Batting Stance : Stance
The stance is the position that a batsman takes in the crease before facing every delivery. The stance mostly depends on each batsman’s comfort and style of play. Some may opt for an ‘open’ stance, some may prefer a ‘side-on’ stance, and others, an ‘upright’ stance – made popular by former England skipper, Graham Gooch. Other variations are, keeping the feet ‘side-on’ with the front shoulder open and the ‘closed’ stance, where the left shoulder almost points towards cover point.
Whatever stance a batsman opts for, the fact remains that it has to be comfortable, relaxed, aid stability and give him a good clear view of the bowler’s run-up and action. Ideally, the back foot is parallel to and inside the crease. The feet are comfortably apart to balance the body, which in turn helps easy forward and back movement. The knees are slightly bent and the bat resting close to and behind the little toe of the back foot.
The hands gripping the bat handle rest on the front thigh. The front shoulder points straight down the wicket, with the head – vertical and perfectly still – looking at the bowler over the front shoulder. The upper body is slightly bent but too much crouching is avoided to maintain a proper balance.
Why should you bend your knees slightly in your stance?
You must have learnt in school that for any object to be stable, the line joining the centre of gravity of that object and the centre of the earth should pass through the base of the object. The slight bending of your knees allows you to help this line pass between your feet; thus helping you remain stable and balanced.
When you straighten your knees, the head moves to the off-side, pushing the centre of gravity towards the off-side and out of the line of the base. To test this, close your eyes while in your stance. If you feel the body weight on your toes, then you are not bending enough. If you bend a little, the balls of the feet will take the load of the body weight. Try it!
The Closed stance :
We have seen the advantages and shortcomings of the side-on stance and the open stance (or the two-eyed stance) during the last two weeks. This week let’s learn something about the ‘closed stance’.
In the closed stance, the batsman stands with the feet on either side of the popping crease. The feet are at an angle to the popping crease and pointing in a direction between point and square third-man. In some cases, the feet may be parallel to the crease, but the line of the front foot toe may be in front of back foot toe. The hip is slightly closed and as is his front shoulder, which is turned and pointing in the direction of mid-off. The feet, hip and shoulder may be in the same plane or at an angle to the non-strikers stump. In some cases feet may be parallel to the crease, but the hip and the front shoulder are closed and in the direction of mid-off.
Batsmen with this stance are good at playing strokes to balls pitched outside the off stump, but carry the risk of playing too far away from the body. They also have the tendency to reach for the ball pitched wide of the off stump thus losing their awareness of the off stump.
Batsmen with a closed stance get into the habit of thrusting their front foot far onto the off side to play flowing cover drives. But this very often forces them to play across the line when the ball is pitched in line with the stumps. Because of the thrust out front foot, these batsmen have to bring their bat around the front foot pad to play the ball.
These batsmen also get into trouble when the ball comes into the body from short of a good length. As their stance is closed, and their front foot has a tendency to move to the off side, they get cramped when the ball comes into their body. This is the reason why they are bad at playing the hook and pull shots.
Variation in stance
Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath comes immediately to mind when one thinks about an open stance. He, earlier on, had the classical side-on stance, but adapted his stance to an open one on the tours of Pakistan and the West Indies in 1982-83, where he was very successful and then finished off with glory in the 1983 World Cup in England. After that, in five test innings against the West Indies in India, he scored five consecutive ducks.
Open stance or two-eyed stance:
The batsman stands with feet on either side of the popping crease with the front foot and back foot in a straight line. The feet are at an angle to the popping crease and pointing towards cover point – or in some cases the back foot is parallel to the crease while the front foot’s toe is in the direction of cover point or covers. The hip is slightly open and the front shoulder is pointing in a direction between the non-striker and mid-on. The feet, hip and shoulder may be in the same plane but at an angle to the non-strikers stump. In some cases, feet may be parallel to the crease but hip and front shoulder may be open and in a direction between the non-striker and mid-on.
In this stance, if the batsman keeps his front shoulder open while facing a short ball then he is bound to get into trouble. When the body is square in the in the line of the ball, the batsman will find it difficult to move away from the line of the ball. The batsman with such technique is usually a compulsive hooker or puller, as he finds it easier to get into position for the pull and hook shot.
With an open stance, where the batsman has his feet and front shoulder open, the batsman will find it extremely difficult to drive off the front foot, a ball which is pitched on or outside the line of the off stump. He will naturally find it difficult to bring his front foot close to the pitch of the ball and he is prone to play away from his body. This could mean disaster on a wicket that’s helping the seamer or the spinner. Moreover, the downswing of his bat will be from the gulley area, and in all probability, he will slice his shots. Batsmen with an open stance are more adept at playing shots on the on-side than the off-side.