The skills of Ponting

Ricky Ponting… a true entertainer.-K.R. DEEPAK

With the introduction of the one-day game and the 20/20 competitions, a monumental change has overtaken the face of cricket. The very shape of the game has been altered.

The traditional straight batted orthodoxy is founded on the premise of maintaining the widest hitting plane between the 96.5 mm long and 10.8 mm wide blade for as long as possible without being dismissed.

This practice increases the chances of a batsman striking the ball as frequently and as hard as possible, and in so doing, scoring as many runs as he possibly can for his side.

This is achieved by swinging the bat in as long an arc as possible. The longer the arc of the bat swing, the more forceful the stroke it produces. There is, however, the intervening problem of first hitting the ball. The batsman reaches this goal by swinging the edge of the batting arc on the same line as the approaching ball.

Cricket, however, is not a static game of conditions and situations. The bowlers seek to make the batsman's job all the more difficult by changing the movement of the ball through the air and off the pitch.

With the introduction of the one-day game and the 20/20 competitions, a monumental change has overtaken the face of cricket. The very shape of the game has been altered. It has been modified to cater to the lowest common denominator of the entertainment world, understood even by readers of Maths for Dummies!

Before the birth of the 20/20 game, the batsmen changed the movement of the bat mainly in a vertical plane in order to attack the bowling as well as defending the stumps by covering as much as possible with the blade of the bat. For instance a batsman's straight drive masks a considerable amount of the batsman's stumps, while at the same time bringing him a run-making stroke.

But the 20/20 game encourages the use of cross-batted shots such as the pull and such an attempt is worth the risk. The batsman even chances the wild excesses of a reverse sweep! Surely the stroke of a batting millionaire!

Batsmen now employ the cross-batted strokes to score quickly, and aggressively. They increase batting risks immeasurably, but they accelerate the scoring and the strike-rate factor. They also give the attacking batsman the opportunity of deploying his full range of strokes.

The Aussie skipper, Ponting, is fully aware of his entertainment responsibilities and the need of keeping people continually filling the seats. His scoring repertoire is testimony to his obligation of this ambition. This entertainment duty has made him re-shape his game accordingly. He does not fail to exact full toll from the bread and butter short deliveries, pitched outside the off stump. Nor is he slow to punish the half-volley on or wide of his middle and off stumps.

Indeed his favoured ball seems to be that which pitches just inside the line of the front foot and as it draws level with the front hip is helped on its way wide of the batsman's off stump and past point or planted for six over deep mid-wicket's head.

It must be added that an essential component of Ponting's scoring in such fashion is contingent on the bowlers serving up deliveries on the convenient line and length and the fieldsmen dropping catches.

Nevertheless, Ponting's batting demonstrates a determination to seize and keep the psychological initiative. Nonetheless it will be a brave bowler, indeed, who confronts the Australian captain without the safeguard of a couple of fieldsmen protecting his leg side field.