Friday 22 October 2010

The quintessential truths of Dean Jones

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...


elegantstroke said...

King recently gave an interview on The Independent and here I quote what he said on WI batsmen:

I see batsmen backing away while the bowler is running up, leaving the lumber yard exposed. They should learn to move at the last second, while keeping the head as still as possible. I can help with that.

I think the art of defense is spoken very less at least in Test cricket, because it is considered as a basic skill that batsmen are expected to be technically competent at. Nevertheless, it is the skill that comes to rescue when the ball is doing a lot of talking. These days, ball hardly does that and bat goes boom-boom.

Brian Carpenter said...

The point about defence applies equally well to Lara (remember him sniffing the leather in the early stages of his greatest innings, backing up his famous quote about the first hour of his innings belonging to the bowler), and, from a personal viewpoint, Ponting.

The first time I saw Ponting make big runs in the flesh (an ODI v England at Bristol, 2001) the thing that most impressed me was how solid his early defsnive strokes were. All you could think was 'this bloke's not getting out today'. And he didn't - or at least not until he had more than a hundred on the board.