The best batters in the world have excellent back foot games when playing on spinning tracks.
AB de Villiers, Yonus Khan, Rahul Dravid and Joe Root all get as far away from ball bounce when the bowler misses his length on the short side.
This depth of crease gives the player more time and creates different options to access with scoring shots.
These players are masters of manoeuvring the ball, even on the driest pitches at the end of a five day Test match. And if the bowler misses their length by a sufficient margin, the batter will be able to back foot punch or pull the ball away for boundaries also.
Traditionally, northern hemisphere batters have developed lazy habits as the ball generally sits in the wicket and doesn’t spin significantly on greener surfaces.
As a result, they tend to shift their weight backwards rather than create distance between ball bounce and ball contact.
This approach works until the ball starts to spin quickly or break a bigger distance off the pitch.
That’s why Westerners have now learnt from the sub-continent players who have fast feet. I analysed these movements and now coach players to copy sub-continent approaches.
Even if the player is never likely to play in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
You see, the “northern approach” is simply not transferable to wickets that really spin. The sub-continental approach will thrive in any cricket environment.
More time. More options. That works everywhere.
Different lines of movement
So, depth of movement is one thing. Now here are two methods of playing back foot to to the same bowler.
England’s Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood would practice to face Murilitheran using as much depth of crease as possible.
Where they differed was their angle of movement.
Colly would move back and towards leg stump with the intention of hitting the ball with a punch drive through extra cover. He would aim to score 2’s into that often vacant gap. If he timed the ball beautifully then he would pick up a boundary.
Now in truth, it would be fair to say that Colly didn’t always pick Murili -not many batters did!
So this method gave Colly the chance to get away from his slightly under-pitched ball and play him off the pitch.
If the ball turned in then he could hit back into the spin with a safe punch drive and if it turned away then he could use the width as well as his short punch through the ball to generate speed off the bat.
Vaughan was different.
He would push into off stump and look to clip the ball through mid wicket with his excellent wrists. KP did the same (when he wasn’t switch-hitting).
Vaughany would use the spin on the off break to help him access open spaces beyond short leg and defend the ball if it was Murili’s doosra.
The boys practiced their own movements and approaches religiously.
And whilst neither mastered Murili in his own backyard of Kandy and Columbo, they were able to put the great man under some degree of pressure through their excellent footwork options.
So, depth of crease is important: It’s a given against spin nowadays but now you have two movement options to practice.
By doing so, you can find out which one is your preference
Then also experiment to see if there would be a circumstance or a challenge that may lend itself to adopting the other method rather than your preferred choice.
Give them both a go and come back to me with your follow up questions and experiences.