Thursday 18 September 2014

Know Your Limits

I used to play cricket with a guy who had been a champion hockey player. U/19 State representative or some such. The season he played with us was the first time he'd played proper cricket.

He batted like a hockey player. A right hander, he could only hit the ball in front of square on the on side. He pushed forward through the line of the ball and turned his wrists on contact, so the ball always squirted away through mid-wicket, even if he'd hit it from two feet outside off stump.

If it was short he just swung harder, bringing the bat through in the same arc as every other shot, as if driving at the ball, connecting with the bat horizontal out in front of him. For all the world it looked like he would hit it straight up. But when he hit it he turned the face, and the ball would fly off at right angles.

The competition we played in only had six teams, and so we played each other three times each season, and since he was such a limited player the oppo started to work him out. His solution? He  batted left handed.

I mean he'd switch in the middle of an innings. He'd make twenty runs or so batting right-handed, and then he'd turn around and bat left-handed for a while.

He batted left-handed just like a hockey player - except a completely different player. Left handed he basically played two shots. He still pushed through the line of the ball, except left handed the bat stayed straight, so he hit through cover. And left handed he could absolutely smoke the ball through and behind point with the most amazing square cuts and late cuts.

He would always switch hands in the middle of an over, and often as not would actually pull out of his stance as the bowler ran in, and then switch over. The opposition captain would stand aghast for a while, not quite believing what was going on. Then he would scratch his head and try to work out where all the fieldsman would have to go.

Sometimes the other captain would object, but they had no grounds. You are are free to switch hands if you are silly enough to do it, so long as you inform everyone.

So when the oppo captain made a fuss hockey-boy would stand in his opposite stance and wait for the field to change. Then he would go into his stance, tap tap tap, bowler starts coming in. Then he would pull out and switch back to the other hand again!

I once saw him do it four times without facing a ball, completely unfazed about the oppo going mental at him. They soon learnt just to get into position and shut up.

By the end of the season the other teams pretty much had him sussed. They had worked out where to bowl whichever way he faced up.

They knew where, but they couldn't always hit the mark the first few balls. He often got free runs for the first couple of balls after the switch whilst the bowler was trying to find their line all over again. He was his own right-hand, left-hand combination.

He topped our batting averages that season.

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