This is a guest article from club cricketer AB, simplifying the decision making process when you bat.
The batsman sits glumly on the grass, still in his pads even though he is out.
His captain tries to offer some condolences; "it was the right shot to play, you just didn't execute it correctly" or maybe he says "you picked the wrong ball to play that shot".
We all know the feeling of anger and confusion as we're walking back to the pavilion - sometimes we regret our shot decision, sometimes we are just confused as to why what worked the week before didn't work today.
Clearly, the decisions we make in the middle have a huge impact on our innings but how many batsmen have actually thought about what it is they are deciding on and what information they are using?
With such a wide range of shots to choose from, it can be extremely confusing to know exactly what is or isn't the right shot for any particular ball.
The good news is that it is quite possible to simplify this process by breaking down our decision making into two distinct parts, both with only two possible options.
Step 1. Play forward or back?
Here is the first decision the batsman has to make, and it’s a simple matter of getting into the correct position to be able to address the ball.
As soon as the ball leaves the bowlers hand, you are trying to pick up its line and length, and then lead with your head to move forward and into line to full deliveries, or backwards and into line to shorter deliveries.
When moving forward, the bat moves into position to drive the ball back as straight as possible; when going back, the bat is lifted nice and high and slightly wider, in preparation for hitting a down on the ball with a cross batted shot.
A batsman who gets his feet and hands into the best possible position to play the ball is already 90% of the way to playing an effective shot.
Step 2. Attack or deflect?
This decision requires a little more information, but fortunately we don't have to decide until we are already in position and waiting for the ball to arrive.
We continue to watch the ball closely as we move, and decide whether the ball is either short enough or full enough to attack - as we had originally hoped it might be.
If so - we should be in position to go through with our shot with genuine aggressive intent.
Off the front foot, this will be the straight drive, the off drive or the on drive; off the back foot, this will be the cut or the pull.
If, however, the ball is NOT full enough to safely drive, or short enough to safely pull or cut, or we simply dont feel confident about hitting the ball cleanly, we move into “deflect mode” instead.
Fortunately, the same footwork that put us in position to attack the ball will also be effective in allowing us to safely deflect a good length delivery.
If the ball is straight, we may simply deflect it back down the track in defence; if it is outside off or down the leg side, we can carefully deflect the ball into the field in search of runs.
Shots like the leg glance, the late cut, or even just dropping the ball for a single, are all examples of such careful deflections that can bring runs against length deliveries.
So a very simple theory: just two questions, each with two possible answers.
But when combined with a solid technique, it's more than enough strategy for a competent batsman to score runs all round the ground.