Aakash Chopra

A tale of two lbws

Bat behind the pad or alongside it? Aakash Chopra ponders the dismissals of Dravid and Tendulkar at Lord's

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra

Sachin Tendulkar was probably playing outside the line to cover the spin when Monty Panesar produced one that went straight on © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid got out leg-before in India's run-chase at Lord's. Both were accused of playing with their pads instead of their bats. Replays clearly indicated that the bat seemed to be hidden behind the pad in both cases. But does that mean that they didn't actually attempt to play the ball? My answer would be, "No".
I'll start with Sachin's dismissal - interestingly enough, the more contentious of the two, given that, on the face of it, Rahul's being given out after the ball hit him outside the line of off stump seemed the one that would raise more debate.
In Sachin's case, the ball had been spinning appreciably, if not alarmingly, away from the batsman off the surface, plus Monty Panesar was bowling from the Nursery end (so the slope was helping as well). As a batsman you tend to play outside the line of the ball to cover the spin. That's what Sachin was probably trying to do when that particular delivery held its line and thudded onto the front pad. There was no change in the bowling action on that delivery - it was definitely not the arm-ball and there was not much variation in the speed either.
Once you're hit on the pads, the immediate reaction is to push your pad as far outside the line of the off stump as possible, so as to create doubt in the umpire's mind about whether the impact was outside the line. When you push your already planted front leg further down, the bat gets hidden behind the pad. This can easily be misread as not offering a shot, but that's not always the case.
The other argument these days is that you should try and do a Kevin Pietersen by playing in front of the pads. It sounds quite good in theory and, when he does it, looks good in practice too, but for someone who's not quite so tall it's a difficult proposition. If you don't have long legs, when you attempt to play in front of the pads you could end up with a very short forward stride, which goes against the chief principle of playing spin bowling - getting to the pitch of the ball.
Secondly, if you've been brought up playing on square turners in the subcontinent, playing beside the pad is the obvious option. Having said that, even when you're playing beside the pad, the bat is generally slightly in front - though not as much as in Pietersen's case.
You can't really afford to play with your bat way in front or you'll be swallowed easily by the close-in fielders. Moreover, if it's turning square or bouncing a lot off the surface, you have to play a lot of balls with your pads since, if you have a decent stride in, that rules out the lbw option. (You do that to Murali when he's pitching way outside off stump, or when Harbhajan Singh is getting that disconcerting bounce that he does).
Some might, of course, take the argument that in Sachin's case, it wasn't turning square; plus, it was Lord's (not Green Park or the Kotla) but then, one has to take that call - whether to play inside the line or outside - out in the middle, based on the percentages.
The only problem with playing inside the line is that you run the risk of the ball finding the outside edge. Sachin might well do the same for the rest of the series with success, but even a genius can err once in a while.

Rahul Dravid's dismissal was a case of trusting the shine and the seam and getting beaten © Getty Images
I'm certainly not advocating that you play with your pads, merely saying playing with your pads occasionally isn't as big a crime as it has been made out to be, considering that different surfaces call for different techniques.
As for Rahul's dismissal, it was more a case of trusting the shine and the seam and getting beaten, than anything else. The shine and the seam indicated that the ball was going to move away from him, but instead it came back in after pitching. Maybe the slope had something to do with it.
That sort of thing can happen to anyone, especially early in his innings. And yes, while it's more or less a batsman's game, you also have to give credit to the bowlers where it's due. In the final analysis, you need a certain amount of luck to survive. On Sunday, neither Sachin nor Rahul had that.

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