Back in the good old days if you got a good length ball on off stump you dutifully played a forward defence, respected the bowler and waited patiently for a half volley to drive.
Tell that to Sehwag, McCullum or Warner; aggressive IPL superstars who are happy putting a length ball into the stands, even if it’s in the third over.
But most batters who are learning the game are still coached to play the ‘proper’ way. It makes sense because if you try a switch hit before you can play an on-drive you are going to look very silly if you get out. It’s hardly playing for the team.
So how do you bring these competing elements together and stop holding up an end when you play short format cricket?
Have an augmented look
Even in T20, you have more time than you think. There is no need to swing from the laces from the first ball. If you are a top order batsman you can take a few balls to get a feel for the bowling and the wicket.
During that time you may get a half volley or long hop to put away, and before you know it you are on 12 off 10 balls.
On the other hand, if you get 6 great balls first up because the league equivalent of Dale Steyn is steaming in, they you may be lucky just to survive. Either way, you are still out there and the longer you bat, the better the chance your team has in the death overs.
Here traditional shot selection can be augmented by using your top hand to open or close the face and let the ball fall into a gap (usually at midwicket in T20). In the picture below you can see Des Haynes demonstrating closing the face with top hand control:
Keep the basics the same
Many young cricketers think that once they have faced a few balls, it’s time to start hitting out. While you do need to score more quickly, your well grooved basics are vital to remain the same.
Your grip, stance and backlift should be set in stone. You might make a small change to your trigger move if you have one, but your basic setup is no different.
You still align your body and bat to the ball and aim first to hit with a straight bat.
Of course that doesn’t mean defensive play, as you can play orthodox and score boundaries in a region from cover all the way round to midwicket. You can score off any length from a full toss to back of a length ball. A lofted straight drive is impossible to defend because fielders are never directly behind the bowler.
Use your feet
The next step to getting the ball into a gap is to use your feet to adjust your body.
Imagine you are playing against a seamer who is at your stumps on a good length. Rather than staying in the same position you can use your feet to get into position to turn that ball into something you can drive on the up.
In the picture, Gary Palmer (part of a video on PitchVision Academy) demonstrates how he has moved across the crease but kept his position open so he can drive with the full face of the bat through the vacant midwicket area:
You can do the same to hit an offside sweeper by moving to the leg side and playing a cover drive.
However, it’s still vital to be able to play these shots with good technique to keep your risk down. And that means learning how to play them in an orthodox way first.
As you can see, the truth about Twenty20 batting is not about the marquee innovation shots, and more about learning how to score quickly and safely.
How do you change your game for shorter formats?