On the list of commentators that you'd expect to say something genuinely insightful, Dean Jones ['The Terrorist has got another wicket'] sits only just above the astonishing newcomer Brad Hogg ['Cameron White loves it in the slot'], and yet here he is in the Melbourne Age:
'What makes a genius? To me, the difference between a genius and mere mortals is that their defence is better. When athletes or teams are under the most pressure, it's their defensive skills that stand out the most'.
To me, this is a great and not always acknowledged truth about batting. I thought first of Vivian Richards, a man whose defensive play was underrated, at least insofar as it's never mentioned. The key to Richards' batting [the key to all batting in fact] was in the stillness of his head. The eyes were always level, and when you had an eye like Richards, that was all it took. Yes, he could whip across the line without fear. But he could, and did, play awesomely straight, especially in defence.
There were periods of a game that even Richards couldn't dominate, and as Jones said, part of his genius came in acknowledging those moments and surviving them. Like a boxer on the ropes, taking punches on his gloves and arms, letting the opponent punch himself out, Richards could absorb before he counterpunched.
Jones also noted that the very great players strike the ball differently. Not necessarily harder, but with a purity that comes from timing alone. There's just something extra about what they do - it's easier to observe than it is to describe, but Jones has seen and understood it. That's what it's all about...
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