Donald Bradman and George Headley have strong claims to be the best batsmen ever to play cricket. They were born within nine months of each other in August 1908 and May 1909. They were both self taught. As was illustrated here yesterday, they shared a similarly unorthodox stance and grip.
The photograph of Bradman immediately below shows just how far round the back of the handle are his hands.
In his Art of Cricket, Bradman writes, “For my part I refuse to be dogmatic about one’s grip, because I believe various holds can be satisfactory. So much depends on the batsman’s methods.”
He describes the position of his hands using golfing terms as ‘a slightly shut face’. It looks slightly more than ‘slightly’ to Third Man. Headley’s is an even more extreme version.
It has always been argued that, by closing the face in this way, pulls and cuts are struck with a slightly downward facing blade which helps to keep the ball down.
It also means that, when driving, the blade cannot continue very far in an open manner. The motion through the line the of the ball is broken by the wrists reaching the end of their orbit.
The follow through can only be effected by a rotation at the shoulders. The ‘right hander’s’ right (bottom) elbow quickly rises above the left and the bat, rather than passing over the left shoulder passes more to the side of the left shoulder as the next photograph of Bradman reveals.
Even more importantly perhaps, and well illustrated above, the hips open and are aligned from cover to mid-wicket in a very chest-on fashion. This development of alignment is one of the most notable adaptions in T20 but also, unintentionally, seems to be a natural consequence of these extreme grips.
Finally, as this sequence taken from The Art of Cricket to illustrate the ‘jumping out to drive’ shows, throwing the hands into the shot with the wrists in these positions means that the batsman’s head is not ‘over the ball’ as the coaching manuals urge but behind the bat as it strikes the ball. It is as if Bradman, in this case, is looking through the back of his bat as he watches the ball strike the blade. (see the middle shot in the sequence below).
Which, remarkably, is exactly how Roger Federa plays the forehand and backhand drives.
Food for thought? Will a pre-determined striking grip develop with the bottom hand further round behind the line of the drive? Changing a grip is a notoriously tricky and dangerous thing but will batsmen of the future have to have developed more than one grip, following the path trod by the tennis players?