Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra Aakash ChopraRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

Playing at HQ

Mind the slope, boys

Aakash Chopra on the challenges cricketers face at Lord's

Aakash Chopra

July 20, 2007

Text size: A | A



First the gooseflesh, then the slope - there's nothing quite like playing at Lord's © Getty Images
Enlarge
The very thought of playing at Lord's is intimidating to many batsmen. So the actual act of walking with your pads on, from the dressing room on the first floor, through the famous long room and onto the ground can really give you goose pimples.

Having played at a host of grounds across the world, I generally think that once you cross the white line and take guard to face the bowler, everything else fades into oblivion. The only thing that remains is the task at hand: how to face the next ball. But that's only true in general. At Lord's, it actually is a whole different ball game.

I got an opportunity to play on cricket's most famous ground in a fun game some time ago, and then again a few weeks ago for the MCC against a combined side from Europe. It wasn't a Test or even a first-class game, but I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I walked to the middle. It was almost eerie.

I had grown up hearing about the slope at the ground and how it affects playing conditions, but had never had the chance to experience it myself. And frankly, after playing a few years of league cricket in England on all sorts of grounds - some with slopes and even humps on the playing square, I really didn't think too much about it. That may have been a mistake.

The slope is very pronounced. As soon as you take guard and stand in your stance, you realise what it's all about. You're either falling backwards or falling forwards. I've exaggerated a bit - you don't actually fall, but then even a slight adjustment in real cricket can be quite a job. And it's not just your stance you have to worry about - there's almost always a world-class bowler running in to get you out.

When you finally manage to get used to the slope, you tend to play for it: when you're batting at the Pavilion End, for instance, the slope takes the ball away from the right-hander, and you tend to play outside the line to compensate. A delivery that seems to be going straight tends to shape away after pitching; and the opposite happens from the other end. So you're either playing outside the line or inside to compensate for the movement off the pitch caused by the slope. This is why, if the ball manages to hold its line after pitching, it feels like it has done a lot. But replays often show that it didn't really do that much after all.

It's essential for you as a bowler to hold your action till the very last minute, making sure that your head or front arm don't fall away, to ensure that you hit the right areas. If your wrist or shoulder drop too early, it tends to send the ball way down the leg- or off side

From what I've said so far, Lord's may seem like a bowler's paradise, but that's not really the case. I spoke to Chris Silverwood, the Middlesex fast bowler the other day, and he told me that it's quite difficult for a bowler to adjust to the slope. It's essential for you as a bowler to hold your action till the very last minute, making sure that your head or front arm don't fall away, to ensure that you hit the right areas. If your wrist or shoulder drop too early, it tends to send the ball way down the leg- or off side, depending on the slope. Silverwood said that a lot of bowlers, himself included, struggle to get through their first few overs without sending down a few wayward deliveries.

On the other hand, the good thing about the slope is that you can get something all through the day, if you hit the right areas consistently. Silverwood said that he had had a lot of batsmen lbw shouldering arms - they trusted the line of the ball and didn't take the slope into account while letting it go.

The toughest part is that you don't get to practise on the slope and master it. For bowlers that's not so much of a problem, since they get many more chances to get it right than batsmen, for whom it is a one-ball game.

When India walk out at Lord's, they'll have more to look out for than just the new portrait of Sir Vivian Richards in the Long Room. But it is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is currently playing league cricket in Staffordshire, and for the MCC and Lashings.

RSS Feeds: Aakash Chopra

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.
Related Links
Teams: England
Grounds: Lord's

    Trott's torment

Mark Nicholas: Cricket - batting specifically - defines Jonathan Trott, which makes his continued suffering all the more painful

    'Commentators must stop stating the obvious'

Bowl at Boycs: Geoff Boycott on hyped-up TV coverage, and the appointment of Peter Moores

    All change in Pakistan's domestic structure. Again

Osman Samiuddin: A recent proposal to shake up the first-class set-up reinforces that change is the only constant in Pakistan

    The cricket tragic who bowled Bradman

Former Australian PM Bob Hawke loved cricket. And he once left the Don speechless with the force of his political convictions

Moores and the shadow of the past

Jon Hotten: His second spell as England coach might be nothing like his first, but memories of it will hover nevertheless

News | Features Last 7 days

Crunch time for Sehwag and Gambhir

The former Indian openers haven't been shining lately, but the IPL presents an opportunity for them to show their class

England's Pietersen folly

They were making good progress in building a world-class side, but not getting rid of Kevin Pietersen after the texting saga in 2012 cost them greatly

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it

'Sri Lankan fans embrace the team, not just icon players'

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara go over their World T20 win, and feel grateful to have fans whose support remains unwavering in victory and defeat

The captain's blunder

Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi

News | Features Last 7 days