Back Foot Strokes
Back-foot strokes are often underestimated in comparison to front-foot ones, purely because to the naked eye they may not seem as attractive. Make no mistake though, the former take as much skill and finesse to execute perfectly, as the latter.
It probably isn’t the most glamorous of shots, but is a definite must in the armor of international batsmen, especially the openers, what with fast bowlers running in to deliver soaring-paced on a bouncy first day track.
The best way to deal with a ball pitched just short of good length early on in the innings, when taking is risk is not worth, is to play the back-foot defensive. It is essential to meet the ball at the top of its bounce is such cases, which could be done by going back on one’s crease. It is also requisite, so as to prevent losing one’s wicket, to play the back-foot defense with a relaxed grip, thus reducing the chances of edging to fielders close-by.
The back-foot should be well in the crease, with the line of the off-stump. The front elbow should rise up in line with the ball, while the bottom hand should rest loose on the handle. It is also necessary that the entire weight of the body is concentrated on the front.
It is one of the one elegant-looking shot in the game, although it is as difficult to execute as impeccable it may look. One needs to have a fluent feet movement, to perform it with the required timing, as it relies less on power, and more on technique. It brings a bucketful of runs within the mid-on to cover region; however, batsmen usually prefer to play the straight drive on the front foot, rather than the back.
It is utterly important that while playing this shot, the batsman poses erect on his feet, with his head right over the ball, and thus the entire weight of the body forward. This will ensure that when the bat contacts the ball, the latter wouldn’t pop to nearby fielders.
The top hand will control the stroke, while the bottom one will provide whatever power that is necessary to propel the ball in the direction chosen to hit. The bat and hands should follow through the line of the shot, and finish at a high position.
It is the most apt shot for a ball delivered wide and short outside the off-stump. Although this shot can bring a lot of runs, it is all the most dangerous, because if not executed perfectly, it could lead to all sorts of edges, which would only lead to one’s downfall.
The head should stay steady and right on top of the ball, while the entire weight of the body should be shifted to the back-foot, which should move towards the stumps. If the head drops back, with the weight, the shot will inadvertently be made a mockery, as one can easily lose control then.
To keep the ball down, to avoid any chances for close catchers, it is important that a high back lift is used. The bat should be brought down and across, scalping the ball at full extension. The wrists should follow the motion immaculately, with the bottom hand controlling the shot. The follow through is as important too: leave the weight on the back foot with the bat finishing over the front shoulder and behind the head.
Pull Shot and Hook Shot:
The concept of both the pull and the hook shot is quite similar. It’s just the applicability that varies. While the pull shot, which is also much easier to control, is played to a ball which is around the waist height, the hook shot is used to counter one between the chest and head height.
a) Pull shot:
The rear foot should get across to the off stump, with the line of the head outside that of the ball. The front foot needs to swing to the leg side, so as to open oneself up. The head has to remain steady, as just a small unevenness will cause an ineffective and potentially dangerous shot.
The bat should be swung across within the optimum possible time, so that it meets the ball in front of the body. To prevent hitting in the air, the wrists need to be rolled over a little. To ensure the best possible timing, the follow through too needs to be executed perfectly, with the head keeping still and the weight transferred on the front leg.
b) Hook shot:
It is more risky than probably any other shot, purely because controlling it is difficult. Since the wrists can’t possibly roll over while playing the shot at its particular height, the ball is bound to stay air-borne for the initial thrust.
The footwork should be quicker for this shot, as compared to pull shot, because there’s less time to counter the ever-increasing height of the ball. The concentration should be at quite a high level, since a misjudgment in the bounce can result in missing the shot altogether, causing injury.
The follow through is a little different. Both feet should move around, and point towards the trajectory of the ball, after having been hit. Either that or the weight shouldn’t transfer from the back to the front foot, unlike the pull shot. And if you aren’t wearing a helmet, it’s best to duck rather than try for it.
It’s very important that one should master this shot in order to execute it perfectly perennially. Power has little to do with the execution, the control of the shot lies entirely on how well the wrists are used, so as to use the pace of the ball to guide it through the area around the square leg.
Both feet should move towards the stumps, opening up one’s posture, without exposing the middle and the leg stumps. The head though, should be forward, and just in line with the ball.
The contact of the bat should be made in front of the body, so time the swing as per that particular judgment. The bat should come down relatively straight, with the face turning towards the leg side as approaching the ball. The top hand should take over the control of the shot from then on to orientate the direction, with the wrists guiding the timing.