Power Cricket

While we’re of a mindset these days that all of the power hitting since 1993 or so is a function of PEDs, hitting for power can be, to some extent, a choice. Sure, PEDs happened (and are happening) and small ballparks and other things have contributed greatly to increased power numbers, but players making a conscious decision to hit with an uppercut instead of a chopping motion and organizations eschewing the dogma of smallball altogether have probably had a lot to do with it too.

If you don’t believe that, check out what’s happening in cricket:

THIS was batting, but not as we know it, even in a game that isn’t cricket as we know it. In the space of 43 breathtaking deliveries, yielding 89 runs, wunderkind David Warner redefined power-hitting at the MCG on Sunday night.

The ground has been witness to power-hitting before but has not seen shots played like this, for many of Warner’s towering hits in the Twenty20 match against South Africa owed as much to baseball as to cricket.

There is a good reason for that — it is how he has been training and how the new generation of young players have been instructed to play.

“It is a new way of batting to develop power-hitting for this game,” said Cricket NSW high performance manager Alan Campbell, who has been monitoring Warner since he was a promising 12-year-old. “The advent of Twenty20 cricket has meant that our model is to teach our players to power-hit to all parts of the ground in a non-traditional manner.

Prediction: the rise of the power game in cricket will cause some to turn to PEDs, and when they’re caught, the whole philosophy will be trashed along with it. Then, 15 or 20 years from now, some former Member of Parliament will be commissioned to write a report whitewashing it all.

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  1. Chris H. said...

    Yeah, but it’ll be more fun because they’ll stop for tea breaks and whatnot.

    Plus, imagine the hilarious conversations that will be possible:

    “‘Ere!  You fink Smithers is poppin’ steh-roids?”

    “Naw.  Wouldn’t be cricket, would it?”

    “Well, ‘at’s the point, mate.  It is cricket, isn’t it?”

    “Bollocks.  It ain’t cricket, and that’s that.”

    And so on.  Tell me that’s not going to be more entertaining than anything written about Roger Clemens.

  2. Josh Wilker said...

    Interesting. The recent novel Neverland features a Dutch cricket-playing protagonist who resists the tendency in American expatriot cricket to try to hit for power, instead hanging on to his Old World style of slapping it on the ground to “all fields.” In the novel, trying to loft the ball on the fly is more effective in America because of the cramped, unspringy playing fields the exiles have to play on.

  3. Loztralia said...

    Don’t forget, though, that we play three different types of cricket: test matches (that’s the five day kind that Americans love to laugh at, based presumably on the idea that spending five days lying around in the sun drinking beer and watching sport is a bad thing), one day games and Twenty20.

    In both the first two preserving outs is absolutely vital – you only have ten to play with, and three or four of those are bowlers who really can’t bat anyway. Imagine a baseball game where there are only ten outs, no walks but batters are allowed an infinite number of balls and the strike zone is about three inches square. You’d want to be fairly certain you were hitting it out before using your fly ball swing, wouldn’t you? The game would evolve to have mostly line drive hitters.

    Twenty20 is different because it’s much shorter – with less time you can take more risks because the number of outs is less likely to come into paly. In this form of the game it makes sense to swing hard and high. Of course Twenty20 could take over the cricket world by 2020 so this could easily become irrelevant.

  4. Ron said...

    See, that’s why baseball rocks. 27 outs. 1 day, the World Series, it doesn’t matter. 27 outs.

    And why do people always try to make analogies between baseball and cricket? It can’t be done.

    There are two separate and different games.

    You might as well say basketball and soceer are the same sport because they both use round balls the same size.

  5. Chris H. said...

    Well I’d argue that there are a lot more similarities between baseball and cricket than there are between basketball and soccer, but it’s true they are rather different games.  (Of course, Ron, you started your post with a baseball-to-cricket analogy.  FAIL.)

    And Loztralia, I don’t *laugh* at the idea of five-day matches.  They just aren’t very convenient, is all.  Five days lying around in the sun drinking beer and watching sports sounds marvelous, but seriously, who can actually do that?  Don’t you people have jobs?  smile

  6. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    An analyst of high repute – Eric Walker of Sinister Firstbaseman and A’s fame – runs a website called High Boskage House, and his analysis finds that the high offensive era is due to a juiced baseball, not a juiced ballplayer.  His reasoning is here:  http://highboskage.com/juiced-ball.shtml

  7. Chris H. said...

    Serious question for cricket fans:

    If someone (like, say, me) wants to learn cricket and watch some good cricket here in the US, how would you recommend s/he goes about doing that?  Does anyone in the US air anything other than “highlights?”

  8. Simon Bennett said...

    Speaking as a lifelong cricket fan who is a relatively recent convert to baseball, I think some good points have been made.  I would resist the suggestion that David Warner has ‘redefined power-hitting’, although his case is a fascinating one – he has yet to play ‘first-class’ cricket (the two-inning, longer version of the game). This is virtually unique in the modern era, and therefore much of his success was down to the fact that he was new to the South African opposition who hadn’t had the opportunity to work out a plan as to how they would bowl at him.  Let’s see whether Warner is a household name in five years time. Incidentally, a scoring rate of 200 (runs scored divided by balls received) is excellent but not unusual in Twenty20 cricket – for example the Indian Yujrav Singh hit 36 runs off a six-ball over in the Twenty20 World Cup.

    Craig makes a good point about PEDs but the testing regime in cricket is pretty strict and there have already been some high profile cases of drug misuse.  Not that someone won’t try and get away with it, though.

    I agree with every word that Bill had to say – a version of cricket whose solitary appeal is witnessing the hitting of the ball to all parts loses much of the traditional appeal of the sport. Similar to baseball fans mourning the passing of the pitcher’s duel in the power-happy 1990s.

  9. Bill said...

    The Warner innings is a pretty interesting and potentially worrisome phenomenon IMO. I’m a (British) Mets fan, and generally a big cricket fan, but I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated by cricket’s attempts to emulate baseball. The differences between the two sports should be celebrated, not eliminated. Twenty20, to me, is a transparent attempt to create a halfway house between the two sports, but it lacks the subtlety of either. It’s actually much closer to the home-run derby than anything else. I don’t even really like one-day cricket, only really 4-(domestic) or 5-(international) day games where, as has been pointed out, the ebb and flow of the game is so captivating (England’s lost test in India recently was a classic example of this). Having said that, the use of baseball gloves and throwing techniques in practice has definitely improved fielders’ arms in cricket, so that’s something to be grateful for.

  10. Ron said...

    Not for Americans, they don’t. They’re keeping all the jobs for actual citizens.

    What the hell is that all about?

  11. Loztralia said...

    I was just being flippant about the five day thing. Not many people will sit down and watch every ball of a whole five day test match. But in a way that’s the joy of it – the game ebbs and flows and has almost infinite capacity for comebacks and internal storylines. Baseball fans should understand this – who watches 160+ games a year?

    And Ron, the rules are still the same in all forms of cricket. It’s like saying the World Series is a different game from division series because it’s best of seven not best of five.

    Actually that’s not quite fair because as I’ve already said you do approach the game differently under different conditions. But it’s still the same thing fundamentally, requiring the same skills.

  12. Scott B down under said...

    very interesting story.  I think the dangers of cricket players falling into the power chasing steroid world are very high and there could be a good lesson learned by seeign what happened to baseball in the 1990’s +.

    btw – 20/20 cricket games are played in less/same time as a MLB game with less downtime normally seen in cricket matches. IT has all the hard hitting of MLB and fielders actually catch the ball without a glove ! (I love both games so this is not a slight on MLB).

    Indian billionaires/TV are pushing this form of the game and it has a growing US audience. If you get a chance, have a look – it can be pretty exciting once you figure it out.

  13. Bill said...

    Yeah TMS is great. I have so many good memories of listening to that at strange times of the night from the overseas tests, though the home games are always fun too – Henry Blofeld spending entire overs commenting on ladies’ knitwear, traffic light changes and pigeon formations instead of on any cricket!

  14. Adrian K said...

    Hey Chris H,
    You could do worse than tune in to the Test Match Special online broadcasts via the BBC. Very funny and informative. Next Eng West Indies Test 4th Feb onwards, perfect for whiling away dull hours at the keyboard.

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