Cricket is traditionally known as the gentlemen’s game but after the advent of T-20 it has witnessed a sea change and of late some outrageous shots have become part of batsmen repertoire. This raises a serious question whether cricket is still a gentlemen’s game which hitherto was known for its strictly copybook shots.
We are living in times of fast food where time is essence and the game of cricket is no exception. The game has changed a lot after T-20 became popular in last 10 years and now emphasis is more on scoring maximum runs at a faster rate in 20 overs. The finesse and elegance of batting has taken a backseat while improvisation and thinking out of box is the necessity.
I have chosen six most popular shots which were not part of the game few years back but now we often see these shots being executed by most of the international players. These unconventional shots are associated with specific players who made it popular. Let us find out which are those six shots which of late are producing the bulk of runs in the instant version of cricket.
The best exponent of this unique shot was our own master blaster Sachin Tendulkar who used it so successfully against Shoaib Akhtar in the semi final of 2002 world cup in South Africa. Before that classic duel Shoaib Akhtar always used to have the upper hand against the ace batsman as his main weapon was a bouncer delivered at 100 kmph. Shoaib Akhtar got such a battering from Tendulkar in this match that he never used this weapon again against him.
Sachin also used this shot to tackle the bounce of Makhaya Ntini and Nantie Hayward of South Africa on the South Africa tour of 1996-97. Sachin’s partner Virender Sehwag took a cue from great Tendulkar and used this shot quite effectively against world’s top speedsters.
After T20 became the most popular version, almost every batsman has tried to include this shot in his arsenal but no one did it better than Sachin.
A B de Villiers of South Africa and Glenn Maxwell of Australia are two names which come to our mind when we talk about reverse sweep. These are the two most destructive batsmen in the shortest form of cricket who use this shot when field on the off-side is up inside the circle.
They also used this particular shot adeptly to negotiate and unsettle the Indian spinners R Ashwin and R Jadeja which made Indian skipper to scratch his head.
This shot also needs lot of skill as it involves a high degree of risk resulting in most of batsmen getting caught at point or cover after they miscue the shot.
When we talk about swich hit, the only batsman who perfectly used this shot was none other than Kevin Pietersen, the South African born batsman who played as a middle order batsman for England.
This may look very similar to the reverse sweep but in this shot the batsman deliberately changes his regular stance and plays the ball in the gap to help him with much needed four or a six.
In the local lingo, it is also called as Alti-palti in India but KP was the first international batsman who mastered this stroke to perfection. To start with, this shot created lot of debate in the world cricket, some calling it outstanding display of skill while others labeling it as unethical as in their opinion if a batsman changes his stance; he gains an unfair hand over the bowler.
But ICC, which administers the game, declared it legitimate in 2012 and who can forget David Warner, who used this shot so skillfully to punish the top bowlers.
This is the trademark shot of current Indian one day and T-20 team’s wicketkeeper batsman and the ex captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The Helicopter shot is an expression of Dhoni’s brute power coupled with amazing wrist work and bat speed.
This shot helped Dhoni to score against the most difficult ball of the game known as Yorkers. This ball is among the safest deliveries for a fast baller to be bowled during the death overs. Though, of late many batsmen have adopted this shot but the Helicopter Shot will always remind cricket aficionados of Dhoni who has undisputedly patented this.
You talk of Dilscoop or a ‘ramp shot’ and you immediately think of Srilankan opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, who during the 2009 ICC T-20 World cup, played it quite consistently . The other leading batsmen who play this shot to good effect are India’s Rohit Sharma and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand. It is also one of the most difficult and innovative strokes to play which is also used by the tail enders quite regularly.
The technique required to play this stroke is for batsman to go on one knee to a normal good length or slightly short of length delivery from a fast or medium pace bowler and ‘scoop’ the ball over the wicket-keeper’s head where in all probably there is no fielder.
Cricket fans all over the world will always remember Sachin playing this shot to counter the legendary Australian leg spinner, Shane Warne in the 1998 ODI tri-series at Sharjah where he scored back to back hundreds.
In the modern era of T20 cricket, batsmen try this shot in order to take advantage of wide gaps in the fine-leg region. Gautam Gambhir, the ex Indian opener and captain of Knight riders franchise in the IPL plays it quite beautifully.
Now most of international batsmen have paddle sweep in their repertoire of shots which makes life more difficult for the fielding captain. The game is continuously evolving and batsmen are not scared of trying new shots to outwit the bowlers which will only make the game more interesting and breathtaking.