To become a good batsman - Soon after I packed up my bags and....

To become a good batsman

- By Ashok Mankad    

Soon after I packed up my bags and hung up my boots in '86, I got into coaching. Your's Truly was the first cricket consultant in India. And the late Maharajah of Gwalior gave me my first assignment as the coach of Madhya Pradesh for three years. Since then, somewhere or the other I have been endeavoring to share my experiences with young and talented cricketers of the country. I must say it has been a gratifying experience to give back to the game what it gave me. At the outset, i must point out that too many instructions to a student does not help. A good coach must always remember to encourage his positive aspects and ignore the mistakes subtly so that his confidence levels don't go down. The fundamental technique of batting can be taught to a child from the age of 8/10 years. It all begins with the correct stance.

The feet should be spread about 6" apart, parallel in the line of batting crease. Weight should be equally distributed on both the feet so that he has the choice of movement in going forward or backward. In each case, his movement can be made with the same degree of effort which will ensure optimum stability. He must keep your hips and shoulders in line. Stand as tall as possible, wait for the ball and make sure that he keeps his head very steady. His left shoulder should point towards the bowler (for the right hander) and the knees slightly bent. He should check his grip. His bat should be grounded just behind the back foot and the top hand should rest slightly on the front batting pad. I attach importance to the stance because a batsmen with defective footwork can never become a good player. The stance also lets a batsman know where his off stump is and helps him to leave the balls outside the off stump. Maestro Sunil Gavaskar was particularly good at this. When he opened, Sunil would leave many deliveries, which ordinary batsmen would poke at. I had the privilege of playing with him often and derived a great pleasure of watching the master at his best. The secret to that art was his most comfortable stance.

The batsman should wrap his thumbs and forefingers around the handle to make two 'v' shapes. Back of his top hand should always face the direction of the ball. And both the hands should be in the center i.e. the bottom hand should be 5 cms above the blade. He must practice this grip until it feels natural. For instance, Sachin Tendulkar's grip is not something that I have been advocating. But we all know how effective and successful he is. He holds the bat at the bottom and manages it well. Good luck to him. The batsman's top hand should be firmer than the bottom hand. 80% of the task is done by the top hand whilst playing with vertical bat and the bottom hand comes in play whilst playing horizontal strokes. Otherwise it plays a supporting role.

The back lift is the first movement of any stroke. For the correct back lift, the batsman should lift his bat in line with stumps, rotating his left hand so that the face of the blade opens and is towards the Covers. His left shoulder and elbow should point towards the ball. He should keep his eyes on the ball and elbows clear from the body. He should keep his feet balanced and still, throughout the action. To make his back lift straight, he should place two stumps on the ground at a distance of 15". While indoors, two stools can suffice. For forward defence, he should stand two feet away and not the usual 4 and half feet and for back-foot strokes stand 4 feet away and execute the action without touching the stumps behind. If this can be achieved, he will be developing the correct back-lift.