Sam Lavery is Cricket Professional at Portsmouth Grammar School.
For any young cricketer, it seems a little far fetched to say the basics of the game apply to international heroes as much they do to themselves.
I was a six foot 14 year old opening batsmen in Yorkshire. I felt that once I'd sorted the basics I could move on. Surely I'd be able to focus on something else more exciting, more engaging, and probably more complicated. I thought there's no way the basics could take anyone to the top.
Don't basic skills make a basic batsman?
That doesn't sound very appealing.
These days things are different. A look of simplicity is a sign of a highly skilled player in my mind. Perhaps "the basics" should be re-termed "the simple things".
So how does this remain relevant, and how can we reinforce the importance of these simple things?
The perfect advert is Younis Khan.
He has 200 Test innings under his belt. 30 fifties, 31 hundreds, four doubles and a triple century. Unquestionably a great of the modern game.
But right now he's struggling.
So why is he struggling?
It's the basics. The simple things.
The same things I was working on all those years ago, growing up as a 14 year old opening batsman trying not to "fall over".
When you watch 2016 Younis it's like he's batting in roller skates. If he doesn't topple over before contact with the ball, he probably will do after it passes him.
- Following a slight trigger across the crease (from leg toward off), at the point of release his head is slightly to the off side of his base. Then by his point of decision; when the ball is approximately a quarter of the way down the pitch, his head has moved further to the off side. He's now well and truly off balance.
- Subsequently, any controlled movement to the ball is pretty challenging. It hasn't made it impossible, few things are. But it takes an immense amount of coordination, focus and patience to build an innings in this way. Fortunately for Younis, these aren't areas he's often found wanting.
So if balance is a basic skill (maybe a question for another day), what can't Younis Khan achieve it?
The combination of his head starting slightly to the off side of his feet is the first potential concern. Add in his trigger movement towards the off side and this could cause further problems; but equally an effective trigger could solve them. The movement of his hands and bat however, given the slightly off balance position he's already in, confounds the issue; his hands are well away from his body and their movement further away into the back swing, draw his upper body to move further to the off side.
Out come the roller skates and over the big man goes.
It's popular belief in modern coaching that it doesn't matter how you swing a bat back, as long as it comes down straight. We seem to forget that bats weigh quite a bit, and a long levered weight has the potential to disrupt our balance when moved sharply.
In a day and age where we're learning that coaching is a horses for courses trade, and a one size fits all approach probably won't work. It's extremely naive of us to let an idea such as this slip the net. Yes it works for Amla, and yes it works for a lot of other players, most likely those who have good control over their balance. But it's very difficult for those who are battling with their balance on the way into their backswing.
So what's the message here?
Next time your working with a cricketer and you're trying to gain their "buy in" to the importance of the simple things show them Younis Khan.
A man who has been great, but without one of the basics, looks not only a little ordinary, but slightly comical at times.
Now challenge them to be better.
Be better at something than one of the greats of the modern era. Just remember that you have to find the way that suits the individual. One size very rarely fits all.
After that, go looking for other areas you can realistically be world class.
Can you be world class at running between the wickets, or if not, just backing up at the non strikers end? Can you give world class positive chat?
Can you be a world class teammate?
Can you look after the ball to the same level?
You may not have a Test average well into the 50's, but that doesn't mean you can't compare yourself to the worlds best.