The harm of excessive pad play

N. SRIDHARAN

THE conditions and pitches in India make the contests spin oriented and one of the options youngsters resort to is using their pads to counter them. It is understandable if pad play is used on a rank turning track as a ploy to frustrate the bowlers or negotiate the big spinning deliveries. The option of padding up to deliveries can be helpful under a given set of circumstances but unfortunately batsmen at the junior level indulge in excessive pad play even under normal conditions. By "normal conditions" I mean the nets and on pitches where the ball does not deviate at all after pitching! In doing so, they invite trouble apart from tilting the psychological balance in the bowler's favour.

A batsman resorting to pad play under normal conditions only ends up in chiselling away at his confidence and also allows the bowler to get on top. Eventually this results in the batsmen getting out to bat-pad catches and sometimes in getting out leg before wicket. All these pitfalls can be avoided with a little bit of shift in the mental make up. It is paramount that batsmen start playing at as many deliveries as possible with the bat in the nets. This not only gets rid of a bad habit but also increases the confidence level. After all, the bat is there to be used to contact the ball and that's exactly what should be done. The reason I suggest that batsmen use the bat as much as possible is because some get into the habit of padding up so much so that they end up padding at deliveries in line with the stumps in a match!

I have seen youngsters resorting to padding up deliveries and the bemusing thing is that they seem to be doing that more as a habit. The option of padding up is rampant amongst youngsters who have performed well in the inter-State and inter-zonal matches in the junior level. While these youngsters seem to fail to understand the importance of playing with the bat more often, they make some adjustments in their technique which are way beyond their level of comprehension. For instance, some youngsters who struggle to play shots on the on-side adopt an open stance. It is a good enough adjustment but young batsmen gradually end up losing their fluency while playing through the off side which was their strength before adopting the open stance. I am not having a go at the keenness of the youngsters but it is imperative that youngsters develop their skills in the conventional before they embrace finer adjustments.

Some batsmen get into a habit of standing well outside the crease against the fast bowlers in order to counter the swing! They have to be made to realise that in trying to counter one particular aspect they are inviting a few more problems. By standing outside the crease, the little extra time that is available is curtailed and this means that you will be taken by surprise by pace as you are programmed to counter only the swing. There are exceptions to everything in life as Vinod Kambli (Picture One) was one who stood outside the crease against the faster bowlers. But, he was one who did that right through and it was not an adjustment to counter the swing. Very few batsmen stand outside the crease like Kambli did but in his case it was something he did from the beginning.

V.V. KRISHNAN

Kambli was a nightmare for the spinners in as much as Sehwag (Picture Two) is today. The common feature is that they were not attuned to use the pads as the first option but looked to play with the bat even on turning tracks. This positive mindset enabled Kambli to dominate the spinners without too much of problems.

It is better not to get sucked into additional problems while you are trying to rectify one problem. Finer adjustments are all right but unless you gain enough experience to understand and analyse your game, it is better to get rid of your flaws by adopting the proven traditional methods.

Coming back to minimising pad play and thereby reducing the chances of getting out to bat-pad catches, most of the batsmen step in the line and hence they end up making contact with the ball, half bat and half pad. Then the bigger mistake follows with majority of the batsmen refusing to accept even the correct umpiring decisions in the case of bat-pad catches. Ultimately, it will all boil down to how well and how frequently you play the ball with the middle of the bat. Therefore, it becomes crucial to play the ball rather than pad up when the conditions are right and good for batting. Once this becomes a habit, then you can work out on how much of pad play is required and that too on turning tracks.