Back to the Future

For the second time in this 2010/11 Ashes series a wicket is sorting out those encamped on the front foot from those who dwell at ease on the back foot, cutting and hooking for pleasure.

This always used to be the Australian Way.  Somewhere along the road the front foot merchants were given the surfaces and the playing rules that hide their limitations.

At Perth, the vulnerability of many were made clear for all to see.  How relieved they must have been to get back to the ‘new normal’ at Melbourne and Base Camp Front Foot.

Third Man was reminded of his recent eulogy to Perth Cricket when listening to a lunch time TMS interview by Tom Fordyce with the modest and gracious Arthur Morris  who discernibly purred when expressing how good he thought the England openers were … as modern exceptions … back foot players.

"Well done Arthur." "Thanks Don." In England 1948

Much of the interview is transcribed in the link given above, but try to track down a recording as this gives the full measure of the man and an indication of which foot he played from.

Giant bats, straight back-lifts and formulaic trigger movements predispose the modern batsman to the front foot and bowling restrictions and anodyne wickets across the globe have let them get away with it. It dulls the brain, it dulls the game. 

The photograph of Archie yesterday showed the back foot raised with his weight on the front foot ready to move back.

Play in that region reached by the rising ball where gravity seems powerless requires courage and conviction.  Here shots are played in front of the eyes, on tip toe with the batsman’s hands high and his adrenalin audible in the pistol crack of leather on willow.

Playing back to spin requires a careful reading of the situation, precise and balanced footwork, and confidence.  The prize is the ability to play along the ground in the full arc from late cut, through the square cut to the backward attacks wide and straight, the forces to leg all the way round to the sweetly sliced glances that impart side spin.

It forces bowlers to bowl fuller … and fuller until the half-volly’s visiting card is presented. You will see photographs and clips of Barry Richards driving, but he drove after he had made bowlers too frightened of bowling short to him.

Not only is the art of back foot play being lost but it’s value is unrecognized. 

Here, then, is the rallying cry to groundsmen, caretakers and curators, to administrators and coaches everywhere: “Back to the Future!”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Back to the Future

  1. diogenes1960

    I seem to recall an interview in The Observer with Len Hutton near the end of his life, talking about facing some old man in the nets when he was a tyro at Yorkshire: the old man turned out to be Wifred Rhodes. The flight looked so gentle that it just kept dragging the young man forward even though he wanted to stay back. As I recall, his view was that batting was a question of staying on the back foot as much as possible, which is ironic as I think he is generally stated to have had a forward trigger movement and to have so heavily influenced folks such as May and Cowdrey that the forward press became endemic in English cricket. I think there was also a man in the Golden Age – probably either Fry or Maclaren – stating that a batter should either play back or drive!

    • Isn’t it time you published that scrap book you’ve been putting together all these years, Diogenes?
      May and Cowdrey influenced by the forward press??? But to go back any distance a batsman must first go forward.

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