Cricket

Are many of the current lot just ‘flat-track bullies'?

New Zealand’s Doug Bracewell celebrates after dismissing Australian tail-ender Peter Siddle in the fourth day of the second Test match in Hobart, Australia, on Dec. 12, 2011. Photo: AP

New Zealand’s Doug Bracewell celebrates after dismissing Australian tail-ender Peter Siddle in the fourth day of the second Test match in Hobart, Australia, on Dec. 12, 2011. Photo: AP  

The batting line-ups of the world are increasingly getting exposed on pitches with some juice in them. Technical and mental shortcomings are sending worrying signals about the game's future health.

Even teams that are famous for their fighting qualities are coming apart on tracks offering seam movement and bounce or assisting spin.

Pursuing 233 for victory in the second Test against New Zealand at Hobart, Australia hurtled from 159 for two to eventually lose a dramatic encounter by seven runs.

Earlier in the season, the Aussies, shockingly, were shot out for 47 in their second innings in the Cape Town Test. This after South Africa had capitulated for 96 in its first innings.

Several young Indian batsmen too have been found wanting outside the sub-continent.

Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have struggled against the bouncing ball. These batsmen have been found wanting in footwork and have consequently been opened up.

The lack of solid back-foot play and the inherent inadequacies while coping with lifting deliveries have impacted the other attributes of their batsmanship as well. The short-pitched-full-length mix, with swing, has sent these batsmen packing.

“And the modern batsman is so well protected,” fumes spin bowling legend and former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said: “They wear helmets and are still hit on the head so many times.

“I played in an era where a fast bowler could send down six bouncers an over to batsmen who knew nothing about a helmet.”

“But those batsmen were technically better. They were not hit as many times. The great Gary Sobers one told me ‘when I have a bat in hand why should I wear the other stuff.'”

Former India captain, and a stylish stroke-maker in his time, Dilip Vengsarkar, observed: “Because of the influence of Twenty20 cricket, batsmen are going for everything outside the off-stump. In my days, we used to play-and-leave on seaming tracks. Now the younger batsmen are increasingly getting caught in the slip cordon.”

Vengsarkar elaborated, “The batsmen are playing so many shots now and this is a direct consequence of the shorter forms of the game.”

The big question is: Are many of the present generation batsmen just ‘flat-track bullies'?

“At the junior level, under 19 years of age, youngsters should not be allowed to play Twenty20 cricket,” suggests Vengsarkar. “This adversely impacts their cricket during formative years and bad habits do not go away.”

He explains, “Even the coaching these days focuses on aggression than on honing their defensive skills first. This produces incomplete batsmen. This is a very dangerous trend,” says Vengsarkar.

Bedi too strongly feels cricket's latest form is hurting the development of technique and mind. “I think one-day cricket is okay, has greater depth and is definitely more challenging. But in the Twenty20 format, technique goes out of the window. Australia is suffering because too much importance has been given to Twenty20 cricket. It's the same with India as well.”



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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 8:13:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/Are-many-of-the-current-lot-just-%E2%80%98flat-track-bullies/article13430559.ece

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