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Sunday, November 27, 2005
Observations on Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin, Nov, 26, 2005 (Pic courtesy: Indiatimes)
Sachin, Jan 7, 2003 (Pic courtesy: The Hindu)
Much has already been said and written about Sachin Tendulkar's return to international cricket: his onslaught in the first two innings and the subsequent quiet. The batsmanship of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar -- his compactness in technique, minimal and precise footwork, balance, the power he generates on his shots and, most of all, his understanding of his own game -- has evoked a lot of interest from cricket followers world over.
Like millions of Indians, I find myself fascinated by the man's game when he is on song. Of particular interest to me are the technical adjustments that he makes for every series: the transfer of the shuffle to the front or back foot, and minor adjustments in his grip. Of late, I have been particularly intrigued by the change in the way he grips the bat. That he grips the bat very low on the handle is a well known fact. But, starting World Cup 2003, I noticed that Sachin began to grip the bat with the face of the bat more closed than earlier. It is tough to explain a grip, but I will make an effort to do so. It seemed to me that, when he gripped the bat, the webbing of his top hand was more towards to the "back" of the bat handle ( i.e. if you draw a line extending the line formed by the intersection of the two wedges at the back of the bat) than earlier and not towards the outside edge (as is in the conventional grip), while the webbing of his bottom hand had shifted a little towards the 'back inside edge' (the edge between the back of the bat and the surface of the inside edge) of the bat. Simply put, with this sort of a grip, the bat face will seem more closed than normal when one takes stance.
If a beginner tries to copy the grip, he will probably find his coach telling him that, with that kind of a grip, he will be restricting his range of shots on the off-side. But Sachin, almost all through the World Cup, did not even look like failing or having difficulty playing the classical extra-cover drives. On the bouncy wickets of South Africa, he was his aggressive best. I decided to observe more closely to try to get an inkling of how he managed to successfully adapt with that kind of a grip.
On closer observation, I found that his wrist-cock was more pronounced than before. I will try to describe what the cocked position of the wrist is. If you take stance holding the bat with your top hand alone, and, keeping your forearm still, try to lift your bat up straight back to about thirty degrees upward, you will find that the wrist of your top hand is in a cocked position. The wrist cock, any bio-mechanics expert will tell you, is one of the most important power-generating mechanisms while batting (or, for that matter, in most racquet sports). It is almost as if you wind the bat upwards and expend all the wound-up energy while coming down hard on the ball during the swing. Coming back to Sachin, to the simplistic observer, it looked almost as if he was levering the bat up (like with 2 class one levers in series, a fulcrum at the elbow and another at the wrist) and coming down on the ball. It seemed to me that he had made this technical adjustment for the bouncier wickets of South Africa, so that when the ball bounced more, this kind of a lever mechanism, in fact, made it easier for him to keep the ball down when he played the cover drive or the extra-cover drive, or even the flick. Most important, he was able to pull off this adjustment and still play the cover drive with ease because he was still side-on while shifting balance to the front foot and hence did not disturb the rotary mechanics of his trunk while hitting the ball. Also, most Australian and South African batsmen -- batsmen reared on bouncy tracks -- have a pronounced (sometimes exaggerated) wrist cock, and so the pieces seemed to fit and I could not help marvelling at the man's cricketing acumen.
When he was plagued by tendonitis in his left elbow -- the 'tennis elbow', so to speak -- the one major difference in his game was that the wrist cock was visibly absent. As a result, it looked like he was using only his bottom hand to pick the bat, and when he played the cover drives, it was almost as if he was trying to guide the drives into the cover-point gap using his bottom hand. There seemed to be very little of the top-hand in play. It was almost like the fulcrum at elbow during the levering action was missing; similar to how you 'cheat' while doing the tricep curl at the gym, lying down, with the barbell, pulling your elbow out of the line. I find myself unable to recall seeing a single booming extra-cover drive during that period -- India's tour of Sri Lanka for a one-day tournament, and subsequently, Pakistan's tour of India. It was no surprise, really, that he chose to undergo surgery on the tendons of his left elbow.
The whole of India waited, with bated breath, for his return from surgery and every practice session of his made news. I managed to watch all his innings but the most recent two against South Africa -- starting from the Challenger Trophy -- since his return, and I noticed that there is more top-hand control in his shots now than there was pre-surgery. Why, in his return match against Sri Lanka, he played a well timed extra-cover drive and even came down the track to Maharoof and smashed him over extra-cover. But watching him smash the bowlers, though a very pleasurable experience, has, strangely been not as fulfilling to watch. For, it seems to me that the top-hand is still not taking complete control, and the wrist cock is still not quite in place, which is a sure sign that he is still recuperating from the surgery. When one cocks the wrist, the muscles of the outer forearm have to pull right back to the elbow while the tendons at the elbows stretch, and maybe his elbow is not quite ready to take the full stress yet. I found a couple of the photographs that have captured him all poised to play the ball. One cannot read too much into a couple of photographs but there are a couple of important leads in them. Specifically, notice the difference in the ways in which he has picked the bat. In the second photo (courtesy Indiatimes, Nov 26, 2005), he has picked the bat to play the shot and the wrist is not cocked (had it been cocked the bat will have been straighter and higher) and the left-elbow is a little out of the line. In contrast, look at the first photo (courtesy The Hindu, Jan 7, 2003) where you can see the left hand firm, with the wrist cocked. Essentially, after watching his comeback matches, I seemed to get the idea that he is still in the process of recovering and not back to his fittest yet. And, I am hoping that this is indeed the case, and that this is not going to be a permanent niggle for him.
The Indian public will probably do well to give a thought to the possibility that he might have played the first two matches the way he did purely on adrenaline, and that he might not have recovered one hundred percent yet. And the Indian media (especially the likes of Indiatimes et. al.) will certainly do better to refrain from writing mindless baloney to instigate public opinion. It is paramount now that he is given a little more time (maybe even a break from cricket) before the scrutiny and the assessments begin. For, people like him (and Brian Lara and a few others) are of a rare breed that can pull the masses to the grounds and need to be nursed carefully through to their twilight. I hope, as the whole of India does, that Sachin remains to play for a good three years more, for the cricketing world will experience as much delight seeing very few other batsmen in action.
Comments via Blogger:
woho!! that was quite a "detailed" observation of his game!!! don't tell me you observe each and every cricketer like that!! i'm sending your blog link to my brother..he's a cricket maniac too and he'd love you!!:)
This is brilliant! This points to exactly why bimechanics analysis may help even the best. This is a must read for all those who dismiss this kind of analysis as not being able to help some who is natrually gifted as SRT.
this is simply awesome....keep up the good work...obviously u have played the game at a certain level to understand these nuances about the grip, the splice of the bat, the wrist position and much more...
Very impressive analysis. The pics may not be saying the complete story though because they could be at different points of facing the delivery. The top picture looks like one in which the bowler is yet to deliver.
I was directed here from Prem Panicker's blog
I got this link from Prem's blog. Great article. Watching Sachin before he underwent the surgery, his cover drives were not the usual ones and more seemed like the bottom hand was doing all the work. I wondered if it was because he was losing his touch. But the explanation in ur article clearly states why that was happening. I hope Sachin realises this and if not it would be great it this piece can reach him so that he makes the adjustment required one he is cured completely.
Me too came here from Prem's blog.. Very good post on Sachin.. I hope he recovers to 100% fitness real fast.. :-) Cheers..
Thanks very much, guys, and I hope too that Sachin is back to his best soon.
Whoa!(in Al Pacino's tone in Scent of a Woman). That was quite refreshing to read and it does make sense bcoz of the pictures. Now i can sleep knowing there is an inherent inbuilt recuperation as a reason to hope for glorious times from Sachin,again!Thanks for the research.
Great writing ... i just want to reiterate what has already been raised.... The first picture he is waiting for the ball to be delivered, and the second one i think is when the ball is mid-air. You can see that his back is hunched a bit more almost ready to launch into his shot. But your description about wrist position makes for very interesting reading. Keep up the good work!
Thats just excellent analysis of sachin's grip handle... i too hope he corrects what you have said and plays more glorious innings for the country!
Anon: Thanks for your comments. Good point! It does indeed look like, in the second photo, he is poised to play a slower bowler. He does seem to be in a good position, no doubt. But more important is how the left hand is holding the bat, with the wrist not cocked and the elbow slightly out of the line. If he were to go through with a lofted shot with such a top-hand, chances are that he will drag the ball on to the leg-side (possibly somewhere around the long-on or the mid-wicket region), for the top-hand does not seem to be taking enough control. Thanks for your observation. In fact, in an uncanny manner, it helped me explain my point better.
Very impressive...definite read for all Tendul fans..if he is still recuperating, then hope he will give himself rest for the future matches...though i have the feeling he wants to get to Sunnys record before he stays away from cricket even temperorily!
Excellent article indeed! Brilliant analysis based on minutely observed facts!!
This article is a piece belonging to "CricketBiblia", if there is one. The article reflects your passion. Way to go.. Waiting to read more such indepth analysis from you..
That is very good analysis. I too had observed that Sachin used to score in his offside shots in 2003 World Cup. In late 2003, he used to get out in off side shots (remember two back to back 200s he scored entirely on leg side in early 2004). As an ortho doctor, I could understand that there is a problem in his elbow extension, but i did not have the cricket acumen to understand that
Are you studying Bio-Mechanics buddy? Felt like reading a more techie analysis(Good though!)...
Awesome article, mate! I am neither a cricket expert nor do I know anything about bio-mechanics; but I am an engineer, and a cricket fan. The quality of your article is exceptionally good, and I could actually try out what you were explaining about the grips and understand what was happening. But what is more impressive is the power of your observation -- about how Sachin employed different grips during the WC in SA as well as during the comeback twin series back home. I would have expected a Sunny or a Ravi to explain that to me on TV, but I am not sure whether they observed that. I really thank Prem for directing me here, and also pray that the Indian think-tank too is considering all this before passing on the verdict on Sachin. May Sachin get back to his very best soon. He deserves a triple ton in Tests and another WC final appearance, this time as part of the winning side! :)
buddy, i do believe u r absolutely right and wish to see sachin one last time in all his former GLORY! Than i shall die peacefully.
cool stuff dude.. thinkin aloud..just wanted to add that in the first two matches after his return we saw him blazing was probably also because of the fact that using the bottom hand more than the upper arm made it mandatory for him to pay the cross bat shots for runs instead of his regular glorious cover drives..
That was quite a well researched article. I have not seen the recent matches of India(specifically not seen Sachin bat on a stretch due to job et al. :( ), but I could also see that there was a change in grip. The bottom hand is coming too much into play.Its almost like he is rolling his wrists too much over the ball, and has got a predeliction to play on the onside (flicks and leg side glances are his bread and butter shots nowadays). And you are right the two SL matches were but a rebel in him trying to fight against all odds. He is today almost swatting the balls from off-middle to the legside/middle because after all he cannot be a Azharuddin (magical wrists for the uninformed)
Dileepan: Thanks for the mail. This is a wonderful piece. Given that the period after the world cup is when he has been afflicted with his elbow injury, I think that would have a significant impact on his grip.
Also..I am not so sure that the second picture is of Tendulkar trying to get on the front foot. The second picture seems to be taken when the ball is mid air and the the wrist cock is essentially moot if he were rocking back on the back foot.
Hi All: Thanks for your comments.
Great observations dileepan, and also appreciate your efforts of explaining the technicalities of grip in simple words. I have been observing sachins grip and stance for quite sometime and have been dumbstruck by how easily he switches between grips and various stances. As someone who has played professional cricket for some time, I loathe changing my grip as it curtails some of my shots. I tried sachin's grip of holding the bat from the back that he used during 2003 world cup without success. I couldnt play a single stroke through the covers, as I tended to drag the ball towards leg. But one big advantage of that grip is that the bat comes down absolutely straight, and with some power in your forearms, you can play some of the sweetest and powerful straight drives with that grip.
Great post Dilli ...why dont u post this on sulekha blogs da ..I betcha it would get u lots of page views and would be open to a much bigger cricketing junta ....
man, that was awesome. this was what i was looking for and inspired by you, i have created a blog of mine - http://coolbat.blogspot.com .keep checking ( wont find much now - just created it! ).the best blog i ever read. cool
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