Should we chastise swashbuckling batsmen when they fail?

Garfield Robinson Roar Rookie

By Garfield Robinson, Garfield Robinson is a Roar Rookie

 , ,

4 Have your say

    Virender Sehwag was one of the bowlers to participate in the bowl-out at the 2007 World T20. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    Related coverage

    “Kanhai also, in one or two innings that he played, even in the first innings of the Oval Test, made a bad stroke and then the next ball made a worse stroke and got out to it.”

    “He did that quite a few times. But it is the same Kanhai who hit 77 in ninety-three minutes, one of the most brilliant innings I remember seeing for a long time. If he is going to do the second, you have to make up your mind to accept the first.”

    “You can’t have it both ways.” (CLR James)

    West Indian scholar and cricket historian CLR James had a very high regard for the audacity of Rohan Kanhai’s strokeplay, but he conceded that such audacity sometimes end in distress.

    If we are going to be thrilled when the star batsman dismembers the opposition’s attack, then we should be forgiving when he fails in the effort.

    I recalled the above passage recently when I discovered that Indian opener Virender Sehwag was dropped, justifiably so, from the Test side.

    The adventurer has performed the job of opening batsman in a manner more belligerent than probably anyone in history. Few batsmen have battered the new ball like he has, and purists looking on saw his approach as heretical.

    They didn’t think he would last. That is not how Test match batting was done, especially from the top of the order.

    It was bad enough that he would dare to attempt this high-octane method. That he became so successful, averaging mostly over 50, was to rub salt in the wound.

    After all, others before him had tried, with the best of them having only limited success, thus solidifying the view that the role of the opening batsman was to carefully see off the shine before seeking to take the ascendency.

    Turning common wisdom on its head, Sehwag attacked from the start and never slowed.

    A hundred at less than a run-a-ball was commonplace for him, and in 2008 in Mohali, South Africa suffered at his hands to the tune of 319 runs off just 309 deliveries. There was also another rapid triple that rolled over Pakistan in Multan in 2004.

    But batting in such a manner has its pitfalls. The daring shot is exhilarating when it comes off, reckless when it doesn’t.

    A shot is only bad when you get out playing it.

    The scorching drive through the covers is a thing of beauty when it whistles to the boundary, but insipid when it when it peels off the edge into the grasp of the slip-fielder or miscued into the chest of the man at mid-off.

    Somewhat understandably, falling to the big shot at inopportune times can have serious consequences. To cite just one example: Damian Martyn was trying to eke out a painstaking victory in a low-scoring game against South Africa in Sydney in January 1994.

    He was six from 59 balls, and Australia were 110/8, searching for 117, when he aimed a lavish drive over cover and was caught.

    Australia then plummeted to defeat by six runs and Martyn, a classically forthright batsman, was made a pariah after that season, never wearing his country’s colours again until he was recalled for ODIs in 1997 and Tests three years later.

    Had the shot been successfully executed, sending the ball beyond the boundary, Australia would most likely have won (it would at least have been a tie).

    Martyn would have been engulfed into the ecstatic embrace of his comrades as he ran to the pavilion, and would have been hailed a hero instead of being ostracised as an outcast.

    Followers of the great game should consider their reaction to the batsman who falls while playing forcefully. If you rapturously applaud the rousing shot you should be prepared to forgive the rousing attempt that goes awry.

    The shot that sends the ball into the stands is the same shot that gets the batsman caught on the boundary. Disappointment may be in order but castigation is unnecessary.

    As Sehwag ponders how to make his way back into the Indian side he, and perhaps his trusted advisors, will undoubtedly be dissecting his batting technique.

    It might be unwise, however, for them to seek to alter his aggressive approach.

    The fact that he became one of the most successful opening batsmen in history playing the way he does must mean something.

    Additionally, its value to his team and its entertainment value have been immense. Cricket fans owe him a debt of gratitude.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (4)

    • March 12th 2013 @ 5:32am
      Prateek said | March 12th 2013 @ 5:32am | ! Report

      I can’t live without Sehwag. I know all is not well in Indian Cricket for a long time. In between Dhoni and Sehwag, there was something. I am pretty sure. I knew it when he was not picked in England T20 WC. Dhoni killed him. Yes. The process was slow but it eventually got Sehwag, like a slow poison. I am sure, we are witnessing the end of Sehwag. I don’t know what Indian Cricket had lost, but it surely lost a lover in me.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 9:24am
      Fivehole said | March 12th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Its all about context – at the begginning of a test match, early attack can have benefits. If you are chasing a deficit however, you need to be more circumspect in your early shot selection.

      Martyn is one example where a few more singles would have done the job. another example that readily comes to mind is Brad Haddin charging the bowler when we were 5/18. 0/18 or 5/218 it probably would have been more acceptable.

      There is a time and place for it in test match cricket, but not when you are way behind the 8 ball.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 1:33pm
      Peeeko said | March 12th 2013 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

      Enjoyable article

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    , ,