October 17, 2013

Stillness in the stance isn't what we might think it is

The real characteristic of good players in form is not the immobility of the head but rhythm and poise
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Two interests that have long fascinated me are 1) how to hit a cricket ball and 2) how conventional wisdom is often wrong. Only now, aged 36, have I joined up the dots and considered whether the first issue falls into the category of the second.

Last month I played my annual round of golf. As you would expect from someone who plays 18 holes a year - 36 at a push - it was a pretty mixed outing. But it was better than usual. In previous years, when my swing disintegrated, I relied on the usual clich├ęs, especially an old classic: "Keep your head still." Typically, however, as soon I became fixated on not allowing my head to move, and on instead keeping it rooted directly above the ball, things got worse rather than better. I tend to lose all naturalness and rhythm in my swing, and with them the ability to time the ball.

So this year I thought I'd try something new. I followed a piece of advice a friend passed on from a swing guru called Jimmy Ballard. He permits the idea that your head - and your whole body - moves slightly backwards and then forwards before the club hits the ball. Indeed, he encourages it. Without that essential movement, Ballard argues, you are contorting your natural impulse about how to strike a ball.

Ballard's technique is often wrongly called "a sway"; indeed, most people think it is something that should be eradicated from their swing. But Ballard argues that most great players have always moved in this manner, admittedly to the appropriate degree - i.e. not too much, but not too little either. In other words, making a fetish out of keeping your head still is counterproductive.

Now let's turn to cricket. As in golf, the "head still" school of batsmanship is extremely popular. Martin Crowe, one of the best technicians I ever watched, wrote a fascinating article last year for ESPNcricinfo about keeping your eyes still and level. Alec Stewart told me recently that Shane Watson attributed his prolific form at the end of the Ashes series to a piece of advice from Ricky Ponting. Ponting had encouraged Watson to keep the visor of his helmet absolutely level. This would help him to stop "falling over" to the off side and getting lbw, as Watson had done during the early stages of the Ashes.

Indeed, in the thousands of hours I've spent talking to professional batsmen about technique, the most common theme is that they believe good form derives from keeping the head still. Who am I to argue with such an overwhelming majority?

Nonetheless, here is my conjecture. The feeling of your head being still, so often a symptom of good form, is actually an illusion. Your head is moving. But it is moving in a balanced, controlled manner. After all, your body has to move if you are to play shots, and by definition (given that your head is attached to your body) your head must move with it. "Stillness" is a quality many feel convinced lies at the heart of their game. But I suspect a more accurate term is poise. Poise captures the idea of balance within movement.

Aha, the "head still" school counters: but your head must be still at the point of delivery (this was the point articulated so clearly by Crowe). It is true that Sachin Tendulkar, for example, keeps his head exceptionally still. But other players move their heads significantly - and close to the point of delivery. Allan Border sank at the knees, so his head necessarily moved - see here.

To my eyes (still and level as I watch the screen), Border's eyes dip significantly very close to the point of delivery. It is part of the dynamic movement of his shot. He has poise, he is balanced as he moves, but he is not actually "still" at any moment, particularly close to the ball being delivered. Marcus Trescothick did something similar.

With other great players, their preliminary movement takes them into "the channel" outside off stump. This is particularly true of great leg-side players - think of Mohammad Azharuddin or Sir Vivian Richards (no specified Youtube clip for Sir Viv - why limit the pleasure to just one?). This movement towards mid-off and the bowler helps what Greg Chappell calls "unweighting". Get ready to move towards the ball, Chappell says, and you will necessarily get your body into the correct, dynamic position.

To help them with this, many great players make tiny sways of their body, almost a rocking motion, in order to get in sync with the arrival of the ball - much as in Jimmy Ballard's golf technique. There is no way of doing this without your head moving, as your head moves when your body moves. Here is Boycott, a master of poise in everything he did, facing Holding - watch especially from 29 seconds into the clip.

In focusing too much on stillness, you risk jeopardising the other things that make batting work: fluidity, naturalness, being in sync with the ball

Boycott told me when we commentated together for the BBC this summer that it was vital for the head to be still at the point of delivery. Of course, if the point of delivery is defined sufficiently precisely - i.e. as a tiny fraction of a second - then the head isn't moving much. The head never moves much in any given tiny fraction of a second. But over a reasonable period of time, as they prepare for the ball to arrive, the real characteristic of good players in form is not stillness but rhythm and poise - exactly what Boycott is doing in that clip.

Here is my central point. In focusing too much on stillness, you risk jeopardising the other things that make batting work: fluidity, naturalness, being in sync with the ball.

I don't doubt the honesty of the hundreds of top players who rate stillness as the most important thing. But there is a difference between what we feel happens and what actually happens. Soon, no doubt, scientists will add a little silicon chip inside the helmet that records exactly how batsmen move as they prepare and execute their shots. When this happens, my prediction is that we will discover the following counter-intuitive facts: in the milliseconds before the ball is delivered, batsmen in form move more than batsmen who are out of form (who are often rigid and static). But the fluidity and poise of good batting creates the illusion of stillness - both to observers and in the batsman's own mind.

I have some personal history here. I was never taught "to keep my head still" until I was in my early 20s. But around that stage it became pretty much the only advice I received. All we talked about was never moving the head, how it had to remain absolutely static. My batting went backwards fast. All the things "keeping my head still" was supposed to cure (falling over to the off side and getting lbw, playing at balls outside the off stump, etc) it in fact made worse. The advice became the malady dressed up as the remedy.

Then, aged about 24, I started to bat once again how I'd played as a child, and enjoyed the best few years of my career. Now, when I play cricket just for fun, all I think about is trying to get my body and feet moving in sync with the ball. My basic technique is in some ways better now, when I bat only a handful of days a year, than when I batted 200 days a year.

This website is fortunate to call upon some of the insights of some of the finest technicians who ever played the game, including Boycott, Rahul Dravid and Crowe. I learned a great deal from watching all three of them. In the case of Dravid, in the 2000 first-class season I was lucky enough to have the best seat in the house at the other end of the wicket. I am happy to yield to their greater expertise about the art of batsmanship.

But I hope cricket will be kinder to left-field, irreverent thinking about technique than golf is. Jimmy Ballard helped more champions - Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Sandy Lyle, Curtis Strange and a host of others - than almost any other coach. And yet the golf establishment won't even give him official status as a coach.

Ed Smith's latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • landl47 on October 18, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    Interesting article. The way I would express it is that there is a difference between 'still' and 'frozen'. If what the batsman is concentrating on is keeping his head still, it becomes frozen and he can't move the rest of his body because it would break the freeze. That leads to unnatural movement of the arms and legs, loss of balance and, as the article says, even greater movement. The head is still at the point of delivery, but by the time the ball arrives it's moving all over the place.

    'Poise' is a good word, but I prefer the simple 'balance'. The batsman should always feel balanced, as though he is in a position to move in any way he wants without losing control over any part of his body. If the batsman is balanced, then his head will naturally be still, or at least as still as it needs to be.

    Tendulkar has great balance, but the best balanced batsman I ever saw was Sobers. He was also the best batsman, full stop.

    I had awful balance. It's the big 'if only' of my life.

  • Whispering_Holding on October 17, 2013, 23:30 GMT

    Nice article Ed, makes me wonder about coaching and being over coached and the effect that can have on nature and personalised style. I remember Lara jumping into his shots after head nods on the way to 400 n.o against Harmison et al. What about Chanderpaul walking crablike into his shot, his head becomes still after he has hit it. Or Sir Ian shifting his weight about as he tries winds up for the big one. What about Gilchrist always on the move towards the ball and hitting in front of the ball, even his pull shots, because he had that much time. Conversely, Gayle will murder you out the ground as he picks up his bat and remains absolutely still, waiting for the ball, but that's just the way he bats. Coaching obviously helps but naturalness and sheer talent, gift or gumption, whatever you will always makes the difference.

  • jb633 on October 17, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    I do a fair bit of coaching with the younger lads at my club and it's really interesting to read articles that challenge the traditional way of thinking. I am not one for drilling technique into youngsters and I think the most important aspects of batting are watch the ball, transfer the weight into the shot and show some mental courage. I agree that grilling people on technical aspects ruins the game for many as it becomes boring and inhibits their natural ability. Growing up being a leggie myself I think this problem is even worse for bowling. I was told constantly to change my action for x y and z reasons and it ended with me getting 3 stress fractures in the spine. I like the way the asian youngsters come into the game with their own techniques, raw from tennis ball or street cricket and tear up the scene aged 17. Too much coaching will damage the players IMO. Try and teach kids the basics and let their natural ability do most of the talking.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on October 17, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    It's ok to move your head around when the ball doesn't move. When the ball moves, you need to keep your head (still) and move your feet. Conventional wisdom advocates stillness, so that it may become easier for the eye to predict the ball's trajectory before and after pitching. Stillness doesn't help if one doesn't watch the ball all the way till the bat contacts the ball. Nor would it help much if the ball contacts the bat instead of the bat contacting the ball. Stillness is about what you do when the ball is released and definitely not as important as what you do after the ball is released. Cricket is a simple game to play. Really!

  • py0alb on October 17, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    What you're describing Ed, is what happens when coaches pass on advice that they have been told "works" without actually understanding the biomechanical reasoning behind it. The fact that it happened to you as a professional is an indictment of how common this problem is. Its not just in cricket that this happens, I might add. Its a common problem when ex-players with limited technical knowledge turn to coaching and simply pass on the faulty advice that happened to work for them.

    The movement of the head is of paramount importance when batting, the better position you get your head in to see each delivery, the better chance you have of finding the middle of the bat. However the best way to move your head is not as simple as just saying "keep your head still". I won't go into the technicalities here but although that is generally good advice, it's not all there is to it. Unfortunately, "generally good advice" is not good enough for a player over the age of 15.

  • ygkd on October 19, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    There are two distinct parts to batting to a ball. First is the watching of the ball. There the head should be still, I think, throughout the process. However, as much as we might tell a kid to watch all the way onto the bat, this only works at snail-pace. In serious cricket, against pace and movement, it is probably not possible to watch the ball that far. You have to move onto the second part of the process - ie. hitting the thing - and that switchover seems to happen when the ball is about halfway down the pitch. Now, the human eye can only process about a dozen images a second individually, any more and they blur, which is why a film frame rate of 24 is perceived as motion. The processing of live action must also limit how much the ball's path can be watched & processed, although if you could watch it that bit later it must be a serious advantage and moving your head inappropriately will not help. Not moving it at all though, is surely impractical and impedes striking the ball.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 18, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    It was certain to me, that Gavaskar didn't move his head via his neck, but by moving his body. Apparently to me, if the neck doesn't move, then the body anticipates where the delivery will pitch, and the body moves. If the neck moves, then the body does not move as required. V. V. S. Laxman is another batsman, whose neck was quite still. He used to take small steps back and forth, not in an alarming manner. He is a batsman who could be a great judge on where the delivery pitched.

  • on October 18, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Whwn we say 'HEAD' don't we actually mean eyes, the same eyes that need to compute to the brain where the ball is going to land anf there for must watch for around the first 4-6 meteres of the ball leaving the hand, the rest is how well you have built up your muscle memory.

  • bobagorof on October 18, 2013, 2:02 GMT

    I find it amusing that in the clip the author mentions where Boycott is swaying, he nicks the ball behind and only survives because the cordon misses the chance. This example is hardly a ringing endorsement for the argument.

  • on October 17, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    A good article. But one thing is that head stillness cn be subject to calmness of batsman while he is playing his shot. If a batsman is in his form then he composer will always keep his all parts of body in correct position which also includes the head.So keep the head calm to keep the head still.

  • landl47 on October 18, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    Interesting article. The way I would express it is that there is a difference between 'still' and 'frozen'. If what the batsman is concentrating on is keeping his head still, it becomes frozen and he can't move the rest of his body because it would break the freeze. That leads to unnatural movement of the arms and legs, loss of balance and, as the article says, even greater movement. The head is still at the point of delivery, but by the time the ball arrives it's moving all over the place.

    'Poise' is a good word, but I prefer the simple 'balance'. The batsman should always feel balanced, as though he is in a position to move in any way he wants without losing control over any part of his body. If the batsman is balanced, then his head will naturally be still, or at least as still as it needs to be.

    Tendulkar has great balance, but the best balanced batsman I ever saw was Sobers. He was also the best batsman, full stop.

    I had awful balance. It's the big 'if only' of my life.

  • Whispering_Holding on October 17, 2013, 23:30 GMT

    Nice article Ed, makes me wonder about coaching and being over coached and the effect that can have on nature and personalised style. I remember Lara jumping into his shots after head nods on the way to 400 n.o against Harmison et al. What about Chanderpaul walking crablike into his shot, his head becomes still after he has hit it. Or Sir Ian shifting his weight about as he tries winds up for the big one. What about Gilchrist always on the move towards the ball and hitting in front of the ball, even his pull shots, because he had that much time. Conversely, Gayle will murder you out the ground as he picks up his bat and remains absolutely still, waiting for the ball, but that's just the way he bats. Coaching obviously helps but naturalness and sheer talent, gift or gumption, whatever you will always makes the difference.

  • jb633 on October 17, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    I do a fair bit of coaching with the younger lads at my club and it's really interesting to read articles that challenge the traditional way of thinking. I am not one for drilling technique into youngsters and I think the most important aspects of batting are watch the ball, transfer the weight into the shot and show some mental courage. I agree that grilling people on technical aspects ruins the game for many as it becomes boring and inhibits their natural ability. Growing up being a leggie myself I think this problem is even worse for bowling. I was told constantly to change my action for x y and z reasons and it ended with me getting 3 stress fractures in the spine. I like the way the asian youngsters come into the game with their own techniques, raw from tennis ball or street cricket and tear up the scene aged 17. Too much coaching will damage the players IMO. Try and teach kids the basics and let their natural ability do most of the talking.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on October 17, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    It's ok to move your head around when the ball doesn't move. When the ball moves, you need to keep your head (still) and move your feet. Conventional wisdom advocates stillness, so that it may become easier for the eye to predict the ball's trajectory before and after pitching. Stillness doesn't help if one doesn't watch the ball all the way till the bat contacts the ball. Nor would it help much if the ball contacts the bat instead of the bat contacting the ball. Stillness is about what you do when the ball is released and definitely not as important as what you do after the ball is released. Cricket is a simple game to play. Really!

  • py0alb on October 17, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    What you're describing Ed, is what happens when coaches pass on advice that they have been told "works" without actually understanding the biomechanical reasoning behind it. The fact that it happened to you as a professional is an indictment of how common this problem is. Its not just in cricket that this happens, I might add. Its a common problem when ex-players with limited technical knowledge turn to coaching and simply pass on the faulty advice that happened to work for them.

    The movement of the head is of paramount importance when batting, the better position you get your head in to see each delivery, the better chance you have of finding the middle of the bat. However the best way to move your head is not as simple as just saying "keep your head still". I won't go into the technicalities here but although that is generally good advice, it's not all there is to it. Unfortunately, "generally good advice" is not good enough for a player over the age of 15.

  • ygkd on October 19, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    There are two distinct parts to batting to a ball. First is the watching of the ball. There the head should be still, I think, throughout the process. However, as much as we might tell a kid to watch all the way onto the bat, this only works at snail-pace. In serious cricket, against pace and movement, it is probably not possible to watch the ball that far. You have to move onto the second part of the process - ie. hitting the thing - and that switchover seems to happen when the ball is about halfway down the pitch. Now, the human eye can only process about a dozen images a second individually, any more and they blur, which is why a film frame rate of 24 is perceived as motion. The processing of live action must also limit how much the ball's path can be watched & processed, although if you could watch it that bit later it must be a serious advantage and moving your head inappropriately will not help. Not moving it at all though, is surely impractical and impedes striking the ball.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 18, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    It was certain to me, that Gavaskar didn't move his head via his neck, but by moving his body. Apparently to me, if the neck doesn't move, then the body anticipates where the delivery will pitch, and the body moves. If the neck moves, then the body does not move as required. V. V. S. Laxman is another batsman, whose neck was quite still. He used to take small steps back and forth, not in an alarming manner. He is a batsman who could be a great judge on where the delivery pitched.

  • on October 18, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Whwn we say 'HEAD' don't we actually mean eyes, the same eyes that need to compute to the brain where the ball is going to land anf there for must watch for around the first 4-6 meteres of the ball leaving the hand, the rest is how well you have built up your muscle memory.

  • bobagorof on October 18, 2013, 2:02 GMT

    I find it amusing that in the clip the author mentions where Boycott is swaying, he nicks the ball behind and only survives because the cordon misses the chance. This example is hardly a ringing endorsement for the argument.

  • on October 17, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    A good article. But one thing is that head stillness cn be subject to calmness of batsman while he is playing his shot. If a batsman is in his form then he composer will always keep his all parts of body in correct position which also includes the head.So keep the head calm to keep the head still.

  • on October 17, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    Crowe and Ponting use the term 'level' - keep your eyes level. Slightly different to head still. Most golf coaches say the same thing - that's important to keep your head more or less level (not dipping or rising). Some lateral movement is fine, to assist weight transition from the back to front foot which is a key in consistent ball striking, especially in golf. Westwood and Woods do dip their heads a little prior to impact so again always exceptions.

  • on October 17, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    No part of textbook technique should be taken as an absolute, and certainly not at the exclusion of natural flow. This includes holding your head still - it will not make you a good batsman on its own, and it may actually hinder other key elements of your technique.

    However, I do believe that excessive head movement can sometimes be a problem, not because of vision, but because it can hinder the rhythm and poise Ed alludes to. In much the same way that Eoin Morgan's trigger movement became more and more extreme, causing his form to dip, I think that if a batsman starts to move his/her head more than usual, it will cause problems.

    That said, I'm no interventionist - I always believe that technique should not be changed unless it's not working.

  • on October 17, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    Ed, in terms of batting skills, technique et al, I am reminded of something Rohan Gavaskar once said he learned from his dad about batting. It was something along the lines of - Productive batsmanship is about using the bat to send the ball away from fielders. A batsman should do it the way he is most comfortable doing. Let the guys with the mike bother about trivial things like technique, still head, perfect bat-swing, footwork et al. There can be no arguments with a shot executed, which requires the fielding side to fetch rather than catch the ball.

  • SamRoy on October 17, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    Nothing matters as long as you can score runs. Technique actually is overhyped.

  • wittgenstein on October 17, 2013, 15:43 GMT

    You are totally correct on this Ed. There is much rubbish taught about batting technique, the biggest one of which it is a 'side on game'. This when combined with 'keep your head still' makes me admire some of the people who have been successful at batting. How well they overcame the intrinsic flawed approach drilled into them and still manage to score runs.Batting coaching has struggled to wrench free from the original ploys adopted against the moving ball and the fact that umpires did not often give front foot lbw's.'Get the foot close to the ball', was good advice to present the widest possible obstacle to being bowled. That it completely got the batsman in the wrong position, made him prone to giving catches to slip and put him in the wrong position to play leg side shots without having to work around the front leg was overlooked. It will take decades to correct.

  • laughinglion on October 17, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    Ed I think your point is actually supported by Watson's recovery over the summer - whether his head was particularly level or not, at the Oval he seemed to introduce a little trigger movement where he pulled his front foot back towards himself immediately prior to the moment of delivery, so his weight was on the move and ready to 'swing' into the shot, much like a baseball batter. Seemed to work pretty well!

  • concerned_cricketer on October 17, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    It's all relative. It's all moving anyways - because the earth itself is constantly moving. Lookign at it that way, even Sehwag's feet are moving! No wonder he scored so many baffling coaches all over the world. :)

  • Green_and_Gold on October 17, 2013, 13:01 GMT

    Coming from a high standard of cricket you could argue that the basic set up of batsman is already pretty good, in relation to this article you could say that batsman at that level dont move their heads around much anyway. I would also suggest that 'keeping the head still' does not necessarily mean keeping it dead still but rather not moving it around outside of keeping a solid base (batsman do have to move forward/backward when playing the ball). A slight sway will not throw a batsman off their balance however bigger movements will affect balance and ability to watch and focus on a moving ball. I would say that after watching the border clip that he did keep his head still esp at point of contact.

  • on October 17, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    This is similar to the 'watch the ball onto the bat' advice regularly meted out. I remember some video in the nets of Allan Lamb on one of the first super slo-mo cameras that showed he had his eyes closed at and just before the point of contact. He did OK didn't he.

  • Basingrad on October 17, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    I think Ed is spot on - the evidence for me lies in batting against a bowling machine. With nobody running in at you, no hand for your eyes to follow, it is incredibly difficult to get into the rhythm of the ball. The static machine spitting a ball at you naturally makes you more static as a batsman and you really have to tell yourself to get your feet moving - just to get moving in general, which you need to do. It doesn't feel natural against a bowling machine as a result and the ball feels like it's coming down at you at least 5mph quicker than it is. I tend to think that a perfectly still head encourages flat-footedness and that is what will get you out.

    I would suggest another good example is to watch Andy Murray, probably the best returner of serve in the world, dealing with really heavy servers. He is not still: he is trying to anticipate and find the rhythm of the ball so that he can time his return.

  • Katey on October 17, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    There are a number of subjects where the evidence isn't sufficient to justify the conclusions drawn, imho. One is why the ball swings or doesn't swing. I've heard so many explanations of this - the weather, the speed, the way the bowler holds the ball - that it strikes me that no-one really knows.

    If Ed is in an iconoclastic mood, maybe he could give us something on this? Please.

  • HumpmeDumpme on October 17, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    Ed....don't you wish that all the things you know now, you knew then. If at 20 I understood my game as well as at 30, I would have scored a bucket load of runs..... This gives credence to the saying "youth is wasted on the young"

  • on October 17, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    This batting style is not always good with many. Only fews like Lara and few others would do.Nowadays batsmen are more on to asian method of playing and its more convenient.

  • Lets_Bash_Indians on October 17, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    keep your head still, or keep your bottom still, ENG is set to fail in Aus by 2-1 or 3-0, Neither KP's proclaimed Sachin Tendulkar (COOK) gonna save em' , nor the grass god james anderson. we can Assume some performances from Broad.

  • on October 17, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    The only player whose head ( plus the entire body ) remains perfectly still at the point of delivery is Sachin Tendulkar. Even Sunny Gavaskar's head used to move a little. Interestingly Sunny's head and hand position, after his shuffle, are so much similar to Ab De Villiers', - for batsmen of contrasting natures, this is one striking similarity.

  • Romanticstud on October 17, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    I think keeping ones head still is impossible to play a proper cricket shot ... maybe as @azzaman333 refers to focusing on the ball at all times until the ball has hit the bat ... but then I have noticed that some batsman watch the ball further than that ... Ricky Ponting, I recall in pursuit of a grand prize ... a bar of gold ... watched in dismay that at first he had the belief that he had hit the ball spot on ... but it was actually too good as it sailed over the target and out of the ground ... another incident was in the 2011 world cup ... where Jacques Kallis nicked the ball and immediately turned to see if the ball was being caught .. after it was caught just above the ground ... he asked the fielder if he had caught it ... the answer was yes ... Kallis walked ...

  • TATTUs on October 17, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    A batsman in form does not know that his head is still while hitting the ball, he doesnt care about his head but just about the ball. One who watches him gets to know that the head is still and tries to emulate him. But the problem is he concentrates too much on his head and other things that he forgets about the ball. He does not bother to think that the batsman thinking about and looking at the ball naturally gets his head and other movements correct and hits the correct shot. Head will be still for a batsman who is in good form, but not because he wants to keep it still, but because he concentrates hard on the ball to be hit.

  • Rahulbose on October 17, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    Whenever I have heard great players talk of keeping head still, I understood it as a reference to not moving your head sideways or up-down. Bobble head makes you loose your balance which is crucial in getting into good position. It has never meant to stay still as in not move at all.

  • jimbond on October 17, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    True, there is no technique that cannot be improved, and no knowledge that does not need refinement. And no batsman is perfect- even Bradman could not score in his last innings. It is only left field thinking that can improve anything in the long run. Good to see Ed Smith innovating from his experience.

  • azzaman333 on October 17, 2013, 2:55 GMT

    I've recently come around to thinking that keeping your head still doesn't literally mean keep your head still. It actually means watch the ball all the way onto the bat, with no concern for where it will be going after you hit it, and that creates the illusion of stillness.

  • azzaman333 on October 17, 2013, 2:55 GMT

    I've recently come around to thinking that keeping your head still doesn't literally mean keep your head still. It actually means watch the ball all the way onto the bat, with no concern for where it will be going after you hit it, and that creates the illusion of stillness.

  • jimbond on October 17, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    True, there is no technique that cannot be improved, and no knowledge that does not need refinement. And no batsman is perfect- even Bradman could not score in his last innings. It is only left field thinking that can improve anything in the long run. Good to see Ed Smith innovating from his experience.

  • Rahulbose on October 17, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    Whenever I have heard great players talk of keeping head still, I understood it as a reference to not moving your head sideways or up-down. Bobble head makes you loose your balance which is crucial in getting into good position. It has never meant to stay still as in not move at all.

  • TATTUs on October 17, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    A batsman in form does not know that his head is still while hitting the ball, he doesnt care about his head but just about the ball. One who watches him gets to know that the head is still and tries to emulate him. But the problem is he concentrates too much on his head and other things that he forgets about the ball. He does not bother to think that the batsman thinking about and looking at the ball naturally gets his head and other movements correct and hits the correct shot. Head will be still for a batsman who is in good form, but not because he wants to keep it still, but because he concentrates hard on the ball to be hit.

  • Romanticstud on October 17, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    I think keeping ones head still is impossible to play a proper cricket shot ... maybe as @azzaman333 refers to focusing on the ball at all times until the ball has hit the bat ... but then I have noticed that some batsman watch the ball further than that ... Ricky Ponting, I recall in pursuit of a grand prize ... a bar of gold ... watched in dismay that at first he had the belief that he had hit the ball spot on ... but it was actually too good as it sailed over the target and out of the ground ... another incident was in the 2011 world cup ... where Jacques Kallis nicked the ball and immediately turned to see if the ball was being caught .. after it was caught just above the ground ... he asked the fielder if he had caught it ... the answer was yes ... Kallis walked ...

  • on October 17, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    The only player whose head ( plus the entire body ) remains perfectly still at the point of delivery is Sachin Tendulkar. Even Sunny Gavaskar's head used to move a little. Interestingly Sunny's head and hand position, after his shuffle, are so much similar to Ab De Villiers', - for batsmen of contrasting natures, this is one striking similarity.

  • Lets_Bash_Indians on October 17, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    keep your head still, or keep your bottom still, ENG is set to fail in Aus by 2-1 or 3-0, Neither KP's proclaimed Sachin Tendulkar (COOK) gonna save em' , nor the grass god james anderson. we can Assume some performances from Broad.

  • on October 17, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    This batting style is not always good with many. Only fews like Lara and few others would do.Nowadays batsmen are more on to asian method of playing and its more convenient.

  • HumpmeDumpme on October 17, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    Ed....don't you wish that all the things you know now, you knew then. If at 20 I understood my game as well as at 30, I would have scored a bucket load of runs..... This gives credence to the saying "youth is wasted on the young"

  • Katey on October 17, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    There are a number of subjects where the evidence isn't sufficient to justify the conclusions drawn, imho. One is why the ball swings or doesn't swing. I've heard so many explanations of this - the weather, the speed, the way the bowler holds the ball - that it strikes me that no-one really knows.

    If Ed is in an iconoclastic mood, maybe he could give us something on this? Please.