The Great Batting Hoax | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

The Great Batting Hoax

Gary Palmer, the PitchVision Academy batting coach, sheds light on the biggest hoax in batting.

Cricket has advanced in so many ways in the last 60 years. So why do we still hold onto the same ideas when it comes to classical batting technique?

Coaches and players have always called batting a side on game. But I have learned that batting is more front on than side on.

In my experience, when I say this most people disagree instantly and switch off.

But I always try to find out why people don't want to hear it.

Inevitably they will point to the textbook, or something they saw a well-known player do or say on TV. That would be fine if it was true, but you need to have logical evidence to back up your argument.

Proof Batting is not side on

I have been through the English system as a player and a coach, from Somerset u12s, South region u15s, Young England and finally playing for Somerset as a first-class cricketer. I started coaching when I was 17 over 30 years ago. I have seen countless players from the greats through to current Internationals through to total beginners, often up as close as it is possible to get.

From the lab of these thousands of players and millions of shots I have seen played I have learned the truth.

As a specialist, professional batting coach and my findings are that batting sideways on restricts you as a batter. I have no doubt that it is a flawed technical way of playing and makes players skill levels limited, especially players who would are talented but have never played to their full potential because they are adopting or are being coached flawed techniques.

Being side on starts your head off in an initial offset position meaning poor balance and alignment, this is difficult to re-correct when the ball is flying towards you at 90mph.

Sideways on only means you are effective on deliveries outside off stump only. This makes it difficult to play consistently well in the V. It makes it particularly difficult play through mid-on without getting blocked off and playing around your front pad. You are limiting your range of shots.

Whilst many people will think my thoughts are radical, it’s certainly not as radical as a left-handed switch hit or reverse sweep, which players are implementing and coaches are coaching.

Rewriting the batting textbook

So what is the alternative?

Playing straight and through mid-on you need to be open with your knees and laces pointing down the wicket.

Being more open will arm you with a technique that allows you to score through 360 degrees. It gives you a head start with your balance and alignment of bat to ball. Yet, you still have the option to turn slightly more sideways when you need to get across to the off side to play the off drive. It's easier to go from slightly open to slightly more side on to play the off drive rather than being too side on and trying to reopen to play through straight and mid-on as you have already started tipping to the off side. From this side on position it is difficult to re-open and play well in the V.

It's no surprise that the great Sir Vivian Richards played this way. Sir Viv was more open than most in his stance and when he hit straight and through mid-on he was well balanced and aligned and had great access to the ball. His shoulder was never in the way therefore his head was always in a great position and with a more open body position he could hit the ball wherever he wanted.

If Sir Viv was side on he may not have scored as many runs as he did nor could have taken bowling apart as destructively ad he did.

Occasionally Viv used to play side on and play around his pad on purpose when he was improvising. But when he wanted to he could play attacking shots in the V as correctly as anyone, using the open method.

Towards a new basic technique

I firmly believe that "one size fits all" with basic batting technique, this makes it clear and simple to identify what to do as a player and a coach.

No mixed messages and less time wasted implementing trial and error.

Through coaching in the trenches I have found what is the most effective technique. I feel we should all use this best practice for the benefit of all players.

Why?

Because it makes batting easier.

I realize this is a big statement but I have based it on outcome against a series of specific angles and progressive swing types on a bowling machine.

I call it The 4 Angles methodology.

This sequence of angles exposes batting technique as we know it teaches the more effective "open" method.

My 4 Angles system develops and accesses the ABC of basic batting technique (Alignment, Balance, Completion of Shot). A player needs to get these in order before they progress on to nets and middle practice. The best technique is the one that works against all angles and swing types, you will find that that open works and side-on is inefficient.

ABC is the foundations of correct batting technique.

Every talented cricketer from 11 year olds to the professional game should aspire to be able to play all the angles efficiently with ease.

Cricket nowadays is more about attacking the bowlers through 360 degrees and it is massively important to have technique that allows you to score do this. Being more open and hitting in the V with your laces pointing down the wicket more will help you to do this with minimum risk of getting out.

I run my CCM Academy here in the UK and we have been using 4 Angles for some time. All the players can play effectively well in the V and are especially good at the on and straight drives. The players all enjoy positive performances and 5 boys are playing professional cricket.

Detailed videos of the 4 Angles system and the more open batting techniques can be found by clicking here.

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Comments

Most players are coached to stay sideways on. For that to be effective in playing on-side shots requires that it be accompanied by shoulder rotation so that the eyes follow the trajectory so that the ball is always clearly visible.

That position then looks like the player is chest on to a bowler bowling from mid-on.

From there it's a simple matter to open the front foot so there is a clear path for the bat to follow through - head and eyes over the ball, front foot out of the way, bat follows through.

A simple exercise
- have the batter in his normal stance as though there is a bat in hand.
- throw a low catch at the pads, ask the batter to catch it and hold the position.
- watch where the head and front foot end up.
If the head is over the ball and the front foot is out of the way, mission accomplished as you have demonstrated the relative positions required for the on-drive.

One demo I often adopt -- Imagine 3 bowlers bowling to you batting with the classical stance.
One bowler from the stumps, one from mid-on and one from mid-off. In each case you effect a drive back to the bowler.
In each instance you have played one shot, a straight drive off all 3 bowlers and the body shape in each case is the same.
The point here is that for on-drive, straight-drive and off-drive, the same body shape is required.

What happens when batters seem incapable of doing this especially when facing a bowler?

It's my contention that the batter's eyes are not following the ball and in some measure still fixated on the bowler's hand at delivery so the ball appears in the batter's peripheral vision as a blur.

My solution is to ask the batter to open up the stance so that the ball is always clearly in sight.

A case in point - a lad had been coming to coaching sessions for a few years and all the bowlers typically bowled at his legs because they knew it caused him difficulty whereas bowling off-side resulted in perfect shots through mid-off and cover.

One Saturday I happened to coach his net and I asked him to try something for me, open up his stance.
It worked and suddenly balls on his legs were dispatched through mid-on/midwicket, flicks through square leg and behind square.

I coach that it doesn't matter where you start, the key thing is where you end up when playing the shot.
If a player stands completely open and is good enough to play me a classic cover drive off any type of bowling that's good enough for me as it demonstrates excellent ball-eye coordination and best left alone.

I have been re-watching Don Bradman's "How to Play Cricket" on DVD. When he played a back foot defensive stroke, or a straight-bat forcing shot off the back foot, the toe of his right foot pointed to extra cover i.e. he was very nearly chest-on to the bowler, almost exactly like the picture, above.

If it was good enough for the Don, there _must_ be something in this.

Time to get into the nets and try this out!

If you are not Bradman or a few chosen ones, that is likely to be a get out technique. Hand eye coordination extra-ordinaire is what the great players are born with.I would not use Bradman or Viv Richards as examples for young players to follow , I'd choose Dravid and Alistair Cook.

I would say any sample where you take a single person as an example of something that must work for everyone is flawed. Scientists call it n=1.

That is not to say the single example is wrong, it's just hard to extrapolate from one person outwards. In short, you need to experiment more!

Balance and head alignment relative to the ball being bowled are key.
One should line themselves up to be able to play through mid-on with a straight bat.
This will open up the V. Ball that swing sharply away from the batsman can be left alone.
Should the bowler bowl straight then he will be punished all around the wicket.
Batting is still a side on game, but you play it with a level head.
In other words, get as side on as possible without hampering your ability to strike the ball through mid on with a straight bat, all the while maintaining your balance.

I agree that n=1 is not an equation that suits every batsman, e.g we had a young player who always jumped out of the way when the ball was on his legs, something I see with a significant number of young players today.

I asked the player to try opening his stance up a little and suddenly he was driving through the leg side, flicking balls behind square, etc.
That was the first time in his 2 years of attending that I had been coaching his net, problem solved.

The reason such players have that difficulty is due to the fact that their eyes are fixated on the point of delivery rather that tracking the flight path of the ball and hence it appears as a blur when it reaches them.

When I see players getting into difficulty by not essentially staying side-on, I get them to take up stance and simply turn chest on and see that the bat is in a different position though their hands have not moved - presenting an edge to an away swinger.

It seems most coaches don't now teach "getting in line" so most players, especially young players tend to have the back foot static and sparring at balls outside off stump, also have the front foot always pointing between mid-off and cover with leg stump balls constantly thudding into their pads.

I use a simple drill ... place 4 balls on the ground to simulate one on leg stump, one on middle, one on off and one outside off.
Have the player in his stance as though holding a bat, pick each up, back into the stance then place the ball back in it's position.
This helps the player to see the front foot is pointing in the proper direction when picking up or replacing the ball to it's original position - point 1.
Point 2 - the ball that is placed outside off - with the static back foot the player is falling over trying to pick the ball up and replacing it.
With the back foot moved across the player is shown that balance is maintained.

The same exercise this time driving each ball and asking the players to visualize 3 bowlers bowling at them, one from over the stumps, one from mid-on and one from mid-off and driving the ball back to each bowler.
I then ask the player what shots he played -- some thinking time then the reply is usually 3 straight drives. Correct - exactly the same body configuration as when the bowler bowls from the stumps and the ball lands in those same positions.

I also coach that the hands should ONLY come away from the hip when cutting or pulling and I think the above exercises are a very useful aid to ensuring good technique.

Who is the England Women's coach? I saw the 2nd. ODI, lots of backing away and swinging across the line, missing and getting bowled, something I give my U15's a proper dressing down for, rather, I go incandescent with rage when I see it. They won't use that approach with a punch bag, it's just as headless a technique when trying to lambast a cricket ball.

Whoosh! That seems like part 1 of the road to good batting technique .... Comments?

en he will be punished all around the wicket.
Batting is still a side on game, but yo

Slightly off the main topic but a troubling development that has recently crept into the coaching of young batters -- THOU SHALT NOT MOVE THE BACK FOOT TO GET IN LINE.

This is the feedback I have been getting from parents and youngsters as they have been told by their club and County coaches.

One parent said it was explained to him by the County coach that moving the back foot caused the head to fall to the off side. The previous county coaches never found this to happen or to be a problem.

The result I am seeing is batters stretching to form a scissor pattern and away swingers and leg breaks heading nicely for slips and gully catches whereas with back foot movement to get in line with the ball, it never presented this ugly spectacle.

Perhaps there is something more in-depth that the parents and youngsters didn't fully understand and have not faithfully communicated.

Either way I am completely puzzled.
Regards
Sid.

Sid - I have noticed something similar. Two of the players I work with, both involved in County programmes, have taken to playing "back foot" strokes by simply rocking their weight back, rather than moving the back foot. One struggles to hit consistently outside the off stump, the other pulls powerfully but in the air.
I have been wary of intervening, as I know they both work with other batting coaches (more experienced than me).
But I shall ask if the fixed back foot is something they are being coached to do, and, if it is, try to find out the reasoning behind the practice.

FWIW =- I would have thought that NOT moving the back foot would be likely to CAUSE the head to fall over to the off side, as it strives to get into line and no longer has a solid base (the back foot) beneath it. But as you say - perhaps something is getting garbled in transmission.

Thanks Andrew,
Very interesting that you have observed the same.
I reach the same conclusion, if the back foot is static, balance is lost when playing the ball not far outside off stump.

One method I have used is a variation to the one where 3 balls are placed - leg, middle and off and getting the batter to take up his stance, forward step, pick each ball up, back into stance then forward step to place each ball back without moving the back foot.
My variation is to place a fourth ball a bit wider of off stump and demonstrate that unless he back foot is moved across, balance is lost.

During the ashes series I observed similar from Joe Root and other players which was in contrast to the classical technique deployed by Ben Stokes.

Likewise, I have to seek an explanation from County coaches.
Regards
Sid.

I assume you are talking about back foot shots here?

Firstly we need to differentiate between shots where we need the head to get in line with the ball: vertical bat shots like the back defence or the back foot drive; shots where we need a bit of width between body and contact point like the square cut; and shots that can be played effectively either in line or with a bit of width, like the late cut or the pull through midwicket.

Attempting to play a back foot, vertical bat shot without sufficient movement of the back foot to bring the head and upper body into line in a balanced position is poor technique. You will either be unbalanced and leaning over, or you simply won't get properly in line. Either way, the probability of good contact is significantly decreased.

The techniques when playing spin bowling are slightly different; if you're attempting to play a length or short of a length ball through the offside off the back foot, you will probably need to keep your back leg out of the way to create a large contact zone with straightforward bat access. This is done by moving straight back into leg stump in a side on position. The importance of leaving access to a large hitting area of course is so that you can adapt to a ball that turns or bounces unexpectedly!

When playing quickish bowling, some coaches like their players to have the ability to "think drive" for occasions when the bowler is consistently pitching the ball up. This means almost committing to a front foot shot before the ball is bowled, and then on the occasions when it is short, standing tall and playing a front foot pull (a la Ricky Ponting). However this sacrifices most shots outside off stump, and the players should be taught to simply leave the ball in this case when using this strategy. Perhaps this is where the confusion is creeping in - the coaches are trying to instil a particular technique for a particular situation, and it is leaching out into general play?

Hi AB,
The scenario is that the batter picks the line and length early and it calls for a front foot defensive shot or drive.
The ball may be shaping away of even straight.
If the ball shapes in there is generally not a problem.

What the youngsters are being taught in recent months is not to move the back foot in order to get in line, but to keep it static and reach out to get the front foot in line.

Those players I see now, the same players who used to get in line and execute safe shots along the ground through mid-off/cover are now offering simple catches to slips and gully.

Basically they have lost control by adopting a technique that certainly does not work for them.

If you take my exercise with the 4 balls, in batting terms the fourth ball if left alone will probably miss off stump by not much or shape in and hit the stumps.

When the batters have attempted to play with a static back foot I have seen balls missing off stump by as little as 3 inches and a few have hit off stump.

This exposes them to be easily bowled and caught by wicket-keeper, slips and gully.

The identical balls, with their previous technique, would have safely and comfortably been driven or defended.
Regards
Sid.

So to clarify, we're talking about front foot shots, eg off drives and deflections, to full balls outside offstump.

The batter is moving his front foot forward, bending his knee, so that his head is both inline and vertically above the contact point where he wants to hit the ball. As far as I am aware there is no reason for the back foot to move laterally along the crease, it will obviously rotate and the heel will lift as the shot is completed.

Early away swing should make no difference to this as the batter should anticipate the lateral deviation and adjust his stride direction accordingly. Late away swing that is not spotted until the front foot has been planted may lead to the batter being forced to play away from their pad slightly; this shuld not be a problem as the batsman can adjust his head position outwards as he spots the swing so it is now over the "new" contact point.

At this point, he may need to move his back leg across to maintain his balance, although this might not happen until after the shot has been completed.

My thoughts here are that if the player has been specifically told NOT to move his back leg, he may be deliberately avoiding moving his head into line with a late swinging delivery, which is leading to him knicking it rather than middling it. Obviously this is not-ideal.

Although in theory the notion that every shot should be played from a perfectly stable, balanced position, with the bat coming through exactly 2 inches from the pad, is a nice idea; in practice it is not always possible. It is always preferable to get the head into line and middle the ball than it is to maintain a beautiful technically perfect balanced position but knick the ball to the keeper.

Do you concur with my analysis?

Hi AB,
The problem I have with it is this.
From playing a controlled stroke from a perfectly balanced position with head and shoulders aligned, these players are now balanced but in a vulnerable position.

The HEAD-KNEE-TOES alignment is not there again.

They are told that moving the back foot across causes the head to fall away to off.
What I am seeing with a static back foot is precisely the opposite.

For short balls, defending, driving, pulling and cutting, they are getting beautifully in position to execute those shots - back foot moving back and across, head and shoulders aligned.
When the ball is pitched up they look ungainly and are not in control.
Regards
Sid.

ok, but I guess my question is why - what is it about the static back foot that is causing them to lose balance?

When you say the H-K-T alignment is not there, in what way is it wrong? Is the head off line? Which direction?

Hi Sid -
Been reading your recent posts - very interesting stuff!

Can you just clarify what you mean with the back foot: are you suggesting the first movement when the player identifies a ball outside off stump is to move their back foot back and across and then step out to drive, or after stepping out to play the ball they drag their back foot across to get in a balanced position?

"Hand eye co-ordination extra-ordinaire is what the great players are born with". Throw the six month old Bradman a ball, would he catch it? Or would Richards hook it at the same age? No one is born with outstanding hand-eye co-ordination, you develop it with practice preferably from an early age.

You cannot dismiss the best there has ever been as role models they surely must be doing something right?

Steve

What the players are now asked not to do is move the back foot when playing a forward stroke.
However, if the ball is short of a length it seems that doing precisely the opposite is acceptable.

If the ball is within reach outside off they are asked to move only the front foot across in line with the ball.

If it worked I would have no problem with the technique.

Something is wrong when I see players who used to get in line are now static and giving wicket-keeper, slips and gully catching practice.

Agreed I don't think you can dictate any foot movement other than if it's full go forward, if it's short go back (unless it's a dead pitch then mulla it off the front foot as well).

The rest is down to the pace of the bowler, how quickly the batter picks up the line and length and his/her speed of movement.

Steve

Hi AB,
The balance is there but the ball isn't well covered and hence the gift of catches.

Consider a ball moving away and think back to the Ashes series, Ben Stokes, getting in line was his hallmark and it paid off handsomely.

If you remember the players of the past, Amiss, Boycott, Gooch, Gatting, all the way down to Cook ....... they were not static. I must also mention Dravid, Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, the Waugh brothers, Amla, Kallis ..........

Just before the last season started another coach and I were asked to help Jonathon Trott with a party of cricketers from a Law firm and of course they wanted to see him bat. We set up the bowling machine ~80 MPH and I was amazed at how quickly he got into line. It seemed as though he picked the line within a few yards of the ball leaving the machine and was waiting, in line and perfectly balanced. The main point is that he speedily moved back foot, then front foot to get in line and balanced - and had ample time to wait for the ball to arrive.

Viv, Kevin .... A different category of batters, they see a ball and they hit it cleanly whatever it does, wherever it pitches.

So are you talking about having a trigger move back and across to get in line, like the players you mentioned above have?

So, presumably the problem is tha they aren't moving the back foot at all, which means that for a ball outside off stump they are reaching for it instead of getting fully in line, and therefore not able to play their shot in a balanced fashion...?

I hesitate to contradict county coaches, who have no doubt been through various courses to tell them how to coach the shot, but I would have though there needs to be a little bit of flexibility applied based on the individual and the exact line and length of the delivery...

My problem here is that I don't necessarily see why a static back foot would lead to a problem when driving a ball one stump outside off off the front foot.

If the front foot is in the right place, the front knee bent, the head gets forward and into line, and the bat comes down in a straight line from the top of the backlift, then the ball should be driven towards mid off comfortably. The back foot is somewhat irrelevent.

I guess the only reason for telling the batsman to keep the back foot still is to prevent the batsman from backing away, which would put them in a worse position to play through the offside, but if the player doesn't have this issue I don't see why they would emphasis the point?

Will chat to some county coaches and players tonight to see what they think about the issue

I guess the only reason for telling the batsman to keep the back foot still is to prevent the batsman from backing away, which would put them in a worse position to play through the offside, but if the player doesn't have this issue I don't see why they would emphasis the point?

Will chat to some county coaches and players tonight to see what they think about the issue

I would agree except for the results.
These are not batters who back away so it's not to correct that problem.

Fine when the ball is quite full in length but slightly short of a length and especially moving away where the ball is hitting the middle but at an angle.

I still come back to the before and after situation.

These lads were playing controlled shots by getting in line, now they present catching practice.

Either it's a new technique being taught that they have not yet mastered but deemed necessary and infers that the age old technique that served and still serves the world's best batsmen is fatally flawed to the point where it has to be eliminated.

It seems the new technique which induces so many errors is considered superior to the previous method that produced concrete results.

Our recent ECBA conference harped on about the new thinking being all about outcomes rather than methods.

The methods I see are producing negative outcomes.

I am not comfortable seeing players that previously offered very few catches to wicket-keeper, slips and gully now doing so regularly during 15 and 20 minute batting sessions.

If the ball is short of a length should they not be playing a back foot shot? I thought we were talking about front foot shots?

I'm confused now.

Either way, if the players had a method that worked well, it would be bad coaching practice to try and change it for the sake of it.

I'll differentiate - a ball of a length that demands either a forward drive on defensive shot as opposed to a ball that is back of a length.

For the ball that is short of a length they go back and across - in line - either to defend or to drive and that doesn't seem to be an issue.

The issue is that they are now being told that getting in line to play forward 'ist verboten' whilst getting in line to play back is OK.

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