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Helmets have made modern batsmen worse at playing the short ball

Adam Voges was forced to retire hurt after a being struck by a bouncer against Tasmania (Cricket.com.au screenshot)
Roar Pro
16th January, 2017
18

The introduction of protective equipment into the game of cricket, designed to make the game safer – primarily for batsmen – has seemingly had the reverse effect.

Specifically, the helmet is the major culprit.

Prior to the introduction of all this extra protective gear, the vast majority of us wore a “box” and a thigh pad, together with batting gloves.

The most we had to protect our head was a cap or a floppy white “washing” hat.

In my day, due to this lack of protective gear we all had a vested interest in not getting hit, simply because if we did, we would be in serious strife.

As a consequence, we as batsmen spent many hours in the nets, facing fast bowlers or bowling machines who were instructed – or programmed – to bowl short-pitched balls at us.

In these sessions, the two major elements practised were footwork and watching the ball.

To handle short-pitched bowling, the footwork concentrated on the “back foot” moving back and across, towards the off stump.

This movement allows the batsman to get inside the line of the ball.

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From this position, a decision could be made as to whether one should play a hook shot (how long has it been since you have seen one of those played?), a cut, or let the delivery pass through to the keeper.

By keeping your eye on the ball, you were able to sway away, arching your back, or duck.

At no stage did we turn our back to the on-coming ball.

The sight of Bangladesh’s captain, Mushfiqur Rahim being struck on the back of the head at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Monday, illustrates a deplorable lack of technique that many modern day players have in attempting to play or avoid the short-pitched ball.

How many of today’s players actually ever make a back and across movement? Not that many. Mostly, it’s a minuscule movement resulting in most of them “playing from the crease” and turning away from the on-coming ball or facing it “front on”.

No wonder batsmen are getting struck, frequently.

I simply don’t believe that today’s crop of fast bowlers are any faster or slower than those of the past. Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and any of the West Indies’ combinations of the “four quicks” were all fast, and for the most part, we didn’t get hit by any of them.

But I can tell you, one thing is for sure, if we had turned away and taken our eyes off the ball, we would have never been selected again.

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