Straight bat, gentlemen. Straight bat.
Hardly anybody would have heard of him in these times, but back in the days of yore, Kent could call upon the services of a legspinner called Doug Wright.
He wasn’t a sensational bowler, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, his Cricinfo page reveals remarkably little out of the ordinary (save for a charming description of the best over he ever bowled – don’t miss it). He played 34 Tests, and played well enough, but nothing very much out of the ordinary. No reason, in short, for me to have heard of Mr. Wright. But, as it turns out, I have heard of him.
Heard of him, hell – I’ll be a fan for life. Not of his skills on the field, perhaps – but certainly of his penmanship. Wright, you see, wrote a book called ‘Cricket Skills and Techniques‘. It’s out of stock now, and although Flipkart promises to inform me as soon as they have it back in their warehouses, I doubt that that day will come.
But a copy of the book was in our house when I was growing up. And for someone like me, that book was heaven sent. I liked reading, I liked cricket, and this book explained – in excruciating detail – every little bit about how to play the game correctly.
I don’t remember the exact words now, but when it came to getting your stance right, Wright assured his readers that the best way to go about the job was to stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself while you did all of the things he told you to.
And of course, I would spend hours in front of a mirror embedded in a Godrej cupboard, carefully observing if my stance was right, and if my back-lift arced just about midway between the ‘keeper and first slip.
There was another passage about sandpaper, oil and breaking a new bat in – I’ll leave the results of my experiments to your imagination, but let’s just say the pater wasn’t too pleased.
Wright was, by today’s standards, conservative in the extreme. The flick on the legside, he solemnly informed his reader, was all right as far as it went, but you should attempt it only if the ball is pitched on leg, and sliding further down the legside. Otherwise, you’re best off presenting a straight bat.
The chapter on fielding didn’t even contain the word dive. You could either field a ball that was racing towards you by forming a barrier with your legs, or by bending down and collecting the ball cleanly with both hands (but do ensure, he went on to say, that you never take your eyes off the ball). It was that sort of a book – like I said, by today’s standards positively antediluvian.
But the thing is, when it came to batting, Wright was positively puritanical. Head still, knees flexed (but not too much!), legs evenly spaced, even handed grip, both eyes on the bowler, a backlift that didn’t come down straight (but didn’t go beyond first slip) and an initial movement that was back and across.
And since first impressions are the most lasting, I judge all batsmen by the exacting standards of Mr. Wright. And on all those counts, in my opinion, there is only one batsman today who ticks off all the items on the list.
How appropriate, then, that Rahul Dravid should have played for Kent earlier in his career. I don’t know if Karnataka’s best batsman has read the book I refer to, but he certainly has grasped it’s gist.
Hasn’t he now, Mr. Wright?
One of the many things that I look forward to in Bangalore – just watching Dravid take guard.