Cheteshwar Pujara is a throwback, but he proves beyond doubt that cricket is about a relentless thrust towards doing the basics at a world-class level.
The Indian batsman is slight of build, sound of technique and big on intense focus: He is Dravid, he is Gavaskar. He scores daddy hundreds under pressure. And that is his real trick: One that all cricketers - regardless of skill or style - can follow.
Anyone can get good at the basics out of context. I look great driving in the bedroom mirror. The difference between me and Pujara (and any fine batsman) is that he also looks great doing it in the middle of an international or IPL match.
He can retain an excellent technique even when the pressure is on. It could be mental pressure from opponents and match situations, or it could be physical pressure from batting for hours in the searing heat.
Pujara does not falter.
He has worked insanely hard on getting his basic technique right, and keeping it that way. He is not satisfied until perfection is achieved. So when he is out in a game, he doesn't have to second guess himself. He has a method that he knows works and he can get on with it, knowing his body will not let him down.
He has no truck with the impossible. He goes about his task like a master tailor, gradually adjusting and improving and never straying far from the basics.
Clarifying basic cricket technique
However, as we know, the basics are changing fast. There is no MCC coaching book any more. Techniques change based on body type, personality and even psychology.
The answer is simple: you need to develop your own version of the basics.
Some things, even now, don't change. For example, a batsman needs the ability to pick line and length early whatever his technique. He needs to select then execute a shot that is suitable for the match situation and his ability.
Of course, this takes technical drills, but it also takes an understanding of how your mind works when tired and under pressure. Technique goes quickly in those circumstances, so part of your "master the basics" plan should include putting yourself in tiring and mentally tough situations.
Then work out your method, your basics. Perhaps that is through old school technical perfection. Playing straight is still the safest way to bat. Perhaps you have a technical tick that works for you that the coach might dislike. It's no longer set in stone.
All that is a long way from having a hit in the nets, even under the guise of "working on technique". Forget that and spend your practice time like Pujara: getting really, really good at the basics under pressure.
Your run scoring will soar.
© 2013 miSport Ltd