Batting Technique


Every time a batsman faces a ball he must decide what shot, if any, to play at it. This decision is usually made in a split second, while the ball is travelling down the pitch towards him from the bowler's hand - although in some cases a shot can be premeditated.

The type of shot played depends on several factors:

Usually, the most important goal is to not get out. Scoring runs is secondary. This can change if the game is in a situation where runs must be scored at a certain rate to avoid defeat or ensure victory.

Footwork

In baseball, the batter plants his feet firmly and does not move them as he swings the bat. In cricket, the batsman moves his feet deliberately to better position himself to either hit the ball or avoid it.
For a batsman, the primary method of accommodating to the vagaries of any particular ball is footwork. Once the batsman has judged the line and length of the ball, he will shift his weight on to either his front foot or back foot. He usually takes a quick step with the foot first before putting his weight on it, to position himself either further from or closer to his wicket. This step can also be used to move across the pitch, to the off or leg sides, to accomodate the line of the ball.

The goal of this shifting is to position the batsman so that he can either hit the ball comfortably, avoid the ball hitting his body, or allow the ball to pass by without touching it. Once set in position, the batsman should be able to do either of these as the situation demands.


Hitting the Ball

In baseball, the batter does not adjust his swing much to account for different ball trajectories or tactics. A bunt or a deliberate sacrifice fly are examples, or a good batter choosing to hit an outside ball into the ground for a single while swinging harder at an inside ball for an attempted home run. In cricket, the batsman has a much wider variety of responses to the ball trajectory. Footwork allows him to position himself with respect to the ball and the bat can be swung in several differently angled arcs to hit the ball deliberately in almost any direction.
Attempting to hit the ball is called playing a shot or stroke at the ball. There are several different types of shot, designed to accommodate whatever the ball does. They can be classified in different ways:

Front Foot Shots

Moving on to the front foot is generally done when the length of the ball is such that it pitches relatively close to the batsman's crease - from about 0.5 to 3 metres from the crease. Moving forward brings the batsman's front foot near the point where the ball will bounce, so that he can hit it on the half volley, as it rises from the pitch. This gives the ball little chance to deviate from its line, so makes it easier to hit the ball cleanly.

Back Foot Shots

Moving on to the back foot is generally done when the length of the ball is such that it pitches far from the batsman's crease - more than about 4 metres from the crease - or very close to the crease - within about 1 metre. In the former case, moving back allows the batsman to play the ball after it has risen to waist height or above and gives him time to watch the ball for any deviation after it bounces. In the latter case, moving back positions the batsman so he can hit the ball on the half volley.

Note that there is a gap between the pitching distances suitable for front foot and back foot shots, from about 3 to 4 metres from the batsman's crease. This length makes it difficult for the batsman to commit effectively to either foot, since stepping forward would not produce a close half volley, while stepping back does not allow the ball to rise far enough to be played comfortably either. This is the sort of length that a bowler will often aim at producing, and is called a good length (from the bowler's perspective).

It is also possible to play the cut, pull, hook, and leg glance from the front foot if the batsman judges the length of the ball properly and can step forward to produce the appropriate height as the ball reaches his body. They are more commonly played from the back foot, though.

Yorkers and Full Tosses

There are two length categories we have not yet dealt with.

Not Hitting the Ball

If the ball is not pitched on the line of the stumps, or is pitched short enough to bounce over them, often the safest tactic is not to hit it at all or, in some cases, to actively evade it. Not hitting the ball is a defensive tactic however, and if the batsman prefers to attack he can still attempt to hit the ball. This is where the full range of attacking shots comes into play: the cut, drive, leg glance, pull, and hook. These can be used to hit the ball through the infield and score runs. The danger in playing an attacking shot rather than letting the ball go is the risks associated with that shot - most often the chance of being caught by a fielder.


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Last updated: Saturday, 17 February, 2007; 15:18:10 PST.
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