Hair Styles and Shot Selection in Cricket

Mark Zuckerberg has written to congratulate Third Man on his birthday today.  It came as a surprise only in that TM had quite forgotten he was meant to be born on this day in the 1740s. The parish register was destroyed in a great conflagration.  All Fools Day seemed as good as any, his mother said.

It is not surprising that the young bucks of the Silicon Valley should reach out to members of the Squire’s Team. But they will learn nothing from this faithful factotum.

Those who consider that they are making Geography History, but who are tied to Time, are prone to a modern fallacy that is also afflicting England’s batting. 

Before this pernicious fallacy gained hold of the popular imagination it was widely accepted that there was a single appropriate shot to any given ball and, as man is located in a particular geography, so a batsman is confined by the nature of the ball to a uniquely appropriate shot.

In those times, a batsman armed himself with a couple of all purpose ‘stop’ shots, narrowed his ‘game’ to just two or three scoring shots, and left the rest to pass harmlessly through to the ‘keeper. “Good leave!”

A batsman of the Brylcreem and later the Side Burn eras might work up a couple more scoring shots, but made a mental selection well before crossing the boundary rope and walking to the wicket.

It was the Mullet that first introduced the current fixation with Expressionism and so widened the choice of possible shots to any given ball.  Today, the young are required to be able to play a ball to any part of the field regardless of its length or line. 

There is still an element of predetermination in this approach with calculations and selections being narrowed in anticipation of the ‘hunch’ that all good batsman have in the nanosecond before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.

In the Emirates, England encountered spin unusually ‘fired’ in at around 95kph. They interpreted this tactic as an exploitation of the way DRS confirms how such bowling is lightly to strike the stumps.  They anticipated it in Sri Lanka.

This, then, was the mind set that England brought to Galle where they found Herath bowling at around 80kph and using dip, made more possible at that speed, to deceive them.  

The first innings was over in a trice: 40 overs and a 120 run deficit.

 The second innings tested England’s mental agility and their immunity to stress. 

Cook played across his front leg and against the spin with a far from perpendicular bat.   Strauss, who had had to captain his side against an annoyingly resistant tail and could not prepare himself properly for opening the batting, exploded mentally in the twenties.  

Pietersen forgot that it is wise to play yourself in after an interval.  Trott played each ball on its merits with composure and balance (mental and physical). But he was truly exceptional. 

Most of the rest became fixated with the ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting’ sweep which as a ‘flick’ from a relatively stationary position bears as much resemblance to a sweep as a hand brush does to a yard broom.  

The true sweep destroys length and is therefore the only attacking shot played to a good length ball.  That said, it is wise to reserve it for balls missing leg stump or wide enough that a batsman who misses is struck outside the line of the off-stump.

The ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting sweep’ is played with a bat that has to be  deliberately placed before the ball arrives and is best reserved for games when batting resources are plentiful (T20) or when bowling resources are scarce (a run chase).

For the fourth Test in a row, England has failed to manage the situation properly.  It is therefore a failure of management.  There is rigid, inflexible thinking and mental confusion when preparations go awry. 

Cricket’s wonderful complexity makes a mockery of game-plans, exposes bad thinking and punishes collectivity.

As the Squire was quick to assert, “It would not have happened when players were responsible for their own hairstyles.”

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Hair Styles and Shot Selection in Cricket

  1. MoonrakerXI

    You don’t see many bald cricketers do you?

  2. brilliant article DaTM.Welcome back! My few thoughts. Cowdrey developed the paddle sweep as a counter to Benaud’s leg-stump line – and thus it should only be used to balls on leg-stump, unless you are a high-stakes baccarat player. Compton developed the sweep as a safe way of scoring off balls outside leg-stump – and before the 1980s, at the slightest hint of turn, all off-spinners in England would go around the wicket as a matter of routine. Some purveyors – e.g. Vallance Jupp, exclusively bowled round the wicket. So there would be the occasional ball outside leg and thus the controlled sweep was a safe mode of scoring – much to the displeasure of Gubby and RWVR Robins. Then there is a shot described by Brian Close as “the lap”, by Lawrie Fishlock (my school coach) as “the cow shot”, by Frank Woolley as “the pulled-drive” – which appears to be the “slog-sweep of Gilchrist and Waugh and co. I think that Close said that he only employed it to balls outside off-stump. And that makes it a reasonable, albeit audacious ploy. The only person I can recall who used this shot with consistent success on a wicket-to-wicket line was Alan Knott – and he swept on length, after a masterclass in inida on the 1972 tour. I recall Boycott sweeping a middle-stump half-volley from Gleeson(?) at Lords in 1972 and getting caught at mid-wicket.

    The current England team need a masterclass from MJK Smith – how to destroy off-spinners..

  3. Once more Diogenes provides the evidence base for TM’s intuitive musings.

  4. John Halliwell

    Thought-provoking post, TM. You must apply for Flower’s role immediately he’s frogmarched through the Grace Gates come September. That photo of Bob Willis is a belter! I can’t help but wonder what the result would have been if half a vat of Brylcreem had been applied to the Willis’ barnet. A garden rake might have worked up a tidy parting.

  5. i still await the time when people realise that Tony Greig was a great international all-rounder…just compare his stats against Fintoff, Bailey or even Botham…or folks such as Trevor Goddard

    • The record?

      Grieg 58 matches 93 innings 3,599 runs HS 148 average 40.43; bowling 141 wickets at 33.54 each BB 8/86

      Botham batting average 33.54, bowling 28.40

      And a massive number of innovations: – short fielder on the off-side in response to bat and pad play, raised back lift in response to increased pace + (along with Benaud) innovations to do with cricketainment, broadcasting and the distribution of revenues.

      His interview by Agnew in the recent Test is worth tracking down. He is to give the Cowdrey lecture in the near future. The interview suggests that he will spend time on past matters. His true value to the game now should be his capacity as a radical thinker.

  6. you can maybbe sense a hint of schoolboy bias, but his bold attacking innings of 116? (not resorting to Wisden) in tandem with Amiss against New Zealand in 1973 completely turned round a dour match dominated by seam and swing bowling. And also his dogged slow century, while suffering a fever, in India on a turning pitch against Bedi, Chandra, and probably both Prasanna and Venkat, with local umpires. That must have been a masterpiece of batsmanship. I still resent the way the British press turned against him, while accepting the fact that Gooch, Gatting et al kept going on rebel tours and getting acepted back into the fold.

    • In the interview Grieg is generous to Swanton for pushing his case in the early days, but says that Swanton simply could not bring himself to even speak to him after Packer, their regular lunches together ceased.
      In the late ’70s the administrators were totally out of touch with the players and their quality of life. Young staff members were rooting for Greig as of course were their seniors.

      The lesson is not entirely learnt. Had Grieg, Beneaud and their like in this generation of players eg Vaughan been involved in MCC’s visioning exercise they would not have encountered the diffculties they have and they would be much more likely to have been able to ‘see’ the way Lord’s should evolve in preparation for the next 30 years.

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