When a bowler marks his run-up, two aspects oscillate in his mind: A batsman, flexing his bulging muscles with a sledgehammer in hand and the bowler's own strategy to outthink the batsman. Often, the ball in hand transpires to be synonymous to the buoyancy of the bowler. If it bamboozles the willow, the confidence whisks up and if it doesn't, determination level gate-crashes.
The latter is the trend doing the rounds, which pretty much sums up the melancholic setup of the bowlers. The face of the bat never seemed more intimidating and edges are getting monstrous by the day, which aren’t something to cheer for the bowling fraternity. What’s more ominous is that batsmen are knowingly and unknowingly backlashing with serious counterpunches.
The back-of-the-bat shot is latest one on the firing line as per as the confab is concerned. At the point of delivery, all the attention is on the face of the bat. The bat’s back isn’t visible and albeit rarely, hit teams at crucial junctures of a game. The ICC hasn’t taken any initiatives either on the prospective back-of-the-bat shot.
Requisite of more breathing space
The new DRS rule nucleating more than half of the ball hitting any part of the stumps is a breather for the bowlers, but again that’s only possible once the ball beats the bat to thud into the pads. To the dismay of bowlers, the back-of-the-bat shot isn’t DRS friendly as it was witnessed in one of the Test matches in Australia, to be expounded later.
While the bat’s face is used for conventional stroke-play, a shot via the bat’s back is not so much on the radar of the batsmen. Matches going down to the wire, especially in limited overs cricket, makes every run vital. Runs scored off the back of the bat may not be a substantial one, but the same amount of runs may draw a line between victory and defeat.
The rule takes us to the pages of cricket’s rule book. According to Law 6 of Cricket, every part of the willow- The handle and blades- are interconnected to each other and runs will be counted on the connection of the ball with any portion of the bat. Therefore, the shot from the bat’s back is counted for runs.
Also read: Larger bats have robbed cricket of balance
Undeliberate, but Influential
Those strokes aren’t something intentional at the present point of time, but it can put a huge impact on the match. There are various ways of getting runs through the method. Some of them are illustrated below.
Batsman goes for the sweep and the ball kisses the back of the bat on its way into the outfield for a couple of runs, if not more.
Batsman gets tricked by a slower delivery and plays a flick shot way too early. Due to the closing of the bat’s face, the ball hits the back of the willow and either spoons up in the air or rolls away safely.
The above illustrations show that it’s a mistimed shot. The point of contact of such strokes put batsman’s heart into the mouth because there is no intent of manufacturing such strokes. Now this is where the ICC and other cricket boards need to be pro-active.
A switch hit or a reverse sweep was literally super-human during the early 2000s. Steadfastly, with the inquisitiveness of the batsman and technology esteeming the batsmen, the shots gradually became an ammunition in their repertoire. Now these strokes aren’t rocket science for any batsman.
The future isn’t a given, but with the evolution of bats, the back-of-the-bat shot may become a norm in the future. It will undoubtedly be another nail in the coffin of the bowlers. The ICC will only have themselves to blame if something similar pans out.
Cricket- Harmonizing the Ball and Willow
An argument may arise in the future that if a bowler can deliver a back-of-the-hand slower delivery, then there is no reason why a batsman can’t churn out strokes from the back of the willow.
It can be countered with the logic that since batsmen play switch hits, then bowlers rightfully deserve to have the privilege of changing arms at the point of delivery. And it should be done without informing the umpires because batsmen play the shot to disrupt the line of the bowlers and therefore bowlers should also have such luxuries.
Nevertheless, the back of the bat isn’t a flat one. There is a curve behind the bat, which works to the advantage of the batsman. The extra layer of wood provides the much needed force of what is popularly known as the ‘sweet spot’.
But there’s a flip side to it. The curve diminishes the effectiveness of the back of the bat. It’s a reason why playing a shot from the bat’s curvy part presents itself with a tinge of exertion. It won’t make too much of a difference in the recent future. But in the long run it can’t be dismissed off as a possibility, even though a minute one. They always say it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Always act before time runs out
The back-of-the-bat saga, in the past has turned out to be a despair for the fielding unit. In the inaugural Pink ball Test match, Nathan Lyon went for a sweep and the ball ricocheted off the batsman and went to the slip fielder. The hotspot showed a mark on the bat’s back, but there was nothing on the Snickometer. Due to lack of evidence, the benefit of the doubt was handed over to the batsman.
The gravity of the decision didn’t impact much since he was a lower order batsman, but who knows what can emerge in the future. It could effortlessly have been a World Cup final match with the batsman being Virat Kohli. I believe it requires an impact-fully controversial dismissal to bring its loopholes into the limelight.
Cricket has already been a batsman’s game. Batsmen are making hay and bowlers are trying their heart out in halting the batsman’s stroke-play. Scores of 300+ have become bread and butter for batting teams. It’s the bowlers who come under the swords. If a proper back-of-the-bat shot is mustered out, then it would not only be disheartening for the current crop of bowlers, but also for aspiring young bowlers.