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Forward defense - Not just Root's problem but the root of all problems

  • The lost art of forward defense in cricket
Ashish Nair
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 17:29 IST

As the popularity of Test cricket continues to be on the decline, so does the popular technique of "forward-defense". Once mentioned as the primary technique in every batsman's resumé, regardless of the form of cricket being played, it is almost a lost technique.

Why did I choose to call it a lost technique? The answer is the gaining popularity of T20 cricket. The way it has arrived in the scene, it has made people believe that every ball can be scored off.

The flip-side of T20s is that it turned the so-called "cricketers" into "rock-stars". The problem now is that these "rock-stars" have to become "cricketers" again to play Test cricket. And it is Test cricket that exposes the flawed techniques of these "rock-stars" and makes them look like an ordinary player marred by the inability to shift gears. It becomes difficult for these players to block a delivery, to leave deliveries outside the off-stump.

Why did I call it the root of all problems? With so much competitive T-20 and One-Day International cricket comes the need to score more runs. Opening-the-face-of-the-bat has almost replaced forward defense. The result is that when the same batsman is facing a new ball in Test cricket the "opening-the-face-of-the-bat" technique, which was his bread and butter in One-Day Internationals, is felo-de-se in Test cricket.

Enter captionR
Rahul Dravid defending a delivery.

At that level there's very little margin for error as there are men behind the stumps waiting for the batsman to make that error. This is also one of the reasons why you see a lot of runs being scored behind the wicket. Because a bad defensive technique makes the batsman go hard at deliveries, poking at them, not picking up deliveries and flashing hard at them. The result is that they are either latched on to behind the stumps or the ball races away to the boundary.

Why did I choose to name (Joe) Root? Joe Root is the ideal example of text-book batting. The way he plays makes you fall in love with Test cricket all over again. For someone who was not able to witness Test cricket of the 80's - has to see Joe Root bat. The temperament that he displays combined by his technique is a pleasure to watch. But, in the recent times, he has been the shadow of a player he used to be. He is seen poking at deliveries outside the off-stump, going hard at deliveries and wants to score runs quickly, like his Indian counterpart. You hardly see him block, defend, leave and display the same temperament that made everyone believe that's he's the one for the future. I hope we see Joe Root teach everyone the "lost-art" of defense (again!). I'm sure there are a lot of youngsters and budding cricketers who look up to him for advice.

To conclude the entire article I'm wondering, Is T-20 cricket to be blamed? Is the cricketer to be blamed? Or is it us who love and worship "rock-stars" more than the old-fashioned "Test batsman" who are at fault for the dying art of Test cricket?

Published 01 Sep 2018, 15:43 IST
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