It’s the most dangerous ball, and Lasith Malinga showed how devastating it could be when a bowler has reasonable control of it.
So what can you do to help your young batter deal with it?
Well, he’s not the only one. The great Jacques Kallis had the same problem against England just a few years ago.
What was wrong, and how did he make it better?
England had noticed that Kallis’s bat lift was crooked and coming from the gully-point area. This was because he lost his side-on position as he moved toward the ball during his trigger movement.
England threw full balls at his off stump, and when he played across the ball line, he was bowled out and caught at gully.
So, what did Jacques do, and how can your young players learn from it?
Jacques needed to go back to the drawing board to identify and fix the issue.
At first, he had to check where he stood in the crease, and then he had to look at where he stood when he was done pulling the trigger.
Was he upside down? If he weren’t, his bat would fall across the path of a straight ball if he didn’t. This means that the batter only has his bat on the way of the ball at one point, which makes it much more likely that they will be bowled or caught behind.
Now, I don’t think your younger batters need to worry about trigger movements, which are more advanced skills.
Verify if their stance is sideways on.
Then you must ensure they are still facing sideways when they move into the shot. This is true for both defensive and offensive straight bat shots.
Second, make sure their bat swing is straight from the top of the downswing.
Some batters loop the bat out to second or third slip when they lift it. This is fine if they loop the bat into the ball at the top downswing.
1. Straight Bat Swing Through Ball Assessment and Practice Drill.
Set a stationary ball in front of your batter, standing in the crease as usual. Ask them to step forward and hit the ball straight up the wicket.
Check the body position, which should be sideways, and make sure the bat swing is coming down through the ball. Or in the same direction as the ball.
2. Swing Practice
Roll the ball straight at the batter’s stumps and tell them to hit it straight back. Watch the bat swing and ensure it comes down directly and in the same direction as the ball.
3. Do the straight bat swing through the ball drill.
Repeat the practice, but this time toss overarm to the batter and instruct the batter to hit straight. They will start to fix themselves now because you can’t consistently hit the ball straight without swinging in a straight line.
Set up some markers or cones from mid-off to mid-on to give the batter a place to aim, or the back of the net can be the goal.
The key is hitting enough shots so that your brain learns how to keep your body shape and position in the image without having to think about it.
Trevor Goddard, a former South African opening bat and all-rounder gave me this batting tip for exactly this batting problem.
Shadow Hitting Drill:
When the batter plays a straight drive, they should feel the inside of their arm (Bottom Hand) against their shirt. When they play shadow shots to get a feel for this, they notice that the knowledge of their forearm brushes against their shirt.
Keeping your hands close to your body brings the bat closer and helps you hit the ball along its path.
POSITION AND BALANCE
Your body isn’t lined up right. Think of it this way: the ball goes from the bowler’s hand to you in a straight line.
Since the blade swings from point to midwicket, you can’t swing your bat in a straight line from one set of stumps to the other when you’re standing chest-on.
Considering that 90% of all deliveries will be pitched up and straight at you, you need to play the ball back up the wicket off the front foot.
I suggest you move back to a side-on stance to get ready to hit the ball up the wicket and through the off side. Your bat swing will now go straight from one set of stumps to the other.
Sachin is an excellent example of a stand, and so is Virat Kohli, who impresses me more and more the more I see him.
The key is to keep your head still in your stance. This lets you stay focused, accurately judge the ball’s flight, and move into position for the stroke without thinking about it.