Defence is a rudimentary skill that a batsman has to know about. No matter you are playing at what stage, position or format of game, defence is needed all the time. In fact, it is the things young batsman are taught the moment they hold the willow. Defence can be considered as the foundation skill for any batsman– master this and you can start to play glamorous shots.
Legendary batsman like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Brian Lara are especially remembered for their exceptional bowling skills. Dravid, in particular, was the champion of this technique. He would, in fact, use defence to frustrate bowlers and would capitalize on their impatience. There is little doubt why he is bestowed with the sobriquet of ‘The Wall’.
Why is the stock of defence reducing these days?
However, the importance of this traditional technique shrinking alarmingly as a result of many reasons. The game is fastly moving towards the shorter formats. First, it was the ODIs, then the T20s and now the T10s are in vogue of late. As a result, the batsman is under the immense pressure of hitting the ball out of the park from the moment they face their first ball.
Add to that the fact that the pitches (at least the Indian ones) are curated to be batting-friendly than the other way around, further reducing the need to master the art of defence. No wonder we are seeing more and more aggressive batsman than the defence-minded ones. Nonetheless, the significance of defence in a batsman’s repertoire is still indubitable.
What are the types of defence?
To master the art of defence, one has to first know what is it types. Defence can be broadly classified in two categories:
- Forward Foot Defence
- Backward Foot Defence
Forward Foot Defence
As the name suggests, a forward defence is played when the ball is bowled at a good length, is not over-pitched enough for to drive or very not short enough to move on to the back foot. Such delivery is a dangerous one, as it could cause damage either by LBW or bold. Thus when in doubt about a delivery of such length, one should always stick to employing this shot.
How to Master It?
Playing this shot needs one to move the front foot as close as possible to the pitch of the ball. Simultaneously, the left shoulder and left elbow (for a right-handed batsman) should lead the body in the direction of the ball.
The important point to note here is that the weight of the body should be borne by the front foot with the knee bent.
The head should be over the bat with full concentration on the point of contact. The bat has to be kept at an angle and as close to the front pad as possible. This is to prevent the ball from going through the bat and pad.
The top hand should be firm at the top of the handle with the bottom hand being relaxed. The thumb and the index finger should loosely be holding the bat.
The back leg should be fully extended out with the toes touching the ground and the heel raised off the ground. The back leg should remain parallel to the crease.
It is important to know that the weight of the back foot should be in the inward direction of the right toe. Care has to be taken to not turn it or drag it out of the crease.
The forward defensive stroke could also be played with the bat either slightly behind or else in the front of the pad based on the nature of the pitch or the bowler’s proficiency.
This shot is especially useful when playing against spin attack as the ball doesn’t bounce as much as it does in fast bowling.
Backward Foot Defence
This shot is useful mostly against fast bowling, especially on a bouncy wicket. The need for this shot arises when the ball pitches on the stumps but is short and of a good length. It is wasteful to go forward on such deliver as it increases the risk of getting out. There is also a significant risk of getting injured if one misjudges the trajectory of the ball while going forward.
Thus, it is wise to go back on your crease and meet the ball at the top of its bounce. This helps the batsman to be in full control of the shot.
How to Master Back foot Defence?
In this shot, the batsman moves in the backward direction and across to the line of the ball. This is done with the front foot following it naturally. The bat should be brought as close to the body as possible with the head being steady and directly over the ball.
The back foot should remain directly parallel to the crease as far as possible so as to maintain the sideways position of the body with the top hand firm and in control. The bottom hand holding the bat loosely so as to make a place for the fast approaching ball. If the bat is not held softly, there is a chance of the ball bouncing sharply towards the bowler, increasing the chances of getting caught.
The bat is kept straight and the left elbow is held high next to the head. One must be careful so as to maintain the balance at the time of playing the ball since this gives a smaller target for short rising deliveries.
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