When it is all wrists, it is all grace

The first wristy Indian batsman to come to international notice was the great Ranjitsinhji (Ranji) in the 19th century, who “batted as if he had no bones” and startled bowlers while inventing the leg glance. It is a tradition that was carried forward by the likes of Gundappa Vishwanath, Mohammad Azharuddin and V. V. S. Laxman.

Secret to success: Legendary Indian batsman G. R. Vishwanath tells us how he developed his wrists on the advice of his captain the late Nawab of Pataudi.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

There is a thesis to be written on wrists and the Indian sportsman. One which delineates the connection between grace and wristy play.

Wristy batsmanship is an Indian cliche. In his autobiography Wrist Assured, Gundappa Vishwanath (he continues to spell his name with an ‘h’; newspaper sub-editors had dropped it some time back) tells us how he developed his wrists on the advice of his captain the late Nawab of Pataudi.

In the 1960s when there were no gyms around every corner nor easily accessed equipment, Pataudi told the then skinny batsman to work out at home with buckets of water, lifting them as one would do with weights. Vishy credits Pataudi with helping develop the wrists that sent the best bowling screaming to the fence. Vishy, a gentle soul, developed fists of fury.

READ: Russia’s loss is other nations’ gain

Here’s Pataudi’s tip to Vishy: “Fill up two buckets with water and lift one with each hand 20 times in a row. Do this three or four times regularly.”

The first wristy Indian batsman to come to international notice was the great Ranjitsinhji (Ranji) in the 19th century, who “batted as if he had no bones” and startled bowlers while inventing the leg glance. It is a tradition that was carried forward by the likes of Vishy, Mohammad Azharuddin and V. V. S. Laxman.

Perhaps there is something in the waters of Bengaluru, or maybe it’s the air. For this is the home of another wristy genius, Prakash Padukone. When Prakash first showed that the rampaging, super fit Chinese could be conquered with intelligent courtcraft, he handed their best player Han Jian a 15-0 defeat in an international championship.

Prakash lacked a healthy smash and although his fitness improved after stints in Denmark, he played more with his head than his legs. And the wristy flicks and placements wrong-footed the finest.

Watching Lakshya Sen at this year’s All-England, it was clear that this tradition is being carried forward. Sen looked the most comfortable at the net while also displaying an ability to smash even when slightly off balance, thanks to the wrist. I don’t think he lifted buckets of water!

Neither, I am quite sure, did another top sportsman who necessarily has to use his wrist, the Olympic javelin gold winner Neeraj Chopra. Throwers (including footballers who throw the ball back into play) need strong wrists too, as do goalkeepers who sometimes take pride in throwing the ball over the centre line in football.

The great dribblers of the recent past in hockey — Ashok Kumar and Mohammed Shahid — used their wrists to magical effect. When the rules were changed and the bully-off that started the game was thrown aside, one of the game’s great sights was killed. Centre forwards had both powerful wrists and bags of tricks to gain the first advantage.

Hockey now relies on powerful forearms, as does cricket to a large extent. The effects, especially in cricket, can be spectacular, especially with the heavy bats in use.

But when it is all wrists, it is all grace.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :