Do you agree if I say the batsmen from the ’90s had more range of shots than the current crop of batters?
Well! To be honest, the batsmen of those times used their shots pretty well, and unlike today’s batsmen, there was no reason for them to get bemused. There were no scoreboard pressure like now.
It was entirely a different scene when the West Indies dominated the period of 80s, and early 90s. The batters by then got influenced by the hard-hitting method to score, which made bowling a problematic job. Also, the 80s batsmen preferred to score more on legside as it was so natural for them.
On the contrary, the batting that followed them dealt with scoring runs differently. They brought in a range of shots and played by the books.
Even then, two players came up with the exceptions: Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.
Both these legendary batters had shots to play around the ground in all dimensions possible. They were stellar as they had always been able to make those shots with top-notch accuracy.
Who played Straight drive better?
Speaking of straight driven shots, Sachin Tendulkar has valued the shot more than Brian Lara.
When every batsman tried hitting hard, and over the fielders, Sachin was one who used the gap between mid-on and mid-off frequently. Being a smart cricketer, Sachin used the gap to make more effective runs.
Thanks to the influences of his school time coach Ramakant Vitthal Achrekar, he naturally prefers the bookish method of scoring in the V.
Straight down the ground is the area where he loved to score runs. Not stopping there, the little master improved his scoring ability with this signature shot of him, over time.
Moreover, it became an effective shot because of the field set up on those days. One could see packed slips accompanied with fielders in the leg and off sides to cut off the run-scoring shots, which eventually made the gap right in front of the batsman.
In fact, Sachin’s first international boundary came off with this best cricketing shot, which is his beauty filled straight drive.
As the game had evolved with time, Sachin crafted his straight drive to excellence. In that way, you can find three different variations in his on and off drives.
Sachin played this type of Straight drives during his entry point in cricket.
‘Brutal stroke down the ground’ was how it could be defined.
Those days the cricket bats were not that big–which makes middling hardly the primary objective for the batsmen.
So the young master by that time was more dependable on power and bat swings.
His bat swing was so hard, and it was the intention and knack of Sachin that helped him hit straight to the side screens.
The bat swings at times have got completed at his back because of the enormous power he produced.
“If I had to bowl to Sachin, I would bowl with a helmet on. He hits the ball so hard,”
said Dennis Lillee, Former Australian fast bowler.
Most often the ball connects somewhere in between the middle and bottom of the bat.
This is the straight drive variation which Sachin played most when he was becoming the identity of Indian cricket, which is during the period of 1996 world cup.
Sachin’s batting, during this phase, had got to an improvised version. It had the combination of power and timing – a tremendous amount of power generated with the bat swing which gets controlled after connecting.
Even the balls hitting the bottom of the bat went beyond the line because of the power he generated. At times the straight drive gets completed with the flick of the bat to the shoulder, to control the downswing.
Eventually, it turned out to be one of the most productive shots because Sachin was able to pick the good-length deliveries too, which were the stock deliveries for most of the bowlers.
This method of the straight drive was all about the chemistry between Sachin and the sweet spot of his bat.
Besides, Sachin started playing this at the time when the cricket bats were getting bigger, and it compromised the new demands at the start of the 2000s. Sachin was so quick to replace his powerful bat swings with the sweet timing.
That is to say, he made great use of the bigger bats.
As a result, Sachin started producing elegant straight drives which were intermixed with Godly touch.
A gentle push while connecting the ball or a perfectly timed defence was enough for him to produce the magnificent straight drives during this phase of his career.
The bat swing stops right after it dispatches the ball past the bowler. Harsha Bhogle once said,
“When Tendulkar straight drives, the world seems like a nicer place. “
This improvised version of straight drive picked the over pitched and good length deliveries. At times the balls, pitching slightly outside off stump were also chosen to execute the shot.
The credit goes to the sweet spot of his blade and of course, the incredible timing he displayed! As the shot was so natural for the Indian legend, he produced it effortlessly.
According to Sachin, this shot had the following techniques, which are hard skills to nurture for other batters.
- Sachin has never been premeditative for this shot as it was so natural for him.
- It helped in coping up with a steady head.
- Stable head with eyes watching the ball throughout the process.
- It is merely ‘See the ball, hit the ball game.’
Toe to toe
- The body weight transfers from the back leg to the front leg.
- It was the toes of the feet that took the weight transfer process.
- Only the toes tend to be on the ground for this shot.
- A small part of the back foot toe will be on the ground while the whole body weight lies on the front toe.
- The face of his bat is the most prominent factor of this shot.
- You can clearly see the full face of the bat from the front view. And that makes it look so good.
- Earlier in his career, it wasn’t the bat face that did the job.
- As he crafted his straight drive, the bat face became a crucial element for this stroke.
- It was the follow-through after connecting the ball that gets changed during every phase of the shot.
- As the energy involved gets lower because of the pure timing, Sachin was able to make it with perfect body balance at the end of his career.
- A little jump to the front after the point of contact can be seen. It is to maintain body balance.
Lofted straight drives
In his early stages, he preferred to go downtown to go hard on bowlers.
For Sachin, it was only his lofted straight drives that showcased us his aggressive version.
Especially the six against Michael Kasprowicz at Sharjah was something otherworldly. And it has undoubtedly become the most beautiful shot of cricket hitherto.
Even the lethal pacers were treated like spinners when Sachin stepped out to play this shot.
Sachin was so quick to get his bat under the ball for this lofted drive.
Geoffrey Boycott, the former England batsman, had stated once:
“Technically you can’t fault Sachin, seam or spin Fast or slow; nothing is a problem.”
Tendulkar had never needed to step down to go over the head of spinners. He was the one on those days, to hit over the downtown without stepping down. It’s purely because of the timing ability he possessed.
Nevertheless, once he decided to go down the ground, he made sure that he cleared the rope or to a no man’s land inside the boundary line.
The Little Master was so accurate with the spinners.
Especially most of the Sachin-Warne contests were won by Sachin because of this ability to step down the track.
Shane Warne on Sachin’s hitting ability:
“ I’ll be going to bed having nightmares of Sachin running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six. He was unstoppable, I don’t think anyone apart from Don Bradman, is in the same class as Sachin Tendulkar. He is just an amazing player.”
The Sum up
To sum up
Not only straight drives, but you can also write books on every shot Sachin used to play. He had multiple shots that were crafted well, and the elegance in his shots was divine. But, somehow straight drive became one of the signature shots for Sachin.
It was also the timing at which he used to produce the shot in his innings. In most cases, it will be at the beginning of an innings before he gets settled in a pitch.
Indeed, the straight drive had been the shot that sets the tone for many of his memorable innings–one of the reasons for people to connect with the shot emotionally. An unbeaten Sachin’s innings cannot be fulfilled without a straight drive in it.
One thing to take from Sachin’s straight drive is the part where he continued learning and improvising his signature shot.
“I’m really focusing on how I can get to the next level as a batsman. How can I get even more competitive? How can I get even more consistent? How can I get better?”
said Sachin when he was at the peak of his career.
Even the best batsman of the world never felt enough from learning, and that shows us how important it is for one to improvise the skillset.
Cricketer. Budding Writer. Blogs at CricIndeed.com