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Tinker, alter & yet falter

Batting blues Batsmen modify bats to handle extra pace and bounce on Aussie wickets but fail to get positive results. Dinesh Chopra writes. Cutting edge

india Updated: Jan 08, 2012 01:26 IST
Rahul-Dravid-waits-alongside-Virender-Sehwag-for-a-third-umpire-decision-to-confirm-his-dismissal-on-day-one-of-the-second-cricket-Test-at-the-Sydney-Cricket-Ground-AFP
Rahul-Dravid-waits-alongside-Virender-Sehwag-for-a-third-umpire-decision-to-confirm-his-dismissal-on-day-one-of-the-second-cricket-Test-at-the-Sydney-Cricket-Ground-AFP

Indian batsmen knew the challenge at hand; they tried to prepare for it but in the end looked worn down by the enormity of the challenge and superior opposition. Their accurate planning and thoughtful practice drills were in place but that all important self-belief seemed to have divorced them.

Shedding the weight
The planning included tweaking the batting techniques a bit and shedding the weight of the bats — aimed to get the bat down in time to meet that rapid ball on pacy tracks.

India's most prolific batsman in recent times, before he reached Australia, Rahul Dravid had organised things even before he embarked on this tour. He had directed his manufacturer to provide him with bats which were about 40 to 50 grams lighter than usual.

“Before he left for Australia, Dravid had asked for light-weight bats,” said Paras Anand, the director of Sanspareils Greenlands, a sports good manufacturing company that makes Dravid's bats (see graphic).

For a batsman, this weight loss could be a vital change, especially when he is squaring up to bowlers hurling down mercilessly at 140 kmph. Dravid so far has scores of 68, 10, 5 and 29 in four innings. But the bad news is that out of these four strikes, he has been out bowled thrice. Make it four if you want to count Peter Siddle getting him once off a no ball in Melbourne. Cutting edge

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell feels that this could be because Dravid is much too bothered about the away going delivery and is therefore playing inside the line of the ball — leaving a gap between bat and pad and getting bowled.

Chopping the handle
Opening batsman Virender Sehwag is travelling light too, in search of heavy scores. Anand informs that in his case, it's the bat's handle that has gone under the knife instead of the blade. The hard-hitting batsman is playing with what is called the super-short handle of a bat.

“Earlier Sehwag was playing with a bat which had a normal-sized handle but being a bottom-handed batsman, the handle would jut out whenever he’d play the cut shot and get stuck in his wrist. He suggested we take off the top chunk of the handle to enable him to play freely,” said Anand. Sehwag is a batsman who always looks to play between thirdman and covers, preferably off the backfoot. So far, he’s been done in twice while playing square cuts.

Besides the equipment change, a few batsmen are also opting to play with the bat raised up to stump height. This again is done to ensure that they are not late in executing their strokes. “Different batsmen have different ways of encountering the challenges of a fast and bouncy pitch. A raised bat is one of them,” says Sourav Ganguly. “I liked to play with the bat raised up to stump height and I got a lot of success when I made this change. In any case it is easier to go from top to bottom.” By this, Ganguly meant when the bat is raised till the stump height, the batsman is already in momentum which can be crucial on fast pitches.

In search of momentum
Skipper MS Dhoni too is searching for momentum and has made changes in his bat. His attacking batting has given him limited success so far with 88 runs to show in four innings. In his case, the sweet spot of the bat is now a little higher than usual. This was done keeping in mind that the ball will tend to hit the higher part of the bat after pitching. “We have shaved off some weight from the bottom and the back of Dhoni's bat to reduce weight and also shifted the sweet spot of the bat a little higher than normal,” said Sajid Shamim, Reebok's brand director.

The writer works for ESPN's Sportscenter