Finding new ways to gain the edge

Finding new ways to gain the edge

World T20 1 day to go...

Finding new ways to gain the edge

Evolution is the name of the game. From overarm bowling (yes, underarm bowling was the original bowling) to reverse swing and from leg-glance to switch-hit, cricket has seen several innovations over hundreds of years of its existence.

With the advent of limited-overs cricket, especially the T20 format, both batsmen and bowlers have pioneered new shots and deliveries respectively in an obvious effort to outsmart each other. While the batsmen generally have been more effective with their innovations, bowlers, in their limited scope, have managed to hold their own in this unequal contest between bat and ball.

MS Dhoni’s Helicopter shot

Invented by India’s limited-overs captain MS Dhoni, this is perhaps the most difficult shot to play. The fact that not many have tried, leave alone perfecting it, this shot explains the difficulty of its execution. What’s essentially a wristy whip shot, it’s quite effective in negotiating yorkers and wide yorkers. Supple wrists and strong forearms are the basic requirements as bottom hand and a more pronounced bat swing come into play here.

The shot derives its name from the fact that there is a quick rotation of the bat in the follow through. Dhoni is on record saying that he started playing the Helicopter shot with tennis ball during his younger days. Afghanistan’s opener and wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, who is a huge fan of Dhoni, has played this shot with some degree of success.

Switch hitting the bowler

Invented by Kevin Pietersen, this outrageous shot is more regularly employed by Australia’s David Warner who spends considerable time perfecting the stroke in the nets. This effectively requires a right-handed batsman converting himself into a left-hander (changing stance from a right-handed to left-handed batsman), or vice versa, moments before the ball is delivered and hitting the ball in the cover region.

Tillakaratne  Dilshan’s Dilscoop

Dilscoop gets its name because Tillakaratne Dilshan was the most prominent exponent of this shot until Brendon McCullum employed it even against tearaway fast bowlers. The shot is executed by a batsman going on one knee to a good length or slightly short of length delivery by a pacer and scoop over the head of the wicketkeeper. The slight variant of this shot – Marillier shot -- was invented by Zimbabwe’s Doug Marillier. The shot requires the batsman move across and flick the ball over his shoulder to fine-leg.

Tendulkar’s upper cut

Also referred to as the ramp shot, this was regularly used by Sachin Tendulkar; the first such known instance being in 2001 during India’s tour of South Africa. This shot is played by swaying away or ducking under (if it’s close to the body) a bouncer and guiding it to or over third man. If the ball is slightly wider, the batsman slashes hard at the delivery to hit over point. Shikhar Dhawan plays this shot in the most extravagant fashion, by jumping (both legs in air) and lashing it over point.

Reverse sweep and its by-products

The sweep shot was deemed as the weakness of a batsman while up against a spinner. But in the modern day cricket, more precisely in the shorter versions, the sweep and its variants are quite productive. Reverse sweep, reverse hit, paddle sweep and reverse paddle sweep are played so regularly that captains set fields for these unconventional shots as can be seen when someone like Glenn Maxwell is in full flow. As a result, the batsman is opening up the field for himself to play more conventional strokes.

Bouncer to check the batsmen

This is perhaps a fast bowler’s biggest weapon against marauding batsmen. That there is a limit on bowling bouncers in an over explains its efficacy. No batsman worth his salt can claim to have perfected a well-directed bouncer. But with protective gears, flatter pitches, bigger bats and shorter boundaries being the norm, the batsman isn’t deterred by a bumper any longer and a slight error in line and length is punished promptly. As a result, there was invention of slow-bouncer which rises up like a fast bouncer but arrives a good 15-20 kmph slower. The pacer achieves this by cutting his fingers across the ball, which helps take the pace off the ball, without seemingly changing his bowling action and forcing the batsman into mistake.

Try digging the yorker out!

Yorker, when delivered to perfection, is unplayable and a great way to take wickets and/or dry up runs in the death overs. But, at the same time, it’s the most difficult delivery to master. A slight mistake can result in a juicy full toss or a half volley. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis used this delivery with deadly effect while Lasith Malinga has found great success employing it. Rookie India pacer Jasprit Bumrah has been quite successful in executing yorkers, something that has delighted skipper Dhoni. Since the toe crusher is a tough delivery to perfect, bowlers have resorted to wide yorkers (towards off-side), primarily to stop runs towards the end when batsmen are making room to chance their arms but find the ball out their reach. Malinga used it to great effect to neutralise the Indian batsmen, including Dhoni, in the 2014 World T20 final in Dhaka.

From fast ones to slow ones

There are a variety of slow balls – back of the hand delivery, the one bowled with split fingers, cutters, knuckle ball and the one delivered with the ball deep in the fingers. Back of the hand is the most commonly used ball; delivered with a leg-spinner’s action with full wrist rotation. Glenn McGrath was the master of split finger slower ball. The ball is lodged between index and middle fingers with the seam upright that slows down the release and results in late dip. Brett Lee also provided late dip by placing the ball deep in the palm, instead of holding it by fingers. Off-cutters and leg-cutters, which were used effectively by Mustafizur Rahaman against India during their last ODI series, have been in vogue for a long time while the knuckle ball is another addition to endless variations -- the ball here is gripped with crooked knuckle and delivered with a flick that slows down the ball. Zaheer Khan was a great exponent of this art.

Low full toss tough to negotiate

A full toss is generally a result of a failed yorker or a misjudged length. While the waist-high full toss is the easiest to hit out of sight, not so the low full toss. Bowled deliberately, it dips late forcing the batsman to reach out and often resulting in a mishit. But a slight error can lead to full toss and worse still a beamer!

Round-arm (sling action)

Dennis Lillee and Waqar Younis were great fast bowlers with a slightly round-arm action. But there has been no slinger more famous than Lasith Malinga in modern day cricket. Bowled at great speed with the bowling arm almost parallel to the ground, Malinga’s deliveries are often unplayable. The trajectory makes it difficult for the batsmen to pick him and the pace at which he bowls can be disconcerting. Increasingly bowlers, even spinners like Ravindra Jadeja and Glenn Maxwell, slip in a few balls that are delivered with a round-arm action just to surprise the batsman. Even R Vinay Kumar tried this delivery with some success in the Indian Premier League.

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