Friday 3 April 2009

One or two? Or is there a three now?

I know that Shiv Chanderpaul takes guard. Who doesn't? It takes him about five minutes for a start, chipping a hole into the ground with a bail and the top of his bat handle. 

It obviously works, too, judging by the amount of crease-time it precedes, but you have to wonder how visible an indentation with the diameter of a bail-end is amongst all the great scrapings and scratchings and bulldozings that go on. 

But why he does is interesting. Taking guard must have a different function for Chanderpaul, who doesn't put his bat or much else anywhere near the mark. Nor do Kevin Pietersen or Andrew Strauss, who grounds his bat about six inches outside off stump, and neither do increasing amounts of others.

Batting is ritualistic, as are most things that demand repetition, so there's an element of ritual in taking guard. It buys you a minute or so before you face up; it allows you to bang the bat into the crease and establish yourself physically. 

The only thing it must do is get you to a position on the crease where you can judge an off stump line. The old tenet of taking guard was that your head should be over off, and Chanderpaul, Pietersen and Strauss all get there. Anything wide of their eyeline they can leave comfortably. Or in Pietersen's case, hit it through midwicket.

Yesterday in Wellington, Tendulkar and Dravid put on 90. No pair in the history of batting has scored more international runs between them, and they've done it old school. Neither move before the ball's bowled, and watching Dravid leave the ball is a masterclass in batting, one of the small pleasures of the game. Making him play before he's got twenty can be regarded as a moral victory for the bowler. 

Ravi Bopara said recently that he'd spent 45 minutes talking to Tendulkar about batting when they were in India before Christmas. 'What did he say,' he was asked.
'Oh, he just talked about head and hands, getting them in the right place'.

Head and hands. There you go. Not everyone can be Pietersen or Chanderpaul, but everyone can try that. From the mouth of the master. 

Now, one please umpire.


12th Man said...

Sachin makes an interesting point. Instead of learning it from successful, unorthodox cricketers, it is worthy to learn it from the orthodox and do it the traditional way. It is a tried and tested method that has worked for many and should do Bopara a lot of good.

Dhoni has a peculiar ritual where he touches the lower portion of his eye with his thumb and thumps his pad with his fist before facing every ball. It has got nothing to do with facing the delivery, though it has become an ideal part of his 'taking guard' process.

The Old Batsman said...

I'd noticed Dhoni doing that and wondered if he always touched his eye. I wonder how that got started. Most of those little rituals come from superstitions that start after you've played well and want to keep going...

cricketanalysisdotcom said...

I am no expert on cricket batting, but if you look at the top players, for all the difference in technique, the positions at or about impact for most shots are usually quite similar.
It's much like golf - there is room for difference on some things, but usually not on others. But even when things are done horribly wrong there is still a chance a shot will come off right.