasis on practice. Although great store is given to the fact that Bradman developed his hand-eye coordination by famously practising with a golf ball and cricket stump against a water tank, he also undertook much realistic cricket practice.
Although he is said to have received no ‘formal’ coaching, Bradman was brought up in a family and community that loved cricket. For example, his parents, particularly his mother, bowled at him from about the age of 9 or 10. Bradman also engaged in other makeshift games as a child, such as playing tennis or soccer against the garage door. He scored his first 100 in a school match aged 12. Interestingly,
from age 15 to 17 Bradman played almost no cricket, concentrating on tennis19. At 17, he became a regular
player in the local Bowral Cricket Club, and his first full season was notable for the 300 he scored in the last game of the season. At 18, the final stage and perhaps the most critical(3) of Bradman’s initial development was completed when he joined St. Georges Cricket Club in Sydney and began to play in a high standard of cricket on turf pitches.
May 22, 2005, 10:54 PM
Great initiative :up:
You may delete this post - meant to encourage you should you feel bored and / or tired :)
May 22, 2005, 10:55 PM
Similar to Bradman, Tendulkar was steeped in cricket from a very early age. At two-and-a-half years of age, he insisted that his nanny throw a plastic ball at him, which he attempted to strike with a dhoka or washing stick20. Interestingly, during these early years
Tendulkar only played cricket with a hard rubber ball.
At age 11, probably the most notable difference in the development of Bradman and Tendulkar took place: Tendulkar was provided with quality coaching from a well-respected coach. The great strength of his coach was that equal emphasis was placed on net practice and match play. Under his guidance Tendulkar was exposed to a quite remarkable level of intensity in his cricketing activities. On a daily basis Tendulkar undertook net practice between 7.30 am and 10 am. The rest of the day was spent in playing up to 13 different games across Mumbai, as the coach shifted him to the adjacent pitch as soon as he got out in one game3. Even this was not enough and on the occasions when Tendulkar was not playing in an organised match, he could often be seen practicing his
strokes inside his house with a ball hung from a small net.
This level of commitment could explain why Tendulkar’s relative development was much faster than that of Bradman. Although they both scored their first centuries at 12 years, Tendulkar scored his initial
first-class century at 1421 and his first Test century at 17. By the age of 21, Tendulkar had scored seven Test
centuries, compared with two from Bradman at the same age.
Both Bradman and Tendulkar shared two important commonalities that may account for their tremendous
achievements. First, both players gripped their bat in an unorthodox manner. In Bradman’s case, there was no coach to interfere or change his preferred style. In Tendulkar’s case, his coach was sensible enough to follow the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!”
The very low grip of Tendulkar enabled him to select as his first bat one that his coach considered far too heavy (he still uses a 3lb 2 oz bat when most players use approximately 2lb 8oz-2lb 10oz). Second, and possibly the most important common factor, is the importance attached to demanding practice by both men. They both support the view that natural talent alone is not enough, but that you need to work incredibly hard to fulfil any inherent potential4,22.
May 23, 2005, 06:39 AM
The Mental Game of Cricket
by Rob Robson
According to Australian cricket legend, Greg Chappell, international batting is “probably 90 per cent mental effort and 10 percent physical effort… …because you have to be focused on every ball that is bowled”.
Of course, one of the features of cricket is that all players take on multiple roles over a long period of time, even in the one day game (compared to five-day tests). Batsmen have to field, bowlers have to bat; and some players bat, field and bowl. Add the challenge of organisation and motivation that faces the captain, and you can quickly build up a picture of a mentally demanding sport.
Indeed, Greg Chappell also stated, in his interview with Frontline magazine, that he rarely felt physically tired after batting, but often mentally tired. What are the demands on the mind of an international cricketer?
“To make a hundred in a Test match is going to take you between three and four hours. To bat for that length of time, you need to be able to focus, able to relax in between time, and learn to switch on and off so that you conserve your mental energy. Because you can’t focus for six hours on a trot.”
The focus Greg Chappell talks about is required in order to tune in to the subtle cues that a bowler will give – the position of the ball in hand, pace of run, arm position for example – that give him the opportunity to choose his shot in an instant and commit to executing it. Miss those cues and, at international level, you will have to make an educated guess based on your knowledge of the bowler that you face or, at worst, take a shot from your own repertoire which may be hopelessly inadequate for that delivery.
In addition, Chappell talks about the sheer mental drain of switching on and off over a period of time.
Exercises to Improve Concentration for Batters
1). Practice switching your attention.
‘Shuttling’ stops you from getting stuck in what sport psychologist John Syer calls “the middle zone”. You can do this with a partner. First, close your eyes and tune into and describe an internal sensation, such as “Now I am aware of my breathing”, or “Now I am feeling silly”. Next, open your eyes and tune into something outside of yourself such as “Now I am aware of the sun shining”, “Now I am aware of the birds singing”. Shuttle between an internal and external focus for a few minutes, and with each new sensation begin “Now I am aware…”. If you get a bit stuck (in the ‘middle zone’ your partner can provide the cue “Now I am…”. Take turns to do this. When you are comfortable doing this, try it with your eyes open.
In a match you need to be able to shuttle. Become too fixated on the bowler, your own movements, or the movement of the field and you will fail to respond quickly and lose runs or worse, your wicket.
2) Train yourself to make batting decisions with limited information.
Perhaps you could put a screen up that obscures part of the bowler’s delivery (say above a certain height) or part of the field (so that you have to get used to picking your shot without full knowledge). The key here is to build your confidence in making the decision and executing the shot. Another thing that you could do is practice making the decision to run without full knowledge of the fielding positions used.
3) Use a batting routine that tells you that you are back ‘on’.
First, if you are going to switch back on, it is important to switch off by stretching, practicing a swing, anything as long as it is relaxed and easy; and appropriate to whether you are on strike or not. Then, make sure that you are in position before the bowler returns to the back of his approach. Take a deep breath and use an ‘affirmation’ or verbal cue (which may be a more emotional (e.g. “let’s ‘ave it!’”) or task focused (e.g. “quick feet”) that tells you that you are ready.
Of course, focus is not only needed on strike. If you are not on strike you have to be ready for the command to run. Remember the calamitous run-out on the last ball of the semi-final in 1999? South Africa only needed one run off the last ball, the run was there to be taken, but between them Klusener and Donald managed to make a mess of it. This also assumes that the batsman has to be able to clearly and quickly communicate his decision to run, using a predetermined, simple command.
In many ways fielding is similar to batting. The quick decision, the shift in focus, and the ability to switch on and off are important for a full day of fielding under the hot summer sun. The slight change in emphasis is that if you stop the ball without catching the batsman out, you have to be able to quickly scan, take in information and anticipate where the game will be by the time the ball that you are about to throw reaches the wicket. It is essential that you can focus on the most relevant cues to make a quick decision and switch your attention to making an accurate throw.
All of this sounds like a lot. If players are really thinking very deliberately about all decisions, actions and options in a game situation, they are unlikely to perform at their best. In order to cope with all of the information that they handle, the batsman or fielder in question must have practiced the physical skills required until he is able to call upon them and execute them automatically.
Bowling is much more of a closed skill than batting, in that you choose your delivery and stick to it. You may respond differently according to the batman you are facing, but if you pay too much attention to the batsman on your run up, a good batsman can ‘set up’ a bowler to deliver a particular ball – the ball he wants. The emphasis is on intensity (especially in fast bowling), accuracy, and consistency. A bowler also steps in and out of his role, spending the rest of the day out in the field.
It is extremely important to maintain a high standard of bowling. Five good deliveries can undone if the sixth is hit for six runs! Slack bowling can also gift the opposing team runs in the form of ‘extras’.
Some skills or strategies to assist with bowling
1) Set Process Goals with tough targets for line and length, accuracy and consistency.
Work on these in training. Be sure of your definition of ‘good bowling’, and make sure that you perform to those standards. You can’t control the performance of the batsman, but you can make sure that you don’t give him any unnecessary chances to score.
2) Back up your goals with mental rehearsal of your delivery.
If you practice mental rehearsal regularly to back up skills, you will be able to rely on it in a match situation. Like any skill, try to use it, undeveloped, in a match situation and it will falter.
3) Develop a pre-delivery routine that reinforces your process goals and tells you that you are ready to go.
This routing may well include, but not be limited to, your mental rehearsal. This may include a physical routine, using affirmations (as above), and ‘centering’ (using a series of deep breath to bring you back to a physical and mental state of relaxation and readiness). A pre-delivery routing will help you to deliver every ball with the same intensity and effort, and to achieve consistency.
Even from this short article it is clear that the challenges faced by different roles in cricket share important challenges. In batting, it is important to switch on and off, to preserve mental energy and achieve high levels of focus for each swing.
‘Its 90 per cent mental effort’. Frontline Magazine, Volume 17 - Issue 15, July 22 - Aug. 04, 2000
Syer, J., & Connolly, C. (1998) Sporting Body Sporting Mind. Simon and Schuster
May 23, 2005, 06:43 AM
Lessons from a cricket crisis
By Dr. Rudi Webster
Professor Luria, a famous Russian scientist once said that human behaviour is influenced by goals of the future but is also shaped by history and past experiences. He added that not only does the brain create these goals but it also subordinates all of its activities towards achieving them.
In crisis situations, our brain chemistry is changed. Thinking often becomes negative and combative and our span of concentration is narrowed and locked in to the immediate. Valuable lessons from the past are then lost and once positive visions of the future become vague and hazy.
Almost thirty years ago, world cricket was plunged into crisis when Kerry Packer challenged the cricket establishment, signed fifty of the world's greatest players and started his own World Series competition. The war between these two combatants was fierce and acrimonious. Just about every cricket board joined the battles on the side of the establishment and dropped the Packer players from their teams. The West Indies Team, of which I was manager, was no exception and when the West Indies Board of Control dropped a few of the Packer players, other team members came out in support and withdrew from the team.
In England, Packer players were banned from playing for England and for their counties. Serious court battles then ensued in England. Much to the delight of World Series, the players won those battles when the courts ruled against the establishment for restraint of trade and I believe wrongful dismissal of players. The establishment was then forced to relent and reinstate the banned players.
Last week, the WICB announced that three of its best players, along with four others, will be dropped from the team for the upcoming series against South Africa and Pakistan because of sponsorship disputes. Already, one Caribbean judge has recognised the rights of West Indies players to pursue individual sponsorship. Are we now in danger of having history repeat itself in the West Indies team and in the courts?
Some very positive things happened to the West Indies team during the World Series crisis. Before the start of World Series, West Indies had won the first Cricket World Cup and showed that it had enormous potential.
But, in 1975/76 the team was shattered physically and psychologically by Australia who won the Test Series five games to one. A year later, the team came to World Series. As manager I saw a team with a clear mission and renewed motivation. These were topped up and refined in no small measure by the establishment’s rejection and isolation of the Packer players.
That exiled status challenged and fired up our players to become the best team in the world. Under the skilful leadership of Clive Lloyd, that did not take long. What was viewed by many as a crisis was turned into a unique opportunity by the players.
Our players won a ‘mini-world cup’ in England last year but then went to Australia and did very badly. Like their predecessors, can they use the current crisis as an opportunity and make a quantum leap in performance? I believe they can.
But, coaches and team leaders will have to display their mettle and show their players what is possible and what they (players) are capable of doing in the future. In addition, they must question themselves and ask if they can use their leadership and motivational expertise effectively to help the players create that future.
This change will only happen if the team is allowed to perform in a free, harmonious and creative environment.
Lots of the success of World Series was due to the great wisdom of Kerry Packer. As a sponsor and leader he earned the admiration, trust and respect of all of his players for his fairness, as well as his toughness.
And he achieved this by first showing the players that he trusted and respected them. Unlike most of the sports organisations of that era, Kerry placed the players at the centre of his organisational model. Everything revolved around them, not around management. The ‘master/servant’ relationship did not exist.
I remember an incident in Melbourne when a top manager of World Series asked the wives of some of the West Indies players to leave the VIP area. I reported the incident to Packer who angrily summoned the manager and told him in front of the wives and players that as far as he was concerned the players were the most important people in World Series and that their wives were free to sit wherever they wanted. He then asked the manager to leave the room. By that action, Kerry cemented the players’ love and respect for him.
As the sponsor of World Series, Kerry never lost sight or respect for the wonderful game of cricket and the welfare of his players which he placed ahead of everything else. He never crossed the line between the sponsor and players. He did not get engaged in the dynamics of the team, on or off the field, unless he was asked to do so by the captain and team manager. And he never got involved or interfered with the selection of the team.
Tony Cozier recently said that some of the combatants in the current crisis might not know the difference between George Headley and George III. Well it is now an opportune time for all combatants to take a time out, step back from their entrenched positions, and start taking some serious history lessons about the importance of the great game of cricket to the West Indies and its people.
May 23, 2005, 06:51 AM
03 Sep 2004
The basic action will only work if the bowler and his run-up have sufficient momentum and rhythm. For example, take a coin and roll it along its edge; as it slows down, it will start to stall and tip over. The precise force exerted on that coin determines how straight it will run and how long it will stay upright. So the run-up is vital to the success of the bowling action. The run-up will also vary from bowler to bowler. Each bowler must work out what feels right and comfortable for him. His run-up should enable him to release the ball at the moment of maximum momentum, yet while he is still able to control the delivery. If he is going too fast, it will be hard to remain balanced at the moment of delivery, so the ball is likely to spray out of control. Build up your pace while running in ? there is no need to sprint flat-out from the very first stride. You should hit your ideal running speed about three or four strides before delivery.
Just as a long-jumper's approach requires exact measuring, so does a bowler's run-up. Apart from being able to deliver the ball in the correct area, his front foot must cut the popping crease and his back foot must come down inside the return crease. But first, he needs to work out at what point he bowls the fastest, and then work backwards from there.
So, to calculate your optimum run-up, enlist the help of a teammate or friend and then place your self at the popping (batting) crease, with your back to the wicket. The object is to run off into the outfield, and to bowl whenever you feel ready and comfortable. Set off just behind the crease, so that the same foot (it doesn't matter which one, as long as you remember which it is!) hits the crease each time you cross it. Now ask your friend to mark the spot where your front foot landed as you bowled; do this a number of times to ensure that your rhythm is correct. This is now your imaginary bowling crease. Next, work out how many ordinary walking paces there are back to the popping crease --- this is the length your run-up should be. Try this several times, for the sake of certainty; you are now ready to count back from the crease the number of paces you have calculated, and to start running in to the wicket. If you have settled on the correct length, you should not have too much trouble with no balls. In any case, if you are genuinely fast, your coach may advise you not too fret too much about no-balls (with the exception of one-day games!), as this can make a young 'quickie' hesitant. The pace of the run up will vary for a variety of reasons and this may affect rhythm, action and length. For example running into a head wind, up hill soft ground and hard ground, in some cases like Makhaya Ntini, he had to dodge foot holds and his action was affected by this, he grew up jumping away from the target, by practice and sheer hard work, he is probably without question the fittest and strongest bowler in world cricket today, he has managed to conquer and adapt his deficiencies to become an excellent International bowler. So much so that I have to eat my words as I am on record as saying that he would not make it. Clearly I pigeonholed him too early a common mistake among coaches and selectors.
It's worth bearing in mind that although most fast bowlers have an average run-up of around 15 and 30 metres, there is no one ideal length, and there is a great deal of variation among bowlers. Wasim Akram is deadly off a remarkably short run-up; so was Richard Hadlee. (When the latter first shortened his run-up, a journalist complained that New Zealand's heaviest artillery was operating off a pop-gun run-up. But Hadlee had the last laugh, becoming the first bowler ever to take 400 Test wickets.) On the other hand, the run-ups of some of the West Indian speedsters of the 80s, such as Wayne Daniel, started practically on the boundary rope!
Also remember that the length of your run-up is not cast in stone; you might like to experiment with adaptations now and then during your career. Allan Donald made the decision to cut back on his run-up for less significant matches, purely to save wear and tear on his legs --- and found to his amazement, that he was taking more wickets than ever off this abbreviated run-up. Interestingly Allan was the first bowler that I used a stopwatch to time his run up, the reason being that I felt that he was a real rhythm bowler who had an optimum pace that he arrived at the crease, this allowed him to bowl very fast and accurately, when he was bowling at his best I timed him from the moment his lead foot hit the bowling mark to when his front foot hit the batting crease. Allan's optimum time was 2.74 seconds or just within a milli-second of that either way. This allowed him balance at the crease, which enabled him to snap his body through the action creating the searing pace. Because he was balanced at the crease he could bowl out or inswing at will and his length was pretty spot on.
(Dennis Lillee had an unusual approach in that he rehearsed two run-ups; his standard run-up for full-tilt bowling, and another shorter one for those days when he knew his captain would need him for longer spells than usual.)
No matter what the length, the run-up should always be smooth and rhythmical, which means that both feet must start from the same spots at the start of the run-up, and must repeatedly hit the same areas when running in. There must be no "stuttering", and the momentum must be sufficient to drive the action and the ball towards the target accurately.
Edited on, May 23, 2005, 11:51 AM GMT, by Arnab.
May 23, 2005, 07:04 AM
General Coaching Tips
19 Dec 2002
Dennis Amiss once told me that you only really start learning to bat after you get a hundred! Graeme Pollock is quoted as saying that batting is 70% in the mind! Sir Donald Bradman once said that, "When the bowler lets go of the ball it will eventually reach you!" Three fairly simple statements but all very meaningful, they happen to come from three of the better batters of their eras. In the next few pages I will record some of the disciplines that batsmen need to have in order to succeed at the crease.
1. The Basics
Everyone talks about sticking to the basics but what is meant by "The basics"? After much study, thought and practice I have come to believe that there are five basic principles to batting, which are caste in stone (Adhered to forever). Although the methods of attaining these basics might differ, they are the cornerstone to batting technique. They are: - (a) Watch the ball (b) Keep your head still on release of that ball (be balanced) (c) Judge length accurately (d) Put your feet into the correct position (e) Select the correct shot
Preparation and practice are vital to hone technique and therefore care in practice is vital. Sir Richard Hadlee once said that only "perfect practice made perfect". This is an important point. Practicing poor technique will make you worse. The higher the standard of the game the more incorrect technique is exposed. It is vital for the coach to understand technique and apply it differently to each subject. No two people are the same and coaching methods have to change for each player.
3. Rhythm Movement/Trigger movements
Most batsmen at the highest level develop a rhythm movement. Many top players have said that batting is about rhythm, being in tune with the bowler adapting to conditions and so on. So we need to understand what Rhythm and batting means. I often ask the question to young cricketers why do you go back and across and they actually do not know the answer. Rhythm, involves feet movements and bat-swing (back lift). There are a few varieties and if we study players of yesterday and today it would seem that batsmen have had success and failure with a variety of movements even if it is in just the way they lift the bat up. Against great pace there is little time to judge the length and then move forwards or backwards properly, so it has become the norm to adopt an early position (say back and across to the off stump) and then if the ball is short you are already in position to play and if the ball is up to you then you just have to get forward. There are a number of rhythm movements that players adopt such as the forward press on the front foot, back and across with the back foot to the off stump, and a number of variations on those themes. Whatever movement you adopt you must understand why? And how? And when? The key is when - If you are not sure look at the five principles to give you the answer. Balance is the key word, moving late will cause problems as the foot will move one way and the ball having already been released may well be on a different line causing you to fall over or reach for the ball. This is an important aspect of batting and need to be understood thoroughly.
4. Hitting area & Timing
An often misunderstood subject, what then is the correct hitting area? A simple way of finding out how timing and the optimum hitting area combine is simply by getting a bat and ball and bouncing the ball on the bat. Timing is the art of making the bat meet the ball at the correct point so that it will bounce under control and can be repeated easily. How then do we interpret this into the game of cricket, especially when we need to use both hands? To discover the optimum hitting area it is important to understand how the hands work together. A simple method is to hold the bat in two hands and simply let the bat hang down. You will quickly notice that the bat hangs under your eyes; in an ideal world this then is the optimum area. In order to gain maximum force and timing the arms should be almost if not completely straight when hitting the ball (not always possible, but games like Golf show you the reasons why) and the transference of weight from back to front foot or vice versa will complete the equation. Interestingly the co-ordination of all these factors is determined by your brain and the first signals to the brain are the signals that your eyes see. Vision enhancing techniques are now making it possible to improve co-ordination and timing. We spend many hours training the muscles of our body but very little on training the muscles around the eyes. New studies are proving a great success and as part of technical training vision should be part of a batsmen's daily routine. It follows therefore that if the first signal to the brain is from the eyes then the better they are working the better the information gets relayed through to the feet. Consider then your foot movements onto front and back foot if you wait for the ball to arrive under your eyes you will have a better chance of hitting the ball and at the same time you will be playing it late which is a sign of all great batsmen. This is something that you will come to understand the more it happens. Talented sportspersons can improvise where and when they hit the ball because they are able to watch the ball (concentrate) for longer and use their hands through better co-ordination. The less talented player can train these skills by repetition. Hence the fact that the so called average player has succeeded at the highest level.
Not only should you be balanced in your stance, but also you should be balanced in the shots that you choose. For example when going onto the back foot you must transfer your weight onto the back foot, similarly when going onto the front foot your weight (balance) must be on the front foot. Too often when the weight is not transferred properly the hitting area is not attained nor do we adjust and wait for the ball, we tend to push away from our bodies at the ball, leaning back and thereby causing an error. Transferring the weight is an extremely important factor in good technique. Bradman said that all batsmen should take up bal-room dancing so that they learnt to move their feet in a balanced way. Batsmen often get caught in the wrong position because the timing of their movements is poor.
Part of batting which is often forgotten is the art of controlling the nerves and getting rid of tenseness. Colin Cowdrey once said to me that a batsman should be like a wrestler quick on his feet and have a relaxed upper body until contact, this allowed him to move and react quickly when attacked. The tenser he is the harder it was for him to move. OK you say face Brett lee or Allan Donald without feeling tense! Well believe it here is one of the great lessons of playing against quick bowling, you must be relaxed. Deep breathing exercise or just breathing exercise as in all the yoga manuals will teach you how to relax. There again is a balance, too relaxed can also be bad. Psychologists tend to call it the IPS (Ideal performance state). This leads me into the mental preparation
7. Mental Preparation
Slowly but surely we are beginning to understand that the mind can be a reat asset and above all controlling the mind. Great players of the past have had a natural gift to control their mind again we must cite Bradman for his ability to get so many big scores. Geoffrey Boycott too made the most of his ability by strength of mind. There are many examples, there are many examples of cricketers letting themselves down and not being able to control this part of the game. The mind/brain is an area that can be improved. Coaches are reticent to use psychologists, players think they are shrinks and Administrators consider it as a weakness in the coach if he has to bring in outside help! Yet it is a fascinating area of why certain players are better than others. Mental preparation starts with practice, the attitude one takes to a net practice is an all important factor in improving one's game. Training the mind comes a lot from within, sports psychologists can give us techniques to assist, in the end it is up to the player to make it happen. Visualisation is part of mental training and as you go to the nets before a game it is now that you have to practice the art of concentration (remember perfect practice makes perfect). Train the body to play the shot correctly. As you see a golfer have a practice swing so as a batsman should you get your body shapes as you image those shots. Just as you would practice attacking so you have to practice a defensive technique. Reaching the IPS must start with your preparation. Of course different people require different methods of doing this. I was taught to use a white sheet method. Turn my mind into a white sheet, close out all external problems (Going bankrupt, wife leaving you etc) and just imagine the ball coming out of that white sheet, make it bigger in your mind slow its velocity down and understand the trajectory, make it the sole object of your mind. There may be may other methods but this one helped me. This advice was passed on to me by Mike Denness the former Kent and England captain. It really hit home and helped me enormously, when I used it. Of course this is the crux, developing a routine to use the advice. At the different levels of the game, nerves start at different times. I remember when a boy I used to wake up on Saturday morning and before the curtains were drawn I would have butterflies in my stomach! My life used to turn to dust if it was raining. However when the sun shone it was a day of high expectancy. Later when I became a test player, I remember not being able to sleep before a big game and really feeling tired before I got to the ground when the adrenalin rush took over and I was awake for days. The old - fashioned rest day was a relief on Saturday night and a nightmare on Sunday night. It reminded me of having to go back to boarding school on a Sunday evening having spent a day at home. The key to handling all these was I believe my love for the game, my desire to compete, when confronted by a fast bowler or when I finally got to the middle in the heat of the battle, I had no nerves just an intense desire to conquer the opposition. So mentally I had changed from a nervous wreck to a mighty warrior. I found it difficult to lose graciously but because defeat and victory are both impostors companions, one has to learn to live with them. The great thing about any sport is that after defeat and after victory there are wonderful lessons to be learnt for the next encounter. What I did find was that I might spend more time working on my weaknesses and those of the opposition, which made it possible for me not to be defeated too often! Finally as a coach I remember getting really nervous the night before the game worrying if I had covered all eventualities! I knew I could not do anything when on the pitch; it was now up to the players to perform and believe in themselves. And it was this fact belief that led to my coaching values as to help and assist as opposed to hinder and destroy a player, which had very much been the vogue in the sixties and seventies. So if we do not believe that mental preparation is important think again. I also believe firmly that success and failure are like a big circle. For example: Runs = success = confidence = runs - Lack of runs = failure = loss of confidence = no runs.
Like wise poor technique = no runs and good technique = runs. My conclusion is that they are intrinsically entwined.
8. Technical Appreciation
It is important as a player to understand real technique from body position to how the hands work. Shot making can be both rustic and precise, the higher the level the better the technique has to be. Bat paths relative to the body should resemble straight railway lines, the body being on the one track and the hands meeting the ball on the other track. Problems occur when the two tracks cross (playing across the line) and cross again (playing in to out). Don't be lulled into the easy way out you thinking that you mustn't be too technical, the faster or better the bowler and the greater the pressure of the game, the more technique will be exposed and crumble if not good enough. It is in precisely these situations that you will need good technique. By practicing good technique the more natural it will become. A recent study has said that for any movement to become second nature it needs to be practiced over 13000 times! Importantly most shot bases resemble the hull of an old 19th century Man of war boat. The Bat swing towards the stumps resembles the high bridge and Captains cabin. The hitting area resembles the flattened bottom of the hull and the follow through resemble the point of the boat. Illustrated here: - The bottom of the bat should follow the illustration as much as possible so that the hitting area (The straight line - bottom of the hull) is as long as possible. One of Cricket's greatest problems is in how terminology can make such a difference to understanding. If the hitting the ball is a science (Biomechanics) then the art of coaching is getting it across to the student! We have all been taught the Cricket is a sideways game and the batting is a top-handed game, yet the coach will shout at his pupil from any distance that you are using too much bottom hand! Your are confused so am I! It was this confusion that led to my personal quest to understand what the message really was, my current conclusion is that both hands are as important, that the top hand creates the start of the bat swing and that the bottom hand concludes it. In fact, the reality is far greater. In my research, I found that the bottom hand was responsible for power, timing, and all the mistakes that creep into a particular shot. The top hand indeed was vital because if it was not used properly then the bottom hand came into the shot too soon.. Further research led me to an understanding that the hands had to be working as a unit for perfect timing and that hand eye co-ordination was easier when playing the ball under the eyes. This evaluation of technique was born out by studying great players and not so great players when they were hitting the cricket ball well. While none of this is or should be new to anyone, it explained why so many young players do not have the basic skills. The actual methods of hitting a ball were not being explained correctly. Going back into coaching books of yesteryear it became even clearer that the initial teachings were slowly and inexorably being embellished or left out for convenience, maybe lack of understanding, so that over time the actual basics being taught became muddled. Even extremely diligent coaches were making costly mistakes, unaware that they were doing so.
9. Some Guidelines
The following guidelines are worth remembering when you go into the Multi day disciplines as opposed to one-day disciplines. Game plans are important for success. The fact is that you can get out any ball; the challenge then is to deal with the delivery you are facing.
Building an innings: 1-3 batters
*Practice before the game in a way that suits you after the team warm up. If you require a short net against a specific type of bowler then get that organised well in advance.
*Practice by making your feet move forward and back. Too often a batsman gets out because his feet are in the toilet (together) and the hands move away from the body.
*No two players are the same or very rarely!
*Use visualisation techniques to prepare yourself against the new ball.
*Playing higher because of extra bounce.
*Develop a set up routine (As golfers do)
*Clear your mind of all external thoughts.
*WATCH THE BALL IT MAY SOUND OBVIOUS AND IT IS. IT IS ALSO SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN WHEN THE PRESSURE IS ON. In fact "Track" the ball all the way down!
*Remember the first ball is the most important (to survive) and then the next ball!
*You can only deal with one ball at a time.
*Don't over react should you misjudge a particular delivery no two balls are exactly the same
*Develop a technique, which helps you play the ball straight as opposed to square on off-side or leg side a method to help might be to get the back-foot get into line with the off stump fractionally before the ball is released.
*Getting to off stump helps you play wicket to wicket.
*Choose which shots you are going to use during the first period of the game. (What does that mean?) Are you going to hook or cut? Inadvisable. Are you going to cover drive? Inadvisable. Limit your shots to straight in the "V" between mid on and mid-off until you get used to the conditions (Pace of the wicket, bounce, swing, seam). Remember that the ball may only start swinging after the initial sheen has been knocked off the ball.
*Keep your head still when the ball is released and maintain a balance, which allows you to go forward or to go back. Early on you will find it quite difficult to do both especially against real pace.
*"Finding the off stump" is terminology used by coaches to develop the theme knowing where you're off stump is. This allows you to leave more. Especially if you adopt the technique of defending back down the wicket.
*Learn to play with a firm top hand and a soft bottom hand. (What does that mean?) The bottom hand should initially be held in the defensive shot by the first finger and thumb and you should imagine you are holding a baby bird.
*Against genuine pace restrict your back lift in order to have more time to make contact with the ball.
Never believe you are in until you have spent 3-4 hours at the crease.
*During that period choose carefully which shots you can use to expand your scoring range.
*Remember your role is to see off the new ball and the new ball bowlers.
*Opening and batting at three are the toughest roles, the most challenging and often the most productive.
Don't be worried by having to come in with half an hour to go. See that job in a positive light. I can get 10/15 runs and I will still be there tomorrow.
*Remember also that the new ball bowler is going to beat the bat occasionally so just treat that as part of the game. The more you play and miss (outside the off stump) early on, the more likely you are too survive. If you nick it its shower time.
*Practice against the new ball as well as the old.
The Key to batting is to be able to pick length early and accurately and then to play the correct shot, and apply that well.
*Pre-meditation (loss of focus - Loss of concentration), will often mean playing shots that are unnecessary.
*In addition to the above. Be prepared to spend time at the crease again 4 hours is the target. Quite often you will come in under pressure, remember 1 wicket can lead to another. Your role is to create a new partnership.
*Study the bowlers you are likely to face before you go in. Keep relaxed and every now and then while you are waiting to bat go and do some exercise to unwind.
*A good method is to hit a table tennis bal against a wall for a bit do some stretching of Achilles, calves, hamstrings and groins, do some deep breathing exercises and general stretching. Think twice about reading if you are next in; rather do some eye exercises such as looking at an object 3 meters away and 20 meters away. Keep calm and control any butterflies (nerves) that you have.
*I equate it to surfing try and stay on top of the wave.
*Very important not to let external factors break your concentration until a break in play (Drinks, Lunch Tea, rain). However be prepared to switch on again immediately.
*Sometimes dressing rooms relax especially when the batters get on top in the middle. This could have an adverse effect and relax you too much, which could mean a short visit to the middle.
*Work on methods and means of scoring against bowlers who you might be likely to face. For example against spin decide if you are going to come down the wicket or sweep or play him off the back-foot - maybe all three but make a conscious decision, and when in the middle have the courage of your convictions.
*Do not change your mind as the ball is on its way down.
*Be prepared to rotate the strike and work out with your fellow batter where this can happen. Treat a long innings as a one-day innings when it comes to running between the wickets with one important proviso. Don't take unnecessary risks. But do the basics well. Calling make eye contact with your partner will prevent run outs.
*Unless you are in a run chase run outs are a heinous crime in the longer distance game.
*If the ball is turning remember if you are in to shield the strike away from the new batter till he feels a little more comfortable at the crease.
*Remember the Psychologist's IPS (The ideal performance state). It is also referred to in the trade as the "Zone" or the "Bubble" you may even have your own terminology. This state of mindset is attainable every time you go out to bat. There are probably many ways in which you can get there and other players like Waugh, Pollock, Richards (B and V) managed to concentrate so hard and so effectively.
*A way in which some players have managed to create the state was by visualising a plain white sheet with only the ball coming down. (Assuming it is a red ball!). Switching the mind off to any other distractions. Like chirping, crowds, intervals, milestones (50's % 100"s). I recently hear another method passed on by Basil D'Oliveira that of imagining a table set for a party with salt, pepper, tomato sauce flowers and all, "Clear the table so that you can only see the ball". These two and other methods will help you to be able to stick to the five principles of batting. Interestingly Michael Burns (Warwickshire and Somerset used to talk of a little man on his shoulder saying, "Go on hit the ball for four"!) Often he would be too impetuous and get out just as he was beginning to play well.
*Develop a method of switching on and switching off when batting. You might have noticed many players walking around the crease. .Alan Knott used to touch the off bail, other batsman scratch another mark on the edge of the pitch often annoying the grounds man! In order to bat for long periods you have to develop methods of being patient for upwards of four hours if you are to make a hundred or more.
*Goal setting while batting is easier if you set survival or scoring in 5's or 10"s. These are attainable goals. Colin Cowdrey used to call it, "Build five bricks at a time".
*Remember 4/5 hours batting leads you to a hundred; sometimes it can be shorter and sometimes longer.
IF you have the responsibility of batting in the first six then these are the targets you have to set.
*VERY IMPORTANT REMEMBER THAT BATTING IN THE MULTI DAY GAME IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT TO BATTING IN ONE DAY LIMITED OVERS CRICKET!
YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCES AND APPLY THEM!
*If you have a break from the strike don't become frustrated discuss the situation.
*During the game there are different situation, during your innings there will be different pressures. Feeling those situations and dealing with them is vital. What are they: - Wickets falling at the other end, you run out a partner, you get of to a flying start, you get to 49, you get to the 90's, you can't get it off the square, you don't know where the next run comes from, incessant sledging. These are some of the pressures that you will face. You must have the presence of mind to realise what is happening and to remain calm stick to the basics trying to keep yourself in the IPS state, play every ball on its merits, and do not premeditate.
*Maidens create pressure so try to rotate the strike.
*There may be times when you have to take a risk to get out of a stranglehold and it is then that you have a clear plan as to how you are going to attack. Don't be scared too however.
*When chasing a target remember your basic one- day values and use them to put the opposition under pressure. However if chasing a large total then setting up large partnerships is a pre-requisite.
*The beauty of the game is being able to adjust to the situation.
*Bat with authority, don't show fear or pressure, try and smile through adversity and always try to relax your shoulders and arms so that you can hit the ball cleanly. The tenser you are the worse it will get.
*Beware of playing "half-shots". Push drives are particularly dangerous if you play square of the wickets. Learn to defend or attack.
*Wherever you bat in the order your runs will count. Even bowlers should practice their batting.
*The real challenge is to score a hundred every 4 innings and a fifty every 3 innings.
*FINALLY REMEMBER THAT IF THINGS GO WRONG RETURN TO THE BASIC PRICIPLES.
1. Watch the ball all the way down 2. Head still when the ball is released 3. Judge length as accurately as possible 4. Make Positive and if possible correct feet movements 5. Choose the correct shot
BOWLING IN FOUR/FIVE DAY CRICKET
Bowling is as much a mental battle as it is physical
It is vital that a bowler should understand the emotions and thoughts of a batsman in order to be able to first get him out and then restrict his scoring so that the batsman gets himself out.
All opening batsman are essentially nervous and the majority will struggle with their foot movements. In particular getting forward. One of the most effective early deliveries therefore is a swinging Yorker/long half volley (first innings).
In addition a lot of players find the first half hour of their innings their most vulnerable (Sunil Gavaskar used to say "The first hour belongs to the bowler and then the rest belong to me!").
Therefore it is vital that a new ball bowler is ready to bowl. Dennis Lillee in a Test Match would be sweating before he bowled the first ball) so few bowlers now are ready to bowl the first ball fast and accurately.
There is no doubt however that the modern game has been tilted heavily in favour of the batsman. Therefore the correct mind set for a bowler is to walk on the park saying "I have no divine right to take a stackful of wickets today! Yet his mental strength should also tell him that if it goes his way he can easily take five wickets plus.
Aggression is a key word and should be very much part of a bowler's make up whether he is a spinner or a seamer. What exactly does it mean? For me it was summed up by John Snow when he said that you should run in as though you are going to bowl a bouncer every ball yet still be able to bowl in control, whatever ball you wanted. Aggression he felt made the feet stay in the toilet (explanation; the feet should move when the ball is up but cannot if they are stuck in a small toilet bowl).
There are a variety of simple sayings when a bowler is spoken to and for them to work the bowler first has to understand what they mean. For example: I just want you to bowl line and length (The captain is basically saying please keep it quiet). In essence Line and length mean that each player has an area that will keep him quiet (Length) and also the line has now been changed to keep it in the corridor of uncertainty (Line). Now these areas change from player to player from surface to surface and on the condition of the ball. Therefore the accuracy levels of the bowler and his skill factor have to be able to deal with all these factors. Question: - Do Bowlers practice hard enough at their skill levels?
Probably not is the current day answer as he is playing too much! It is important to have a base level of anaerobic fitness as well as aerobic fitness for stamina and plenty of strength to prevent injury. Yet the only real way one can condition the body for bowling is through bowling. Now net practice for a bowler can often be very tedious and very boring, nothing is better than bowling in the middle and this should be encouraged.
It was Ray Illingworth who said that a good bowler is able to go past both sides of the bat; he was not only referring to spinners but to seamers as well. So a basic criterion is to be able to swing the ball both ways and also to change the pace both subtly and in one-day cricket in an extreme way. Allan Donald will take of nearly 11 mph off a delivery. But on occasions especially in the four-day game a 2mph change can make a difference. It is this ability that sorts the good bowlers out from the rest. Being able to bowl Yorkers and Bouncers at different paces and to create variation with out giving it away that makes the bowler better.
On long hot afternoons bowlers have to learn to be patient and bowl in sets three out swingers and an in swinger might be 'a set'. Two whole overs might be 'a set'. A West Indian fast bowler Russell Ramnarace used to bowl consistently one out swinger one in swinger but just subtly change length and line. A lot of bowlers will bowl three consecutive short balls and then pitch one up.
An old but often used method of dismissal was the: -
Bouncer then Yorker. Sometimes it may work and others it may not. The great thing about bowling is that you never know what is going to work and what isn't. I remember bowling really well and having an analysis of 0-74 off 19 overs. Then bowling a rank long hop first ball after tea and the batsman holing out at mid-wicket and suddenly I took four wicket for the addition of only two runs! And there is no common sense reason why. That is why a bowler should always have an open mind.
Remember then one can lead to two and that at milestones and intervals batsmen are at their most vulnerable. Patience perseverance and practice are three key elements. Some of the great bowlers practiced patience by bowling in Sets. For example a set might be three away swingers and one in swinger or vice-versa. Sometimes three overs of straight balls followed by a full away swinger slightly wider hoping for an injudicious drive and a nick. This means keeping the batsman at your end preventing him from rotating the strike. The importance of bowling to your field is never more exemplified when you are trying to work a batter out. A spinner might try to buy a wicket by tossing the ball higher into the air after firing in a succession of quicker deliveries. The great bowlers have been particularly adept at doing this it is called "working the batter out"
However the more pressure you and your partner can create and I stress partner then the more likelihood that a batsman will make a mistake. Bowlers like batters should operate in pairs and it is often the skill of Captaincy to find the right pairing.
Rhythm is vital to a bowler and if this is out then every method needed has to be found to regain that rhythm. More often than not it comes from running in too quickly or too slowly and this can be caused by a number of factors. Soft ground, sloped grounds, windy conditions and it as these times where a bowler has to be at his most patient. Indeed recognising what may be causing the problem makes it much easier to deal with it. This might come from experience.
The longer the game the more the dice is loaded in the batsman's favour as it will be the bowler who is more tired after 4 hours than the batsman. Fitness therefore is a huge criteria and I believe that a bowler has to reach the same levels as a tri-athlete or pretty close to that.
Use of the crease helps change the angle and may put the batsman off Andy Roberts the West Indian fast bowler had a marvellous delivery from wide of the crease. More recently too, Glen McGrath has had real success coming around the wicket to the left-handers. Nothing to stop the right handed quickie coming round to the right-handed batter as well. On 'no-swing' days, every method in the book has to be employed.
Field placings too are absolutely vital and pressurising batters by bowling to a good field can quite often manufacture a wicket. You may often have heard the expression the spinner is looking to but a wicket by throwing the ball higher and wider. Sometimes by increasing the scoring rate and the adrenalin levels in the batsman he lose control and gets himself out. A dangerous method because you could lose control but certainly one I saw work at Old Trafford when Stewart and Atherton had got stuck in and we needed to move them and started bouncing them and getting them to hook. I saw the same ploy repeated in Cape Town and England went from 220-2 to 234 all out!
There are many ways to skin a cat and there are many ways to get rid of the batsman, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. His concentration is so fierce that nothing will disturb him. Hence the introduction of sledging. That too has a limited success ratio.
Patience applies even more to the spin bowler and not only that he must every now and then be expected to be hit out of the attack. He must be mentally strong know exactly what sort of field he needs and remember it only takes one ball.
The longer the game the more the dice is loaded in the batsman's favour as it will be the bowler who is more tired after 4 hours than the batsman. Fitness therefore is a huge criteria and I believe that a bowler has to reach the same levels as a tri-athlete or pretty close to that.
Use of the crease helps change the angle and may put the batsman off Andy Roberts the West Indian fast bowler had a marvellous delivery from wide of the crease. More recently too, Glen McGrath has had real success coming around the wicket to the left-handers. Nothing to stop the right handed quickie coming round to the right-handed batter as well. On 'no-swing' days, every method in the book has to be employed.
In Conclusion: -
There is a saying currently being used which applies to all teams in the field, "String the dots together and they will bring a wicket"! Normally the dice is loaded in favour of the batsman! But it only takes one ball to get him out. Mentally a bowler must expect wickets every ball but realise too that sometimes it's not your day. That does not stop you from doing a really good job for the team. Find the line and length suitable to the moment persevere & try like hell and always look positive and aggressive. I hate to see the heads go down because that is when surrender has taken place.
Levels of fielding have improved dramatically due in the main to one-day cricket but even more so when it has been recognised as an integral part of the bowler's strategy. There are three areas that a fielder has to cover I have divided them thus: -
1. The Close catching ring
This has become a true specialist area, there are far too many examples of catches being put down in the slip cordon and the game being lost. I cite the prime example when South Africa had Australia on the ropes at Adelaide and dropped 10 catches and could only draw the game, the series as lost 1-0 and the team criticised heavily. It is difficult to pin point sometimes why this happens as we had practiced long and hard every day. However that is the way it has to be. To really improve technique using a tennis ball and tennis racket can certainly help by teaching the catcher to give with the ball. It is interesting to experience catching a cricket ball after doing some tennis ball work. Intense concentration is needed as sometimes very few chances come during a day. Lots of reaction work and vision enhancement techniques will improve the success ratio. Diving and one-hand catching practice is also essential.
2. The inner ring
Speed off the mark a flexible body, good hands (catching) an accurate throw and diving on the run are or should be the skills needed by those who occupy the inner ring. The bowler depends on these players preventing wherever possible the single and the opportunity for the batters to rotate the strike. I suppose the fielder in the ring would resemble a cat about to catch its prey. He would stay close to the ground and be ready to pounce on the ball. Jonty Rhodes has made this position an art form and any player wishing to do well in this area should watch study and copy his methods specifically the two handed pounce dive which is his trade mark and the reason why he is so successful.
3. The Outer Ring
Great throwing arm, speed around the boundary, flexibility, able to judge a high ball on the run and an ability to watch the Captain at all times as the external focus of crowds and other entertainment is always available. It is important to work on technique in order to get the ball in quickly following the pick up. It is worth watching baseball outfielders in this regard as their throwing arms are quite incredible. It is an area where cricket can improve. General: - All fielders should always pay attention to bowler and captain at all times. Nothing is worse that a captain having to shout in order to gain the fielders attention. All fielders must ensure that their body language is excellent, for example when a bowler gets hit for four no fielder should stand shaking his head or getting upset. Conversely a bowler should not be shouting at this team when they make a mistake in the field. Fielders should always be captaining the side in their heads and trying to read what a batsman is trying to do (pinching runs for example) and also what the bowler is trying to do. He should be aware of any team signals and what they might mean and know the rules of the game, especially when there is a runner for an injured player.
Undoubtedly the most important player on the field. It is the keeper who dictates the energy and enthusiasm of the fielding side. He has to tidy up the throws encourage the bowler, be a confidant for the Captain as regards tactics and to encourage the bowlers. Technically he has to work extremely hard both on standing up and on diving techniques standing back. Physically he has to be the fittest member of the squad, certainly the most flexible and he has to know how to protect his fingers. Losing a keeper during a game is tough on any side. During a season the keeper's hands will take a lot of punishment and it is worth having a spare keeper or using a baseball mitts to protect his hands. He should be able to tell how his hands are feeling. Mentally the keeper needs to be more of an optimist but also deal in realities as well. Generally the life and soul of the party.
May 23, 2005, 09:01 AM
good idea. Could you pass the links (U2U or post it) when you have time. Take your time.:)
btw - i don't need the Woolmer and Chappel links, just the first few you posted. thanks
May 23, 2005, 09:55 AM
Thanks. Its a goldmine.
May 24, 2005, 03:27 AM
good job arnab - can't wait for summer to come :)
October 18, 2005, 12:36 PM
Hitting The Ball: When batsmen don't need to keep their eye on the ball
In most sports, which involve hitting a ball, the coach's advice is to 'keep your eye on the ball'. However, when a ball moves very fast, this strategy may not always be possible or even appropriate. And now a fascinating new study carried out at Oxford University has revealed that, in fact, cricket batsmen do not watch the ball continuously but operate a distinct eye movement strategy of viewing it at crucial moments during its flight.
Researchers Michael Land and Peter McLeod measured the eye movements and field of gaze during batting of three batsmen with head-mounted eye cameras as they faced balls delivered at 25m per second from a bowling machine. The batsmen, selected for their widely varying abilities were: Mark, a professional cricketer who has opened the batting for Warwickshire; Charlie, a successful amateur who plays Minor Counties cricket for Oxfordshire, and Richard, described as an 'enthusiastic but incompetent amateur', who plays low-level club cricket.
Despite their widely varying skills, Mark, Charlie and Richard's overall visual strategy was observed to be similar: they fixed on the ball as it was delivered, switched their gaze to the anticipated bounce point before the ball got there, then tracked its trajectory for 100-200 milliseconds (MS) after the bounce.
However, within this common strategy, there were differences that seemed to reflect their abilities. Mark, the best batsmen, used more pre-bounce pursuit tracking than Charlie or Richard. Richard, the least-skilled batsman, was slower to respond to the appearance of the ball and to anticipate the bounce point, and the researchers concluded that he would have been unable to manage faster deliveries. By comparison, even with very short balls, Mark and Charlie reached the bounce point with their eyes 100m before the ball.
'In comparing the good (Mark and Charlie) and the poor (Richard) batsmen,' comment the researchers, 'we suggest that the main aspect of oculo-motor behaviour that is related to batting performance is the speed and variability of the initial saccade [a brief rapid eye movement between fixation points].
'The skill difference between the expert batsman (Mark) and the good batsman (Charlie) is possibly due to Mark's subtle combination of pursuit tracking and saccadic movement as he locates the bounce point. There seemed to be no systematic differences in the way the three batsmen tracked the ball after the bounce.'
Nat Neurosci 2000 Dec;3(12):1340-5
October 18, 2005, 12:37 PM
Physio's fear for fast bowlers
By Martin Gough
To lose one fast bowler may be considered a misfortune, losing two could be considered careless.
But to lose an entire pace attack to injury points to a major problem.
England got through seven fast bowlers during last winter's Ashes series, and Andrew Flintoff did not even manage to get on the field of play.
And Australia go into a one-day series in India while Glenn McGrath (ankle), Jason Gillespie (side) and Brett Lee (stomach and ankle) all nurse injuries at home.
Sheer weight of cricket seems to be the biggest reason for the problem.
Between 1 October 2002 and the same date this year, Australia played 14 Tests and 31 one-day internationals.
Ten years ago they played only six fewer ODIs in a year than included an England tour and a World Cup, but just half the number of Test matches.
I don't know how long Brett Lee is going to be able to bowl the way he does
Leading physio Craig Smith
Former South Africa physiotherapist Craig Smith believes injuries are bound to occur to pace bowlers with the amount of cricket that is being played worldwide.
"Countries pay their players a lot of money and in return they're trying to get their pound of flesh," he told the BBC Sport website.
"There has been a trend of increasing games over the last five or 10 years.
"Players have adapted quite well but there's always going to be a situation where injuries are going to occur."
After a season in county cricket with Lancashire, Smith believes there is a massive difference between first-class and Test cricket.
And he says one-day internationals are another step up again, producing up to three times as many injuries.
Spine - stress fractures or disc-related injuries
Ankle - chronic breakdown in the front foot
Skeletal - Lower leg, trunk muscles, knee joints
"The pressure, the duration of the game and the quality of the opposition means what they players put their bodies through [in international cricket] is greater," Smith explains.
"One-day cricket is a lot more intense - you've got three hours of intense, fast sprint-type activity - whereas in Test cricket it's a lot more drawn out."
South African research shows bowling more than 800 overs a year increases the risk of injury.
In Shaun Pollock's first season in county cricket he bowled more than 1200, although central contracts worldwide now tend to cut that workload.
Smith believes the best solution would be for the ICC to draw together research from around the world, especially in Australia and South Africa, for general benefit.
"The ICC are allowing countries to play against each other so much on the basis of producing income.
"But they're not doing the research to ensure players are strong enough, fit enough and avoiding injury," he argues.
Glenn McGrath (Aus)
Domestic: 172.2 overs
Shaun Pollock (SA)
Stephen Harmison (Eng)
Matches from 1/10/02 - 1/10/03 * SA first-class season shortened for World Cup
"You do not want a Brett Lee or a Shoaib Akhtar or a Makhaya Ntini or a James Anderson out of the game. You want them playing, fit and strong."
In the meantime, there are steps teams can take to try to cut down the risks.
On tour in Bangladesh, England have joined the growing number of sides employing ice baths at the end of play and gym sessions to strengthen supporting muscles.
"You look at the Australians and they really are solid, powerful blokes," says Smith.
"Glenn McGrath's morphological state changed from when he was 22 or 23 to now in his early 30s - he's better developed."
But McGrath and Pollock are an example of what a player can do to help himself.
"When Shaun was 22 or 23 and just coming into the South Africa team he was young, mobile, flexible and he just wanted to run in and bowl fast," Smith goes on.
"As he's grown older and stiffened up a little bit, maybe weakened a little, he's modified and become a really wily bowler, like Glenn McGrath."
But as McGrath has found, even an emphasis on brain-work is not a comprehensive insurance against spending time on the sidelines.
October 18, 2005, 12:40 PM
Reading The Game
While lesser mortals grind out victories with their patient shots, eliminating risks and playing the percentages, the truly gifted seem to conjure with time. They bring an unhurried genius to their game that allows them to play shots with an audacity that sometimes surprises even them.
Or at least this is how it appears to the spectator in the stands. But is there anything in the notion that some players are blessed with infinite time? That some genetic advantage allows a few lucky individuals to react as if the rest of the world were moving in slow motion?
'You would think there would have to be something innate in the make-up of a person like a McEnroe because a lot of the population could practise as much as he did, yet never reach his level of performance,' says Bruce Abernethy, a sports psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia. 'But it's not easy to say what it is that makes the difference. It's not likely to be any one simple answer but a mixture of factors.' While sports psychologists may not have a ready explanation for sporting genius, they are beginning to turn up a few clues - and also a few surprises.
One surprise has been that raw reaction times do not appear to be the answer. When top athletes take standard reaction time tests - such as hitting a switch as soon as it lights up they are no faster than average.
'There is surprisingly little difference between top-class athletes and good, fit ordinary people,' says Peter McLeod of the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology. 'In laboratory tests of reactions using unskilled tasks, most people show much the same reaction time of about a fifth of a second. So top-class athletes don't appear to be tapping into some generalised superiority,' says McLeod.
Even more surprising for those expecting an explanation in terms of a speedier nervous system, other research has shown that it takes nearly half a second for our minds to become properly conscious of fast-moving events. Measurements of the brain's electrical activity indicate it takes only about 20 milliseconds for nerve impulses to travel the distance between the sense organs and the brain. However, reaction-time tests show that it takes a minimum of 100 milliseconds before the brain can produce even the simplest action and nearer 200 milliseconds to make the more complex judgement involved in hitting a light switch. But research by Benjamin Libet, a physiologist at the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that becoming conscious of an event takes even longer.
His experiments show that it takes between 400 and 500 milliseconds for the brain to complete all the filtering and recognition processes needed to produce a subjective experience. This suggests that consciousness lags behind reality by up to half a second. So any rapid reactions shown by athletes must be achieved by subconscious processing.
A cricket or tennis player has about S milliseconds to hit a fast-moving ball - any sooner or later with the swing and the player will miss the ball. So the mystery is not that some people are so skilful but that anyone ever manages to strike a ball at all.
The advantage of an expert eye
To investigate the source of the top performer's advantage, sports psychologists begin by making a distinction between input and output - between perceptual and motor processes. The researchers assume that the gifted either manage to make sense of what they are seeing more quickly, or else they are able to unleash a more reliable and smoothly coordinated response - or both. So top performers are not faster than the rest of us in their raw reaction times - scores vary by about 25 milliseconds and there is no significant clustering of the skilled at the top of this range. But equally there is plenty of evidence that gifted players do use anticipation to quicken their responses and that they have a superior ability to read the game.
The advantage of an expert eye was first demonstrated away from the sports pitch in intellectual games such as chess. Research showed that grandmasters seem able to sum up a board at a glance. Given five seconds to look at a complex position, top players remembered the arrangement of 90 per cent of the pieces, compared with good club players who could manage only 50 per cent. It seems that grandmasters could 'chunk' their perception of the board - breaking what they saw into a small number of meaningful units - so increasing the apparent bandwidth of their processing.
But if the position of the chess pieces was random, not taken from a real game, the performance of both groups fell to the same level. Over the past decade, sports psychologists have taken games such as hockey, basketball and soccer, testing players with slides of meaningful and random field positions, and found the same perceptual chunking process at work. It seems that while information may not enter the brain of top performers significantly faster, where the novice experiences only a blur of details, the expert sees a well-ordered set of possibilities.
Such an ability to read the game allows the expert to anticipate and so bridge the split-second gap that exists between reality and the brain's perceptual processes. Abernethy says studies have shown that top performers are skilled at anticipating what their opponents are about to do. For example, a group of novice and professional badminton players were compared to see how quickly they could detect which way an opponent was about to flick a shuttle. While novices had to wait until they saw the racket head start to move, the experts could guess much earlier from preliminary movements of the body and arm.
'Experts do a good mechanical analysis of their opponent' s playing action and can tell whether a shot is going cross-court or down the line. Sometimes the cue may be no more than movements in the large muscles of the chest,' Abernethy says.
The same early response is true of tennis, where top players can tell from a server' s action whether the ball will land on their forehand or backhand, and of cricket, where a first-class bat will have decided whether to play off the back foot or front foot at least 100 milliseconds before a fast bowler has released the ball.
The interesting thing about such anticipation, says Abernethy, is that players seem to go by a gut feeling - a subconscious recognition - and the only way to discover the cues they are actually using is to film the bowler's or server's action and then see what is happening in the frame where the expert guess is made. 'You can't teach people anticipation by saying look at point A or point B. It just has to come with practice and players may never really know what they are reacting to,' says Abernethy.
Anticipating the unexpected
Top athletes become so good at anticipation that their responses can seem almost instantaneous, as if no reaction gap existed. However, players can be cruelly exposed whenever a ball or opponent does something unexpected. McLeod carried out one of the best-known experiments to demonstrate the 'incompressibility' of the blindspot in human reactions.
McLeod got three England batsmen, Allan Lamb, Wayne Larkins and Peter Willey, to face a bowling machine on a special matting pitch. Under the matting he placed a number of dowel rods to make the ball seam unpredictably. What McLeod found was that if the ball bounced sharply sideways closer than 200 milliseconds to the bat, then the batsmen would misplay the ball every time. No correction was possible.
Anticipation studies seem to suggest that the superior reactions of top performers are due largely to learning rather than any innate factor. But, as Abernethy says, many people practise long and hard, yet few turn into a McEnroe or a Gascoigne. So it could be that the genetic component at play is a greater 'trainability' of the nervous system.
For example, some players might find it easier to develop anticipation skills because they have been born with better visuo-spatial and pattern-recognition abilities. Certainly, one of the distinguishing features of both McEnroe and Gascoigne appears to be their imagination - their ability to visualise more possibilities in a given situation.
But part of the impression that gifted athletes give of having infinite time also comes from the silky smoothness of the way they make their shots. Again, some sports psychologists suspect that the genetic component of such motor skill may not lie in some pure measure of coordination but in the trainability of a person's nervous system.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that in learning a skill, whether it is playing tennis, driving a car or unscrewing a bottle cap, there is a progression from crude, conscious control of the action to smooth, automatic performance. Medical scanners that can track brain blood flows are providing neurological evidence of this progression.
In the early stages of learning a skill, the higher conscious parts of the brain - the cortex and basal ganglia - are most active. But as the skill is mastered, these areas drop out of the picture and control is taken over by the cerebellum, the brain's specialised movement centre, says John Stein, a physiologist at the University of Oxford.
The cerebellum used to be thought of as just a memory store for motor routines - a blind, inanimate warehouse which produced stereotyped responses when triggered by a command from higher consciousness. However, there is evidence to show that the cerebellum has considerable - albeit unconscious - intelligence. The cortex may set the global goals but the cerebellum can improvise to meet them.
Stein says support for this view comes from the discovery that there are two routes by which sensations reach the cerebellum. There is a cortical route where sensations are mapped first on the cortex (forming a conscious picture) and then passed down to the cerebellum. But there is also a direct route from the eyes to the cerebellum, bypassing the cortex. This route quickly delivers the information needed to control subconscious skills.
A 'high-IQ' cerebellum?
The tempting conclusion is that gifted athletes may simply be born with a 'high-lQ' cerebellum. They may have a specialised motor genius that allows them to be more creative and agile in executing shots. While it is too early to rule out such a 'raw advantage' hypothesis, sports psychologists such as John Fazey of the University College of North Wales at Bangor believe the explanation could be more subtle. Fazey says that it might simply be that some people are better at automating skills. Something in their make-up may allow them to download more of a complicated sporting action from clumsy conscious control to smooth subconscious performance. Whatever produces a skilled cerebellum, the difference is obvious. Top tennis and cricket players never seem to have to remind themselves to move their feet or turn their shoulders because these preparatory movements appear to be so automatic. Their bodies snap into position, leaving them poised to strike a clean shot. But weekend amateurs find themselves forever wrestling with their own limbs, mechanically trying to get all the parts in the right place, then finding they are forced to make a cramped swipe because the ball is already upon them.
Somewhat unkindly, sports psychologists describe the amateur's plight as one of near skeletomuscular anarchy. Yet measurements of muscle and nerve activity show this to be an apt description. Where the nervous system of a skilled performer delivers small, accurate bursts of instructions to the limbs, producing a smooth response, that of the unskilled fires off blasts of often contradictory messages, creating a jerky, awkward movement as opposing muscles end up pushing and pulling at the same time.
Putting all this evidence together, sports science still cannot say precisely what makes a McEnroe or a Maradona, or an Agassi. It is obvious that years of dedicated training play a huge part. Also, differences in childhood stimulation may be important - Agassi, for instance, was taught to bat a dangling balloon while still in his highchair. Such stories are typical of great athletes. Then there is the contribution of genes, although the likelihood is that the genetic component of exceptional skill has more to do with a capacity to benefit from training than with a set of raw ingredients such as reaction speed.
But it seems that gifted performers are better at using anticipation to cover for a lagging brain. By reading their opponent' s game, the skilled prime themselves to react to what they imagine will happen rather than waiting until it does. They create a 'virtual reality' which allows them to act as if consciousness was indeed instantaneous.
Coupled to this perceptual priming is a smooth and intelligent execution of body movement. The gifted player's brain not only knows what it should do, it also has the automated skills to carry out the actions with a minimum of fuss and maximum of accuracy.
So the spectator is right after all. The gifted are conjurors of time. They buy extra time with anticipation and avoid losing time by automating their responses. The irony is that if a McEnroe or a Gascoigne wants to appreciate their own skills then, like any other spectator, they will have to wait the split-second or so it takes for their conscious awareness to catch up with the shots their subconscious processes have just chosen to play. And any feeling they might have had of being there at the time was just an illusion.
John McCrone (This article first appeared in New Scientist)
October 18, 2005, 12:42 PM
Athletes who throw things should alternate between heavy and light
Athletes who throw a cricket ball, a baseball, a football, a javelin, a discus, a hammer, or some other object, often train by hurling things which are heavier than their normal ball or implement in hopes of fortifying the muscles involved in throwing, but research concerning the effectiveness of this training strategy has yielded mixed results. In fact, as we reported in our November 1994 issue, such throwing is sometimes less effective than routine strength training at improving throwing prowess.
However, the failure of such 'heavy-object workouts' can probably be attributed to a lack of specificity of training sessions; when athletes fail to throw the heavier-than-normal ball or implement with the same technique they use during their actual sport, any gains in strength which are attained don't 'carry over' into their sport. Supporting the idea of heavy-ball training, several different studies HAVE shown that baseball players who train by throwing a heavy baseball can indeed improve their pitching velocity - as long as the practice throwing motion is similar to real-live pitching. Such training is the most specific, useful form of weight training which an athlete can conduct.
However, some scientists and trainers are now sug gesting that athletes who throw things should propel both heavier AND lighter-than-normal objects during their training. Taking into account the fact that high throwing velocities are the result of both excellent muscle power and coordination, this idea makes pretty good sense. As mentioned, throwing a heavier object improves muscle power during the actual act of throwing, while casting the lighter ball improves coordination during quicker-than-usual arm movements and helps an athlete recruit and utilize fast-twitch muscle cells during the throwing motion. These two benefits should combine synergistically to dramatically boost throwing velocity.
But how should one carry out the heavy - and light- ball workouts? Research completed in Russia suggests that it might be advisable to go through a preliminary penod of heavy-implement training, followed by the lighter work. The idea is to build basic shoulder strength before subjecting the shoulder joint and muscles to the high forces involved in whipping the arm forward at higher-than-usual speeds.
To evaluate the benefits of 'heavy-first and then light-ball training' versus simultaneous heavy and light throwing, scientists at the University of Hawaii recently asked 45 high school and 180 university baseball pitchers to participate in a 10-week training programme which included three workouts per week. A control group utilized only a standard-weight (five-ounce) baseball, a second group trained with both a standard and heavy (six-ounce) baseball for five weeks, followed by five weeks with only a standard and light (four-ounce) ball. The final group worked out with standard, heavy, and light balls simultaneously throughout the 10-week period.
During a typical workout, the pitchers threw about 66 pitches. For the control group, each pitch was made with a standard ball. The group which simultaneously used standard, heavy, and light balls would throw (in order) 11 times with the regular ball, 22 times with the heavy, 22 times with the light, and then 11 times with the standard baseball. The heavy-first and then-light group sandwiched 11 standard throws around 44 heavy throws during the heavy, five-week period and 11 standard throws around 44 light ones during the final, five- week light period.
After 10 weeks, the control group failed to improve pitching velocity, but the other two groups raised throwing velocities by a similar amount - about 6-8 per cent. It appears that the use of underweighted and over- weighted balls during training can indeed increase throwing velocity. However, it's not necessary to stagger the ball usage; heavy and light balls can be used simultaneously throughout a training period in order to achieve the best-possible gain in speed. The Hawaii scientists recommend using balls or objects which are 20-per cent heavier and lighter than normal. None of the athletes became injured during the study, suggesting that the use of reasonably over- and underweighted balls is safe.
(Effects of Under- and Overweighted Implement
Training on Pitching Velocity, ' Joumal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 8(4), pp. 24 7-250, 1994)
October 18, 2005, 01:07 PM
I have a new level of respect for you Arnab. Extreme dedication and love for the game can only produce a thread like this.
All I can say is "wow".
October 19, 2005, 05:53 AM
It should be compiled, translated and send to the players of bnagladesh. One of the best thread of this site. But with so little respond from the bloggers show how shallow we became or should I say, it is difficult to comment on real things. I do not know which one is true. Three Cheers to Arnab
Edited on, October 19, 2005, 10:54 AM GMT, by thebest.
October 19, 2005, 06:08 AM
take a break have a "crick- bat"
u will c its much better than reading articles.
October 19, 2005, 11:58 AM
Just wanted to let you know: have been following this thread from the time it was created, but never really had a chance to thank you on opening something like this. It's by far the best thread on BC in my time.
October 19, 2005, 02:52 PM
deleted: duplicate post.
Edited on, October 19, 2005, 7:54 PM GMT, by Cats_eye.
October 19, 2005, 02:53 PM
Originally posted by Cats_eye
For many it would be hard to read the whole thread. I would like to point out few things that can teach everyone what is the meaning of the longer version of the game.
General Coaching Tips
- Building an innings: 1-3 batters
- BATSMEN 4-6
This is in first post on the second page in the middle area.
Those of you have read this part can easily identify the fault of our top class batsmen and why we are failing.
October 19, 2005, 11:34 PM
Eventhough I didn't read the whole article but that article caught my eyes. I could swear that while reading about some materials for my class, I was thinking of writing an article titled something like "why Ashraful got better brain than Einstein"... I thought it would be very original :(
It would have taken a while to write it but now I lost the moytivation. I would have probably never written it but at least certain desire was there ... now no more :(
Edited on, October 20, 2005, 4:36 AM GMT, by Orpheus.
October 23, 2005, 02:56 AM
Thanks everybody who thanked me. Although I am doing nothing original here: Just searching, archiving and sharing. It just so happens that I enjoy doing these three activities when it comes to my favorite things.
By no means this is a one-man-show thread. If you think there's an article that reasonably fits the flavor of this thread, post it. I might have missed some good articles still floating on the web.
October 23, 2005, 02:59 AM
Originally posted by Cats_eye
For many it would be hard to read the whole thread.
I agree. I am thinking about posting a list of all the articles posted with accompanying post URLs in the first post of the thread. That way one can easily jump to the article he wants to read.
October 23, 2005, 05:05 AM
The Magnus Effect
Or "Why do cricket balls swing and curve balls curve?"
This page on the Magnus or Robin's Effect was born out
of a seminar I presented circa 1987 as a potential topic for my Master's Thesis in Mechanical Engineering.(Actually I was going to investigate the Reverse Magnus Effect :-) My advisor at the time, <a hrefl="http://www.tulane.edu/~meche/watts.html">Dr.
Robert G. Watts</a> has numerous papers and a <a href="#book">popular book
on the physics of baseball</a> and he is considered an authority on the
<p>Seeing the spate of recent posts on <i><a href="news://rec.sport.cricket">rec.sport.cricket</a></i>
on this topic, gave me the motivation to dig up all my old references and
start writing something that will be more than just speculation. This page
will focus on cricket ball aerodynamics(at least in the beginning) and
will soon include discussions of the "other" sports.
<p><b>Disclaimer:</b> This contains no original work of mine. All information
is from the references listed at the end.(Some wordings and phrases are
borrowed literally with no fear of Copyright violations :-) Heck, I am
not making any money out of this and I am certainly not asking for glory!!
<p>I am continuing to work on writing to provide more information and grow
this section to include more related topics (baseball and golf balls).
I am not very happy with the figures I have created. I will hopefully have
more meaningful and better looking diagrams/graphs up soon. I welcome all
comments/corrections/suggestions from you. Send them to <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>
or <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>
A brief history of scientific studies of the "Magnus Effect":</h3>
Newton in 1672(Did this guy have something to say about everything?) noted
how a tennis ball's flight was affected by spin. In 1742, Robins showed
that a transverse aerodynamic force could be detected on a rotating sphere.
(Hence it is also referred to sometimes as the "Robin's Effect"). The first
explanation of the lateral deflection of a spinning ball is credited by
<a href="#rayleigh">Lord Rayleigh</a> to <a href="#magnus">Magnus,</a>
from which the phenomenon derives its name, the "Magnus Effect". Rayleigh
also gave a simple analysis for a "frictionless fluid," which showed that
the side force was proportional to the free stream velocity and the rotational
speed. This was all before the introduction of the boundary-layer concept
by Prandtl in 1904.
<p>The commonly accepted explanation is that a spinning object creates
a sort of whirlpool of rotating air about itself. On the side where the
motion of the whirlpool is in the same direction as that of the windstream
to which the object is exposed, the velocity will be enhanced. On the opposite
side, where the motions are opposed, the velocity will be decreased. According
to Bernoulli's principle, the pressure is lower on the side where the velocity
is greater, and consequently there is an unbalanced force at right angles
to the wind. This is the magnus force.
<p>The more recent studies agree that the magnus force results from the
asymmetric distortion of the boundary layer displacement thickness caused
by the combined spinning and flow past the spherer. In the case of a sphere(or
cylinder), the so-called whirlpool, or more accurately the circulation,
does not consist of air set into rotation by friction with a spinning object.
Actually an object such as a sphere or a cylinder can impart a spinning
motion to only a very thin layer next to the surface. The motion imparted
to this layer affects the manner in which the flow separates from the surface
in the rear. Boundary layer separation is delayed on the side of the spinning
object that is moving in the same direction as the free stream flow, while
the separation occurs prematurely on the side moving against the free stream
flow. The wake then shifts toward the side moving against the free stream
flow. As a result, flow past the object is deflected, and the resulting
change in momentum flux causes a force in the opposite direction(upwards
in the case shown in figure 1).
<p><img SRC="http://www.geocities.com/k_achutarao/MAGNUS/fig1.JPG" width="550">
<br><b>Figure 1.</b> (Flow from right to left)</center>
<p>This phenomenon is influenced by the conditions in the thin layer next
to the body, known as the boundary layer, and there may arise certain anomalies
in the force if the spin of the body introduces anomalies in the layer,
such as making the flow turbulent on one side and not the other. One such
is the reverse Magnus effect which may occur for smooth spheres. Rough
balls such as cricket balls, baseballs, golf balls and tennis balls, do
not show this anomalous effect.
Aerodynamics of Cricket Balls:</h3>
A cricket ball has six rows of prominent stitching, with typically 60-80
stitches in each row(primary seam). The seam is along the "equator" of
the two hemisphere ball. Better quality balls are made of 4 pieces of leather
so that each hemisphere has a line of internal stitching forming the "secondary
seam". The secondary seams of the two hemispheres are at right angles to
<p>Fast bowlers make judicious use of the primary seam to swing the ball.
The ball is released into the air flow with the seam at a slight angle.
(When bowled right)The seam trips the laminar boundary layer into turbulence
on one side of the ball. This turbulent boundary layer by virtue of its
increased energy, separates relatively late compared to the boundary layer
on the nonseam side, which separates in a laminar state. The asymmetric
boundary layer separation results in an asymmetric pressure distribution
that produces the side force responsible for the swing. When a ball is
bowled, with a round arm action as rules insist, there will always be some
backspin imparted to it. The ball being held alung the seam, the backspin
is also imparted along the seam. So the asymmetry of the boundary layer
separation is maintained. A prominent seam obviously helps the laminar
to turbulence transition process, whereas a smooth and polished surface
on the nonseam side helps maintain a laminar boundary layer. <a href="#mehta">Mehta</a>
has a really nice Wind tunnel Smoke photograph of flow over a cricket ball.
A schematic is in figure 2.
<p><img SRC="http://www.geocities.com/k_achutarao/MAGNUS/fig2.JPG" width="550">
<p>Mehta goes on to report a lot of results from wind-tunnel tests and
also compares them with results obtained by <a href="#barton">Barton(1982)
</a>and <a href="#bentley">Bentley et al.(1982)</a>
<p><b>To come to the crux of their observations:</b>
<p>The two piece ball is in general found to have better swing properties
than the four piece ball. The secondary seam serves as an effective roughness
that helps to cause transition of the laminar boundary layer on the nonseam
<p>Barton concluded that the ball with a more pronounced seam than average
(> 1mm) swung more. Bentley et al. could not corroborate that as they found
that there was no correlation of swing with seam size or shape.
<p>Bentley et al. found that the seam on all new balls is efficient at
tripping the boundary layer in the speed range 15 < U < 30 m/s (i.e
54 < U < 108 Km/hr). The swing properties obviously deteriorate with
age as the seam is worn and the surface scarred. For that matter the spin
or rotation of the ball is not theoretically necessary for swing! [<b>Note
to non-cricket savvy people:</b> the ball in cricket is only replaced after
a minimum fixed number of overs(deliveries if you will) have been bowled.
So the wear and tear is a natural consequence of the game. Only "natural"
sources like spit and saliva may be used in maintaining the shine on the
ball - usually achieved by polishing the ball on clothing . No means of
scuffing the ball may be used. Rolling the ball on the ground is legal.]
<center><img SRC="http://www.geocities.com/k_achutarao/MAGNUS/fig3.JPG" width="550"></center>
<b>Figure 3. </b>(The general shape of the curve for side force measurements
on a cricket ball at seam angle zero. 30 m/s would correspond to a Reynolds
number of approximately 150000.)
<p>The two parameters that a bowler can control to some extent are the
ball seam angle and the spin rate.
<br>The optimum seam angle for U = 30 m/s is about 20 degrees. At lower
speeds (especially for U < 15 m/s) a bowler should select a larger seam
angle than 30 degrees, so that by the time the flow accelerates around
the seam, the critical speed has been reached. It is better not to trip
the boundary layer too early(low angle), since the turbulent boundary layer
grows at a faster rate and will therefore separate relaively early(compared
with a later tripping). At the same time, the seam angle should not be
so large that the boundary layer separates before reaching the seam, since
this would result in symmetrical separation on the ball and hence zero
size force. In a case like this, if transition occurs in the boundary layer
upstream of the seam, then the effect of the seam will be to act as a boundary-layer
"fence" that thickens the boundary layer even further. This asymmetry would
lead to a negative side force for postcritical Reynolds numbers. This effect
can be produced even at low seam angles by inducing early transition of
the laminar boundary layer through an increase of the free-stream turbulence.
(Note: Could this be an explanaion for the reverse swing achieved by Wasim
Akhram and Waquar Younis? It seems unlikely that they get up in the Reynolds
number range required for that.........)
<p>Spin on the ball helps stabilize the ball's seam orientation. Too much
spin is detrimental since the effective roughness on the ball's surface
is increased. This is more relevant at higher speeds (U > 25m/s). Barton's
results indicate that the optimal spin rate is 5 rev/s, whereas Bentley
et al.'s results indicate a much higher rate of 11 rev/s. These anomalies
are considered to be due to differences in experimental setups. In practice,
a bowler can impart upto 14 rev/s though it is not very easy to control.
Effect of weather conditions:</h3>
This has got to be one of the most discussed aspects of cricket. It is
believed that humid or damp days are more conducive to swing bowling, but
there is no scientific proof of this!
<p>The flow pattern around the cricket ball depends on the properties of
the air and the ball itself. The only properties of air affected by weather
conditions are density and viscosity. These will influence the Reynolds
number. However, Bentley et al. found that the average changes in temperature
and humidity encountered in a day only affect the Reynolds number to the
tune of 2%. Several measurements have been made of the effect of humidity,
and even wetness of the ball (due to condensation etc.) and no significant
changes have been measured under laboratory conditions. Does the dampness
make the ball tackier and hence enable the bowler to impart a better spin
rate? This was the untested hypothesis of Bentley et al. This aspect of
cricket ball aerodynamics remains a mystery.
<h4>Print Journal Resources.</h4>
<ol><li><a NAME="mehta"></a><b><i>"Aerodynamics of sports balls"</i></b>, Rabindra
D. Mehta, in Annual Reviews of Fluid Mechanics, 1985. 17: pp. 151-189.</li>
<li><a NAME="barton"></a><b><i>"On the swing of a cricket ball in flight"</i></b>,
N. G. Barton, <i>Proc. R. Soc. of London. Ser.</i> A, 1982. 379 pp. 109-31.</li>
<li><a NAME="bentley"></a><b><i>"An experimental study of cricket ball swing"</i></b>,
Bentley, K., Varty, P., Proudlove, M., Mehta, R. D., Aero. Tech. Note 82-106,
Imperial College, London, England, 1982.</li>
<li><b><i>"The effect of humidity on the swing of cricket balls"</i></b>, Binnie,
A. M., International Journal of Mechanical Sciences. 18: pp.497-499, 1976.</li>
<li><b><i>"The swing of a cricket ball"</i></b>, Horlock, J. H., in "Mechanics
and sport", ed. J. L. Bleustein, pp. 293-303. New York, ASME 1973.</li>
<li><b><i>"The swing of a cricket ball"</i></b>, Imbrosciano, A., Project Report
810714, Newcastle College of Advanced Education., Newcastle, Australia.
<li><b><i>"The swing of a cricket ball"</i></b>, Lyttleton, R. A., Discovery,
18: pp.186-191. 1957.</li>
<li><b><i>"Aerodynamics of the cricket ball"</i></b>, Mehta, R. D., Wood, D.
H., New Scientist, 87: pp.442-447, 1980</li>
<li><b><i>"Factors affecting cricket ball swing"</i></b>, Mehta, R. D., Bentley,
K., Proudlove, M., Varty, P., Nature, 303: pp. 787-788, 1983.</li>
<li><b><i>"Aerodynamics of a cricket ball"</i></b>, Sherwin, K., Sproston,
J. L., Int. J. Mech. Educ. 10: pp. 71-79. 1982.</li>
<li><b><i>"The Aerodynamics of a cricket ball"</i></b>, BSc dissertation. Dept
Mech Eng. Univ. of Newcastle, England. 1983.</li>
<li><b><i>"Effect of spin and speed on the lateral deflection(curve) of a Baseball;
and the Magnus effect for smooth Spheres"</i></b>, Lyman J. Briggs , American
Journal of Physics 27:pp. 589-596. 1959.</li>
<li><b><i>"Magnus effect on spinning bodies of revolution"</i></b>, H. L. Power,
J. D. Iverson, AIAA Journal Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.417-418, April 1973.</li>
<li><b><i>"A Magnus Theory"</i></b>, H. R. Vaughn and G. E. Reis, AIAA Journal,
Vol. 11(?) No. 10 (?), pp.1396-1403, October 1973.</li>
<li><b><i>"The aerodynamics of Golf balls"</i></b>, John M. Davies, Journal
of Applied Physics, Vol. 20, No. 9, September 1949.</li>
<li><b><i>"The Magnus or Robins effect on Rotating Spheres"</i></b>, H. M.
Barkla and L. J. Auchterlonie, Fluid Mech. vol. 47, part 3, pp. 437-447,
<li><b><i>"A boundary layer theorem, with applications to rotating cylinders"</i></b>,
M. B. Glauert, (I can't find the journal name on the paper, but it looks
like Journal of Fluid Mechanics circa 1956 or 1957, pp. 89-99)</li>
<li><b><i>"Aerodynamics of a knuckleball"</i></b>, Watts, R. G., Sawyer, E.,
American Journal of Physics, 43: pp.960-963. 1975.</li>
<li><a NAME="book"></a><b><i>"Keep your eye on the ball: The science and folklore
of baseball"</i></b>, Robert G. Watts, A. Terry Bahill. W. H. Freeman(publisher)
New York 1990.</li>
<li><a NAME="rayleigh"></a><b><i>"On the irregular flight of a tennis ball"</i></b>,
Lord Rayleigh, Scientific Papers I, 344(1869-1881)</li>
<li><a NAME="magnus"></a><b><i>"On the derivation of projectiles; and on a
remarkable phenomenon of rotating bodies."</i></b> G. Magnus, Memoirs of
the Royal Academy, Berlin(1852). English translation in Scientific Memoirs,
London (1853)., p. 210. Edited by John Tyndall and William Francis.</li>
Information Available on the Web.</h4>
<li><a href="http://www.seattleu.edu/~rblair/lift.htm">Lift</a> Hey! Somebody
references my page!!</li>
<li><a href="http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/sjm26/cricket.html">The Swing
of a Cricket Ball</a></li>
<li><a href="http://diogenes.baylor.edu/WWWproviders/Duane_Knudson/magnuslab.txt">Dr. Duane Knudson's Magnus Effect Lab</a></li>
<li><a href="http://math.gmu.edu/~vle/proj2/top.html">The Curve with Top Spin</a></li>
<li><a href="http://netsrv.casi.sti.nasa.gov/thesaurus/M/word8987.html">Magnus Effect???</a></li>
Originally posted here (http://www.geocities.com/k_achutarao/MAGNUS/magnus.html)
October 23, 2005, 07:25 AM
Concentration is the key
Gundappa Viswanath interviews Bob Taylor, former England Wicketkeeper.
The legendary England wicketkeeper Godfrey Evans regarded Alan Knott, Bob Taylor and Rodney Marsh as outstanding wicketkeepers of the 1970s and 80s. Taylor was one of Evans' favourites. Taylor even gave up the captaincy of Derbyshire to improve his 'keeping. "The game of cricket has some basic and simple techniques. Cricket is a simple game and keep it simple and be your natural self," said the 61-year-old Taylor at the conclusion of a three-day clinic for wicketkeepers organised by the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai.
Taylor (57 Tests, 167 catches, 7 stumpings) said that the second most important player in the team is the wicketkeeper, but as he said: "I don't think Parthiv is confident enough to go up to Sourav Ganguly and advice him. He has still some time to go. But I won't go for a wicketkeeper captain."
Excerpts from an interview:
Question: Your impressions on the three-day clinic and the quality of wicketkeepers who took advantage of it ?
Answer: Very good. They were all excellent. But you cannot really judge them by their performance in the nets. They looked good in the nets, but they've got to transfer that ability into the middle. Even experts and senior players like me cannot judge totally. When it comes to a match situation, it could be different over a long period of time.
Did you pay particular attention to a couple of them (Parthiv Patel and Deep Dasgupta) who have already played for India ?
There were some 15-year-olds and other juniors too; they were all of very high standard. I think Parthiv Patel knew that there's lot of ability out there and they are all fighting for his place. Everybody wants to play for his country, that's the ultimate. I told the boys it would take a lot of hard work and practice and also a lot of success in the middle to take Parthiv's place.
What do you make of Parthiv? Nasser Hussain said at Nottingham that he looked like a 12-year-old and that it was a fantastic thing to happen for world cricket and also it was a great sight to see Steve Harmison bowling to Patel?
Well, he (Patel) did very well there at Nottingham. It's typical of the sub-continent, India and Pakistan, they pick very young players, don't they? I think it's tremendous, India is looking ahead and to the future and that's why players like Patel are in international cricket.
India has not had real consistency since Farokh Engineer and Syed Kirmani. They were the last of the consistent wicketkeepers. I am not taking anything away from Kiran More and Nayan Mongia. They were good wicketkeepers. But they were a little bit inconsistent. Now, India might have a regular wicketkeeper provided he's (Patel) got the temperament over a long period of time. Only time will tell.
You focussed on the fundamentals, keeping it very simple. India's coach John Wright has maintained right through that cricket is all about doing the right things in a straight and simple manner?
Basically, the first quality of a wicketkeeper is concentration. You can have the best pair of hands in the world, but if you don't concentrate, don't stay focussed on what you are doing, then you miss chances. The priority should be always on concentration. That's what I did for three days. It's easy for me to tell an individual, whether he is 16 or 25 years old, about concentration.
Concentrate, it's just a word. But I got to put it over to them in a practical way. And the only practical way I know is that every time the batsman plays the ball, the wicketkeeper has got to go through the motions of having taken it. He should not look where the ball is going. Before he does that he has to go through the motions.
We've all seen wicketkeepers miss chances, miss stumpings when the batsman has gone out of the crease to a spin bowler. He has danced down the wicket and has gone to hit it over the top and he misses the ball. The wicketkeeper makes two mistakes. First from the crouched position he comes up and his hands come up. If the ball keeps low, there's no chance of getting down. What he should do is come up slowly from the crouched position, leaving his arms dangling so that his hands are below his knees. This will enable him to take the ball should it keep low and should it bounce, it is easier to come up with the ball.
The second mistake he makes, which I think is equally crucial, is looking at the direction of the shot. Now, should the batsman miss it, the ball comes through and goes for four byes or hits the wicketkeeper's pad and bounces down. And by the time he scrambles the ball around and whips the bails off, the batsman has had the time to get back into his crease. So he misses a stumping. That's why a wicketkeeper must go through the motions of taking the ball.
I tell these wicketkeepers what it's like to keep wicket in a Test match. I was the 'keeper when Mudassar Nazar scored the slowest Test hundred some years ago in Lahore. I was out there for almost three days. So concentration is important and for a long period of time. The sooner one loses concentration and focus, something will happen.
So I always tell these young wicketkeepers, try and envisage, not particularly anticipate, the batsman nicking the ball or the batsman going out of his crease. If you are reading the game, you can feel the batsman itching to get out of the crease to a spinner. The reason wicketkeepers miss chances is because they are surprised, whereas they should be expecting it. Talk to yourself and concentrate. Sunil Gavaskar always used to talk to himself..concentrate...concentrate, especially when facing Derek Underwood and John Emburey. That's why he scored 10,000 plus runs.
Your impressions on the modern wicketkeepers like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher. They bat well, too. Would you say that these two have set new trends, although in the past there have been 'keepers who scored many runs...
They are a different breed, aren't they? I think they are more sort of one-day wicketkeepers. Well, Adam Gilchrist comes in at No. 7 in a Test match... he 's the time to recover. Mark Boucher comes at No. 7. I don't think they are perhaps as good as their predecessors, Ian Healy and Dave Richardson. Gilchrist is a better batsman than Healy and Boucher is a better batsman than Richardson. Alec (Stewart) bats higher and has done a very good job.
Godfrey Evans has gone on record that "Alan Knott, Bob Taylor and Rodney Marsh can be discussed in the same breath".
That's a compliment to be put in that position, to be classed with them. Ian Healy has got the record number of Test dismissals, then I think Rodney Marsh and Alan Knott...I come much lower because I only played 57 Tests.
You and Knott together had well over 400 victims...that says a lot about your performances...some said you were a better wicketkeeper and that Knott was a better batsman?
I got frustrated, but you cannot do much about that. You have got to be philosophical. I was one of 16 best players on a touring team and there's only one wicketkeeper in the XI like only one goalkeeper in a football team. So somebody had to play second fiddle. I always remember Bill Lawry, the Australian captain. I don't know, but I liked Bill. I don't know if he's trying to draw me, but he used to say: "Bobby, if I was reincarnated, I would love to be a second wicketkeeper." Now I knew what he meant, there's no pressures of playing Test cricket. But that's exactly opposite. I wanted to be playing. What he meant was there's no pressures doing 12th man duties. Everybody wants to be on the field. "I said, Bill, you wouldn't want to be a second wicketkeeper."
Well, Alan Knott was the No. 1 'keeper and I had to play second fiddle. But as long as I play against South Australia in Australia or South Zone in India and keep doing a good job, I am putting the pressure on Alan Knott to do better because he knows I am challenging his position in the team. That's what the art of reserves is all about. That's what I have told Patel and the other players.
I have seen Patel at Trent Bridge and in a few highlights of the Mumbai and Chennai Tests. I felt watching him at the clinic that he was really trying. He had just played a Test match, had a lot pressure and took a couple of good catches. After that he comes here and he did well. He concentrated.
How's it keeping wicket to Botham, Willis and Underwood ? Was Botham an awkward customer?
No, no...they swung the ball. The hardest bowling to 'keep to is standing up to the stumps. That's what wicketkeeping is all about. A slip catcher in Test cricket can put the gloves on and do the job standing back. Graham Gooch and John Crawley have kept wicket. Rahul Dravid has done it for India in one day matches. I hope I am not criticising wrongly. Rahul is not really a wicketkeeper, he is a batsman. I think he should stick to batting.
Somehow the cricket world accepts both the flashy and the undemonstrative wicketkeepers? India has had someone like the flashy Farokh Engineer and before him someone like Naren Tamhane, a sure catcher, quick stumper and not flashy at all?
It all depends on the individual. I have always said that you should always be yourself. Be a natural and don't try to copy somebody, because you always come unstuck. If you are just a calm person, doing your job, it would be unnatural being flashy and diving. I don't like diving. You should use your feet, take the ball with your body behind it; there's no need to dive unless it's very wide. If you are on your toes, then you can take the ball.
You played 57 Tests, but just one Test before the World Series Cricket... but at the end of it all you must have been delighted playing 57 Tests for England?
Oh yes. I think even if you play one Test match, nobody can take it away from you. It will always be Taylor, Derbyshire, England. If you are good you will always succeed.
October 23, 2005, 08:37 AM
There is a flip side to the glitter
Sportstar Vol. 25 :: No. 19 :: May 11 - 17, 2002
SPORT transfers a person into another world and a different orbit altogether. Cricket transports a rookie from Jhandewalan to Jorbagh, from a chawl to Colaba in no time, it provides instant stardom, enormous riches and fame. But as always happens, there is a flip side to the dazzling glitter - cricket is extremely frustrating, and terrible failure is a part of the game.
Sometimes, and for some, success itself becomes a problem because such is its intoxication not many are able to retain their balance. But while success affects just a few, failure catches many more in its net; it is as unavoidable and essential to cricket as item songs are to mainstream Hindi films. There is a slight difference however in the sense that failure spreads gloom, creates doubts, erodes confidence, breaks the will of players. Absence of success leaves deep scars, converts toughies into weepies and forces players, in the fashion of a contemporary Devdas, to hit the bottle as if it was a health drink.
Usually, these terrible things happen to batsmen when form disappears and all of a sudden the bat feels as if it has only edges, no middle. An out of form batsman is a person with alarmingly low morale, his distress heightened by the fact that he is deserted by all friends. In this period of trial, bowlers stop bowling half volleys, the umpire raises his finger at the wrong time and fielders, normally asleep at slip, hold blinders. Can anything be worse?
When struck by heaps of bad luck, players, understandably, search for relief but the response to failure varies. The cocky, super confident types put on a brave front and want to ride out the storm, they feel bad luck/ good luck is cyclical, so why worry. These players are students of the Narasimha Rao school of management who believe that postponing a decision is itself a wise decision. If one waits long enough, and does nothing, chances are nothing will be required to be done anyway.
Others, more active and concerned, want to confront reality and take control of their destiny. Seeking instant nirvana these activists get into the net and slog endlessly to iron out defects and concentrate on the basics. In their book the only way out of a batting slump is practise, the only route to success is hard work.
While this is the standard response of struggling batsmen, there exist other non-conventional means as well. Some travel to Shirdi, Vaishno Devi and Tirupati to seek divine assistance, others say silent prayers each day knowing there is a powerful umpire up there who has the final say.
Besides appealing for outside help, obtaining assistance from people close by is also a popular option. The out of form player needs a shoulder to cry on, he needs help and guidance to overcome adversity and, fortunately, there is no shortage of advice. India is undisputed world leader in cricket information technology, we have huge reserves of arm-chair critics and a new breed of TV trained cricket terrorists with PhD's acquired by listening to Navjot Sidhu. Also around, all in abundance, are the asli gurus, the experienced ex- players for whom a mere glance is enough to diagnose the problem.
In their opinion, whenever a batsman runs into bad form the likely reasons are:
Feet not moving but head moving too much.
Bat not straight, back lift from third man.
Playing away from body, reaching for the ball instead of letting it come on.
Bat face opening trying to run balls down to third man.
Batsman watching bowler not the ball.
The following reasons are on the standard checklist for bowling decline:
Hand not straight up during delivery.
No pivot, body too chest-on.
Balls sliding down leg side because of wrong angle of delivery.
Strangely, the ready availability of advice is a problem because people prescribe different medicines, forgetting the truth that cricket is a unique headache which needs different Dispirins for different heads. "Getting tips can be very confusing," admits Sourav. "The problem is not just who to listen to but what to listen to. It is very easy to get thoroughly confused."
"The way out," suggests Rahul Dravid, "is to analyse and understand your own game. You have to be brutally honest with yourself and learn from your experience. Most times you don't need to go to a specialist - you can cure yourself." Sourav, agrees: "Whatever others may think, ultimately players must see what works for them."
Srinath points out another angle about the business of getting advise. "Anyone can come and tell you not to bowl down the legside but the issue is how?" he asks. "There is no easy answer, nobody has a solution, they can't explain what you are doing wrong for the ball to land in the wrong place."
Taking/giving advice is complicated for other reasons also. By and large, and quite correctly, players take advise seriously only when it comes from someone with stature. Indian players have a reputation that they don't listen, or if they do, it is only after checking the past Test record of the person giving gyaan. Two common questions - kitne match khela or kya average hai - rule out anyone not there at the top. In an atmosphere which treats them as superstars who are gifts to the nation the players start believing they know everything but others know little. In defense of players it must be said they are inundated by unwanted advise, and if they did not erect a screening mechanism they'd go crazy trying to handle all that is thrown at them.
But while this is true, it is difficult to see a situation like Australia (with Buchanan as coach) happening in India, there is no chance of an average Ranji player coaching the Test squad. One person who thinks many times before helping out is SMG, as matter of policy he does so only when approached. He thinks there is no need to impose your views on others.
October 23, 2005, 08:41 AM
Of fielding and catching
Sportstar Vol. 24 :: No. 34 :: Aug. 25 - 31, 2001
UNDOUBTEDLY, fielding standards have improved over the last 30 years, but perhaps not by as much as people think it has.
What has changed most dramatically is that it is much more spectacular and more exciting to watch, as players dive and slide all over the place to stop the ball.
The various styles of dives and slides is becoming an art form as players plunge into and through fences and boundary ropes to try and save that extra run, or slide after and past the ball and then try to stand and throw on the turn.
All very spectacular indeed, but how successful is it? Certainly, sliding towards both ropes and fences can save the extra run, but it is also very dangerous and many players have injured themselves badly in this pursuit.
Sliding and throwing on the turn looks good and can make the batsman apprehensive at first, but in reality I have yet to see a fieldsman who can do this and save a run, for the ball comes back much slower as you cannot get a power throw on the turn and generally fall back.
All the wonderful ground fieldsmen of the past have been great angle exponents. In other words they follow the basic principle of the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Neil Harvey, perhaps the greatest all-round fieldsman I have ever seen, was a great exponent of this and I very seldom saw him dive, believing that while he was on his feet he was in a better position to hit the stumps at either end, and he very seldom missed, and next to Colin Bland he was the most accurate thrower I have seen.
In a demonstration at Lord's which can still be seen today on grainy 16 mm film, he was hitting the stumps on the run from every conceivable position seven or eight out of 10.
It was said of both Harvey and Bland that if they caught you napping by cutting off the ball, you may as well stop running and expanding energy, for they would invariably hit the stumps.
Englishmen Derek Randall and David Gower were also great angle fieldsmen as indeed are Jonty Rhodes and Ricky Ponting. Randall was probably before his time, with his flamboyancy and obvious enjoyment of fielding.
I am all for this and while coaching Australia encouraged the players to enjoy what they were doing and to show off to the crowd. Provided, of course, they didn't overdo it and technically they were still doing it right.
What I don't enjoy is seeing players make a meal of the celebration when they have either got a wicket off a rank bad ball and celebrate with high fives when they should be embarrassed to take a wicket with such a poor ball or sending the ball a mile in the air after taking the easiest catch ever.
Gower and Randall were both excellent cover and square leg fielders, the position where most run-outs emanate from. Randall was always full of energy and enthusiasm and prepared to put in all day. His speed and mobility always kept the batsmen on their toes. Gower, on the other hand, was rather understated, but could still explode into action when he had to.
While I don't think he was aware of it, Gower never walked straight at the batsman when he moved in from cover or square-leg, but rather in a line a couple of yards in front of the batsman.
This to me is the perfect angle to take, for it is much easier to change your angle to the ball than a front or square-on position when you inevitably have to stop before you can take the right line to the ball.
Jonty Rhodes has revolutionised the behind the point fielding position. In an era when batsmen tend to slice and angle the ball in this direction more than in the past, it has become the most important area in one-day cricket.
Most claim that one-day cricket has caused batsmen to angle the ball in this direction, however I believe that faulty batting techniques are to blame.
While Jonty is a brilliant stopper and catcher, I feel that Ricky Ponting hits the stumps more and is thus more dangerous.
But no one has hit the stumps in recent times with such unerring accuracy as Allan Border.
He wasn't particularly quick to the ball, but he was brilliant in positioning himself to be able to throw to the right end in the quickest time. He also always seemed to have that fraction of a second extra to line up his throw.
As all fieldsmen should, he kept his eyes not on the general area of the stumps but a specific spot half way up the middle stump or whatever stump he had to hit from the angle he was on. He always tried to hit the stumps on the full and thus increased his margin of success. To try to drop the ball into the ground short of the stumps is courting disaster and increasing your margin of error, for the ball can bounce left or right of the target and also over the stumps.
Only Viv Richards has matched Allan Border for accuracy and like Border was a wonderful allround fieldsman. Roger Harper was also a magnificent fieldsman in any position. He took one of the finest slip catches I have seen when in the early Nineties he threw himself to the left to take a breath-taking one-handed catch to a ball that Dean Jones tried to turn to square leg. He wouldn't have expected a chance to come his way and indeed would not have glimpsed the ball until it cleared Deano's body. A wonderful take made possible by a superb athlete who didn't assume the ball wasn't coming his way and retained his concentration and focus until the action was completed.
So what about Ashes clashes and great fielders?
While this will sound parochial, I believe that the Aussies have always held the advantage in the field. Much of the reason for this is Australia's year round good weather which allows youngsters to thrive and develop their athleticism.
I first became aware of this on my initial Ashes tour in 1961. We were practising at Lord's in early April and at the same time a coaching session was being run at the other end of the field for 13 and 14-year-old boys.
My lasting impression of that session was just how stiff they all looked compared to lads of a similar age in Australia.
Several years later in the West Indies I realised that the Windies youngsters were even more flexible than the Australians. The weather plays a major role in learning and enjoying fielding.
No one in their right mind can possibly look forward to fielding on a bitterly cold day, when as a slips fieldsman you are sometimes hoping that a stinging catch doesn't come your way or even worse drop short and catches the end of your fingers or wrist.
For all this, England have produced some magnificent fieldsmen and great wicketkeepers, with Alan Knott the best and Godfrey Evans the most exciting to watch.
They have also had some great close catchers. Colin Cowdrey had wonderful soft hands at first slip and Graham Thorpe is also very good. Botham is Botham and was a wonderful catcher and with a brilliant throwing arm. The bespectacled M. J. K. Smith, without any armour at short leg, was as good as any one, as was Tony Greig.
If I have to nominate just one England fieldsman who should have been the best, I would go for Chris Lewis. I had him for two years at Leicester and when the mood took him he had everything, pace to burn, a great throwing arm and hands that made it easy for him to take blinders in any position. What a great pity we didn't really see the best of him.
While Australia have generally been considered the trend-setters in fielding, it was the 1952/53 South African team who toured Australia who set the standard, style and importance of fielding for others to follow and perhaps pass.
They were not a great team, but boy, could they field and they clearly showed that fielding could no longer be ignored and was equally important as batting or bowling.
They were not expected to do well against the remnants of the great 1948 Australians, but they pushed and harassed them all the way with the most spectacular fielding Australia had ever seen.
They didn't beat the Aussies, but made a huge impression on me as a 16-year-old playing in my first Sheffield Shield season.
It roused a passion for fielding which has stayed with me to this day and I hope has helped me to impart to others.
There is no doubt Australia is the best team in the world at present and the finest fielders. Cricketers are much more athletic, fleet of foot and fitter than ever before. These are wonderful ingredients to start with and it has always been my belief that with the right coaching you can turn any one into a good fieldsman and help the talented to be safer and better.
Glenn McGrath is perhaps the perfect example. When he first came into the Aussie team he was pretty ordinary. He couldn't judge high balls and when I hit flat hard drives at fielding practice to him, and there were many hundreds in the early days, I always tried to ensure I hit them just wide of his body for I was concerned if I hit them straight at his body or head he would miss them and injure himself.
With great perseverance, Glenn turned himself into a fine fielder.
The current Australians are a fine fielding team and what makes them so reliable is that they do things correctly. This cuts down the margin of error.
Their stand-out fieldsman is Mark Waugh. He is fit to rank alongside the greats in any position. What makes him so great are his wonderful reflexes, satin smooth movements, great body positioning and the softest, most giving hands in the business.
Just how good his hands are can clearly be seen when he makes even the toughest catch look simple and when they adjust, when he is fielding away from the slips, to the nightmare ball that is driven at speed and lands just short of the fielder.
While others frantically throw themselves behind the ball to just knock it down, the junior Waugh just nonchalantly glides with the ball as it nestles in his hand. No one has ever made fielding look easier. The Aussies have raised the benchmark for fielding, it is now up to the rest of the cricketing world to equal and then raise it even higher.
October 23, 2005, 09:00 AM
Indian batting miserably exposed
NEW ZEALAND's seaming pitches have badly exposed the one-dimension of India's batting.
While the seam bowlers have had the opportunity of using pitches which are obviously too seam bowler friendly, India's tactics have been very na�ve.
Brought up on slow turners the Indian batsmen have become too reliant on playing back too often, knowing that even if the ball deviates they will have time to adjust.
Compounding the problem is their initial movement, the trigger movement we all need _ whether it is to get out of a chair or indeed to get the right balance to move as quickly as possible into the right position whether it be forward or backward has now become an initial commitment.
This means that instead of just moving your foot without transferring your weight to establish your balance so that you can move as quick as possible into the forward or backward position, most of the Indian batsmen whether they are in the top half or the bottom are transferring their weight onto the backfoot and find it difficult to adjust to the correct position quickly or correctly.
In addition many are also going back to leg stump rather than the off.
This poses a three-fold problem.
(i): They find it near impossible to play forward and thus seldom get much past their original position on the crease.
(ii): Anything that seams into them finds them cramped and vulnerable to LBW decisions or bowled off the pads and find it near impossible to open it to work the ball consistently and safely away for runs on the on side.
(iii): With balls on or outside the off stump from their position back and inside the ball, they have to play across the ball and almost never play it with the full face of the bat.
This is easily identified by the number of catches to the slips and how almost exclusively defensive shots end up to or behind point.
This defensive movement means the bat is so open, the batsman plays most of the ball to the off with, at the most, half a bat.
Bowlers thrive against such poor tactical and technical batting.
A seaming wicket is perhaps the most difficult for any batsman to counter.
It is made more difficult by the fact it is impossible to pick which way the ball will seam.
Rodney Hogg, a very fine Australian seamer summed it nicely when asked how to seam the ball.
"I hold the seam upright between my first and second fingers, keep my wrist straight, when I let the ball go. So the seam lands in that position — when it lands, if it hits slightly on one side of the seam it will duck in, if it lands on the other it goes away. If and when it seams I then say you beauty."
In other words Rodney like all bowlers hasn't got a clue which way it will seam.
Unlike others, however, Rodney was honest enough to admit it.
What he did have going for him was that he had a wonderful upright wrist at the point of delivery and probably hit the seam more consistently than any bowler I have seen apart from Sir Richard Hadlee.
It is tough scoring runs or even staying in when the ball is seaming all over the place.
However, you can help your own cause if you look to get forward as much as possible, for this will give the ball less time to seam and in addition from the forward position you can more easily judge which ball to leave.
Also from the forward position if the ball seams and hits the bat you are more likely to get the benefit of the doubt.
When using the "push out theory" you are bound to wear a few in the body. That is OK for in my view it is worth the pain and bruising if it helps you to bat longer.
Were the wickets especially prepared for the New Zealand bowlers?
Frankly I don't know. Certainly the weather prior to the Hamilton match didn't help as the pitch was covered before the first day and the first day was washed out.
It was obviously very damp when the New Zealanders won a good toss and sent India in.
The first Test in Wellington saw a similar situation and a seaming track.
Were they prepared to counter the Indian batsmen and have Indian prepared turners for the Indian spinners over the last two decades.
Once again I frankly don't know.
There is a current theory which has been in place for some time that local authorities have the right to prepare the pitches to the advantage of the home side.
I disagree entirely with this. When I coached Lancashire and found out I had the authority to say how a wicket should be prepared, I immediately spoke to the groundsman and told him that it was his job to prepare the best possible track so that matches could last four days and the skill of the players should dictate the result of the game and not the playing surface.
I immediately told the full Lancashire committee what I had done and added, that to do otherwise only brought the game to disrepute and in my view was a form of cheating and I wouldn't be a party to such tactics.
I also added the rider that I felt that one of the reasons for the demise of English cricket was that too much fiddling had gone on to bring a result in the three-day game and this had had a very detrimental affect on both the batting and bowling. India's poor effort in New Zealand may also well represent the same worry.
October 23, 2005, 09:06 AM
A game made difficult by coaches
Sportstar VOL. 25 :: NO. 29 :: Jul. 20 - 26, 2002
CRICKET (or golf, tennis, baseball, mahjong, snakes & ladders) is a simple game made difficult by coaches.
We've all heard that one often enough and I have even heard coaches arguing which is the most difficult game because that seems to lend it a certain mystique.
I'm also sure some games are more difficult than others and I'm also sure some games are made more difficult than they need be.
However, I cannot honestly say I regard cricket as a simple game to play well. I think that is basically because of the time factor involved.
Cricket shares obvious basics with games like baseball or tennis. But it stands alone in terms of the time a match takes and within that match, the time a player has to dwell on the next move.
The cricketer has time to think - and that does not make the game easier to play. Concentration is not easy to sustain over a six hour day at the crease or in the field.
In fact, it is well-nigh impossible and the ability to distil concentration into the moments it really matters is vital.
That is a skill which can be learned and it is part of a coach's job to look at the mind games as much as the technicalities involved.
The ability to relax between the deliveries, for instance, has always been associated with effective slips fieldsmen, but it applies as much to batsmen and even to bowlers.
There are techniques which help, but they have to be worked on and practised hard if they are to become second nature.
The higher the standard, the more skills are needed and it is one of the ironies of top level sport that people are deceived by how easy they look.
Nobody should assume that cricket is an easy game to play simply because a Test cricketer makes excellence look common place.
That is why I have always had the greatest respect for players who are not blessed with huge talent, but who achieve great standards by their ability to work intelligently hard.
No decent coach wants to undermine the naturalness of players or stifle genuine flair, but neither should he accept the superficial as evidence of talent.
How often do we see players with a pleasing style given preference over players who turn in the performance, but who don't look nearly as polished.
It happens a lot more than it should.
In fact, a flowing style can often disguise a multitude of basic problems which will eventually be exposed.
That's why the game's history is studded with truly elegant players rather than dominated by them.
Such stylists achieve huge public affection, of course, and cricket being a writer's game, becomes lionised in purple prose. However they are the exception rather than the rule.
The modern game has not enjoyed many Greg Chappell's but it has produced effective players - David Boon, Geoff Marsh and Steve Waugh for instance.
You couldn't in all conscience describe them as elegant, even though they have had their moments and played elegant shots.
Other infinitely more elegant batsmen have proved much less productive at the top level. But, boy don't selectors just love to pick them.
Max Walker, Australia's excellent medium pacer of the 70's, was perhaps the most unnaturally gifted bowler of all time.
His run up and delivery had all the appeal of a runway Tarantula.
Max himself once described it as "right arm over left earhole". He bowled chest on, crossed his legs in delivery and bowled off the wrong foot. Just about everything was wrong in text-book terms.
No one could have imagined a bowler of his style - if that is what it was - had any future in the game. But he became a wonderful Test bowler. Basically, I think, this was because he was an intelligent cricketer who looked around him and realised that in what was clearly an era of genuinely fast bowlers, there was an opening for somebody who could swing the ball.
Once he set out his stall to do that and do it well, his extraordinary style worked in favour.
A Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 1973, will probably be remembered as Max's finest hour.
Pakistan needed only 159 to win, which seemed a formality, so much so that I went into town on business instead of going to the game. Mid afternoon I bumped into Ian Chappell, the Australian captain, who obviously had half a day off. "Got them pretty quickly, did they" I asked. "No" the skipper replied. "We bloody well won. Maxie Walker bowled us to victory".
It was an amazing feat, Max and Dennis Lillee bowled unchanged that day with Max taking a remarkable six for 15, including a spell of five wickets for three runs off 30 deliveries. It was all over in 138 minutes.
Lillee, incidentally, bowled despite a painful back, a typical example of what a fine competitor he was. Max didn't always get a swag of wickets or a lot of publicity. But he was very dangerous once he got a hint.
When the ball was swinging, he could be unplayable; and the lads hated facing him in the nets. Once he had the old inswinger going, they would stand there black and blue, having been hit repeatedly on the thigh, while big Max grinned, nodded and did his best to hit them again.
He was a thinking bowler who made use of every advantage he had. He used his head, planned his strategy and produced a very effective weapon out of one of the clumsiest bowling styles Test cricket has ever seen.
Max Walker was a model in his own way.
Max's equivalent in the Australian team of the 1960s was Neil Hawke, another player who performed miracles with a bowling action which, quite frankly would not have qualified him for first grade club cricket on pure artistic merit.
If anything his style was even less appealing than Max's. He had an ungainly looking approach, a chest on action and his left arm wafted high in the air.
Yet, Neil could swing the ball both ways more consistently than any Test bowler I've seen.
He was the only quick bowler you would consistently back to go around the wicket and get lbw decisions with inswingers to right-handed batsmen.
Neil was a gifted athlete and sportsman, but a very self-made cricketer, his action should not have allowed him to bowl outswingers, yet he did it expertly.
The key, once again was that he thought about his bowling a lot more than a purely natural player might be inclined to do.
Neil was a very intelligent bloke and a great thinker about the game. He was one of the first I am aware of who experimented with different and varied grips to bowl slower balls.
In this modern era where "experts" want to compare cricketers like Walker and Hawke and indeed wrong foot quickie Mike Proctor and the ungainly Merv Hughes, who wouldn't have passed the rigid theories of the biomechanics and attempts would have been made to change their action to conform with modern theories.
What a pity that would have been because their individual styles were a inspiration to all who dared to be different.
October 23, 2005, 09:34 AM
Originally posted by Arnab
Thanks everybody who thanked me. Although I am doing nothing original here...
You are doing an awesome job!
This is surely one of the richest threads of the forum...
October 24, 2005, 01:35 AM
Wow! I missed this thread the first time round. It should definitely be a sticky. Loved the article about spin and swing!
October 24, 2005, 09:18 AM
wow! yeah me too...the Magnus Effect article made my day! :)
October 25, 2005, 10:03 AM
A Batting Secret / Some Erroneous Practices / Final Remarks
Dr. Rene Ferdinands - Department of Physics & Electronic Engineering, The University of Waikato
[This article was written in consultation with Owen Mottau - Batting Technical Specialist, Sri Lanka.]
A Batting Secret - How to Avoid Edges
The cricket bat cannot exceed 4.25 inches in width. To counter a ball that may travel in excess of 90 miles per hour, and move side-ways in the air or off the pitch with a varying degree of bounce, this thin piece of wood seems wholly inadequate. Therefore, it does not take much for a ball to deviate and take the edge of the bat. The biggest problem is for a batter, who has just arrived at the wicket against a swinging ball, when there are several slips and a gully in place. Indeed, nicking it to the slips seems almost inevitable. And, indeed, for the elite batter, this is the most common form of early dismissal. Therefore, if the batter uses a method to reduce the likelihood of edging the ball to the slips, then the probability of making runs is significantly increased.
So, then, what measures can be taken to safeguard against the ball that moves away? Sir Donald Bradman had this to say
"When in form I liked to feel in playing back defensively that I was hitting the ball towards the bowler or mid-on rather than towards cover. It gave me a feeling of security that I was, if anything, coming from outside the line of flight and therefore guarding against a possible slip catch from the ball which went away to the off. It is so much easier to follow the ball which goes towards the leg side." - Bradman (1998)
In other words, to optimise the likelihood of making solid contact with the ball, present a full face to the ball by defending the ball as straight as possible towards the bowler (Video 32). This way the full 4.25 inches is presented to the ball. Defensive shots towards cover probably present only half that much to the ball - about 2.12 inches! When the figures are presented the argument becomes quite convincing. Bradman also talks about playing slightly outside the line of the ball. This means that if the ball does move away the bat is already partially in place to compensate for that movement. Of course, this technique is easier to use against fast bowlers, if the initial movement is back and across prior to delivery. Otherwise, there is less time to move outside the line of the ball. Also, ball contact must be made in front of the body, so that the bat is in a position to follow the ball to the leg side if there is less movement than anticipated, or indeed, if it moves in towards the body. It also goes without saying that a pure side-on back foot position with the foot oriented in the direction of point will inhibit the ability to adopt this strategy.
To guard against the outside edge, the batter should try whenever possible to move outside the line of the ball. Then, if the ball should move away he is already covering for this movement. If there is no such away movement, or the movement is towards the leg-side, the batter can play a glance-type stroke through the leg-side for perhaps one or two runs. Of course, this strategy will only work if the batter's feet are pointing in front of the batting crease, and contact is made well in front of the body.
On the front a foot a similar approach can be adopted (Figure 1). If the front foot strokes are executed with the front foot pointed towards extra-cover then it is easy to play straight down or slightly outside the line of the ball. Again, bat contact must occur in front of the body. Any movement away to the slips is then partially compensated for. However, any movement in towards the leg can also be countered by turning the wrists as in a glance. With the bat in front, and the eyes directly behind the ball, there is little that can go wrong.
Defending outside the line of the ball on the front foot: The bat must make contact in front of the pad, so that if the ball deviates to the leg-side, the ball can be worked easily with the movement by rolling the wrists on impact. In addition, the forward position of the bat ensures that the weight is transferred fully down into the stroke. The bat is also closer to the pitch of the ball. Even if there is significant away movement of the ball upon pitching, an outside edge is likely to travel on the ground.
Figure 1. Steve Waugh, one of the world's most consistent batsmen, has an initial movement, which after a little flutter of the front foot is essentially back and across. This enables him to plays balls that are pitched on off stump straight down the wicket. Note how far he has moved outside the line of the stumps in this stroke, and the open position of his hips.
Finally, a word on how to miss the ball successfully! Even with the techniques described, it is not possible to hit every ball in cricket. There are balls that will move more than the amount that can be realistically compensated for. The art then is to play and miss, not play and nick! The great batters know how to play and miss the ball when the delivery has done too much. Generally, a sound method is to drop the wrists or play inside the line of the ball if it cannot be defended in arc running from mid-on to mid-off. Bradman was a strong advocate of this principle. With his unique 'pronated' grip, his blade was actually slightly closed at impact, so any deviations away to the slips more often than not passed harmlessly by the outside edge of the bat. It may look like the batter is continually playing and missing, and the bowler may think that he/she is very unlucky. However, the batter is scientifically missing the ball! Conversely, batters that continually 'nick' the ball to the wicketkeeper and slips are those that do not move into the correct position to defend the ball with the full blade of the bat. Instead, a majority of their defensive strokes are played towards cover or even point.
Some Erroneous Practices
There have recently been some batting drills that were devised supposedly according to the principles of biomechanics. These drills are now becoming standard items of practice throughout the cricketing world. The purpose of this section is to briefly show why these drills run counter to principles of sound batting biomechanics.
The Inver Drills
The Inver drill is performed with the objective of optimising driving power against a ball that is rolled along the ground towards the batter (Video 34). To obtain maximum bat speed in this case, the batter uses a back lift above shoulder height, with the bat face open. The right elbow is pushed out and positioned under the bat. Then, as the ball approaches, the bat is accelerated with the shoulders and pulled down with both arms. When the bat reaches about the level of the hips, the wrists start rolling as in a golf drive, and contact is made well behind the front foot with the body beside the ball. During the moment of contact, the wrists are accelerating bottom one over the top as in a golf swing, and the bat finishes across and over the leading shoulder during the follow-through. Reasonable power can be generated in this stroke. However, it is difficult to see how this stroke is related to the drive in cricket. It has more similarities with the drive in golf. This is an example where biomechanics can go very wrong: when a qualitative optimisation approach is not performed within the appropriate constraints. Obviously the Inver drill is designed to optimise bat speed - but what are the constraints? The head and eyes are not behind the ball! This is a fundamental constraint in all vertical bat strokes. When this constraint is ignored, the stroke becomes irrelevant (Figure 2). In fact, the vertical bat constraint is violated as well. At contact, the left elbow is dropped, and the right shoulder brought around, rendering it almost impossible to maintain a vertical bat. Also, what about the cost function - i.e. minimising the time to execute the stroke? A high back lift is required to generate power because ball contact is made behind the front leg, and the weight cannot therefore be wholly transferred into the ball.
Figure 2. Contact phase during the Inver drill. In frame 1 at ball contact, the body is effectively beside the body, and the head tilted and outside the line of the ball. Also, contact is made behind the front leg. In frame 2, after ball contact, the bat has almost completely rolled over. It is interesting that there are even discussions in golf about the value of reducing the amount and rate of wrist roll during the contact phase. Lee Trevino and Mindy Blake are two proponents of the theory that an optimal swing in golf should be designed by not only optimising for club head speed, but also for the degree of clubface squareness before and after contact. However, in cricket it seems that things are going in the opposite direction: reducing the period that the bat face remain square to the ball before and after ball contact.
In fact, the drill itself does not conform to constraints of normal play. It is very rare that a ball rolls on the ground towards a batter in a match. Therefore, to design a drill with the purpose of optimising bat speed against this type of delivery is very difficult to justify rationally. It is indeed very surprising to see even experienced coaches using this drill to instruct young players on the art of driving. It is almost impossible to design another drill that goes so much against the basic fundamentals of technique in cricket. One may as well use the standard baseball stroke as a batting drill, and claim its usefulness based on the development of bat speed. The authors believe that the use of this drill poses the biggest threat to the development of young players, and strongly advise that it is removed from all coaching programmes, particularly those that are designed for younger players.
Notes: Rolling the wrists can be used for front foot strokes through cover or finer; but these strokes are played differently from the vertical bat straighter drives. The finer the stroke the more oblique the swing plane of the bat: this constrains the head to be inside the line of the ball as contact is made behind the front leg. In such cases, rolling the wrists adds to the power and control of the stroke. There may be other times when an experienced player will choose to play a drive by rolling the wrists, but this stoke is best left to the experts, and not a necessary one. For example, Sir Donald Bradman with his extreme pronated batting grip, i.e. the V of his top left hand runs to the bottom inside edge of his bat, could roll the wrists during the follow through of certain drives and yet maintain a vertical bat during the ball contact phase.
Drop and Skip Drills
This drill involves two people - a batter and a 'dropper' (Video 35). The dropper is about 2-3 m away from the batter, and drops a ball vertically from above the head. The batter then skips down the wicket using the cross-over step and strikes the ball on the half-volley with maximum bat speed. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned drill to aid a batter to run down the wicket against spin bowling does not conform to the correct technical constraints. Because the ball is dropped vertically and the batter has to hit the ball on the half-volley while keeping it on the ground, it is not possible to strike the ball in front of the advancing leg. This is similar to the kind of stroke executed in the Inver-type drills: the weight is not transferred fully, a high back lift is used, the wrists roll over at impact, and the body and head are beside the line of the ball. Again, it is difficult to see how this drill is related to the art of playing spin bowling. To bat against spin bowling, the batter should mentally 'look' to make contact in front of the eyes. Quality spin bowlers continually change the trajectory of the ball's flight, so it is essential for the batter to adopt a position that allows for last minute adjustments to the stroke. This can only be achieved if the batter keeps the eyes behind the line of the ball with the intention of meeting the ball in front of the pad. To make contact with a ball under the eyes after skipping down the wicket would require the batter to travel further and quicker, as well as decide very early on in the ball's flight the landing position of the ball. There is little chance of effective stroke adjustment should the need arise. Also, it is totally impractical to roll of the wrists at impact against a spinning ball, which usually possesses a hefty component of top-spin. There would be a good chance of lifting the ball. Again, the design of this drill is an example of a pseudo-biomechanical effort to optimise bat speed without considering the appropriate technical constraints.
The purpose of batting is to score as many runs as possible within a reasonable period of time. To do this, the batter has to occupy the crease. Many of the principles we have discussed serve a dual purpose: to increase scoring options, and to decrease the probability of dismissal - not just to increase bat speed! Therefore, the methods we have proposed are designed to increase the run-scoring ability of batters.
Technically, we have formulated a new conceptual framework in which to optimise batting performance. Concepts such as bat position, lateral hip shift, lifting the rear foot, the Ranjitsinjhi principle, and the C.B. Fry Swing theory are a radical departure from the traditional description of batting technique. However, they have been conceptualised according to a qualitative optimisation method, and evidence of their effectiveness is found in the techniques of the world's most elite batters.
A look at the batting statistics of the world will show a huge gap between the world's greatest batsman ever, Sir Donald Bradman, and the rest. An average of 99.94 is staggering, but it is still surprising that no-one else has even averaged in the 70's, in any era of cricket. The great batsmen are considered to average over 50, and the good ones over 40. However, this is still such a long way from 'the Don'. It is true, perhaps, that in the modern game it is not possible to score like Bradman, because the game has changed significantly - bowlers are faster and fitter, fielding standards are much higher, and so on. But, why were there not any other batsmen in Bradman's era that averaged in the 60's let alone the 90's? Even though bowling and fielding standards have become more professional, there is still the argument that perhaps the techniques of the elite batsmen in the world, are not optimal, and therefore batting averages are lower than they should be. Alternatively, it can be argued that secret of Bradman's success lay in his wonderful eyesight and reflexes? Or, that he had a phenomenal strength of mind? Whatever the case, the purpose of this article is to show how a qualitative biomechanical analysis of batting technique can provide coaches with the means to improve batting performance when the appropriate constraints are defined. No doubt these techniques can be further refined, and the qualitative analysis method improved, but we believe that the essential techniques described here have the potential to significantly improve a batter's run-making ability. And, perhaps, it is possible for elite batters like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Steve Waugh to average in the 70s rather than the 50s.
We also believe that the techniques developed in this article should be incorporated into the national training programmes of cricket playing countries. This would particularly benefit those countries that do not have either the population or resources to compete with the top playing nations of the world. It is important in this case to increase the number of quality players by teaching them the cricket skills that really do improve performance.
October 25, 2005, 10:18 AM
The Ranjitsinjhi Principle - 'The Way of Greatness'
Dr. Rene Ferdinands - Department of Physics & Electronic Engineering, The University of Waikato
[ This article was produced in consultation with Owen Mottau - Batting Technical Specialist, Sri Lanka.]
After years of research, and much debate, a major discovery was found in the pages of the classic book by K.S. Ranjitsinhji, The Jubilee Book of Cricket, William Blackwood and Sons, London, 1897. Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who represented England in Test cricket, is considered the major exponent of style in the Golden Age of cricket. His contemporaries could only describe him as a genius, and his name is often linked with the names of past great players: W.G. Grace, Victor Trumper, and even Sir Donald Bradman. Here is a short account by C.B. Fry (1905) in an assessment of his abilities:
"There are many batsmen who make some one stroke with such wonderful ease and effect that all their other strokes receive in comparison but scant appreciation. In Ranjitsinhji's case every turn of his bat has this appearance of extreme facility, to such a degree, indeed, that his style seems almost casual or careless. The distinctive trait of his cricket is an electric quickness both in the conception and execution of his strokes. Thereby he is able to do such things as a slower wrist and eye dare not attempt. In making the ordinary strikes, he differs from the run of batsmen in that he judges the flight of the ball about half as soon again, and can therefore shape for his strokes more readily and with more certainty. At the same time he need not, owing to his marvellous rapidity of movement, allow himself as much margin for error as others find necessary. And it is this quickness that enables him to take, even on the fastest of wickets, the most unheard-of liberties without fatal results."
Figure 1. Batting genius K.S. Ranjitsinjhi demonstrates his stance - a model for his era. It is still admired for its aesthetic form.
In an era of uncovered pitches, he scored for Sussex from 1895 to 1908 more than 17,000 runs at an average exceeding 65 (Parker, 1975). Why was Ranji, as he was affectionately known, so much superior to his contemporaries? Obviously, a supernatural ability had something to do with it. But was there any technique that gave him an advantage? He was always reported to have had the most brilliant of footwork, so it reasonable to deduce that he had an efficient initial movement. There is only one filmstrip of Ranji batting, but nothing could be revealed here because he was only hitting some casual warm-up strokes. However, it is a great fortune that Ranji described his preliminary movement strategy in his book:
"There is a difference of opinion as to whether a player should stand with his weight equally distributed on both legs, or let all of it fall upon the right leg. I think the weight should be almost entirely upon the right leg."
Further information can be gleaned from Great batsmen. Their methods at a glance by C.B. Fry and G.W. Beldam. In this book there are a series of still photographs that give a good account of how Ranji played. There are photographs of his stance, and most importantly, position during the initial movement. His stance was balanced with the feet close together, and the front foot pointing to cover (Figure 1). The rear foot was probably pointed just backward of point. In the next photograph, Ranji adopted his characteristic initial position, which will from now on be referred to as the "Ranji position" (Figure 2). A significant portion of the weight was thrown onto the ball of the back foot, which was also turned slightly so that it pointed slightly in front of the batting crease. Bending at the hips helped move the head forwards, and the bat was lifted to about shoulder height primarily by the lifting action of the wrists. This is an accurate depiction of Ranji's initial movement. However, the question must be asked: "Is the Ranji position mechanically useful?" This is an important point of inquiry. It is entirely possible that the Ranji position is merely an elaborate stylistic embellishment, or a position of comfort that would not confer any mechanical advantages to a batter at all.
To investigate the mechanics behind the Ranji position, we used a qualitative optimisation modelling approach:
Qualitative Optimisation Analysis: Ranji Position
Required Output: Initial position that optimises ability to move back and forward, and execute efficient stroke play.
Cost Function: Time to execute stroke.
1. More weight on rear foot
2. Head moved forwards
3. Bend of the hips
4. Shoulders and hips approximately aligned from wicket to wicket
5. Wrist-lift of the bat
Head behind the ball with two-eyes almost parallel
Vertical bat during stroke
Figure 2. Ranjitsinjhi's initial movement - weight predominantly on the back foot, and head forward. The wrists are mainly responsible for lifting the bat, and the bat face is open. Note that the height of the backlift is not recommended. Ranji's head is well forward. By moving the head slightly forwards (in the direction of the blue arrow), a torque (light green arrow) can be easily applied about the effective centre of rotation of the pelvis (yellow circle), causing the elevation of the hips - position 1 to position 2 (orange lines). This lifts the back leg, allowing Ranji to move back quickly to counter a short delivery. Also, the elevated hip line (right lateral pelvic rotation) is a source of stored energy, which can be released during the downswing to generate bat speed.
The qualitative model captures the essential features of the Ranji movement, and places them in a biomechanical context. To adopt the Ranji position with weight on the rear foot and head forward, the right pelvis must be shifted backwards and laterally rotated to the right (for right hand batter). With the weight predominantly on the rear foot, front foot movement is made very much more efficient. The great Ranji says, "It is worth noticing that in every kind of exercise where the legs are used, the leg which it is necessary to move forward ought not to have any weight upon it at the time of being moved." This is very sound biomechanics. In this position, a torque can be easily applied about the pelvis's centre of rotation to lift the front foot. However, Ranji goes further and suggests that alternative methods of moving forward are inefficient: "If a man stands with much weight on his left leg he has to transfer the weight to his right leg before making a forward-stroke, if he is to make the stroke without overbalancing himself." This argument holds just as true for batters who have the weight evenly distributed on both feet - some weight has to be transferred to the back foot before the front one is moved. Certainly, the method prescribed by Ranji is more efficient, and saves time: it partially minimises the cost function, and so is a step in the right direction.
The Ranji position has been shown to make front-foot movement quicker. However, we are interested in an initial position that optimises both front and back foot movements. Can the argument for extra weight on the back foot to improve front foot play be applied in reverse to conclude that back foot play would be made more difficult? Ranji had experimented with his method for a long time and had this to say in reply: "It is a curious thing that by keeping the weight on the right leg a player can move forward more readily than from the alternative position, and yet he can move backwards if he wishes to do so without the slightest difficulty. That is to say, the position recommended facilitates forward-playing, and is no hindrance in playing back or cutting." Now Ranji is making definite claims that his initial position is an optimal one! Interestingly, a simple treatment of mechanics seems to supports Ranji's claim (Figure 2). The Ranji position forms a characteristic C-shape. When the body is in this configuration, the head is in front of the body's centre of mass. The position of the centre of mass is not constant; it varies with the configuration of the body. In the Ranji position, the centre of mass may move slightly forward from its position when the body is stationary, but it is still behind the position of the head. The importance of this cannot be overemphasised, because in the Ranji position there is more weight on the rear foot, which means that weight has to be transferred to the front foot before the back foot is moved. Normally, this would mean that the ability to play back has been diminished. However, if the head is moved slightly downwards in conjunction with a right lateral pelvic rotation, weight can be quickly applied to the front foot. Effectively this movement generates a couple about the pelvis's centre of rotation, which slightly elevates the hips, and lifts the back foot. The secret lies in the position in the head. If the head is behind or even in line with the body's centre of mass, then the act of reloading weight onto the front foot becomes more difficult, and time consuming. Also, the position of the centre of mass with respect to the virtual centre of pelvis rotation is important.
The Ranjitsinhji principle is a very strong candidate for an optimal solution to the initial movement problem. Compared to alternative stances or movements, which involve a different weight distribution strategy, the Ranji position appears superior. It optimises the ability to play forward without diminishing the ability to play back. In fact, it appears to improve the ability to back. In an era of cricket when fast bowling can dominate cricket matches, this is indeed a practical principle. It definitely appears that K.S. Ranjitsinjhi did achieve a considerable advantage over his contemporaries by using this method.
What has been discussed so far about the Ranjitsinhji principle satisfies part of requirements for an optimal solution - it has optimised the ability to move forward and back. In this way, the cost function (i.e. the time to execute the stroke) has been partially minimised. Yet there are other considerations that would have an effect on the cost function, such as back lift. Recall that the qualitative model for the Ranji position also specifies efficient stroke making as a required output. The initial movement cannot be considered separately from the rest of stroke making. There has to be a unity that binds the separate facets of technique into one smooth process. Therefore, there is still more to be considered before we can claim that the Ranjitsinjhi principle forms the foundation of elite batting.
Modernising the Ranjitsinhji Principle
However brilliant K.S. Ranjitsinhji was, it is unlikely that his style of batting would be as effective today without some modifications. Bowling is faster these days, and fast bowlers can often operate in tandem for much longer than they did in the past. Also, pitches are different. The pitches in Australia are generally fast, and this encourages the strategy of persistent short pitch bowling. It should be no surprise therefore if we fashion the Ranjitsinhji principle to cater for the modern climate.
The Ranjitsinhji principle in its pure form optimises the movements forward and back. In the modern game, it is necessary to move back and across. Though Ranjitsinhji himself did this better than his contemporaries, the principle can be further adapted to perform this task more efficiently. Rather than merely adopt the Ranji position, one can move slightly back and across before placing more weight on the back foot while ensuring that the head is kept forwards. Therefore, the Ranji position is adopted in the same way as before, but now with the rear foot about 15-30 cm back and towards the off-stump (Figure 3). This gives several advantages. First, it gives the batter a good indication of the position of the off-stump. With the modern emphasis of bowling in a channel on and just outside off-stump, a batter must have some means of knowing when to let the ball pass to the wicket keeper. Second, the batter is already in a partial back foot position. Short-pitched fast bowling is the norm today. Therefore, it pays to be biased towards the back foot position before the ball is delivered. From this position, the batter can move further back if the ball is short without compromising the ability to move forward if the ball is pitched up, because there is extra weight placed on the back foot. Third, for most deliveries that are played on the front foot, the front leg has to travel slightly to the left of the line of the ball. By moving back and across, the front foot is inside the line of the back foot. This tends to minimise the effect of the front foot moving too early, which usually results in the front foot moving outside the line of the back foot, and unless the ball is pitched on off-stump or wider, causes the batter to play across the front pad. This increases the likelihood of an lbw dismissal. Fourth, in the modern Ranji position the batter is in a more balanced position because the area of base support is increased. Fifth, leg-side play is enhanced because the front foot is on the left side of the back foot, providing the ideal position from which to play balls on or around leg stump. And, finally, the elevated hip line (right lateral pelvic rotation) is a source of stored energy, which can be released during the downswing to generate bat speed.
Figure 3. The modern Ranji position. The back foot has been moved back and across towards the off stump with about a 60/40 weight distribution on back and front foot, respectively. Note the forward position of the head, and the lift of the bat with the wrists. By moving the head slightly from position 1 to 2 (yellow lines), a torque (green arrow) can be generated to laterally rotate the pelvis to the right (orange lines - position 1 to 2), which lifts the rear leg allowing it to move back and across towards the off stump. This position enhances the batter's ability to move back against fast bowlers, and leave balls outside the off stump. It also the ideal starting position to launch a forward movement of the front foot, and greatly improves on-side play. Great power can be generated off the back foot by laterally rotating and shifting the pelvis to the left (i.e. forwards) during the downswing of the bat.
October 25, 2005, 10:24 AM
Optimizing Batting Technique: Introduction
Dr. Rene Ferdinands - Department of Physics & Electronic Engineering, The University of Waikato
[ This article was produced in consultation with Owen Mottau - Batting Technical Specialist, Sri Lanka.]
Batting in cricket is a wonderful art, almost universal in appeal. People from very different parts of the world are often united in their appreciation of the flowing and rhythmical drives of a skilled batsman. Whether it is the majestic elegance of Sachin Tendulkar, the awesome power of Inzamam Ul-Haq, or the brilliance of Aravinda de Silva, there is a certain poetry that captivates an audience. And, great batsmanship is certainly not restricted to the present times! The past contains many more examples: the genius of Sir Donald Bradman, the brilliance of Sir Garfield Sobers, the technical perfection of Sunil Gavaskar, and the mystical artistry of K.S. Ranjitsinhji.
A question that naturally arises is: "Are great batsmen born or made?" Many are of the opinion that apart from teaching a few technical fundamentals, one's batting ability is determined early on in life: that it is therefore counterproductive to scientifically investigate the principles of batting technique as this would just overcomplicate the act of striking a ball. In this article we have completed a qualitative biomechanical analysis of many aspects of batting technique. Our approach has generated a new set of batting principles, which can be supported by the methods of great batsmen. We will show that many of the established techniques of batting cannot be supported biomechanically, and are not used by the elite players. Our objective is to present a solid technical framework that comes close to optimising the art of batting by making the act of striking a ball as simple as possible. Certainly, it is impossible to make every batsman a great one. However, through the wise use of qualitative biomechanical analysis, we believe that batting performance can be significantly improved, and that many good batsmen can be made into great ones.
What is it that makes a great batsman so different from a good one, or for that matter a poor one! Why did Sunil Gavaskar, that little master from India, have so much time to play the fastest bowlers in the world, when lesser batsmen were primarily concerned with their physical safety? How did the greatest of them all, Sir Donald Bradman, achieve the unimaginable average of 99.94 runs per wicket? How did Sir Garfield Sobers manage to totally dominate every bowling attack in the world with the most splendid array of shots, all executed with an ethereal elegance? And, what does the modern master, Sachin Tendulkar, possess, that makes him so much better than all the rest? Certainly, natural ability plays its part. However, we have found that the greatest batters share a common technical framework that makes it possible for them to optimise their ability (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Batting masters Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka) and Sunil Gavaskar (India). Both batsmen had near perfect techniques, and were true batting artists, scoring prodigiously against the best bowling attacks in the world. What were their batting secrets?
For those less well acquainted with the game of cricket, the technique of bating must seem exceedingly simple: just use a wooden bat to hit a ball that has been bowled from a distance of 22 yards, generally after it has bounced once off the ground. If so simple, how can certain batters hold the attention of millions of people for 3, 4 or 5 days at a stretch? And why are elite batters prepared to spend countless hours perfecting their art in the practice nets, when they may be dismissed first ball in a game, and have to wait days or sometimes weeks before they bat again? Conversely, what makes a batter bat for days on end when conditions may be excruciatingly difficult, and victory out of the question?
Those who know the game intimately are aware of the reasons for such rigorous practice. Batting is an art of infinite subtlety, not only in strategy, but also in its most basic mechanics. To be even moderately successful, a batter must have proficiency in a wide array of skills. On top of that, a batter has to know how to combat the almost unlimited variations concocted by the bowler - from variations in pace, length (the distance travelled before bouncing), and line of delivery, to swinging and swerving: motions dependent on the intricate combination of the seam angle and spin of the ball as it travels through the air (Figure 2). A further degree of complexity is introduced when the seam angle and spin are also used to change the line of the ball off the pitch.
Figure 2. Bowling geniuses: Wasim Akram (left) from Pakistan bowls left arm pace by running through the bowling crease, and can swing and cut the ball both ways at will; Muttiah Muralidharan (right) from Sri Lanka bowls big off-spinners and 'doosras' from a legal bent-arm action. To counter the quality and diversity of such bowlers, a batter must possess lightning reflexes, mental toughness, and a sound technique. Without developing a technique based on sound biomechanical principles, it is not possible to consistently score runs in cricket against quality bowling. For example, an inappropriate initial movement would give these bowlers a significant head start.
The art of batting is complex, and good batters are forever trying to master their craft. And for good reason - batting is probably the most complex sport to analyse biomechanically. There are so many levers involved - all of them acting interdependently in response to the trajectory of the ball, and subject to a changeable number of constraints. The dynamics to describe such a situation would require a detailed mathematical model. This is one of the reasons that previous attempts to use biomechanics to evaluate batting technique have been simplistic, and of very little use to the coach. It is the view of the authors that the accepted biomechanical principles of batting have been developed without considering the appropriate constraints. As such, the implementation of these principles is unlikely to improve batting performance.
Even past elite players find it difficult to prescribe correct batting technique. Though they knew how to bat proficiently, the execution of their skills was largely performed unconsciously. Therefore, it is often the case that an elite batsman's perception of what he is doing differs from what he is actually does. Unfortunately, this is when serious errors can be made in coaching.
In this article, we will discuss certain fundamental aspects of batting technique that are critical for elite performance. We will show that batting is a complex art, but that by using a qualitative biomechanical approach within the conceptual framework of optimisation, it is possible to develop a set of technical principles that would make the art of batting more efficient. We believe that this is the first time batting has been analysed from a scientific viewpoint, and the results of our study can substantiated by the experiences and methods of the world's greatest batters. It also demonstrates the value of qualitative biomechanics, particularly when a quantitative approach is not possible either to the lack of proper testing equipment and facilities, or to experimental limits determined by the state of technology. At other times, a quantitative approach may not even be useful. All this demonstrates the need for biomechanists to develop strong skills in the art of qualitative analysis. It is not an exact science, and the findings will evolve over time. But it is an indispensable tool to understand the biomechanical principles of complex human movement sequences. Batting falls under this category, and as a first step requires the development of a qualitative biomechanical model. Only then can we begin to unravel the hidden secrets of the master batters of the past and present!
Developing a Qualitative Optimisation Model
We developed a qualitative analysis model of batting based on the rules of a standard optimisation approach. Once the required output has been determined, then optimisation problems, in general, are defined by three quantities: cost function, design variables, and constraint functions (Nigg & Herzog, (1995). The aim of the optimisation is to minimise the cost function. We used this methodological approach to logically derive and present the qualitative mechanical principles that underlie elite batting technique. It is important to note that the process itself does not guarantee an accurate analysis. A different researcher may use the same methodological approach, and obtain a different qualitative analysis. The skill, therefore, lies in choosing the appropriate cost, design and constraint functions. This depends on the researcher's experience and mode of investigation. We based our choice of design constraints and variables from the exhaustive studies of elite players throughout the ages, and a consideration of rigid body dynamics principles.
An Introduction to the Initial Movement
In any analysis of batting technique, there is no better place to start than right at the beginning - just before the ball is released. The theoretical view that the batter remains perfectly balanced and completely uncommitted until ball release is virtually impossible to execute in practice. In fact, there is no reason to suggest that there is an advantage in attempting this. It seems that a preliminary (or initial) movement before the ball is bowled is a natural reflexive response that causes the batter to adopt a quasi-static configuration with a specific set of dynamically induced muscle tensions throughout the body. From this initial position, the batter can then make a final decisive movement, either forward or back dependent on the trajectory and speed of the ball. This may seem an unnecessarily complex description for such a small movement. However, it should soon become apparent why this is necessary when we make the first attempts to optimise the preliminary movement.
Further evidence of the importance of the preliminary movement is substantiated by the experiences of past elite cricketers. The greatest batsman in the history of the game, Sir Donald Bradman (1998), says
"I am all in favour of the batsman starting to lift his bat and making preliminary movement with his feet before the ball is delivered. It saves a precious fraction of a second and appears to serve the same purpose as the preliminary waggle before starting your swing in golf."
Sir Garfield Sobers, often considered the batsman second only to Bradman in terms of ability, also states that the preliminary movement is like the golf waggle. However, he goes further and believes that this natural reflex can be conditioned according to the type of bowling encountered. Against fast bowling, he suggests that the back foot should move 12-14 cm back and across towards the off-stump just before the ball is released. At the same time the bat should lift a corresponding distance. The theory behind this is to give the batter a little extra time to sight the ball, and prevent any large preliminary movement of the front foot, which would inhibit back foot play if the ball is pitched short. Against medium-pace and spin bowling Sir Garfield argues that the initial movement can be slightly forward as much of this bowling is played on the front foot, and the batter would have more time to play back if it is pitched short. This is a rational attempt to optimise the initial movement, and it shows that elite players recognise the value in doing this. It is not just an abstract ideal proposed by biomechanists! In fact, there are innumerable examples of Test players who believe in the necessity of optimising the initial movement - Sunil Gavaskar, Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Bob Woolmer, and Imran Khan - just to name a few.
Bob Woolmer (1995) has a slightly different perspective on the initial movement. He believes that the initial movement is used to establish a rhythm, which makes it easier to move the feet against fast bowling. He states that there are three main ways in which this rhythm is generated: a back foot movement, a front foot movement, or a double movement (i.e. when the back foot and front foot move wider before release). Unfortunately, there is no explanation as to what this rhythm initiates and why it enhances footwork.
It is apparent that the execution and timing of the initial movement is critical to batting performance. However, what are the mechanical principles behind the initial movement? Can they be optimised? The simple back and across initial movement is rarely used today in its pure form. From our experience as coaches, many cricketers have said that they feel out of balance when they use the simple back foot initial movement, and find it difficult to move forwards. Therefore they often combine this with a front foot movement, making it a double movement (Video 1). Unfortunately, this sometimes moves the batter's legs well in front of the wicket, increasing the susceptibility to an lbw decision. Also, in many cases this movement does not improve a player's ability to play back because the front foot moves last, having therefore the same consequences as a front foot initial movement. Many young cricketers today also use the 'pure' front foot movement. Apparently this is more natural, and they feel comfortable with it. However, it can seriously compromise their ability to play back against quality fast bowling.
The initial movement seems an unresolved issue in cricket technique. There are many schools of thought. However, none seem to be entirely satisfactory. This is to be expected. The initial movement is a largely unconscious movement that incorporates the synchronisation of many different muscles in a fraction of a second. So is there any point in inquiring any further? Should it be just considered a natural phenomenon? The problem with accepting this latter position is that the coach would be unable to improve any gifted young batter who has an inappropriate initial movement. What would happen if a batter with tremendous motor skills had a large front foot initial movement to fast bowling, seriously affecting the ability to negotiate a fast short-pitched delivery? Accept it or change it? And more significantly change it to what?
Edited on, October 25, 2005, 3:26 PM GMT, by Arnab.
October 25, 2005, 11:58 AM
The more I read these articles the more I feel our coaches are not doing their job to educate these kids on batting soundly. In Cricket, can too much knowledge be dangerous? I mean can it over whelm our boys? If not, Nannu can have a go at it and teach these basic things to the younger generations.
April 19, 2006, 02:36 PM
Just thought this can help Ashraful, Bashar, anybody and everybody to learn / rediscover footwork.
April 19, 2006, 03:41 PM
Can they read? it's better to put these articles and knowledge INSIDE them. How will you do it go figure it out...
Horrible I never saw this type of irresponsible batting and mistakes again and again in my life. Comn' if you score low because of ur lack of ability that's different but throwing away wickets..what nonsense is that.
They won't read they don't know how to read so we should go the HARD way. It will hurt but they left know options.
November 23, 2006, 02:40 AM
Indian batting miserably exposed
NEW ZEALAND's seaming pitches have badly exposed the one-dimension of India's batting.
While the seam bowlers have had the opportunity of using pitches which are obviously too seam bowler friendly, India's tactics have been very naï¿½ve.
Brought up on slow turners the Indian batsmen have become too reliant on playing back too often, knowing that even if the ball deviates they will have time to adjust.
Compounding the problem is their initial movement, the trigger movement we all need _ whether it is to get out of a chair or indeed to get the right balance to move as quickly as possible into the right position whether it be forward or backward has now become an initial commitment.
13 months India still have the same problem : )
wow, i remember beating India, Australia, Sri Lanka and the winning the Test vs Zim just as if it happened last week or in the recent past but all of that happened at least 7 months ago ( defeating SL), Australia ( 15 months) India and Zim almost 2 years!
April 20, 2011, 12:21 AM
bump for newer members
May 1, 2011, 05:24 PM
Great thread. Signed. Missing Arnabda....and Orphy I might as well steal your idea! :P
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