Perhaps five or six years ago now, Third Man noticed a fine looking young cricketer in the nets. He was about 11 and had been in the County primary school side for two years.
The blade came down straight and full faced and the ball was timed to perfection. But the really interesting thing was that the back lift started in the direction of cover point, travelled round in an arc before coming down fairly straight. It was this movement and momentum that was giving him his sense of timing and helping add to the weight of the shot.
Bradmanesque? It was said of Bradman that he had both an unorthodox grip and a back lift not unlike this young person’s. Even in the sequence of still shots in his Art of Batting the back lift points to a wide gully.
By the following year the young cricketer’s abilities were recognised well enough for him to be invited to join others of similar potential in a North of England squad that spent half a dozen weekends at Headingley.
“Bet they coach that back lift out of him,” thought Third Man. “By the time we see him again he’ll be standing upright at the crease, bat held behind him horizontal, quite still and slightly over leg stump.”
Of course that was exactly what happened. He remains a good player. He has dropped under the radar at Old Trafford but he may yet get another chance, perhaps in the Under 19s. But he hasn’t that interesting back lift and we shall never know what, as an 18 year old, he might have been like.
This way of bringing a bat or a racket back and into the down swing in a single movement is how tennis players play the forehand. And TM believes tennis hitting has a great deal to teach cricketers.
Third Man was reminded of all this when he found some very interesting footage of George Headley here on Cricinfo. There, larger than life, is the pick-up to cover point. There is some suggestion that it caused him to over balance towards the off but it did deliver in Test cricket a hundred once every four innings and some big ones at that.
One never hears of Headley without the comment that he was the black Bradman or that Bradman was the white Headley, but never to TM’s knowledge has someone pointed out that their swings were very similarly unorthodox AND, as we may have a chance to examine tomorrow, there were some very funny things going on with the grip.