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The no-look six is worth a look - and then some

Batters in T20 are hitting the ball miles and not caring to see where it has gone. It might seem like flex, but that's not all it is

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
Suryakumar Yadav gets down on one knee, South Africa vs India, 2nd T20I, Gqeberha, December 12, 2023

Hit ball, don't see ball: if it's an innovative shot, it will be in Suryakumar Yadav's repertoire  •  Richard Huggard/Getty Images

MS Dhoni famously hit a monster back in 2009. Martin Guptill's been hitting them since around the same time, often enough so that he could be seen as a pioneer - except, he's from New Zealand, so is hardly going to go round screaming "Trademark". Instead, if pushed, people might recall Andre Fletcher as the first guy to blow it into their lives. And these days, it is everywhere.
We are on - in case you hadn't worked out the fairly tenuous link between the three names - the no-look six, the season's new aesthetic must-have. All the white-ball kids are trying it. It lives rent-free on Tik Tok. It's also what drags cricket into the brotherhood of Big Sport, the no-look six carrying the same brio - or is it hubris? - as the no-look pass in football and basketball, and the no-look winner in tennis.
The name is slightly disingenuous, of course. It's not that batters are not looking at the ball as they strike it. That fundamental, of keeping eyes on the ball till impact, remains (and actually stands reinforced). No-look here refers to the subversion of the instinct to watch where the ball has gone after it has been hit, whether it is to make sure it was hit right, to simply admire the handiwork, or basic game awareness.
The other day in the IPL, Dewald Brevis had the cheek to dish one out to Rashid Khan, a mighty six over long-off that looked all wrong but was all right. His bat's arc swung across his own body, so it looked for all the world like he had sliced the shot, but which was to help him keep the head down at impact. And he kept it down, not needing to see what he would have known as soon as he struck it, that this one was going big.
Only a week before, Rashid was breaking the internet with his own outrageous no-look six, in Sharjah against Ireland. He flipped the ball over deep square leg and then, head bowed and bat upright by his left shoulder, held a pose that looked a bit like an old man getting the dab wrong.
Brevis is such an accomplished player of the shot that last year Suryakumar Yadav was telling him he needed to learn the shot from Brevis. It was a slightly confected conversation admittedly, but still, it was some kudos. The game's foremost 360-degree batter wants the secrets of your shot. A batter who, by the way, broke a fridge in the team dugout once with his own no-look shot.
Although it is everywhere, the shot is still in that moment of evolution where each time it's played, it is an event, fresh enough that each subsequent one is legitimately the best one you've seen yet. YouTube compilations of it are sprouting like bacterial colonies, which means two things. Every kid is going to start aping it at every level. And from here on in, in this world of quick-hit highlights and sugar-rush digital clips, there will never exist a bad-looking no-look shot.
Already on social media the shot has acquired a force of its own. Khawaja Nafay catapulted into the BPL and then the PSL this season with minimal cricket in any official pathways. Plenty of club cricket in Karachi. Also plenty of Facebook videos of him hitting immaculate no-look shots, *videos that went viral and took him to those two international T20 leagues.
Last month at the PSL, meanwhile, was an opportunity to watch some of the best-looking no-look hits, courtesy Saim Ayub. Ayub is a wisp of a batter, lovely to watch when he's going leg side. His no-look shot is a shy and sly little dab over his right shoulder that generally fizzes away for six. Instead of swivelling around and watching the ball fly off, Ayub remains crouched, head down looking at the pitch. Occasionally, like everyone else in the stadium, he gives in to the impulse to see where the ball has gone, but he checks himself immediately, as if in admonishment: do not look. Some people are reminded of Saeed Anwar when they watch Ayub flick over square leg. I am not one (yet) but if Anwar was around today, pioneer that he was, he'd be playing the no-look.
What makes the no-look special, what sets it apart, is that it comes off as a pure brag (and unlike football and basketball, is not really a tactical ploy to throw off the opponent). Most strokeplay in cricket is fixed as a response, a solution to the problems posed by the delivery and the fields set for it. No gap on the leg side? Reverse sweep. No fielder behind the keeper? Dilscoop. Two men at deep square and deep midwicket? Arch back and ramp.
The no-look can be played to any kind of field and most kinds of deliveries. It can be an orthodox shot - in some footage from Mumbai Indians nets , Brevis hits what looks to be no-look cover drives - or unorthodox ones. The batter doesn't need to see the consequences of his actions; he is so sure of them. No, the no-look shot is no response. It is the ultimate supremacy, the logical endpoint of a format that has indulged and enabled batting more than any other. It is inevitable; the establishment establishing.
Nobody does the showing off like Fletcher, whipping one away over midwicket, adding a flourish with bat and one with the eyes as he glares back at the bowler, upturning conventions of who glares at whom in cricket's central confrontation. Dhoni's no-look is a cold, uncaring assertion of authority, a dismissal of the unworthy. But the inherent flex in the shot is so powerful that even Guptill, nice Kiwi and all, can't help but come across all peacocky like KP when he plays it.
A little footnote, which should actually be part of the main text, is that the shot is not only a brag. In fact, that might be the least of it, a mere side effect. In reality, there is a rigorous technical rationale underpinning it. Ball-striking, whether a stationary ball in golf or a moving one, is most efficient when the body stays low through the swing and impact. Batters and golfers talk of staying in the shot and not lifting up, so all the power and weight from the torque of the torso, shoulders and hip is going through the shot. And then, at impact, absolute stillness, eyes locked in.
That's what stands out most watching Brevis - or even Tom Kohler-Cadmore - hit the no-look shot. It's less swag, more functional, a transferral of extensive drill work from the nets into matches. If there is showing off at all, it is of the strength of the position they get into when hitting.
It sounds slightly dorky. Good thing it looks anything but.
*Links to TikTok videos do not work on internet networks in India and elsewhere where TikTok is banned

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo