Apparently I had too many technical flaws to be a cricketer, so I gave it away. My signature shot (the cow hit) was an effective run scorer but my friend’s scoffed every time I played it. They used to compare it to Pete Sampras’ cross court forehand and then kill themselves laughing. The 90’s was a cruel place for a kid with buck teeth and a flawed batting technique… but I’ve been watching cricket this summer and the cross court forehand is in vogue. I think the naysayers at school may have stifled my cricketing potential. My technique wasn’t flawed, it was ahead of it’s time!
My Pakistani mate’s dad, Azhar, was the first of many to lead me astray on a sunday afternoon in 1994. He needed someone for his fast bowling son to practice on, so I was invited to a net session (aka target practice). My batting technique immediately irked Azhar. ‘Your first movement must be towards the pitch of the ball’ he demanded. I listened and tried to implement his advice but it went against my natural inclination to step backwards and swat the ball with my bat. Given how fast his son was bowling, it was also my safest course of action but I followed his orders, floundering back and forth at the crease. It wasn’t the solution. I got bowled so many times that afternoon we eventually couldn’t get the stumps to stay in the ground.
This radical misdiagnosis of my batting technique was a real confidence killer. As John Lennon once said ‘every child is an artist until he’s told he’s not an artist’. My cricketing aspirations were halted. I played exclusively in the backyard from that day onwards, so ashamed was I of my technical ability.
Now I wonder – How well placed might I have been for a call up to the Australian Cricket team this summer if I’d been allowed to fully develop my cross court forehand batting technique? Watch any of Steve Smith’s innings from this summer. You won’t see a shot I hadn’t already mastered in this backyard cricket video (below) that I made with my friend Clint in 2002. At 2:02, I bowl a full toss on leg stump, Clint backs away, exposing all three stumps and hammers the ball to the straight boundary. It may not have been text book in 2002 but it certainly is now.
So, indulge me for a moment please and mourn my lost cricket career and those of my backyard contemporaries. ‘Suthers’- you were another who was scorned for playing all your shots exclusively on the leg side. Your special talent for being able to take a one handed catch while simultaneously exposing a butt cheek with the other hand was not lost on me, my friend. It was the system let us down.
Teach your children well and make sure that no other kids have their dreams trampled by a coach telling them to ‘play straight’. Let’s make sure Damian Martyn’s kid is encouraged to play the ramp shot and the switch hit as well as a classic cover drive, lest he be laughed at in the playground for being the only kid without a flawed batting technique.
How do you coach cricket in 2016? Leave a comment below…