This article was sent in to miCricketCoach by Indian reader Bijoyaditya Mukherjee. Bijoy entered the PitchVision Academy competition and was selected as the winner with this article on the back and across movement.
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We all know the adage against pace: “Get in line with the ball, and don't back away!” This is the seldom understood, 'back and across' trigger movement.
Let’s take a closer look at its intricacies; you may come to share the same respect I have for this humble friend of batsmen.
What is 'back and across'?
A trigger movement is an instinctive movement, the feet in particular, as the bowler releases the ball, so as to generate momentum and aid in the 'unweighting' process.
The late Bob Woolmer described it as; “"Moving your back foot back and across towards off stump; then transferring your weight back on to the front foot as the bowler releases the ball; then making the final movement, having judged length and playing the appropriate shot."
Why would you use it?
To better receive the ball of course! What I mean is to be in a balanced position to watch the ball and then instinctively go forward or back as per the length. All this, while maintaining access to the ball by preventing the front foot from going across and closing off the body.
A lot of it has to do with balance.
As the body prepares to receive the ball, an instinctive hunching of the upper body causes it to lean over to the off side. This means that the body needs to push out a foot towards the offside to regain balance.
This may manifest as the front foot or the back foot going across to the off stump.
The former is the 'forward press' trigger and the latter the back and across movement. The forward press causes the batter to play across the line to straighter deliveries in an attempt to play around that front pad. Whereas going back and across allows direct access to straighter deliveries and allows for a game plan based more around playing straight.
The back and across movement also allows for the player to be prepared for 'chin music' in advance.
The trigger opens the player’s hips up and puts him in a better position to get behind the line and defend their body against short pitched bowling. Add to that bending the back knee and you are able to duck and weave instinctively. This is because bent knees mean a wider base and a lower centre of gravity. This stable base resists toppling when subjected to ducking or weaving.
Taking a step back and across also allows you to break up the act of getting a good extension to the half volleys into two steps. First a step back, then a small but efficient step forward to get the front foot beside the ball. By the time the ball is driven, the feet are wide enough apart so as to allow for a large hitting area. Just try to drive a half volley keeping your feet together, you will see what a small “hitting area” feels like.
When do you use it?
Use the back and across trigger when:
- You are really good on the off side but keep getting hit on the pads to balls that are straighter.
- You are naturally uncomfortable to short bowling
- You tend to get too closed off as you watch the ball and need to open up a little.
- When you feel you need more balance as while watching the ball.
- You keep pulling the ball straight up in the air. This of course might just be poor shot selection.
- You want to focus on playing straighter.
- You feel you are a little slow in facing the quicks.
How to go back and across
Here are some pointers that helped in executing this trigger move:
- Lift the bat to a ready position. Do this and your centre of gravity doesn’t shift awkwardly while going back and across. You end up nicely balanced at the end of the trigger.
- Move the back foot back and across and transfer weight back onto the front foot .This puts your upper body in the right position to go forward or back.
- Transfer weight forward but don’t take a stride with your front foot or else you will again be playing around that front pad.
- At the end of this step, try to end up ever so slightly lower than your stance. This ensures bending of the knees.
All said and done, if you are playing well both on the offside and the onside and are dealing with the short ones, then don’t fix what isn’t broken. But if you need a little help to push your game to the next level, this trigger move might be well worth a try.