Tuesday 15 June 2010

Tall story

One of the things that gives the game its genius is scale. That centuries-old distance of 22 yards allows batsmen to be challenged by the fastest and the slowest of bowlers. Small adjustments in the size of the outfield can tweak totals to fit formats. And it can be played equally well by men of all shapes and sizes. Even Mark Cosgrove.

But scale has its edges. Yesterday Will Jefferson batted number three for Leicestershire against Durham in a T20 game. Jefferson is six feet 11 inches tall [Bumble on commentary tried to claim he was seven feet, and he probably was, in the helmet]. He's almost certainly the tallest specialist batsman to have played the game. You'd think that his scale would make him a nightmare to bowl to - after all, what's a good length to a man whose pads just about cover his knees and whose bat looks like a toy in his hands?

Jefferson made 13 from 14 balls. He looked like the oversized kid on the under nine's football team. Where someone like Kevin Pietersen, at six feet four, is a giant presence at the crease, broadening his stance, the wicket disappearing from view behind him as he moves across it, Jefferson stood with knees bent feebly, bat dangling like he didn't know what to do with it, back hunched. His timidity was exacerbated by his kit - he wore an arm guard, a big chest pad and had strange plastic side guards fitted to his helmet.

Great batsmen, big or small, maximise their physical gifts. Jefferson, with those long levers, should be brutal down the ground and extending out on the pull. Last night he could barely hit the ball off the square and he dabbed unconvincingly at anything directed at his ribs. A look at his T20 career shows he's hit 15 sixes in 37 innings. Ross Taylor hit nine last night.

Jefferson is on his third county, so he's obviously had better days. But perhaps his size has been a curse after all. It seems like an advantage, but it might just mean he's actually too big to benefit from the scale of the game. Just the distance between his eyes and the ball must hurt to an extent, as must the relative size of the bat.

He was followed to the crease by James Taylor, who'll be lucky if he's five feet four and who looks like the primordial dwarf version of Barry Manilow. Like Gavaskar, the stumps seem to reach his waist. He made 38 from 20 balls and slapped a big six over wide long on. That's the genius of the game.


Brit said...

Yes I like the fact that dwarfs and beanpoles can share the field in cricket. At Gloster last season I watched Hamish Marshall and Chris Taylor walk out to open a session and they looked like two wee little boys in outsized attire going out to play against the grown-ups, it was really quite moving.

Footballers are all identical these days and you can tell a rugby player's position by one glance at his body shape.

And I'm a great admirer of Rob Burrow, of Leeds Rhinos rugby league. His wikipedia entry puts him at 5ft5 but having seen him live I think that's generous.

The Old Batsman said...

Yes, very true in other sports. I like the fact that even fast bowling has Malcolm Marshall and Fidel Edwards at one end of the scale and Joel Garner at the other.

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