Gary Palmer, the PitchVision Academy batting coach, talks about the coaching idea that batting is a sideways game. If you would like coaching from Gary, check out CCM Academy.
We have all heard the coaching mantra: Cricket is a sideways game.
Good bowlers get side on in their action. Batsmen stand sideways at the crease.
Or do they?
It's certainly not true for batting. The only time a batter needs to get into a good sideways position is when the lines of delivery are on or outside the line of off stump.
On this line the shoulder closes towards the off side and the front foot will land across the line of the back foot so that the bat can swing towards the target area for the maximum amount of time:
However, when the ball is straight or on leg stump line, being sideways is a problem.
If you are too sideways in your initial stance with your shoulder directly under your chin rather than below your left ear (for right handed batters) then you could end up tipping to the off side and playing around your front pad. This will make you hit across the line:
Also, your backswing goes back over middle and leg stump area.
From this position the only areas you can play strokes efficiently is on the off side any other shot you play you will also be hitting across the line.
Good bowlers who bowl straight and on a good length will be able to tie you down and set fields to stop you scoring while having a good chance of getting you out bowled or LBW.
But even worse, fast bowler will exploit batters who are in this sideways position because it is difficult to play the short ball aimed at the body.
With your hands initially hidden behind the body, they have to swing around the in a golf swing action to get at the ball. This takes longer to get the bat at the ball and the whole body is rotating to allow this to happen making it difficult to control the shot:
The better way: Open position
When playing straight and through mid on the feet should be in line with each other so that the bat swings in a straight line to the ball. To do that you can't be sideways on.
I always think if a player can hit the middle and leg stump line delivery through mid on (both back and front foot) then they are well balanced and well aligned:
These types of players rarely tip to the offside and rarely play across the line and they have good basic technique.
That's why they get a lot of runs.
Players such as Tendulkar and Sir Vivian Richards execute the more open body position. This gives them good sight of the ball, good balance and good alignment to play the shot.
An open shoulder position allows the hands to move in a straight line to the ball while the body remains still. The hands also need less time to get into position.
The back foot should turn in slightly prior to playing the shoot as the shoulder begin to open when playing the ball on straight and middle stump line, both front and back foot:
Still not convinced? Look at Twenty20.
Twenty20 players tend to clear the front leg when improvising. This puts them in to a more open position from which they can play a wide range of attacking shots.
If they were too sideways their scoring options would be considerable limited but their risk of getting out would be greatly increased.
Critics will say if you are slightly open then you will miss out on the off side.
They are wrong.
From an open position it is easy to push you head towards the ball on the offside line delivery, the shoulder and foot will follow and the shot can be played consistently well.
The other plus point is that you make your decision earlier when you want to leave the ball outside off stump. From to sideways you can get dragged across the crease thus chasing wide deliveries.
Chanderpaul proves that if you stand open you can still leave the ball well and also get in a good position to play through the off side.
I am not suggesting that you stand as open as Chanderpaul, but just open the shoulders slightly so both eyes are parallel and looking straight back up the pitch towards the bowler.
Batting practice tips
When practicing front and back foot drives against a bowling machine put the machine in the position in the crease where a left arm over would bowl at you
From and set the machine to swing the ball in at middle and leg.
Set some cones out in front of you so the 'V' area you are looking to drive the ball is between very straight mid on mid wicket. Try to hit balls through the target area first from the more open body position I have been talking about and then try it being too sideways.
See which is the easier.
Finish the session with the machine over the wicket swinging the ball away on off stump line to make sure you remember the correct position for the off drives.
Remember now to turn your front shoulder to get in to the more sideways position for the off /cover drives.
So the take home point is simple:
Being too sideways to straight and leg side is a non-negotiable: It restricts you considerably both surviving and attacking.
Never stand with your front foot further across to the off side than your back foot; it's impossible to be a successful batter playing this way because you are too sideways.
If you want to learn everything there is to know about technique, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.