It is doubtful whether any aspirant coaches within the ECB system consult the hallowed MCC Coaching Manual these days, much less impose its occasionally dubious verities on their charges, for people now realize that technique, while based on certain sound principles (sound at the linguistic level, at least), is not about absolutes. Rather, it needs to be understood as a hand-to-hand combat of energies – always factoring in the continuous variation of pitch and overhead conditions – whereby the singular style and skill-set of each player presents for their direct adversary what philosophers like to call a ‘problematic’, a puzzle.
This has been amply illustrated at Edgbaston this morning where the squat left-handed orthodoxy of Ian Westwood and the upright right-handed idiosyncrasies of Varun Chopra have had the upper hand, managing to ‘solve’ the distinct problems posed by the skiddy medium pace of Tim Murtagh and the tall, lively Toby Roland-Jones.
Chopra’s technique involves several moving parts. Standing tall at the crease, with a straight-armed backlift that is definitely Made in Essex (more Ronnie Irani than Graham Gooch, mind), his trigger movement takes his back foot well outside off stump, his front pad on to the line of off, so that he often hides all three stumps, tempting the bowler to attack his castle yet with the line of his shoulders remaining open enough for him to work the ball through mid on, mid-wicket without playing around his front leg. One would imagine that, when out of form, synchronisation might be an issue; without having looked from side-on, there are suggestions that the amount of movement means not only is he not always playing from a stable base, but that his weight distribution might occasionally be too far over his back foot; that is, too much in the first part of his trigger movement. I would suggest that, as for all players who pick their bats up high, a sharp yorker first up might be worthwhile. Still, an England Lions appearance last week and approaching 750 Championship runs at over 40 suggest that his game is in reasonable order.
Westwood, meanwhile, is a figure of stillness and compaction. The problematic he poses for bowlers concerns his height and, consequently, their length. On the flipside, Roland-Jones’ bounce from this firm surface has discomfited him on more than one occasion – a short ball being jabbed involuntarily from the splice to the safety of a vacant leg gully region and a few balls of good length hitting him amidships. However, when his defence has enticed the bowler to search for a fuller length, he has been good enough to transfer his weight and drive crisply and powerfully in the arc from cover to mid on.
The above was published by the Guardian on County Cricket- Live! for August 22, day one of Warwickshire vs Middlesex.