Batting is an art, no doubt about it. Batsman is an artist. I cherish the moments; the Elegance of a Cover Drive, the Arrogance of a Pull, the Authority of a Straight Drive, the Touch of a Glide. When all comes together, from backlift to follow through, there is no better sight to be seen off a batsman.
Batting is a serious effort, for my liking. Some say, considering a blinder of an innings, a batsman bat primarily on their luck, which I don’t agree with this. Anyone who has faced a moving leather ball at pace and having a reaction time of less than half a second would not tell this. I’d say it is the attitude of the batsman with luck associated with that wins over the luck itself. Batting always has an element of physical threat associated with it, even in modern days where protective gear has developed to a very decent level, if not for most protective.
The manner in which you bat may depend on a few factors. You have to bat according to the status of the pitch and to the situation of the match. Cricket is a team game, where you bat for your team and it is needed to bat for the way your team wants you to bat. It is a bit difficult duty, where every batsman’s primary form of play is defense and then comes attacking and every other thing, while you stick with former, what expected of you was the latter. With experience and knowledge you gain from the game over time gives you the wisdom to bat according to the status of the pitch and to the situation.
Technical aspect of the batting is what can be called education and training. At young age, batsmen should learn how to play technically correct Cricket shots. The education process may include shadow practicing, hours and hours of batting drills and watching videos, reading books and viewing photos. At young age batsmen should be encouraged to play as technically as possible. These basics would teach you how to alter the stance, the grip and even the shots and scoring areas and adjust and improvise to survive as a better batsman growing up over experience.
Then come the training schemes. It’s about sweat and commitment you put into batting; hours and hours of facing up throw downs and bowling machines and batting in the nets as well. Mental aspect of the batting cannot be ignored at all. It is highly stated that batsman should play one ball at a time, not premeditating for the next delivery. It is the usual state of batsman’s mind for chase for the glory, but I often hear commentators say, when a batsman plays according to what the situation demands, they say he got a cool head.
Concentration and the clarity of the mind are very important in batting. If you bat with a clear state of mind, concentrate only on the ball coming at you, you feel like you have an extra bit of time to play the ball. I have been there once or twice, certainly not more than that. That’s really rare. You feel like you are at peace and you had played the shot even before the bowler has landed the ball! I sometimes still live on those moments!
Facing a pace bowler, your reflexes have to be good, as you have less time to react. In spinners’ case it is altogether a different story. You have more time to react. While pacers hustle you up with quick snorter, spinners tie you up to the crease with their vicious spinning deliveries. Facing up pacers, swing and seam are very hard to negotiate, while the latter being more difficult. The last thing you want as a batsman is swing or seam or the combination of both at pace; that is the worst nightmare of all. On the other hand, spinners bring on a different type of challenge. They exploit the conditions, batsmen have to battle over. Changing rpm of the ball, variations of flight, trajectory, drift, pace and bounce and even turn, they’ll try to work you out.
Merely judging the three factors; the line, length and pace to the perfection won’t let you bat well. Adding to that is the pitch you bat on. It can be a belter you are lucky to have or a slow pitch you have to work for runs or a quick bouncy one you have to take care of your throat.
As mentioned, there are many areas to be considered in batting, not just dress up and hit the ball. There are a lot of processes triggered in, mentally, physically and technically, in that half of a second, from releasing of the ball to hitting it. It’s an art itself. It’s a serious effort. It’s a real challenge.
There went I, trying to sum up some challenges. Yet batsmen overcome these challenges, more often than not. They play according to the conditions of the pitch and to the ball. Facing pacers they are trying to play the ball as late as possible. Facing spinners, they try to discover the mystery over the ball and play accordingly. I have seen batsmen leave the ball pitching on the middle stump off leg spinners on a slow turning track. In this case you closely watch the revolutions of the ball and the position of the seam and the condition of the pitch and trust on your judgment and make decisions under that half of a second you have.
You’ll see batsmen struggle at the crease, but somehow manages to survive and make a good score. You’ll see batsmen play a couple of glorious shots and then get out in the next ball to a pretty poor delivery. Sometimes you wonder as a batsman, how were you even able to get bat on to that ball, even though the outcome has been a cover drive for four.
Reality is that the most of the good and consistent batsmen are not technical perfectionists and most of technical perfectionists have not lived up to the expectations. The thing about batting is there is a thing beyond physical, technical and mental aspects. I think it’s instinctively mythical. I don’t know it’s a belief or not and I am not so sure. It’s something you’ll feel only while batting.
I believe that there is something yet to be discovered or studied. As a coach one can tell a player to play the ball according to the length of it and so on and give a plenty of advice on batting, but can’t actually bring out exact experience, to use up in his coaching or simply you can’t tell someone how you lined up for a particular shot. There always is something instinctively intangible, which you cannot be descriptive about. That feeling comes only while batting, where all your consciousness comes together and watch the ball to your bat, and see it bouncing away off you.