In cricket, a shot can be defined as the act of hitting a cricket ball with a cricket bat in order to score runs or prevent the loss of your wicket. Over the course of time, cricket has evolved in all aspects, batting shots especially. Batting has developed into orthodox stroke play that confers certain advantages and exigencies over more unorthodox shots, although in some cases, an unorthodox shot can still be played.
In this article, I will be examining and describing the various types of shots that can be played with a cricket bat, both orthodox and unorthodox.
Orthodox Technique and Strokeplay – A batsman’s technique is the stance he occupies before hitting the ball, along with the movement of his head, hands and feet in anticipation of the delivery. The way the batsman moves will be determined by the type of shot he is attempting to play.
Backlift – This term refers to how the batsman lifts the bat before striking the ball. It is often recommended by coaches that the bat be brought to the perpendicular, however, some manuals recommend the bat be angled slightly, usually toward first slip.
Front Foot Shots – Front foot shots are used against fuller length deliveries where the ball usually arrives at the batsman at a low height (between foot and thigh). In a front foot shot, the batsman will place his weight over the front foot (left foot for a right-handed batsman) and bend his knee to bring the bat down towards the pitch of the ball.
Back Foot Shots – These are used against shorter pitched balls, which arrive high at the batsman (between thigh and head height). In a back foot shot, the batsman will place his weight on the back foot, stand up straight and usually strike across the ball with a horizontal bat.
Vertical Bat Shots – These are played with the bat swung vertically at the ball.
Horizontal Bat Shots – These are played by hitting across the ball with the bat swung horizontally (also known as cross-bat shots).
The batsman adopts his stance before the bowler starts his run-up in preparedness to receive the delivery. The most common stance is the textbook ‘side-on’ stance, in which the batsman stands with feet 20cm apart and either side of the crease, weight equally distributed and the bat near the back toe. In addition, the left shoulder (right-handed batsman) should be pointing down the wicket towards the bowler. Though this is the most common stance some international batsmen use the ‘open’ or ‘square-on’ stance.
Leave and Block
The batsman plays a leave shot by lifting the bat to the vertical, out of the way of the oncoming delivery. A leave does not involve the batsman’s bat making any contact with the ball. Nevertheless, it is still considered a shot in cricket, as the batsman is making a deliberate choice to play this way.
Usually, the leave shot is employed during the first over a batsman faces, in order to give him time to judge the conditions, the pitch and the form of the bowler. It is risky, as the batsman must still make sure the ball is not going to hit himself or the stumps.
A block shot is played to defend the wicket. Usually played with ‘soft hands’, especially the bottom hand with the bat brought down vertically in front of the line of the stumps to prevent the ball from going on to hit them. The block is also used to stop the ball from hitting the batsman. When the block shot is played on the front foot, it is called a forward defensive. When played on the back foot, it is known as a backward defensive.
Sometimes the block can be used to deftly move the ball into a vacant infield position to produce a single run. When this happens, the block becomes a ‘push’ shot. This is a common way for batting partnerships to rotate the strike.
In first class cricket and test cricket, the required run rate is comparatively low, since there is more time for the batsmen to score. Thus in red ball cricket leave and block shots are more important.
The drive is played with a vertical bat and the weight planted on the front foot. The batsman swings the bat down, driving through the line of the ball. The shot has variations including the straight drive (down the ground, back past the bowler and through mid-on), cover drive (struck through the cover fielding positions on the off side), off drive (towards mid-off) and square drive (towards point). There is also the on drive, which can be struck through the on side towards mid wicket or mid-on. Drive shots can also be played on the back foot, although these are more difficult to pull off.
The cut shot is played with a horizontal bat just as the ball draws level with or passes the batsman. The shot is thus played at a ball pitched short and wide of off stump and places the ball wide on the off side. A square cut is played square of the wicket, towards or through point. A late cut is played as the ball passes the batsman and is angled down to third man. Apart from defensive shots, the cut shot is considered to be one of the most important shots to master.
Pull and Hook
These are shots played with a horizontal bat at shorter pitched deliveries, pulling or hooking the ball on the leg side. They are played preferably off the back foot. The difference is that a pull shot is played off a ball that bounces about waist height at the batsman, while the hook shot is played at a ball that bounces at chest or head height.
The sweep shot is played at low bouncing deliveries, usually off slow or spin bowling. This shot is played with a horizontal bat on the front foot with the batsman’s knee bent so as he can ‘sweep’ the bat across the line of the ball as it pitches. The ball is played through the on side.
The reverse sweep is the opposite shot to the above, more uncommon, and played by sweeping the bat across the ball to play it through the off side towards third man or point. The batsman will sometimes swap his hands on the handle and bring his back foot forward to become the front foot. This shot is advantageous in that the field settings are now reversed and it becomes difficult to set a field to a batsman skilled in this shot.
Slog and Slog Sweep
The slog shot is an improvised version of the pull shot, in which the batsman swings all of his body weight at the ball in an attempt to score a six. The shot is usually pulled over mid-wicket.
The slog sweep is a version of the slog wherein the batsman adopts the kneeling position used for a sweep shot and then throws everything at the ball in an attempt to score a six. The shot is played at a full pitched slow ball and is usually struck over square leg.
In this shot the batsman swaps from a right-handed batting stance to a left-handed one, or vice versa if the batsman is left-handed, to play the ball with the opposite stance. The action of switch occurs during the bowler’s run up and, as the fielding team cannot change positions during the run-up, the fielding team is caught out of position. The shot is risky as the batsman is less proficient with the ‘wrong-handedness’ of the stance and this could cause a mistake.
This is played to a straight short ball that would traditionally be played with a defensive stroke or aggressive shot on the leg side. The batsman comes onto the front foot and attempts to place the bat beneath the ball and scoop it back behind him, over the stumps and wicketkeeper. This shot is popular in Twenty20 and ODI cricket as it attempts to place the ball in an area where a fielder is rarely placed due to field restrictions.
In order to become a good batsman, it is not necessary to master all of these shots. Some very successful batsmen, like Alastair Cook, have done it with effective use of only about three or four shots, while others, such as AB De Villiers are extremely proficient in the full range of batting shots. If you are a beginner, the orthodox shots are certainly the ones you should consider mastering. Start with the block and cut shot and move on from there. In the modern professional, game there is much more use of the unorthodox shots than ever before, especially since the onset of Twenty20 cricket but the orthodox shots are still the most widely used shots adopted by batsmen.
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