Thrilling to see them soaring!

Six-hitting, as most of them say, is a clever mix of timing and power.

Virender Sehwag says that to hit a six, the most important factor is the swing of the bat.   -  AFP

My friends and I would rush to cricket venues in Delhi to watch Kapil Dev and Kirti Azad. The compelling reason was to watch a six or two. It was a rarity. Watching the ball sail over the fence was such a rarity. Reading about the big-hitters in books was not the same as watching them in flesh and blood. Kapil and Azad were such a delight.

Much before six-hitting became a common routine, fans at Test matches would wait for Tiger Pataudi or Salim Durani to arrive at the crease. In domestic cricket, K. Srikkanth, Vijay Telang, Sandeep Patil, Dilip Vengsarkar and Navjot Singh Sidhu were among the popular batsmen who entertained the fans with their big hitting. Telang once smashed Pakistan great Imran Khan for two sixes in a tour game in Jaipur in 1979. For years, those who watched the shots would recall them with pride, triggering discussions on the skill factor behind the six-hitting acts.

“Basically it is the aggressive mindset that sort of influences your approach at the crease,” says Virender Sehwag, who once hit Harbhajan Singh out of the attack in a Ranji Trophy match in 1999. It was a cold day in Ludhiana and Sehwag was running a temperature.

Not in the best physical state to run ones and twos, he chose the best way to score — slam sixes. Chasing 531 for the first-innings lead, Delhi fell four runs short. Sehwag, batting at No. 7, breezed his way to 187 with nine sixes embellishing his knock. “I remember that knock. I was throwing up and feeling weak. Sixes were the best way to score,” he recalls.

Vengsarkar, in only his second first-class match (Irani Cup) in 1975, hit seven sixes in a sensational attack on E. A. S. Prasanna and Bishan Singh Bedi. It earned him a place in the Indian team.

But nothing could match the joy of watching a six from Pataudi, dancing down the pitch to loft the ball into the galleries, or Durani, known to hit sixes on demand from the stands, pick good deliveries. The great Gundappa Viswanath, who remembered hitting sixes against Chris Old, Lance Gibbs and David O’Sullivan in Tests, felt it was more of an “art” previously with “timing” being an important factor.

Sehwag noted, “In One-Day cricket, you have to be aggressive. You have to be innovative. It is important to get into that frame of mind to be able to connect with the ball properly. The most important thing when trying to hit a six is you have to have the elevation or else it can become a catch. I would always aim for the ball to land in the galleries and try to get the elevation. You can pick the ball as it pitches or use your strength. For some, it is an art. For some others, it can be power hitting, like (Chris) Gayle or (Andre) Russell. But to hit a six, the most important factor is the swing of the bat. You should have a high backlift to meet the ball with the desired timing and power. ”

Suresh Raina is of the opinion that it is easier to hit a fast bowler over cover because the batsman can use the pace of the ball.   -  AP

 

Suresh Raina had come to master the art of hitting clean over cover, an inside-out stroke, using the pace of the ball. “I love playing that shot. I practised it hard at the CSK nets. I have to be innovative at the crease and there are times when sixes come easier than fours. Obviously, you have to mark the ball and the bowler. Sometimes it can be predetermined, but I would like the bowler to land in the area I am looking at. It is easier to hit the fast bowler over cover because I can use the pace of the ball.”

So different from Gayle and Russell. They can hit with brute power from a stance position. Even Hardik Pandya, who uses the crease cleverly. Six-hitting, as most of them say, is a clever mix of timing and power.