True to the popular saying “different strokes for different folks”, in cricket we have various cricketers with their wide array of strokes. Some greats manage to display a wide variety of these strokes in a single outing, while for some others it’s one favorite stroke that fetches them runs over and over again. Some batters just play a particular stroke just so well that they somewhat begin to claim the ownership of that stroke. Such strokes are usually the bread-n-butter shots for the batsmen. These range from technically perfect text-book style cricketing shots to totally un-orthodox and improvised versions of cricketing strokes. Let’s take a look at a few of those played over the years in this great game.
Southpaw Off-drive: David Gower made it look effortless and elegant; however, it was Dada Ganguly who took this to the ultimate level. Even though technically imperfect, he executed this exquisitely. Playing away from his body, he would send any ball that had slightest of width on the off-side, gliding through the off-side, piercing any field placement on the ground. Dravid rightfully said, “on the off side first there is God then there is Ganguly”
Late Cut: A risky business for a batsman, as he would be playing against the two dangers: against the spin and playing very, very late. You really needed a mastery of playing spin attack and wisely judging when to play this shot as there was hair thin margin between the shot fetching you runs and you getting clean bowled. Little Master Sunny, owned this one for sure, he played it so late that sometimes it appeared as if he is steering the ball from just next to the stumps. Who can forget his famous late cut that made him the first man on the planet to score 10,000 test runs.
Square Cut: A sibling of late cut, but needed a lot of bravery to play this shot as it required slicing the ball coming at you in the speeds ranging from 80 to 90 miles per hour. In tests, usually with three to four slips and gully in place along with a point and a cover fielder, this was a gladiator act. You had to e precise or it would be your demise. Gundappa Vishwanath played it elegantly against some genuine quicks like Lillie-Pasco-Thompson. Brian Lara was amongst the southpaws to play this to perfection.
Sweep: A truly challenging prospect, again as it was played against the spin and trick was to keep it along the ground. The probability of top edging the ball was way too high. Some would also make a mess by playing all over it and get their furniture disturbed by the ball turning behind their pads. Rohan Kanhai, though, made this shot look effortless and sometimes it appeared that he would be falling down on the ground while played this shot to perfection. Azharuddin then improvised a paddle-sweep version for playing with the turn.
Upper Cut: This is one of those un-orthodox and improvised ones. This one got evolved with the adventures of ODIs. Initially a big no-no in test cricket but of late, a scoring shot in the test format as well. It started off with batsman chasing a wide bouncer outside the off and cutting it either over the slips or over the third-man. Sehwag managed a six off this shot from an express delivery from Shoaib in WC 2003. The real gem, however, came during India-Australia Test match at Perth in 2008. I call this a “Samurai Upper Cut”. Bret Lee hurled a bouncer, well directed at Sachin’s helmet, God, though saw it coming and while in line of the ball, arched his back like a samurai warrior, giving everyone an impression that he was leaving the ball. However, he had his eyes all the time on the ball and at the very late moment, when the ball was right where his helmet would have been, he upper cut that 90 mph delivery over the slips for four. It was breathtaking!!!
The Chapati: You wouldn’t find this shot in any book or guide on cricket. No coach would be able to teach you this stroke, but it came naturally to India’s all rounder Ravi Shastri. The man almost lived by this one stroke. A predominantly on side batsman, made almost half of his career runs through this one shot. If he saw anything drifting even slightly on the wrong side of the middle stump, he would shuffle slightly across, plant his left foot out of the way, get on the top of the ball, and then at the very last moment would roll the wrists and work in anywhere in the square leg region. Sometimes just a deft touch would fetch him a boundary as well. There may not have been anything elegant in the shot but it sure was tremendously effective for him.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav