Back lift

The prime requirement for a well executed stroke is the back-lift. This is the backward lifting of the bat in preparation for the stroke to be played. It is thus vital to know when, where and how to take the back-lift. You must have often heard a commentator saying that a batsman has played a flowing drive. This flow depends largely on the batsman’s back-lift. As soon as the bat reaches its peak in the direction opposite to the stroke to be played, the downswing must start, thus resulting in a pleasing stroke. Sometimes, even your opponents appreciate a fluently played stroke.

Direction of the back-lift:

Old-fashioned coaches over emphasise the fact that the bat has to go back straight in the back-lift. This zeal to be technically correct creates more problems for the batsman. He starts worrying more about where the bat is going in the back-lift rather than focusing on the other, more important aspects of batsman-ship.

The batsman’s primary aim should be to bring the bat down straighter to meet the ball with the full face of the bat while playing any stroke. Ultimately, it is the batsman who meets the ball with the full face of the bat – either in defence or in stroke play – who gives the least opportunity to the bowler and is successful most often.

Most of the Test cricketers with whom I have interacted are of the view that if the bat comes down straight to meet the ball, then one should not unnecessarily worry about where the bat is going in the back swing. Rahul Dravid, Vivian Richards and Karsan Ghavri are prime examples of unusual back-lifts – or shall I take the liberty of calling theirs a round back-lift? But they are great performers because they bring the bat down straight in the down swing to meet the ball with its full face.

Ideally, the straight back-lift is recommended so that it would become easier for the batsman to bring the bat down straight. But if you are regularly bringing the bat down straight and meeting the ball with its full face, then don’t worry overmuch about your back-lift.

Bend the elbow of the top hand to get a better back-lift

How to lift the bat in the back-lift :

‘Lift the bat with a bent elbow of the top hand’, Kapil Dev once advised me. He also told me to keep my hands close to the body. The bending of the front elbow while lifting the bat in the back-lift puts less strain on your forearm muscles and batsmen can play a longer innings without feeling much strain. Some batsmen use the wrists to tap and lift the bat and they often complain of cramp and strain in the forearm. By lifting the bat with a bent elbow of the top hand – and keeping the front shoulder side-on during the process – will keep the back-lift straight.

Bending of the front elbow, in fact, helps your shoulder move down and then up when playing straight bat strokes off the front foot and the back foot. This also gives you more control over defence. Thus, bending your front elbow along with pointing the front shoulder towards the pitch of the ball allows you a high back-lift and facilitates a straight downswing. Of course, the back-lift may be low or high depending upon your style of play.

A high back-lift has several advantages. Batsmen who have a high back-lift have more range and power in their strokes. Moreover, when playing shots like the hook, pull, square cut and late cut, a high back-lift allows the ball to be hit from the top, so that the ball runs along the ground.

So go ahead and bend those front elbows. This action forces the front shoulder to first move downward – before impact – and then up in the follow through – after impact – when playing straight bat shots. It also keeps the ball down while driving off the front and back foots. Batsmen who have perfected this technique usually have a long follow through in the direction of the stroke played. Sir Gary Sobers, my childhood hero, who had a high back-lift and a flowing follow-through, immediately comes to mind. I can name many other greats who have used this technique and have scored heavily at the highest level.

Remember : Lift the bat in the back-lift with a bent front elbow.