Monday 16 June 2014

On Custom Built Techniques

For several years prior to his departure from the game Jonathan Trott was my favourite batsman to watch.

I never did get the whining about the slow scoring rate or the accusation that he was boring. I did not find him boring to watch at all, not in the slightest.

What I like most about cricket is technique. I have no interest in sport, I do not follow the footy, I ignore the Olympics, the various non-cricket World Cups (including T20), all forms of competitive exercise (swimming, running, do they do one for push-ups?). My interest is art and I watch cricket as an art form.

What I love about cricket is the grace, it is poetry written in physics. Every player, at every level, every single individual, no matter if they have slavishly tried to follow the textbook or just go out to give it a whack, every person has a technique that is unique to them. Home made, and the more you can see the custom in the build, the more I like it.

Give me Steve Waugh any day, you can keep Mark.

Mark made it look natural, he had long flowing arcs in his play, delicate balance and was fluid in moving to and through the line of the ball.

Steve always looked like he had first sat down and solved the problem of how to address the ball like it was his HSC algebra exam. You could almost see him picturing in his head the charts and graphs he had drawn at home showing this foot goes there, and then this knee goes there, and then I do this with my hands, puzzling his way through it even as the ball arrived. I loved that. Every shot custom built for each potential variation in the delivery.

I am finding it fascinating watching Philip Hughes try to wrangle his technique. He has the sort of technique that would not normally make it past lower grade country cricket, insofar as it is built on playing just two shots and neither of them involve any sort of defence.

He stands waiting to smash the ball square to the point fence. If its not short enough to do that he maintains that same stance and arcs the bat down through the line of the ball and drives to the cover fence instead.

Any other delivery, he's got nothin'.

No doubt for most of his youth he didn't need anything else. By the time the opposition worked out to bowl it at the point of his shoulder, or fizz it over middle and off at hand height, he'd already smashed his first hundred and was on his way to take you for a double.

At Test level of course they worked him out. Now he has to work out what to do about it.

For the first couple of years I reckon he made the mistake of listening to 'coaches'. I mean here the folks what have read the books and believe there be some magic dance (“do the textbook”) that resolves in the ideal shot to any given delivery. He tried to patch up all the shots he didn't have by grafting in textbook variations. What happened is that he became a very weak imitation of a textbook-style batsman, and was also no longer in the set-up position to nail the two shots he has.

What he really needs to do, and I believe he is doing it now, is to custom-build the rest of his technique. If he is good enough to nail the short ball to the point fence then he is good enough to work out what to do with every other delivery as well.

Mind you, he also needs to take the same approach, he has to learn all the other shots in a way that works for him, that works in the same way as the big booming square cut.

In other words, don't just weave away from the ball at the point of the shoulder, work out how to smash that ball to the boundary as well. The clever fuckers bowling them at him will soon stop putting them there.

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