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This article is addressed to the young aspiring batsman seeking ways to advance in the art of batsmanship. However, due to the inclusive aspect of wide ranging responsibility, it should appeal to persons entrusted with the mission of team building and development such as coaches, managers, club officials, sports teachers and sports associations alike. Serious progress is the general aim – a consideration of great interest to all genuine Dominicans eager for the higher standards to supplant ongoing levels of mediocrity.

Let's suggest that the young batsman is serious and accordingly brings the required commitment to underlie his intentions. Every innings you engage in should be accorded the utmost importance. If that is so, you should pay total attention to your batting practices – each and every practice. Your match innings can only be a reflection of what you put into your practices. The matter of your personal initiatives must come into the picture. For instance, if you can't play spin bowling, you should find required opportunities to face all types of spinners in extra practices, paying attention to proper batting techniques. Maybe you should seek advice of knowledgeable batsmen who are competent in facing spin and, don't miss opportunity to watch them perform in match situations. Too many youngsters don't bring themselves to watch intelligently the good examples available to them.

What are the basic principles in good batting? Your eyesight should be adequately good; if you can't see the ball you can't play it. The manner you grip the bat is important. Some employ a low grip near the neck of the bat. Others use a high grip nearer the top. Either grip may be suitable. But it is considered essential to have both hands near each other – without touching each other. For purposes of this discourse we assume the batsman is right-handed.

Your stance at the crease may benefit from an orthodox approach – feet not too wide apart, placed just inside the batting crease and parallel to it. The guard you should request from the umpire – with definite advantage, should be ''centre''. It places you where you need to be to prevent the ball from crashing into your stumps, and since this is the general objective of most bowlers, a centre guard avails you a very good awareness of where your off stump is and puts you in good stead to leave certain dangerous deliveries alone.

If you wish to excel into becoming a top flight batsman you will wish to experiment with the preamble of covering your off stump with your right foot while lifting the bat (the back lift) before moving the left foot into position for the stroke. This can have immense advantages in playing the ball swinging or spinning towards your stumps from outside the off stump. The idea here is to legally negate an LBW possibility by placing the front pad well outside the off stump while playing at the ball. This is an element of footwork many world class batsmen employ successfully.

Of course, it has to be assumed the batsman has acquired good judgment of length and line and has developed useful confidence in negotiating such a delivery approaching him from "good" length or just short of a "good" length. Inevitably here the batsman needs to be well acquainted with what represents a "good" length under specific valid applications, all of which may have to do with pace, batting surface, lighting conditions etc. There are many pertinent variables on the categorization of length!

We are hereby under assumption that the young batsman will have engaged in abundant and serious batting practices before facing up to his first innings in a match – hopefully a friendly match or two, before addressing his first official innings. At this juncture the wisdom of some earlier cricketers can be most useful. Colin Cowdrey advocated gripping the bat handle tightly just before playing at the first ball received, and endeavoring to ensure survival. Supposedly, if you can survive one ball you can survive more to come.

That was one Englishman's advice. Here's that of an eminent West Indian George Headley. The great man advocated taking a manageable package of runs as a safe and suitable mouthful – and repeating it indefinitely. Headley would look to score 20 runs safely then erase this from his mind while repeating the effort. Eventually, five twenties added up to one hundred. In your case, perhaps ten runs would be a convenient increment. Anyway, five tens is 50 and ten tens would amount to 100. Not bad, if you have the constancy of mind and self discipline to keep this up without wavering. In this wise you will need to ignore people in the pavilion and others not sympathetic to your cause!

Before going further, it occurs to me to suggest that the young cricketer could do well to ask his television station to be kind enough to screen the coaching video entitled PLAYING CRICKET THE WEST INDIES WAY. This was produced – inevitably before the sad decline in West Indies Cricket!

Question as to how much batting practice is answered by the term "as much as you can get". When you find that you are batting well you need to develop masterful stamina. Ignore all the disparaging criticism of Kraigg Brathwaite of Barbados. He has at the age of twenty-one gone on to prove a lot of us wrong by getting his second Test century, the last of which is a double century. It took much time in compiling: 212 in 447 balls. However, he put West Indies in sight of a rare Test victory - even though it is against Bangladesh – 212 out of 484 for 7 declared is not all that bad!

There may not be sufficient time for you to do the same in a club match played over two days, but 80 to 150 amassed by you in your club match could enable a good win for your team. Who knows, you may encourage your teammates to assume the appropriate attitude to flesh out their performance in similar and complementary manner. A team innings of 120 could translate to 250 to 350 and help raise our local club standards. Next week we will look at a few other areas for improving our batting standards.


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