June 17, 2012

A short-ball exam that young batsmen are failing

Jonny Bairstow and Suresh Raina are talented players who Test cricket shouldn't lose; they lack a skill that can be easily taught

Watching the trials and tribulations of Jonny Bairstow as he faced a short-pitched onslaught from the West Indies pace bowlers took my mind back 12 months to when Suresh Raina faced a similar assault by the England attack.

I was also reminded of what that excellent England paceman and part-time poet John Snow said in the sixties: "The bouncer is a short and emphatic examination paper that you put to the batsman." Both the on-field actions of pace bowlers and Snow's comment are ample reason for coaches of talented young batsmen to think carefully about the way they prepare players for the future. Any coach fortunate enough to have a young batsman who he thinks is skilled enough to reach the international level should automatically have his pupil learn the full repertoire of shots. If that mission is accomplished, the player, on reaching the international level, will have the option of deciding which shots he employs on the day, depending on the opposition bowlers and the prevailing conditions.

If the young batsman isn't fully prepared, he faces the daunting prospect of trying to survive at the highest level while fighting with one hand tied behind his back.

My South Australian captain, Les Favell, a fierce proponent of the horizontal bat shots, often said: "At international level you must be able to hook or cut to succeed and it's better if you can play both." This is wise counsel for the simple reason that Test fast bowlers tend to take a quick look at a young player's technique and if that appears to be in order, they apply Snow's examination paper. This approach is designed to find out if the young batsman is really determined to have a long stay in the middle or if he'd rather be back by the hotel swimming pool, sipping on a piña colada.

It's imperative that batsmen not only survive but prosper against the short ball. It's possible for a batsman to take a boxer's approach of bobbing and weaving for a while but against better attacks that method has a limited life span. Raina found this out in the series against England.

Cricketers have a saying: "There are two types of hook. The one played out of fright and the other played by choice." The former is easy to spot because it ends up resembling a "get away from me" shot. After being constantly badgered by the English quick bowlers, Raina eventually lashed out like that at Trent Bridge, only to be caught off a top-edged hook.

Both Bairstow and Raina are talented players with the skill to make big scores in the Test arena. The game needs young players like them to succeed, because they are extremely entertaining cricketers. If they fall short of expectations, it could be the result of inadequate preparation for a future at Test level. This failure could either be because of not being taught the full repertoire of shots at a young age, or some poor advice to shelve the hook or pull at an early stage in their career.

Cricket has made some tremendous advances in the process of becoming fully professional at international level. However, I'm not sure enough thought has been given to the preparation of young players for a possible international future. Putting the best coaches in charge of the most talented young cricketers would be a good start.

Cricket can't afford to have talented individuals fall short of the international level purely because their technique failed. Temperament can be a matter of fortune but skill can be honed.

Hopefully Bairstow and Raina will get their games sorted out and go on to have successful Test careers. If they don't, it will most likely be because they failed the John Snow examination.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    If you are good batsman no matter if you grew up on a bouncy or spinning track you will have the skill to play all types of bowling with reasonable comfort. Poor cricketing upbringing is main reason why most batsmen suffer from inability to handle certain type of bowling. If your basic batting technique (Stance, Grip, footwork, balance etc) are correct then by and large one should be able handle different types bowling with reasonable comfort. On the other hand if your talent is built on pure 'courage' you are bound to be exposed sooner or later (Raina, Shewag etc. great talent but !!). Basic technique correction should be done when kids are starting the game and not try correcting when you have started playing first class and international matches. If likes of Tendulkar ,Dravid , Gavaskar or Mohinder ( I may add Sashtri, Gaikwad and Viswanth to the list) have handled bouncing deliveries with reasonable comfort, it is because they all possessed well structured basic batting technique.

  • Srinivas on June 19, 2012, 20:35 GMT

    @Hammond, I guess you didn't understand what xylo said. He said if you are good at spotting it, then the batsman should be fine. Bevan wasn't good at spotting it and so are Raina and little Jonny boy.

  • Srinivas on June 19, 2012, 20:18 GMT

    Ducking and swaying away are excellent choices against the bouncer. It all boils down to how good and quick you are in judging the length of the ball. If you are excellent at focusing on that aspect of a delivery, you won't end in an awkward position of fending a bouncer off your face or throat. IMO, there's no need for the hook shot to be employed as Dravid amply displayed. He takes it out only if needed as per the situation. If a batsman is an excellent judge of the length, there should be no problem.

  • Geoffrey on June 19, 2012, 13:00 GMT

    @xylo- no in test cricket it is patently not good enough. If you can't play the short ball then in test cricket they will keep giving it to you. Hence Michael Bevan averaged 53 in odis and 29 in test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2012, 1:54 GMT

    i hope coaches and selectors visit this site daily and read what they can do to improve their side

  • Vikram on June 18, 2012, 19:52 GMT

    I am not a cricketer myself, but given it is Test cricket where the run-rate is not the top thing on the agenda, if a batsman is good at spotting a bouncer and can get out of the way, isn't that good enough?

  • Kaze on June 18, 2012, 19:24 GMT

    Apparently Ian Chappel forget about one Steve Waugh, you don't have to hook the short all just don't play it. And no one has to give Raina respect, respect is earned and he looked like rubbish in England.

  • Santosh on June 18, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    @bismoy if Raina will be next Lara then Bismoy will be next Richie Benaud.

  • Santosh on June 18, 2012, 19:01 GMT

    @contrast_swing:I absolutely agree with you. Raina is a one shot player(Swat over mid-wicket) and without a doubt a great team man and fielder.Any intelligent captain like Shane Warne will have a fielder at deep mid-wicket and bowl wide of off-stump to him. In IPL3 Warne got Raina twice bowling that line.Raina probably needs to change his stance and he is talented and of course he has the right temperament.But looking at the reserves in the Indian test line up. He is highly unlikely to be in 14 men team for NZL and ENG test series. Why is he not in India-A team to WI. You cannot take IPL performances into consideration for test team selection.If he is selected into the Indian test team then BCCI may have missed the bus once again of not selecting the right people for test team. My Team: Gautam,V.Sehwag,Che Pujara,SRT, Virat,VVS ,MSD, Harbajan, Ojha,Zaheer, Umesh Yadav, Rohit(12th),Rahul Sharma, Aaron. Reserves Rahane, Ashwin, Mukund, M.Tiwary, S.Dhawan, Rayudu -- Jai Hind

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2012, 15:08 GMT

    i know raina just dint play well in england .he played superbly in west indies and was the third highest run scorer in the test series . he even plays well in indian soil and scored a lot even in sri lanka. we should respect his talent

  • No featured comments at the moment.