Griping the bat

Grip : Hands close together in the middle of the handle

Have you seen pictures or video-clips of the all-time greats of cricket such as Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards and our very own Sunil Gavaskar while batting? They scored runs almost at will in any class of cricket, and the one thing they had in common was the fact that they held the bat with hands close together, behind and in the middle of the bat handle.

If runs are the criterion, then this is the grip that should automatically be the one recommended by coaching manuals. But mind you, just having the correct grip will not transport you into the list of greats. There have been and there will always be batsmen who do not use the conventional grips, but score runs by the ton. Hence, if you do not have the other requisites of batsman-ship, the correct grip will take you nowhere.

Most good batsmen prefer this grip since it gives them control and power in stroke making. This grip facilitates the sliding of the bottom hand down the bat handle for better control in defence and attacking strokes like square cut, pull and hook. The soft bottom hand is so important in keeping the ball down while defending, both of the front as well as the back foot. In playing horizontal shots, again, the bottom hand sliding down gives more power and control to the pull and hook shots.

Since both the hands are together, in the middle of the bat handle, it is possible to have greater control and power, while driving off the front foot. This grip has the prime advantage of allowing a batsman with reasonable batting ability to play all types of shots, off the front foot as well as the back foot. Remember that the bowler finds it difficult to keep a batsman with this grip quiet as it gives him many options for stroke making.

This grip has been used to advantage by both defensive and attacking players, who have been successful consistently over a long period of time. But again, I would like to remind you that you should use the grip, which suits your style, and you feel comfortable with.


Why should hands be close together ?

When playing shots, if both the hands are together, they act in unison. The changeover from top-guiding hand to bottom-power hand at the time of impact is smooth and quick. As there is no gap between them, it helps to have control over one’s strokes.

A stroke goes through three main stages from the point of view of the batsman : ‘Perception’ (detection and recognition) leads to ‘Decision-Making’ which in turn leads to ‘Reaction’ or response to decision in shot selection.

Perception :

The batsman detects what the bowlers is doing or is about to do (off-spin, leg-spin, out swing, in swing etc; the speed of the ball, the movement in the air etc.) by focussing on the cues (speed of the run-up, close or away from the stump, grip on the ball, watching closely to detect on which side the gloss of the ball is etc.). Recognizing what is bowled by the bowler by intensely focussing on the wrist action and the grip (off-spin, leg-spin, out swing, in swing etc) This largely depend on past experience and what’s stored in the memory.

Decision-Making :

In decision making, the line and length, type of delivery, speed of the ball bowled and also its speed as compared to the earlier ball which the batsman had faced, is judged, and interpretation and decision is made, whether to leave the ball or play a defensive or attacking shot. The brain passes on this decision to the hands and feet. And accordingly the body reacts to move forward or back to play defensive or attacking strokes.

According to available information the reaction time is 0.45 seconds and a fast bowler bowling at more than 90 miles an hour gives hardly 0.38 to 0.43 sec to perceive what is being bowled, to decide and react. Hence, it’s of atmost imp- ortance to concentrate on the bowler, once his run-up starts and to look for what he intends to bowl, by paying attention to the cues which are given out by him.


Reaction :

If the hands are close together they shall receive messages from the brain at the same time and the reaction of the hands shall be in unison, which is so important for control over all the strokes. Having the hands together helps the batsman to drive the ball with power as well as control. A batsman who keeps his hands close together all the time shall be more effective playing off the front foot and shall be good at driving and lofting the ball.