Is It Worth Learning These New-Fangled Shots?
One of the common tropes of modern cricket is that batsmen have a wider range of shots than ever. While it may be a cliche for commentators to throw out when they have nothing to say, it's also true.
So do you need to learn them; or if you coach do you need to spend time coaching them?
Let’s look at each new shot in turn and decide.
Although the shot has been around since the 1970s, it’s still rarely played and even more rarely mastered compared to drives, cuts and pulls.
It's tough to execute well without practice and even tougher to get more than a single from the shot. However, there are times where it is very useful, such as when there is a gap in the field on the off side behind square.
By manipulating the spinner into this gap you can pick up two or even a boundary.
This also adds the benefit of forcing the bowler to change his field and plug the gap, leaving a space for safer and more orthodox shots.
- Difficulty (from 10): 7
- Usefulness: 6
- Verdict: LEARN (but only if you can sweep and drive first)
Tactically, this Kevin Pietersen developed shot is a progression from the reverse sweep.
It's much harder to play because you have to become opposite handed, but the result is more power in the shot and the chance to play it against medium pace as well as spin bowling.
To be honest, most people won't benefit much from spending so much time on a shot that is rarely used, but if you have a mentality like KP and you just can't resist then it's better to have practiced a bit beforehand.
- Difficulty: 9
- Usefulness: 7
- Verdict: DON'T LEARN
This shot was first popularised in the 2009 World Twenty20 by Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan, although earlier variations have existed. You hit a good length ball over your own head to the boundary behind the wicketkeeper.
The shot is technically not difficult, but is very hard to play because of the sheer danger of getting hit. The result - when played correctly - is almost always a boundary because the ball goes directly over the keeper and the fine leg or third man are unable to cut it off.
For that reason it is high risk, high reward and is a good shot to be able to play either at the death, or when a medium pace bowler has tied you down with accurate length bowling.
- Difficulty: 10
- Usefulness: 8
- Verdict: LEARN
This baseball hitting method has been used by modern batters to play a range of strokes with great power. Sometimes it looks like an old fashioned front foot pull shot, sometimes it looks like a pure baseball swing but the results are a lot more power and a lot more boundaries.
It can be played to length balls around the off stump (hit between mid off and square leg), short balls (front foot pulled) or full tosses (hit over mid on) equally well. You can read more about the shot from Mark Garaway's experiences here.
The obvious use is during the death overs of a limited over match, but as it is one of the lower risk "power" shots it can be used almost any time you need a get out of jail shot. In fact, there is a case that this shot is so useful that it should be one of the first shots to learn after the basic drives.
- Difficulty: 7
- Usefulness: 10
- Verdict: LEARN
"Clearing the front leg" has become a cliche for smashing the ball over cow corner for six. It's the most common new shot you see in non-professional cricket because it seems easy: You just have an ugly swipe and hope you make contact.
But if you practice this shot with the aim of watching the ball and staying balanced (head still, feet creating a good base) then you can be a lot more effective than the village slogger. It will never look the most beautiful shot, but you will make contact more often.
Save it for the time you need it: At the end.
- Difficulty: 4
- Usefulness: 9
- Verdict: LEARN
The conclusion with any of these shots is that they have a time and place. Learning them is fun and interesting, but certainly shouldn't take up the bulk of your time as a player or coach. Playing straight is step one. Even in Twenty20.
However, with a solid setup and good balance you can experiment with a shot or two that you feel you may find useful in the games you play. Of course, you need to stay mindful and only practice shots you would use in games but cricket is supposed to be fun as well as a challenge and learning these shots is a great way to combine these elements.