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Old October 24, 2005, 09:18 AM
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AsifTheManRahman AsifTheManRahman is offline
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wow! yeah me too...the Magnus Effect article made my day!
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Old October 25, 2005, 10:03 AM
Arnab Arnab is offline
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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.

Final Remarks

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.
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Old October 25, 2005, 10:18 AM
Arnab Arnab is offline
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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.

Design Variables:

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.
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Old October 25, 2005, 10:24 AM
Arnab Arnab is offline
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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.
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Old October 25, 2005, 11:58 AM
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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.
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Old April 19, 2006, 02:36 PM
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Just thought this can help Ashraful, Bashar, anybody and everybody to learn / rediscover footwork.
The Weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the Strong." - Gandhi.
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Old April 19, 2006, 03:41 PM
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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.
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Old November 23, 2006, 02:40 AM
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Default Can't Believe how fast time goes buy

Indian batting miserably exposed
Bob Simpson

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.


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!
12.6 Syed Rasel to Sangakkara, OUT: What a delivery, completely fooled Sangakkara, first five delivery were the outswingers and now, this one comes in sharply, Sangakkara tries to left it and ball hits the off stump, top class bowling!
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Old April 20, 2011, 12:21 AM
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bump for newer members
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Old May 1, 2011, 05:24 PM
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Great thread. Signed. Missing Arnabda....and Orphy I might as well steal your idea! :P
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