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Why Indians cannot play the pull shot

The pull shot is considered to be a loophole in Indian batsmen’s technique. Whenever I hear the word pull shot, the first name that strikes me is former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting. What made this Australian master the stroke while most Indians are not able too? Is he different from others? Or was it a God-given gift?

Let’s first discuss what exactly the pull shot is- a horizontal bat stroke that is played to play shorter length deliveries which are pitched anywhere on a line from leg stump, middle stump and off stump . The pull shot is considered as one of the most difficult shots to play.  Any batsmen, to become a master, should have it in his armory.

There are a few steps which a batsman has to do to play a pull shot

  • The batsman should be very clear when he has to play the pull shot, as it is an aggressive stroke.
  • The batsman should decide the shot and play at the correct time; if the batsmen happens to be in two minds there are probabilities that the batsman getting hurt or top edging the delivery.
  • He should take care that his head, shoulders and legs are still and his eyes are on the ball till the end of the shot.
  • Foot movement is the most important part of playing the shot, as it can be played on both the front foot and back foot. The batsman has to decide the way he wants to score and move his legs accordingly.
  • He should swing the bat down to avoid getting caught in the deep. The classical pull shot is played by swinging the bat down, but by the effect of T20 cricket, players started playing it in the air to score more runs, which may influence youngsters to learn the shot in a wrong manner
  • The most important of all is the shot selection. This is the main aspect all the youngsters have to concentrate on, the batsman should be able to choose the correct shot for the correct length of ball.

If a batsmen follows the above steps perfectly, he can easily master the shot.  Six steps in one second after the ball being delivered, that too perfectly, sounds tough, doesn’t it? Of course it is tough; that is the reason why the pull shot is one of the most difficult shots. The immediate question that is asked is whether playing other shots are easy. The answer to the question is, obviously, no, but the difference is in the consequences that occur if one doesn’t execute the steps perfectly. In the pull shot, the consequences are losing your wicket or getting hurt.

So the answer to the question I asked initially is quite simple. Former Australian skipper Ricky Pointing is executing all the steps perfectly so he is able to master the stroke while others are not able to. The next question that comes to mind is- what are the common mistakes every one is making?

The common mistakes made by any batsmen are

  • Hitting the ball into the air by not swinging the bat down, this is one of the most common mistakes. In the first India vs England test, Yuvraj Singh got out by playing a pull shot into the air.
  • Mistiming the ball, or not middling the ball. This is the other common mistake made by most of the batsmen. This makes the ball go high in the air and the batsman ends up getting caught. Raina and Yusuf Pathan mostly get out this way.
  • The last common mistake is playing the pull shot for the length that is not short enough . This can be stated as wrong shot selection; most youngsters and players of England and Australia  tend to make this kind of mistake.

As I have said, the pull shot can be played for any ball which is short of length. So why do people always speak of fast bowlers and not spin bowlers? The answer is that the response time to execute the pull shot when a pacer is bowling is very short, but in spin, the batsman gets a lot of time to position himself and time the shot .

Other batsman who play this shot well are Herschelle Gibbs, Michael Vaughan, Jacques Kallis, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson ,Kevin Pieterson etc. So why aren’t we finding any Indian name? Does that mean no Indian can play pull shot perfectly?

Indian pitches are spinner-friendly or flat tracks, so there is very little assistance for the pace bowlers is and bounce is not hig enough  to bowl shorter length deliveries. Thus, batsmen don’t play pull shots in domestic cricket which makes it tougher for them when they play on pacy tracks in Australia and England, where bowlers bowl a lot of short-pitched deliveries. The one example that comes to mind is Sourav Ganguly, who is one of the all-time greats, but had a weakness against short-pitched deliveries. This weakness in the Indian batsmen’s technique is taken advantage of by most of the teams and they continue to bowl short to Indians.

So what should Indian cricket board  do now to make Indian batsmen overcome this? The BCCI should start preparing bouncy tracks like the one in Mohali and they should allow the youngsters to face quality pace bowlers by giving them a chance in away tours or by conducting “A” tours to other countries. Indian bowlers should be given confidence to bowl shorter length deliveries which will make future Indian batsmen play the stroke more often and thus master the stroke. This will mean both Indian bowling and batting can improve their standards.

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