Tag Archives: Alastair Cook
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.
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!”
First, those stumps. Six trophies were on offer at Adelaide as England, literally with the field to themselves, celebrated their victory and divided the spoils amongst themselves.
One for Pietersen. One for Cook. One for Swann. One for Anderson, whose two wickets in the first quarter of an hour secured the match, if not yet the Ashes, if not quite yet the series. Which leaves two to be assigned.
Third Man thinks that England in their present frame of mind and Australia in theirs will take for granted that they are England’s to bequeath – that is, to give by their will and their will alone.
One for their Field Marshall, Andy Flower, remembering that the only day that England may be judged to have lost so far in this series happened when he was absent.
And one for their fallen comrade, Stuart Broad, who Team England will do all they can to cuddle through the next twelve weeks of lonely rehabilitation for his muscle tear.
Secondly, the smiles.
There is more than one kind of smile. There are the smiles of happiness, of love, and of pride. The smiles of genuine pleasure, the insolent smile and the shivering smile of determined vengeance.
But there is also the submissive smile of the Beta Male to the Alpha Male. The smile of genuflection, with knee bent to the ground, eyes lowered and forehead foremost. This has been the Australian smile, time after time.
From before Brisbane, Australia have communicated only DOUBT in themselves. From early Shield and tour matches, from the 17 squad selection, from pre-match, mid-match and post-match interviews in Brisbane and in Adelaide, from the kicking of turf, the hunching of shoulders, the burying of necks in shoulders, the cursing, the being rattled – with every muscle they have screamed their disbelief.
Most matches are won before a ball is bowled. They are won in the minds of those who compete. They are won before the aptly named ‘boundary’ is crossed.
Australia once taught England the great lesson: start with the mind, for power comes from the will. Over the last month or more they have bequeathed supremacy to England.
All the talk of Hobbs (and Sutcliffe, Strauss and Cook) persuaded Third Man to nip back in his trusty time machine to have another look at The Master.
If, like TM, you always wanted to know what the shot in the photo above and the ones below was all about …
… with its echo of Trumper, both feet off the ground, bat behind his ear and quite unlike the ‘stepping out to drive’ of today which is played with the back foot coming behind the front foot and executed with at least one foot always on terra firma …
then do please have a look at the film here made by Charles Barnett in 1925 with the written permission of the great man. (and first seen by TM in the new Savoy in P’sfield in 1926.)
5 minutes and 28 seconds into the film Hobbs ‘hops’ off his back foot, both feet off the ground, bat raised high, before landing and swinging.
It is a length-destroying-shot. And you’ll see it in slow-mo too.
(Don’t miss the wonderful shots of Tom Hayward with a mustache and a half, this Movember.)
Why has this shot been lost from the canon to be replaced by the ‘step out to drive’? Perhaps because it must have been more difficult to keep the head still or at least in a stable eye line moving towards the ball.
As the above shot and the film also demonstrate, backward attack and defence shots were played with their contact point well in front of the body often with the back foot pointing down the wicket. Not to be recommended as this opens the hips, squares the shoulders and either results in the down swing coming across the line of the ball, or necessitates an in-to-out line. But it didn’t stop the great man making 197 centuries.
Note also how, in the film, The Master plays the cut. He initially adopts a forward press from which he propels himself onto the back foot – a technique that links him to Hussey cutting at the Gabba 84 years later.
But it is not all technique. Social historians will relish the shots of Parker’s Piece looking like a park in Mumbai with numerous games going on, Jesus College and a packed Oval.
For those who missed the above link to the film, here it is again. Apologies for the initial advertisement, but it is worth persevering … and there’s more … tomorrow.