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The subject to be dealt with in this chapter is the most fascinating and delightful part of cricket. No persuasion will be required on my part to induce any one who has once handled a bat to devote himself heart and soul to the art of batting. A boy or man who needs urging to take a delight in batting is hardly the kind ever to have touched the game at all.

The first thing that strikes one is, that in order to bat well a player must provide himself with a suitable instrument in the shape of a bat. It makes all the difference in the world whether he has or has not an instrument made in the proper way and of proper materials, and one which is entirely suitable for him. A cricketer cannot be too careful in this respect. Experience teaches how much advantage there is in the possession of a good bat. And it also teaches the result of using a bad or unsuitable article: such a weapon is very liable to take away completely that confidence which is a necessary condition of good batting. In the case of a gun, a horse, or a fishing-rod, the fit is the thing; and this fit is quite independent of the intrinsic merits of the article. In a similar manner the virtue of a bat is not merely absolute but relative. My first piece of advice, then, is for every player to choose a bat duly proportioned to his size and strength. In order to make a proper choice, several points must be borne in mind, the chief of which are balance and weight. The breadth of a bat and the length of its blade are prescribed by law. There is a limit laid down in each respect. The handle may be as long as an individual cares to have it. Besides weight and balance, some attention must be paid to the grain of the wood. The grain, though sometimes misleading, usually gives a very fair idea of the quality of the wood. Of course, it is quite impossible for a beginner to know intuitively the various properties of bat-blades. Nothing but experience can teach him what to choose and what to avoid; so he had better make himself familiar with the points in a good bat as soon as possible. It ought not to take long to find out the kinds of wood and the kinds of grain which are likely to constitute a good driver and a good laster. Too much attention cannot be given to the choice of a bat, inasmuch as whether or not the article used is a good one makes a great deal of difference in the pleasure of playing. The delicious thrill of a good stroke is deadened or even entirely destroyed by a hard jarring bat.

With regard to size, boys are strongly advised to use undersized bats. No one should ever use a bat which he cannot wield quite comfortably. The balance of a bat, too, is a very important point. A bat varies in balance according to the distribution of wood in the blade. By holding a bat by the handle with both hands, and lifting it up and down just as when actually playing, any one can feel for himself whether it comes up well or badly. The difference between the feel of a well- and a badly-balanced bat is most distinct. Cricketers would be wise to acquire the habit of testing the balance of a bat; familiarity with the feel of good bats helps them to make a suitable choice. A player's style is sure to be affected by using unsuitable bats. A small man who uses a full-sized bat is very likely to cramp his play or fall into ungainly positions, such as materially handicap attempts at good strokes. The use of a bat too heavy for one's strength is also injurious. A bat of this kind tires a player out much sooner than one that suits him; and it also prevents good timing of the ball—that is to say, it makes it difficult for the player to bring the bat into the desired spot at the desired moment. It causes the fault of playing too late. A long innings means a continuous physical strain; so the less labour it is to wield the bat the better. Two or three ounces more or less do not make much difference to the driving qualities of a bat, but they do make a difference to the ease and comfort with which it may be wielded. The use of heavy bats usually leads not only to mistiming, but to weak strokes, a feeble style, and small scores.

The wood of which cricket-bats are made may be divided according to colour. There are intermediate shades, but most bats are either white or red. It will generally be found that white wood is softer than red; but it is not so durable. A soft bat, if
Ranji 1897 page 147 Playfair Driver bat.jpg


not too soft, is much the pleasanter to use when new. There are many good bats made of dark wood, but these need to be played with before they can be used with much pleasure. I prefer the light wood or the happy medium. Bats, too, differ in respect of grain. For some reason or other willow with straight grain is the best. Bat-blades with about eight straight grains showing on the face are generally the best. Willow of very close grain has a tendency to chip. A very broad grain generally means hardness. Care must be taken that there are no knots in the blade. A knot is said to strengthen wood and make it durable; but it forms a very hard spot in a bat, and is liable to produce a jarring feeling. At any rate, there should be no knots in the lower half of the blade. The driving part of the bat is that which lies from 6 inches to 1 foot from the bottom. It will be found that a good player, when in form, brings this part of the bat in contact with the ball whatever stroke he happens to make.

There are many different kinds of handles of a resilient nature made nowadays. It is difficult to recommend any one in particular. All the well-known makers supply good bats with good handles. But it is desirable to know how to choose a bat, since all makers produce bad bats as well as good ones. Personally I use Wisden's, Odd's, and Nichol's articles. In the choice of a handle attention should be paid to its elasticity; for if the handle gives a bit when the blade strikes the ball, the jar resulting from the impact is considerably diminished. Stiff-handled bats sometimes sting horribly. Those with good blades and fairly elastic handles make the feeling of striking the ball perfectly delicious. But a handle should not be too springy, or it is liable to break and strain after it has been used once or twice. A weak, springy handle is a mistake. A handle should bend like the buttend of a good fly-rod and not like an aspen stick. Most players nowadays use indiarubber covers for their handles, or sometimes wrappings of wash-leather. Both are good: a young player should find out which he likes best. Indiarubber handle-covers certainly give a good grip, and seem to prevent blisters. They are also cool and comfortable to hold. Leather is rather liable to get very hard and dry, and to slip through the hands.

It is a good thing to have two or three bats, all as nearly alike as possible, in use at the same time. If this is done, there is always a familiar article to hand in case of accidents. It is a mistake not to use in practice the same bats which you are going to use in a match. At any rate, it is safer to have two or three
Ranji 1897 page 149 K. S. Ranjitsinhji playing back.jpg


practice knocks with a bat before going in with it in a match. A perfectly new bat sometimes makes a player feel uncomfortable, and so diminishes his usual confidence. Want of confidence leads to the half-hearted play which so often loses a man his wicket.

A bat should be kept well oiled, but too much oil should not be put on at once. A well-soaked rag rubbed over the bat two or three times a-week during the summer and twice a-month during the winter is quite sufficient to keep wood in perfect order. Most bats crack to a certain extent through constant contact with the ball. The best way to mend cracked bats is to have the loose wood on the surface glued down and then whipped round with strings. But unless this is skilfully done the weight of the string is apt to spoil the balance of the bat. Pegging is not of much use. The insertion of the pegs injures the wood, and simply makes it more liable to split up. Still, pegging is good enough if the bat is only required to be used once or twice more.

Keen cricketers take great care of their bats, treating them almost as objects of art. And quite rightly: a really good bat is a work of art. In a similar way a good shot or a good billiard-player or a good horseman has a great regard for his gun or his cue or his horse. The bat is of course by far the most important instrument an individual cricketer has to select. It must be remembered that no two players are exactly alike, and that consequently nearly every cricketer reauires a particular make of bat to suit him.

But care should be taken also to secure comfortable, wellfitting pads and gloves. On the whole, it certainly pays to have both these requisites made for you. An ill-fitting pair of pads prevents a batsman moving about easily, and consequently helps to tire him out. Toy-shop batting-gloves are perfectly useless. I recommend gloves fitted with thick black indiarubber, such as are supplied by Wisden. Cricket instruments should be carefully packed, especially bats. It is a good plan to have brownpaper covers for bats, so that they do not get scratched or dented by contact with other articles, or, on the other hand, make flannel clothes or buckskin boots greasy and oily by rubbing against them.

These directions are rather indiscriminate, but I think that a young cricketer who follows them will soon be able to select a good bat and fake care of it. Remember, good tools do not necessarily mean a good workman; but good workmen usually have good tools, and, what is more, take care of them.
Ranji 1897 page 151 L. C. H. Palairet playing forward.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

Well, then, let us suppose a player to be supplied with a suitable bat. The next point is to learn how to use it. To begin with, there are several things to understand. A batsman as such is, first of all, playing in order to make runs for his side, and in order to do this he must both stay in and also score as many runs as he can while he is in. This is the aspect of a batsman as a member of a side.

Perhaps a few general remarks upon batting may be found interesting and useful. From what has just been said it may be gathered that the art of batting combines both attack and defence. A batsman is required to keep up his wicket and also to score runs for his side. It is possible to do the former without doing the latter, but not the latter without the former. A batsman must be able to work his eyes, hands, legs, and body in perfect unison. To make 50 or even 20 runs, no small amount of pluck, patience, resource, physical strength, and condition is needed. This applies to any ordinary game of cricket. In first-class cricket a batsman is put to an even more exacting test; for the higher the standard of skill, the more is required in every way of the performer. The great desire of every beginner is to score runs in good style. This means the cultivation of certain actions which he will find at first are not natural to him. But by continual practice the artificial actions of cricket become second nature. Of course even the most artificial stroke in cricket implies the development of certain natural gifts. That a considerable part of batting consists of unnatural movements of the body can very easily be seen. An absolute beginner, when a bat is first put into his hands, follows the promptings of nature. Almost every stroke he attempts is some form of a pull with a cross bat. Now, the fundamental principle of good safe batting is playing with a straight bat. So that the beginner has to overcome at the outset certain natural tendencies which, though perhaps good in themselves, do not make for good cricket.

The necessity of playing with a straight bat is the first lesson that a good coach drills into a young batsman. To master it, time and practice are required. Straight play must be acquired as a habit. The lesson must be so well learnt that the necessary movements of the arms and the body become perfectly natural instead of laborious and difficult. Nature must give way to art till, to quote the Hon. Edward Lyttelton's words, "art becomes nature."

Again, uninitiated nature prompts a player to lift the ball in
Ranji 1897 page 153 J. R. Mason playing forward.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

the air rather than hit it along the ground. But to be able to make large scores with any consistency, the knack of keeping the ball down must be acquired as a habit, and become so habitual as to be practically natural. The making of nearly all strokes in cricket requires the man to put himself into certain positions if the strokes are to be properly made. And these positions have nearly all to be learnt; they do not come naturally to the large majority of mankind. What makes batting so hard is the necessity of teaching the body to assume these positions unconsciously but with perfect certainty. Good style, then, practically consists of the power of making easily and rapidly such movements of the limbs as are necessary for the effective making of various strokes. There is a certain class of batsmen nowadays who sacrifice effectiveness in order to attain what is called a pretty style. But a style which is not so effective as it might be can hardly claim to be either good or beautiful. Of course a good style is often beautiful—in fact, more often so than not. When a stroke is made with ease and grace, it usually means that the batsman has acquired a complete mastery of the art. But it is a great mistake to get into the habit of putting the bat where there is no ball, simply with a view to making strokes that are pretty. The fault is by no means an uncommon one. Such play would be excellent if it were not for the fact that the bowler bowls the ball not to suit the batsmen, but to get their wickets.

Right from the beginning, then, every batsman ought to make it his aim and object to acquire a style that is, whatever else it may be, safe, sound, and effective. In order to attain this end, a beginner will require an efficient coach. To find one ought not to be very difficult nowadays. A coach is as essential to a student of cricket as he is to a student of any other scientific game or pursuit. One sometimes hears a considerable amount of criticism levelled against the modern style of coaching. It is urged that boys ought not to be taught too early or too much, and that the great players of olden times were almost without exception self-taught. The idea is, that as it is quite natural for English boys to go on to a piece of turf and play cricket, the game will come to them naturally and without extraneous assistance. At any rate, it is suggested that better cricketers are produced by leaving boys to their own devices up to a certain age than by taking them in hand early. As to the great players of olden days, it may be remarked that their skill was probably due to extraordinary natural aptitude. No doubt they were geniuses, and did not require coaching. But there is nothing to prove that they would not have been even greater players than they were if they had been coached when they were boys. Ordinary mortals are certainly the better for coaching, and I am inclined to think that even great players who have never been coached have attained their eminence in spite of, rather than because of, the lack of it.

It is quite natural for an English boy to take to some kind of cricket with great avidity. But it is also quite natural for him to take to the wrong kind of cricket. It has already been mentioned that most good strokes in cricket are in a sense artificial—that is to say, nature does not suggest them herself. A boy who learns cricket entirely on his own lines generally has to unlearn a considerable amount before he can even begin to play properly. If he has spent five or six years in acquiring bad strokes, he must begin all over again at an age when he might have been fairly proficient. Unlearning is always far more troublesome than learning; so I think the sooner a boy is put in the way he should go the better. Less time is wasted, and there is a greater chance of producing a good result.

As to cramping the style of the young batsman, I am quite sure a good coach—one who understands cricket and how to teach it—is not at all likely to do that. But the criticism is not altogether unjustifiable, because there is a tendency among modern coaches to lay down fixed rules and advise all beginners to follow them without discrimination. This of course is wrong. Batsmen cannot be made in moulds like blancmanges. A coach ought to distinguish between players, and individualise them. My meaning is this. Suppose there are at school three beginners, each having different styles of play. One shows signs of developing into a very steady batsman; the second is by nature a hitter; the third has a tendency towards sound, fast-scoring methods. It would be absurd to try to make them all play alike. A good hitter educated into steady play rarely succeeds; neither is a steady player improved by being made to follow general methods that are not natural to him. What a coach ought to do is to take each one separately and make the best of individual tendencies. He ought to aim at developing rather than at altering. If coaches followed up this idea, I think they would be more universally successful.

I have often seen hitters being taught to play a steady game, with the result that they have lost their hitting power without strengthening their defence in any marked degree.

Again, a player may show an aptitude for a certain stroke which in the opinion of the coach is dangerous or unsound. Instead of showing the beginner the safest method of making that stroke, many coaches try to eradicate it altogether. This, I think, is a mistake. For instance, there are players who can pull with great effect. Coaches usually advise such players to leave the stroke alone altogether. The result is that the batsman gradually loses the power of making the stroke. It would be far better in a case of that kind to teach the batsman what kind of balls ought to be pulled and what ought not; to show him the right and the wrong use of the stroke. The reason why a pull is considered bad style is, that bad batsmen use it indiscriminately, no matter what ball is bowled; in fact, they play with a cross bat when they ought to be playing with a straight one. It is quite true that few except finished batsmen make the stroke—a very effective stroke, indeed, when applied to the right ball—with safety and certainty. But I think the reason of this is, that coaches universally discourage any use of the pull whatsoever; so that the average batsman never learns how to do it properly. It is a much easier stroke if the right ball is picked than the off-drive, and I fail to see that it is any more difficult to choose the right ball in the one case than in the other. Of course it is absolutely essential not to mistake the ordinary rustic cross-bat stroke for the scientific pull.

In former days, when wickets were not nearly so good as they are now, it would perhaps have been a mistake to let small boys practise at professional and fast bowling. Nowadays things are quite different. A decent practice-wicket can be found almost everywhere. Boys do not now play on rough-and-tumble wickets, on which only those possessing exceptional natural gifts are likely to come successfully out of the ordeal. Great care should be taken that boys be not put to play upon bad wickets. It is quite easy nowadays, what with the increase of knowledge about grounds and the improvement of implements, to secure a really good cricket-pitch. To do so ought to be the aim and object of all school authorities. Nothing is so apt to take the zeal and pluck out of a boy as being knocked about on bad wickets. It is customary at some schools to allow boys to play football during the winter months on the same ground on which cricket is played during the summer. Even if football is not played over the match-pitches, a cricket-ground is certainly not benefited by such rough usage. The out-fielding and practice-wickets are sure to suffer. Every attempt ought to be made to separate football- and cricket-grounds.

Ranji 1897 page 157 L. C. H. Palairet at the wicket - a model position.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

Much may be done in the way of self-coaching. A boy should always remember, when practising without his coach, those points to which his attention has been called. Some authorities think there is great virtue in practising strokes and positions without a ball or bowler. It can be done in the bedroom, in fact. The idea is, that such practice gets the body used to the movements required on the field, so that when the strokes are tried in games the necessary positions are more readily assumed. I have never tried this kind of practice myself, but there is certainly no harm in it. Looking-glasses and wash-hand-basins are the only things likely to suffer by bedroom practice. The great Harry Jupp is said to have practised daily in front of a looking-glass in order to make sure of playing with a straight bat. He had a chalk line on the floor, and used to swing his bat up and down it. They tell me Bobby Abel does this too nowadays; and yet they say he does not play with a straight bat. At any rate, such practice shows a proper feeling about the game. No stone should be left unturned in order to improve and develop one's batting. It must be remembered that a great amount of labour, and even drudgery, is required before a man can become a really good player. The greater and more consistent the effort after improvement, the sooner will a fair degree of skill be acquired. At the same time, playing cricket ought not to be turned into a weariness of the flesh. Boys should be taught to work at it, but they should also be taught to love it.

Young players should always be encouraged to bring their imitative faculties to bear upon cricket. They should be advised to watch good players, and to absorb into their own play everything that is good in that of others. But they should be careful not to try and imitate strokes which do not fit in with their own peculiarities. It would obviously be a mistake for a small thickset boy to try and imitate certain of William Gunn's strokes. On the whole, I think more cricket can be learnt by watching good performers than in any other way. But it must not be forgotten that, in order to imitate with good results, a considerable amount of common-sense and hard thought is required. Cricket is worth working at and thinking about. There are few pleasures in the world greater than that of making runs and making them well. A well-timed late cut is as sweet a thing as there is. A big drive, clean and true, gives a satisfaction that cannot be expressed in words.

Ranji 1897 page 159 J. A. Dixon at the wicket.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.


The first point to consider in giving practical advice about batting is the position in which a player ought to stand at the wicket. It is quite impossible to lay down any fixed rules on the subject, or to give a distinct and definite answer to the question, How ought one to stand at the wicket? A player should take up the position which is most natural and convenient to him. At the same time, I think many players have somewhat spoiled their styles by assuming positions which do not fit in with the requirements of the game. It is a good thing for a boy to be shown some of the subsequent positions he will have to assume before being allowed to contract the habit of standing in some particular way. For obviously the best position to assume while waiting for the ball is that one from which the body can pass with the greatest ease into the positions required by the various strokes. The most popular way of standing, and the one most generally adopted by good players, is to place the right foot a few inches inside the popping-crease, with the left just outside it, pointing slightly in the direction of the bowler. The bat is held with the left hand gripping it at the top, and the right hand almost immediately underneath it. The bat is grounded in the block-hole, which is usually made close to the toe of the right foot. The bend of the body in standing thus should be as slight as possible. It is a mistake to stand with the legs far away from the bat in the direction of square-leg, as this not only takes the batsman away from his work, but affords the bowler an opportunity of bowling him off his legs.

But this primary position, except as far as regards the legs, is not nearly of such consequence as that assumed just at the time that the ball is delivered. Good players differ from one another greatly in what I have called the primary position. In fact, no two stand exactly alike; but nearly all of them pass from their various primary positions into a very similar attitude just before playing the ball.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether a player should stand with his weight equally distributed on both legs, or let all of it fall upon the right leg. I think the weight should be almost entirely upon the right leg. At the same time, some very fine players believe in the other method of standing. The reason why the weight should be on the right leg is, that it is the leg on which the body pivots in making nearly every stroke there is—at any rate, in making any kind of drive or any kind of forwardstroke. Dr W. G. Grace is very strong on this point, and he ought to know. Apart from making strokes, if the weight of the body is kept on the right leg the batsman is prevented from a tendency to drag it over the crease. It is worth noticing that in every kind of exercise where the legs are used, the leg which it is necessary to move forward ought not to have any weight upon it at the time of bedng moved. This canon holds good, I believe, in boxing, fencing, and dancing. The theory is, that in order to preserve the balance in making a movement the weight should be on the disengaged leg. In any kind of forward-stroke or drive, the right leg is of course the disengaged leg. If a man stands with much weight on his left leg he has to transfer the weight to' his right leg before making a forward-stroke, if he is to make the stroke without overbalancing himself Clearly the time spent in transferring the weight back to the right leg is wasted. And there is not much time to waste in making a stroke at cricket. By resting principally upon the right leg a player is in no way prevented from running out. Any one who doubts this had better experiment for himself. Let him try the two positions and see which gives him the greater ease of movement. It seems to me that there can be no doubt which is the better of the two. It is a curious thing that by keeping the weight on the right leg a player can move forward more readily than from the alternative position, and yet he can move backwards if he wishes to do so without the slightest difficulty. That is to say, the position recommended facilitates forward-playing, and is no hindrance in playing back or cutting. In fact, experiment has proved to me that by standing with most of the weight upon the left leg backstrokes are actually weakened. Why this is so I cannot understand; perhaps it may be explained as follows: whether a man is playing back or forward, his stroke is strengthened if he gets into it some of the weight of his body; for in each case the ball is played away from him and in front of him. Now, the weight of the body cannot be brought to bear on the stroke unless the body moves in the direction in which the ball is going from the bat. Obviously, therefore, the weight must come from the back leg towards the front leg, and not vice versa. Notice that in making a cut, what body-work there is in the stroke comes from a stooping motion from the hips upwards—that is, from a kind of bow. So cutting does not affect the question.

In speaking of the position of the legs, I advised players not to stand too wide of the wicket. But care should be taken that no part of the legs or feet is actually in front of the wicket, even whilst standing to receive the ball. Umpires are naturally more inclined to give decisions against batsmen who cover the stumps before the ball is bowled. Nearly every authority advises beginners to stand just clear of the stumps. As for taking block, it really does not matter whether you take middle, middle-and-leg, or leg-stump. In this detail every one should consult his own comfort.

Just before the ball is bowled the bat should be raised and lifted slightly backwards, so as to be ready to swing forward or move in any direction whatever. But any kind of flourish is useless to the last degree. It certainly does not look well. All coaches should eradicate from their pupils as far as possible all preliminary flourishes. Such twirls of the bat are bad enough when they come naturally to a player; when affected they are execrable. Anything in a stroke that is not essential to its effectiveness cannot possibly be good. Besides, if a batsman is thinking of how he is flourishing his bat, he cannot possibly be concentrating all his attention upon playing the ball. It is absolutely essential to concentrate the attention upon the ball and upon the playing of it.


The impulse of every beginner is to draw back when the ball is coming at him—that is to say, his instinct is to remove his body well out of the probable course of the ball. This he does by moving his right leg backwards in the direction of short-leg. Such a movement is fatal to good play. The young player should be impressed with the necessity of keeping his right foot firmly fixed in its original position. When it is moved backwards to facilitate back-play, it is moved in the direction of the wicket, which is quite a different thing from running away. A cricket-ball is hard enough, in all conscience; but any one who wishes to make a player must make up his mind to stand his ground, trusting to his bat to defend his body. It is wonderful what a useful shield that narrow strip of willow can be if properly manipulated. Remember, it is fatal to run away. Until he has mastered this point no one can begin to make much progress. If the right leg is moved backwards towards square-leg it is impossible to play with a straight bat. If a young player either will not or cannot keep his right foot still, the only thing to do is
Ranji 1897 page 163 Chatterton's position at the wicket.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

to peg it down. I had to have my right leg pegged down almost every time I practised during my first two years at serious cricket. I did not learn to stand still when I was a small boy, so I had to start learning how to do it after having contracted bad habits. A boy who starts fair and is told exactly what he ought to do should have no difficulty in learning to stand still. I have never yet seen any one who began cricket late in life able to keep his right leg where it ought to be.


All strokes are of one of two kinds—back and forward. In both of these the foundation of good play is making the bat meet the ball instead of letting the ball merely hit the bat, whether the stroke be offensive or defensive. Back- and forward-play may be subdivided into back- and forward-play for defensive purposes, and back- and forward-play for offensive purposes. Every one, on first beginning to learn to bat, plays back to a certain extent; forward-play is almost entirely an acquired and cultivated style.

Having said this much by way of being methodical, I am going to ask to be allowed to abandon method altogether. Somehow batting will not allow itself to be reduced to method in my mind. Let us begin by considering some aspects of forward-play as a defensive and offensive method. Let us suppose, for instance, that a good-length ball well pitched up has been delivered on a good hard wicket. To meet this the player should move his left foot forward as far as he conveniently can in the direction of the ball as it comes towards him, and should play the ball with a perfectly upright bat swinging along a straight line between the wicket and the point of contact of bat and ball. In extending the left foot great care must be taken not to overbalance or overreach oneself. The result of overreaching is, that the player draws his right foot over the popping-crease so as to run a chance of being stumped if the ball beats the bat. Nor must balance be lost, as with it goes the power of making an effective stroke. The action of extending the left foot forward and bringing the bat after it to meet the ball should be even and precise. This evenness and precision mean force and effectiveness. Mark, then: in playing the ball the bat should be as close as possible to the left leg, or, what comes to the same thing, the left leg should be planted within an inch or two of the line of the ball's flight. A couple of minutes' actual demonstration by a good player would give a beginner a far better idea of what I mean than three volumes full of words. It will be seen from the illustrations that the position of the hands is changed during the forward-stroke. Some players do not turn the left hand round the bat as they play forward, but most of the best and freest exponents of the stroke do so. Before making the stroke the left wrist is on the side of the bat away from the wicket-keeper, whereas in the making of the stroke it gradually turns round till it is on the opposite side. One of the great points to bear in mind, whether playing back or forward, is that the ball must be kept down. In order to do this effectively, the bat at the time it comes in contact with the ball must be slanting forwards—that is to say, the blade of the bat should slope over the ball, the top being nearer to the bowler than the bottom. In order to make the stroke in this way, the left shoulder must be kept well forward, pointing in the direction towards which the stroke is played. In playing forward, the batsman must make the most of his weight, height, and reach. The whole weight of his body should be brought to bear upon the ball. The more the weight of the body comes into the stroke just when the bat meets the ball, the greater will be the power of the stroke. Reach depends upon height and length of limb. The longer reach the batsman has, the better will he be able to smother the ball—that is to say, play it almost as soon as it has pitched. The great thing, however, in making a forward-stroke is, that the whole action be smooth and uniform. It should be essentially one action, not two or three separate ones. The moving of the left foot forward, the swinging of the bat into line with the foot, the forward motion of the body after the bat, should be, as it were, one action. The whole thing should be done at one and the same moment, and in one and the same motion. If the batsman cuts up the action of the stroke into separate parts, something must be sacrificed; either the weight is not brought to bear on the ball, or balance is lost. The result is an emasculated stroke. The difference in the power with which various players make their forward-stroke is extraordinary. Those who have brought the stroke to perfection can make it with almost the same force as they can a full drive. A bad forward-player scarcely pushes the ball past mid-off. A batsman should accustom himself by constant practice to the movement and action necessary for the forward-stroke. He should ask the bowler with whom he practises to send him down ball after ball suited to forward-playing. The necessary action should be made into a habit.

Ranji 1897 page 166 G. H. S. Trott.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

Ranji 1897 page 167 Gunn's forward-drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

In playing forward the bat should be kept absolutely straight—that is to say, the edges of the blade as seen from the front should be at right angles to the ground. Viewed from the side, the edges of the bat should be sloping forward, the handle being nearer to the bowler than the bottom of the blade.

At the precise moment when the ball meets it, the bat should be just behind the left leg; otherwise the batsman is hable to overreach himself The result of overreaching may be that the right foot is dragged over the popping-crease, which is fatal should the ball miss the bat; or else the ball is lifted into the air by reason of the bottom of the bat swinging forward in front of the top.

On account of the improvement of wickets, forward-playing is much safer now than it used to be, and it is at the same time much easier and more effective. A player should therefore take steps to acquire the highest proficiency in it of which he is capable. The better the man is at forward-play, the faster will he be able to score, inasmuch as forward-play is essentially aggressive. It contains a certain amount of latent scoring power, even when intended to be purely defensive.

In 'good forward-playing, the bat most distinctly meets the ball, and not the ball the bat. It is easier to make progress in forward- than in back-playing. This is perhaps the reason why one sees so many more good forward- than good back-players. Mere defensive back-play is easy enough. The veriest novice can, make some kind of back-stroke. But a player who can score runs by his back-play is very rare. Crude back-play does not contain one run in a dozen strokes. It is advisable, I think, to teach all beginners to play forward as much as possible. For it is much easier to learn to make runs with forward-play than it is with back-play. If a beginner does not make runs, which are the outward and visible sign of the grace of cricket, he is liable to lose heart. A beginner must take great pains to cultivate the proper movements of the limbs, and the exact position in which his feet ought to be for forward-play. He is almost sure to find it difficult at first to bring his weight to bear upon the ball. He is liable to get to a certain point in proficiency, and then to come to a sudden stop. But I do not think he ought to pay much attention to back-play until he can make forward-strokes with fair certainty and effectiveness.

At the start every beginner discovers a natural back-stroke without much difficulty; but, as we have seen, the criterion of back-play is ability to score with it. This is a fact which is very rarely recognised. It is, of course, very difficult to make the bat meet the ball in back-play so as to make any kind of forcing-stroke. But any one who wishes to be a great batsman must learn to make his back-play effective. On a difficult wicket, back-play is always of the greatest use. A player depends upon quickness of eye and wrist to meet the unexpected turns and twists of the ball whenever he is batting upon a bowler's wicket. One point to grasp is, that particular care must be taken in playing forward to slow balls, and in playing back to fast ones. In playing forward to slow balls, one is apt to play too quickly, and lift the ball gently into some one's hands. For this reason some good batsmen make it a rule never to play forward to a slow bowler. In playing back to a fast bowler, the thing to remember is, that there is very little time to make the stroke, the margin of error being exceedingly small. The slightest mistiming or misjudgment is fatal.

There is a way of playing certain balls which is often very useful. It is by running out and hitting them on the half-volley or on the full-pitch. Naturally only slow bowlers can be treated in this way with much success. When the batsman makes up his mind to run out, he must do so with a will. There must be no hesitation, no half-measures; such a stroke should be played as if the whole match depended upon it. If a batsman is at all half-hearted about the stroke, the chances are he will not bring it off. When he has gone half-way to meet the ball, it will strike him that he ought not to have left his crease; he will hurry the stroke and lose his wicket. The thing to do is to forget that there is anything in the world except the ball and the hay-field across the boundary.

In playing any kind of bowling, it is best for a batsman, until he becomes perfectly familiar with it, to play quietly and steadily. He should try and find out all there is about the bowling before he starts to make mincemeat of it. It is sometimes worth remembering that while a batsman is at the wicket runs are nearly sure to come. A bowler, however good he may be, is sure to bowl some balls that the batsman can treat easily and confidently: so the batsman should not begin very aggressive operations just at first; he should play the good balls carefully, and score his boundaries off such loose ones as fate may favour him with. When, however, he feels that he has got his eye in, he ought, as far as possible, to take the bowhng under his own management.

One often sees a player who has been batting with ease and
Ranji 1897 page 170 W. G. Grace playing back defensively.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

Ranji 1897 page 171 W. G. Grace playing forward defensively.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

confidence against medium pace and fast bowling completely nonplussed by a slow ball. Slow bowling requires a blend of carefulness and determination. The ball must be watched very carefully, but every ball that can be punished should be punished manfully. I do not think that batsmen run out enough at slow bowling or at lobs. For some undiscovered reason, there is a floating idea that running out and rashness are synonymous. As a matter of fact, to run out is often the safest thing one can do. It makes a difficult ball into an easy one, and often enables the batsman to make a forcing-stroke along the ground instead of a risky high-drive. The man who plays cautiously is invariably regarded with reverence and favour by those who know. He is supposed to play the correct game. He often ties himself into extraordinary knots by playing what he considers a safe game, when the only safe course is to play a dashing game. There are some players who, not being quick on their feet, ought never to run out. I do not wish at all to suggest that wild hitting is advisable. Nothing is more absurd. But safe hitting is good cricket and good policy. Every one ought to find out whether or not he can play slow bowling with any success by running out; and if he can, by all means let him run out, for it is the safest game to play. A running-out stroke should be played with the same amount of care and concentration as a back-stroke. There is an air of abandon about quickfooted players which is very deceptive: they often run out to meet the ball, because they feel safer in doing so than in staying at home. In playing fast bowling, on the other hand, the right foot should never be moved except to cut. This is the best rule for a young player to bear in mind when he meets fast bowling. Later on, when he has acquired some proficiency in back-play, he must use his discretion as to whether he plays his backstrokes standing where he is, or whether he first moves back in the direction of the wicket. Notice that by moving back close to the wicket a batsman can often turn a good-length ball into a long-hop. Let me repeat again that it is extremely bad play to move the right leg away from the wicket in the direction of square-leg: that is a most dishonourable retreat. At this point I am going to again remind the batsman to keep the left shoulder and the left elbow well forward as he plays the ball, for by so doing he gets a command over the ball and can keep it down. Fast bowling often tempts a man to slog wildly on the oif-side. This is, of course, a mistake. Fine free strokes
Ranji 1897 page 173 Lord Hawke running out to drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

on the off can be made without a suspicion of wildness in them.

With regard to pulling, unless a batsman is an experienced and finished player he ought not to try to pull straight balls, especially if they are fast ones. The only circumstance that justifies the pull is a feeling of complete command over a ball well watched from the pitch. Blind pulls and the scientific hook-strokes are as different as chalk from cheese. A pull ought never to be a short-cut out of a difficulty; it should be a manner of dealing with a very easy ball, or a ball that has been made very easy by the batsman's judgment.

In playing back, it is just as much a mistake to play behind the legs as it is to play in front of them when playing forward. At least, so it seems to me. All the really strong back-players draw back in making back-strokes and meet the ball with the bat held well in front of them. It is impossible to put any power into a stroke when the bat is held nearer to the wicket than the batsman himself is standing. This does not apply to the cut, which is an entirely different stroke.

The batsman must exercise his discretion as to the height he keeps the bottom of the bat from the ground in playing either back or forward. When the ground is dry and true it is fairly easy to judge the exact height the ball will rise. On a treacherous wicket all the batsman can do is to watch the ball with all his might and let the bat follow his eye. When a shooter comes, the closer the end of the bat is to the ground, the less chance is there of the ball passing it. Shooters have a most extraordinary trick of avoiding the bat even when it is dug half an inch into the ground. When a batsman feels he can impart more power to a stroke by playing it with his bat higher above the ground, by all means let him make the stroke exactly as he thinks fit. The great thing is to watch the ball closely and let the bat follow the unconscious dictates of the eye.

Experience soon teaches a man what balls ought to be played forward and what back. I believe tremendously in back-play. No forward-stroke is absolutely safe unless the ball is smothered. There are many very beautiful strokes effected by forward-play at the rising ball. Such strokes, however, are purely plumb wicket-strokes, for unless the ball does exactly what it is expected to do, what happens is merely a matter of luck.

There is a stroke which is neither forward nor yet back. It is termed the half-cock stroke. Dr Grace and Mr F. S. Jackson use it very frequently. It is a wonderfully good defensive stroke.
Ranji 1897 page 175 W. G. Grace pulling a ball.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

If I remember rightly, Dr Grace himself describes the stroke somewhat as follows: when a player finds himself in two minds as to what he shall do, there are two or three courses open to him. He may hit for home and glory, trusting to luck. If his trust is not misplaced, the ball will drop somewhere out of harm's way. Secondly, he may play forward on faith—a particularly dangerous stroke. Again, he may make a kind of hurried backstroke; but this is not likely to prove successful, as he has already begun to move forward. So it is best to play a half-cock stroke, which means that the bat is merely held almost stationary somewhere between a back- and a forward-stroke rather over the popping-crease, and the ball is allowed to hit it. Note that this is the only stroke in which the ball should be allowed to hit the bat. It is a compromise, and as such is purely defensive. It is almost impossible to score off a genuine half-cock stroke. It is a mistake to play the stroke unless forced to. do so' by circumstances.

One of the great differences between back- and forward-play is, that in the latter the batsman's object is to smother the ball at the pitch before its direction after pitching is determined, while in the former the stroke is made at a time when the ball's course is fully determined. In the one case the batsman judges exactly where the ball is going to be, and endeavours to get his bat there at the proper time; whereas in the other he watches the ball right on to the bat, having it practically directed under his eyes at the time of playing. A really good back-player does not much mind what antics the ball plays, provided only he can manage to see the ball all the way. Many back-strokes must necessarily be purely defensive, but a batsman should learn to shape at back-strokes in such a way that there is behind each some scoring power in reserve—that is, so that if at the last moment he finds the ball easier to play than he expected, he can turn his defensive stroke to run-getting purposes without any apparent change of movement.

On the other hand, even in making a forcing- stroke there should be, as it were, a reserve of power for defence. It is, I think, a mistake to let all one's strength go into a stroke; for if this is done, it is impossible to recall one's self. By playing slightly within one's strength, it is possible to alter a stroke to meet an unexpected contingency, such as a sudden twist of the ball, a bump from the pitch, or a shunter. The most dangerous ball for forward-play and for any forcing-stroke is the ball that comes slowly off the pitch or hangs. Such a ball is very liable to be mistimed, unless a batsman who is playing forward has enough reserve to be able to stop the stroke and effect some compromise.

There can be no doubt that most strokes are made or marred by the batsman's power or lack of eye. No amount of coaching, or reading books on the game, or watching eminent players, will enable a man with imperfect sight to become a good cricketer. The ball is the disturbing element in cricket; it needs to be watched, and watched well. The man with the good eye, who watches the flight of the ball accurately, ought never to be bowled out by a yorker. A yorker does not exist absolutely: its existence depends upon some mistake made by the batsman in judging the flight of the ball. This is rather enigmatical,—it smacks of metaphysics; but the practical aspect of the statement is, that no yorker is ever bowled which by proper timing might not be turned into a full-pitch. Batsmen make balls into yorkers in two ways. One is by mistaking a ball that will pitch about on the popping-crease for a genuine half-volley. The other is by mistaking for a full-pitch a ball which is really a half-volley. In the first case the ball comes farther than is expected. In the second it does not come quite so far. With regard to the half-volley mistaken for a full-pitch, there is not much to be said. The other kind of yorker, which is really a full-pitch on to the bat and ought to be played as such, gets a great many wickets. The moment a batsman finds he is not going to play such a ball on the full-pitch, he had better drop his bat down in his block-hole instantaneously. It is said of Dr Grace that no one can bowl him a yorker. This means that he very rarely misjudges the flight of the ball. Wherein he is almost alone in the cricket world.

Let us now consider back- and forward-play in its aggressive rather than in its defensive aspect. Hitherto the main idea underlying my remarks has been how not to get out. To score off balls is, however, the duty of the batsman while he is at the wicket; he should combine attack with defence.

Scoring-strokes may be divided into four divisions, according to their direction—those in front of the wicket on the off-side, those behind the wicket on the off-side, those in front of the wicket on the on-side, and those behind the wicket on the on-side. It will be found that most players are stronger on the off-side than in their strokes towards the on-side. Present-day bowlers do not bowl at the wicket so much as those of some years ago. Wickets
Ranji 1897 page 178 W. G. Grace playing half-cock.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

Ranji 1897 page 179 W. L. Murdoch's forward-cut.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

are so good and true, unless spoilt by rain, that to clean bowl a good batsman is next door to impossible. So bowlers have adopted almost universally what is known as the off-theory. They pitch the majority of their balls either on the off-stump or just outside it. All the fieldsmen except two or three are also placed on the off-side. Over and over is then bowled with the idea of getting the batsman caught by one of the fielders on the off-side of the wicket. The batsman hardly ever gets balls on the leg-side nowadays. What on-play there is, is usually off straight balls. There can be no question that the bowlers of the present day are much more accurate than the bowlers of the past. This does not mean that the old-time bowlers were not equally capable of putting the ball exactly where they wished. The fact is, they never troubled much about accuracy of pitch, because the state of the wicket nearly always gave them sufficient assistance to get the batsmen out for comparatively small scores. The universal adoption of the off-theory by bowlers provides all batsmen with any amount of practice at off-strokes. They lack practice at on-strokes to a corresponding extent.

Let us now take some strokes one by one. It is supposed, for the sake of convenience, that the wicket is hard and true.

First of all, there is the cut—a stroke which every batsman ought to master. For not only is it undoubtedly one of the most beautiful strokes from the spectator's point of view, but it is also extremely useful and fruitful. With the exception of the glide, the cut costs the batsman less exertion and expenditure of energy than any other stroke. A player who is a very good cutter has a great many runs in his bag. With this one stroke and a certain amount of defence, a batsman can make runs in any class of cricket. For scoring purposes there is no stroke to equal it.

Cuts are of three kinds. There is the forward-cut, the square-cut, and the late-cut. Some authorities, I believe, do not regard the forward-cut as a cut at all, but I think the term is applicable to the stroke in question. At one time the forward-cut used to be far more generally used than it is now. It is made by bringing the left foot right across the wicket towards the line of the ball, which is a short one outside the off-stump. The right foot is not moved. The bat is brought down on the ball more or less horizontally. The direction that the ball takes after being hit may be anywhere between point and cover-point. The stroke requires far more accurate timing than the ordinary square-cut or the late-cut; it is also more of a hit, inasmuch as not only the wrists but the arms and shoulders are used in making it. At the same time, I think it should be regarded as a cut rather than a hit; for the ball is sliced rather than met full. When accurately timed, the ball travels very strongly. In some ways it is rather a risky stroke; for if slightly misjudged the ball is liable to be taken too much on the rise, the result being a rather uppish stroke. If the bat comes down upon the ball too much, the stroke does not travel well, because the ball is punched into the ground. The safest and most effective exponent of the forward-cut is Mr W. L. Murdoch. He plays the stroke more with his wrist than any other batsman I have seen. Other players who make use of the stroke are Gunn, Marlow, and Mr A. O. Jones; but none of these make it with the same safeness as Mr Murdoch. They do not watch the ball nearly so closely; they seem to make more of a slash at the ball, and perhaps in their case the stroke is rather a blind one. It is the only unsafe stroke that William Gunn plays: I think he must use it for his own amusement and as a bit of a gamble, or to give the bowlers a chance. The ball for the stroke is one short of good length pitched outside the off-stump, but not quite so short as the ball which the batsman would cut either square or behind the wicket. Some batsmen use the stroke for nearly every ball pitched just outside the off-stump and not too far up.

A square-cut travels somewhere between point and third-man. It is the commonest form of cut. It can be used to play almost any ball short of good length outside the off-stump; but I think most good bats do not use the square-cut for a ball pitched quite so far up as the one best suited for the forward-cut. The square-cut is made by moving the right foot across the wicket till it is about in a line with the off-stump. The ball is hit almost directly it has passed the batsman's body—that is to say, rather sooner than in the case of the late-cut. The speed with which the ball travels depends almost entirely on correct timing. Care should be taken that the ball be hit after rather than before it has risen to its highest point after pitching. The secret of bringing off the stroke successfully is to get well over the ball. The bat should come down from an elevation higher than that of the ball. The severity of the stroke is slightly diminished by the downward motion of the bat, but there is a great gain in point of safety. It is possible to get sufficiently over the ball to make the stroke absolutely safe, and yet strike it hard enough to beat the fielders and reach the boundary. A fine slashing stroke may be made by hitting across the ball rather than on top of it; but this is a dangerous method, as there is a tendency to get under the ball.

The late-cut is made by putting the right foot identically in the same place as for the square-cut. But the ball is hit later—that is to say, when it has passed the batsman's body, and very often after it has passed the wicket. It is made with a quick sharp flick of the wrists. A player with weak wrists should not attempt the stroke, for it is essentially a wrist stroke. Remember that the stroke should be made at the last possible instant. There are very few players, indeed, who can cut late with anything like effect or severity. The secret of the stroke is a power to use the wrists, and every player who has much wrist-power should take a great deal of trouble to make himself master of it. One often sees the stroke made without a full use of the wrists, as is also the case with the square-cut. The Champion makes most of his cuts from his shoulders, and the way the ball travels does not leave much to be desired. But his case is exceptional; he is a genius, not an ordinary individual.

With regard to the respective values of the three kinds of cuts. The late-cut is, I think, the most telling. Of the other two, the square-cut is undoubtedly the safer, and on this account the better. The forward-cut I do not care for as a stroke, though it is very brilliant when properly executed. In making any kind of cut, the actual stroke should be more of a wrist-stroke than a push or glide. What is called slipping the ball is often mistaken for cutting. The difference is that, in slipping, the ball is allowed to hit the bat, which is put in its way with a slanting face—a most unsafe stroke. In its worst form this is commonly known nowadays as the "if-stroke." Originally it was called the "but-stroke," after its great exponent, the Sussex wicket-keeper; but some wag suggested that it should be called in preference the "if stroke," because if you hit the ball you are nearly sure to be out. In every cut the bat should hit the ball, and not the ball the bat. Though the stroke is effected almost altogether by the wrists, still, by letting the body bend from the hip so that it follows the arms and hands in the direction the ball is played, more power can be imparted to the stroke. Like all other strokes, the cut should be followed through as far as possible.

There is one other point about cutting. Accurate timing is facilitated by putting the leg across before the stroke is actually made, so that in making the stroke the player is standing firmly on both legs. Accuracy of aim is much increased by a firm
Ranji 1897 page 183 K. S. Ranjitsinhji cutting late.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

stance. When a player is moving about at the time of making a stroke, his actual aim cannot be so sure as it might be. And accuracy of aim is very essential for good cutting.

After having mastered the actual strokes, the player should not be satisfied until he has gained the power of placing the ball as nearly as possible in any direction desired. It is no good cutting time after time straight at third-man's knee-cap. The point is to place the ball between the fielders. Placing, especially with regard to cuts, gets more runs than pure strength. The way to learn to place cuts is to cultivate the power of cutting any given ball a fraction of a second later or sooner as the case may require. Note that the sooner a cut is made the squarer does the ball travel.

The art of placing is now, and always has been, at a premium. There are not more than ten players in the country who pay much attention to it. The Champion made a specialty of placing. He himself attributes much of his success to the ease which assiduous practice gave him in the art. The way to acquire the art of placing is never to make a stroke without thinking where the ball is meant to go. Gradually one learns to play a ball more or less where one means to.

Let us now take the off-drive. The ball can be driven on the off anywhere from the left of the bowler to cover-point. The drive to cover-point or between point and cover is a favourite stroke with many players. Shoulders, wrists, and arm-swing all come into the stroke, though in the case of most players one of the three usually predominates. The ball to be hit in this direction must be fairly well pitched up on the oiif-side of the wicket, but need not be quite a half-volley. The left foot should be thrown well across the wicket, and the ball hit on the rise with a perpendicular bat. Great pains should, be taken to get well over the ball. Mr L. C. H. Palairet and his brother. Mr R. C. N. Palairet are adepts at this stroke. They bring about the desired result by playing a genuine forward-stroke and bringing the weight of their bodies to bear upon the ball. Barnes of Nottingham, however, used to drive the ball in the same direction principally with a flick of the wrist at the last moment. I think his stroke was rather more of a slash than a forward-stroke, but it was a drive and not a cut. One of the main things in making an off-drive in any direction is to get well to the pitch of the ball. Care should be taken that the bat should not pass the left leg when the ball is struck. If the ball is well pitched up, and is not wide
Ranji 1897 page 185 L. C. H. Palairet driving forward.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

enough to be driven towards cover (the ball has to be nearly a foot wide on the off-side for the cover-stroke), it is a ball to drive straighten The wider the ball is on the off, the more likely is a batsman to overreach in attempting to play the stroke. The result of overreaching is to get under and to lift the ball, which is nearly sure to come to hand on the off-side. The drive to extra-cover or mid-off, or to the right of the bowler, should be made from balls that are well pitched up, but not so wide as in the case of the drive to cover-point. The straighter the ball is pitched in a line with the wicket, the straighter should be the drive, and vice versa. All genuine off-drives are played in exactly the same way, though wrist-work is not so necessary for the straighter drives. Off-drives from the left of the bowler to extra-cover depend principally for effectiveness upon the amount of "beef," as it is termed, or body-weight, which is brought to bear upon the stroke, and upon the correct timing of the ball. The arms should, of course, swing freely. The great thing to aim at in all these strokes is to get well over the ball. To ensure this the bat must be kept at the proper slant, just the same as in defensive forward-play. It is a great mistake to attempt to off-drive balls which are at all difficult to reach.

There are two strokes on the off not dealt with yet. Players who cannot make proper cuts should, I think, attempt to bring about the result of a cut by playing a stroke something between the forward-cut and the drive. The left leg should be thrown across as for the forward-cut, but the ball should be allowed to pass to the same spot as that at which it is played in the square-cut before any attempt is made to hit it. The action of the stroke is rather like that used in the off-drive. But in the case of the stroke we are now speaking off, the bat is horizontal rather than perpendicular. It is impossible to place the ball with any accuracy in making this kind of cut, because there is only one instant when the stroke can be made. Note that this stroke is different from a forward-cut. There is not much wrist-work in it, the fore-arms and shoulders being chiefly used. There is one other stroke on the off which is very useful. It is called the chop. When a short ball outside the off-stumps keeps so low that a genuine cut is out of the question, the best way to score off it is to bend the knees and come down on the ball as hard as possible with a horizontal bat. The action is, as it were, an exaggeration of a cut at a ball which keeps moderately low—that is, about half-stump high. If the stroke is well timed the ball will travel like lightning to the boundary. The two great exponents of the stroke are Mr Percy Macdonald, the great Australian hitter, and Sir T. C. O'Brien.

The strokes which have been mentioned hitherto are suitable for playing balls of a good length or short good-length. The drive off the half-volley is one which every player ought to be able to make. A half-volley ought always to be hit in the direction in which it will travel most naturally. It is a mistake to force its direction. Take care not to try to pull a half-volley. This is very dangerous, as the slightest mistake is almost sure to prove fatal. In common with drives off good-length balls, the drive off the half-volley described above should be played without leaving your ground.

There is another kind of drive altogether which is sometimes called the quick-footed drive. This means that the batsman runs down the wicket until he gets to the pitch of the ball, and then drives it. Clearly, if he only had time, a batsman could get to the pitch of any ball bowled. Cricketers, however, in common with other men, have their limitations; so there are only certain balls which can be played successfully in this style. I have already shown that the running-out stroke is useful sometimes for defensive purposes—that is to say, it is a good means of making a difficult ball easy. But from another point of view it is perhaps the most aggressive stroke in cricket. It is distinctly a case of going for the bowling. Few batsmen play the stroke even fairly well. Arthur Shrewsbury is very clever at it; Mr Stoddart, too, makes it one of the great points in his game. Mr Jessop of Gloucestershire, in his own way, makes some extraordinarily fine drives by running out. The stroke should only be played when a batsman, if he stands where he is, cannot get sufficiently near to the pitch of the ball to drive it.

In all forward-play for aggressive purposes One of the chief faults to be found in most players is, that they bend their right knee in making the stroke. This bending of the knee upsets the balance, and consequently takes much of the force out of the stroke. If a man is struggling to recover his balance, he cannot be getting the weight of his body properly into the stroke. Further, when the right knee is bent it is almost certain that the right shoulder sinks with it. When the right shoulder is dropped in making any kind of forward-stroke or drive, the batsman is nearly sure to be getting under instead of over the ball. Besides, the very fact that the right shoulder sinks proves that some weight is being thrown in the opposite direction to that in which the Stroke is being made. In the case of a young player it would be a very good plan for the coach to give a practical illustration of all forcing-strokes one by one, showing first how they ought to be done and then how they ought not It is particularly necessary to demonstrate how the weight originally on the right leg is thrown on to the left leg in making forward-strokes. It is just this transference of weight from leg to leg that brings the body well into the stroke.

In all the strokes which we have described above, the aim of the player should be to keep the ball along the ground. This does not mean that either in hitting or forward-play the stroke should be half-hearted. Half-hearted strokes generally end in mis-hits. High-driving is sometimes unavoidable, and is a very exhilarating spectacle, but it is scarcely possible to make high drives quite safely.

Let us now turn our attention to strokes on the on side. First of all there is the drive past mid-on, or between the bowler and mid-on. The direction of the stroke naturally varies according to where the ball pitches. If the ball is pitched in a line with the wicket, it should, when the stroke is correctly made, travel rather nearer to the bowler than to mid-on. If the ball pitches rather more to leg, it should travel to the right-hand side of mid-on. These on-drives should be kept for rather overpitched balls. The drive can be either a genuine hit or a very hard forward-stroke.

Then there are the two leg- hits—one square, the other towards long-leg. When the ball is well pitched up on the legside, either a half-volley or just short of one, the stroke should be aimed in the direction of square-leg. If it is properly made, the ball should travel very near to the umpire. In making this stroke the left foot should be thrown out in the direction of the ball, which may be hit either on the half-volley or on the rise. The nearer the left leg is to the ball when the stroke is made, the better will be the result. It is a good thing to get into the habit of keeping the ball well down in making this stroke, otherwise the player is liable to be disconcerted when a fieldsman is put deep-square-leg. The sooner the ball is hit after pitching, the less likely is it to travel in the air. A square-leg hit is best made off a ball that is not very wide of the wicket. Perhaps one pitching straight for the legs is the most convenient to deal with in this manner. In making the stroke the bat should be as nearly perpendicular as possible, for in this way more of the face of the bat is presented to the ball. If the bat is at all
Ranji 1897 page 189 F. S. Jackson making an on-drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

slanted sideways, the ball is rather liable to hit the edge of it and go straight up into the air. Very few batsmen play the stroke really well nowadays; indeed one rarely has occasion to use it in first-class cricket. Where the bowling is less accurate few strokes are more telling or more satisfactory to the batsman.

The long-leg hit should be made off a ball pitching rather wider than in the case of the square-leg hit, and rather short of a good length. The stroke is made with a horizontal bat, which is swept round so as to catch the ball when it is about in a line with the batsman's body. The left leg should be thrown well forward out towards the ball. When the stroke is properly made, the ball travels in a line running more in the direction of the screen behind the batsman's wicket than in that of the square-leg umpire. These two leg-hits are about the only strokes in which the batsman ought to lay out his whole strength. The usual faults in making them are either playing them too soon or too late—too soon to slow bowling, too late to fast bowling.

There is another stroke by which good-length balls on the legside can be played—the glide or glance. It has the advantage of not wasting the batsman's strength and energy. All the batsman has to do to a good-length ball on the leg-side is to put his left leg forward almost straight down the wicket, with his bat in front of it, or rather on the far side of it. The face of the bat is turned slantwise to meet the ball, which should glance off towards fine-long-leg. The angle at which the ball leaves the bat depends upon the angle at which its surface is presented to the ball. The stroke can be played at balls either on the leg-stump or outside it. If the ball is on the wicket, the left leg must be thrown rather across, much in the same way as in playing forward on the off. The bat is, of course, on the far side of the leg. In these days, with perfect wickets, the glance-stroke is very useful, as the course of the ball can be very accurately judged. It has the advantage over leg-hits that it is far less tiring. It is necessary to husband one's strength when one is engaged in continuous first-class cricket. I am inclined to recommend players to use the glance instead of the square-leg or long-leg hit. It is a very safe stroke, because the ball can easily be kept down. The glance off a straight ball is of course a very dangerous stroke for an unskilful player: it is seldom used even by the best players, and then only when they are well-set. But there is no doubt that when straight good-length balls are gently removed towards the leg-boundary by means of this stroke, the
Ranji 1897 page 191 W. Newham's square glance.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

bowler is liable to be much annoyed; he often loses first his temper, then his head, and then his control over the ball. Young players ought certainly to use the glance for such balls only as they would otherwise hit to square-leg or long-leg.

Before leaving the subject of on-side strokes something must be said about the pull. Distinguish between the hook-stroke, which will be described later, and a genuine pull, which partakes of the nature of a drive. It is, in fact, a drive with a cross-bat which brings a ball pitched from the off-side of the wicket round to the on-side. It is never used by a good player to deal with the ball pitching on the wicket; at least if it is, the player is for the nonce a bad one. The pull being a drive, may be classed among forward-strokes. The ball suitable for the stroke may be either a half-volley or a good-length ball outside the off-stump; and after being hit, it may travel anywhere between long-on and square-leg. Mr W. W. Read is an excellent exponent of it. He gave me once a perfect idea how the stroke ought to be played. In making it he simply imagines that the wickets do not exist, and plays the ball, which is actually pitched on the off, as if it were pitched on the leg-side—that is to say, he puts out his leg towards the ball, and hits it just as an ordinary player would a ball on or outside his legs. The great difference between Mr Read's execution of the stroke and that of other players is, that he almost invariably picks the right ball, and can when necessary get well over it. Most players pick the wrong ball and make no attempt to keep it down. The whole essence of the stroke is picking the right ball; and it is the difficulty of doing so which makes the stroke dangerous.

Having enumerated most of the forward-strokes in their aggressive aspect, let us see how far back-play can be made a means of getting runs.

When a really short ball is bowled, the batsman ought to be able, standing where he is, to force it with a horizontal bat in some direction or other. The direction varies according to whether a ball is straight, or to the leg, or to the off Mr W. W. Read is particularly good at making forcing-strokes without any forward movement of the body. In fact, the hardest hit he makes is off a short ball outside the off-stump. When he sees the particular ball coming, he moves his right leg back slightly away from the wicket—that is, he moves slightly backwards himself, and as the ball passes him hits it somewhere in the direction of cover-point with extraordinary force. This stroke of his is not a forward-stroke—it is a back-stroke; and as to its being a forcing-stroke, there can be no doubt whatever. Short straight balls, if they do not rise too high, can be forced on one side or other of the bowler without forward motion of the body. Similarly, short balls on the leg-side can be despatched to almost any point of the compass on the on-side. This kind of forcing-stroke requires a certain amount of care, or the ball may be hit in the air. If it rises at all high after pitching, it is almost impossible to keep it down with such a stroke.

But there is another way of playing short balls very effectively. This is by the hook-stroke. The player moves slightly back, with his weight more or less on his right foot, faces the ball almost square, and sweeps it round as it rises with a horizontal bat towards the on-boundary. The stroke differs entirely from the genuine pull, in that it is not made at the pitch of the ball. The ball is watched right on to the bat, so that if at the last moment the hook-stroke seems dangerous, an ordinary defensive back-stroke can be substituted for it. Any very short ball, either on the wicket or outside the off-stump, provided it be not too wide, can be hooked round in this way by a strong back-player. Some batsmen use their wrist for the stroke, others do it chiefly with fore-arm and elbow work. Arthur Shrewsbury and Mr A. C. MacLaren are very good at the stroke: the former uses his wrists, the latter his fore-arm. Brown of Yorkshire does it with his fore-arm and a turn of the body. When the wrists are used, the stroke can be made with an almost perpendicular bat; forearm players hit across the ball horizontally.

The next point to notice is, that there is another kind of short ball besides the one we have already mentioned. This is the ball which the batsman makes short for himself. If, instead of standing still, the batsman moves right back to about 18 inches from the wicket, he obviously makes any ball bowled to him shorter than it would have been if he had stood where he was, by the distance between the first and his second position. The ball, which is just short of a good length, is made shorter by a yard if a batsman moves a yard towards his wicket instead of playing it where he originally stood. The extra distance the ball has to travel gives the batsman so much the more time to judge and play it. The only difificulty about moving back in this way is to judge the ball early enough in its flight to be able to complete the backward motion in good time. The player should have moved back and be standing still before he begins to play the stroke. This, of course, requires considerable quickness of eye and foot.

In making the hook-stroke the batsman must avoid playing the ball into the hands either of mid-on or short-leg. It is quite possible to get over the ball well if the bat be sufficiently lifted before the stroke is made. The difficulty in making the hookstroke increases with the pace at which the ball comes. To hook a fast bowler on a hard wicket, however short he is bowling, is by no means safe or easy. But it is not anything like so hazardous a proceeding as it looks, if the batsman is determined not to flinch. On slow wickets of all descriptions the hook-stroke is worth any other three for scoring purposes. Batsmen of the old school very much disliked the hook-stroke on principle. Many very fine batsmen are content merely to stop short straight balls, even on a dead wicket. Such balls, however, may be safely despatched to the boundary almost as easily as they can be stopped. The hook-stroke off short balls from a fast bowler, when the ball is coming straight for the body or head, requires some nerve. Many batsmen are simply content to get out of the way of them. But it is quite possible to whip any such balls as these round towards square-leg. A player with strong wrists and good eyesight ought to stand up to such balls fearlessly. I once saw a magnificent batting side simply frightened out by the Australian bowler Jones. The wicket was rather fiery and the bowling was rather fast, but still there was no need to go in with the intention of getting out as soon as possible. The match in question was played at Sheffield Park last year, and was the first of the Australians' tour. To the credit of the amateur element, Dr W. G. Grace and Mr F. S. Jackson, both played grand innings, in spite of being much knocked about. The latter had one of his ribs Isroken, but he kept on to the end, hooking Jones's fastest deliveries, however near they happened to go to his head.

A good-length ball, pitching just outside the leg-stump, may be forced to the on-side by stepping back and making a wriststroke when the ball is almost on a level with the bat, which should swing just in front of the legs. This is an extremely useful stroke for balls on the leg-side. After a certain amount of practice and experience, a batsman can acquire the power of playing the same stroke at straight balls, though of course with some danger of getting out leg-before in attempting to do so It is a very useful stroke when bowlers are trying to bowl maidens. I remember a match in which this stroke played rather an important part. In a match last year between Somerset and Sussex, Somerset went in for the fourth innings of the match to
Ranji 1897 page 195 J. T. Brown's short-arm hook-stroke.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

get slightly over 200 runs. The wicket was rather crumbly. Six wickets fell for 23. But Mr Palairet at the end of the game was not out 83. He managed to secure the bowling over after over, thanks to a judicious use of this back forcing-stroke. It was a magnificent exhibition of cricket, and deservedly saved the match. Different batsmen play the stroke in different ways. Some draw their feet close together, some turn considerably, and some get right in front of their wicket. Personally I move my left foot across the wicket towards point, face the ball with my body from the waist upwards, watch it on to the bat, and despatch it at the last moment by a quick turn of the wrist. The great thing is to have the bat from the start in the line of the ball, so that in the case of a mistake in timing, the ball hits the bat and not the leg. It is always a risky thing to play straight balls with any part of the person in front of the wicket; but so long as the bat is in the right place there is no fear of getting out leg-before. People often say to me, "That leg-stroke of yours is very risky. If you miss the ball you must be out leg-before." Quite so; but one would be out prfetty frequently, clean bowled, if one missed the ball. So it does not make much difference whether or not the legs are in front of the wicket. Let us now consider batting in relation to the different kinds of bowling. In playing against fast or medium-pace bowling, forward-play is the most useful part of a batsman's repertoire; in playing slow or lob bowling, the fewer forward strokes a batsman attempts the less likely is he to lose his wicket. There are three methods of playing slow or lob bowling: first, to run out to meet the ball so as to be able to hit it either on the full-pitch or the half-volley; secondly, to stand in one's ground and play back or hit, according as the ball is short or pitched up; or thirdly, to play a purely defensive game. All forward-strokes—that is to say, forward push-strokes—should be avoided. Every stroke in playing slow bowling should be either a genuine backstroke or a determined hit. It is a great mistake to hit rashly and wildly at any kind of slow ball, but it is fatal to do so at those pitched rather wide on the off. Such balls are meant to be traps, and should be guarded against. Slow bowlers require more men in the out-field than do medium or fast, so batsmen ought to try to keep the ball well on the ground. In order to do this the ball must be played either on the full-pitch or as soon as possible after it has pitched; that is why it is a good thing to run out to slow bowling. Be very careful, in trying to cut a slow
Ranji 1897 page 197 K. S. Ranjitsinhji back leg-glance.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

ball, not to sacrifice getting over the ball to the desire of making a very forcible stroke. Slow bowling is not very easy to cut, as the ball has no particular impetus of its own. It is a mistake to try to hit a slow bowler to the boundary every ball he bowls. The great thing is to watch the ball and exercise a certain amount of self-restraint. It is an old saying, and a true one, that people get themselves out off slow bowling more often than the bowler gets them out. The one ball, especially from a slow bowler, that a batsman ought to be able to treat as he likes is the long-hop. Such balls should be made the most of: they do not come too often. Batsmen are prone to certain weaknesses and faults apart from badly played strokes. The chief of these is nervousness, the paralysing effects of which most of us know only too well. I do not believe a batsman ever existed who has not fallen a victim to this weakness at one time or another. Beginners are proverbially nervous. Nervousness usually comes either from lack of confidence or from a desire to do oneself justice in some particular match. Few batsmen have been lucky enough to feel quite comfortable the first time they played in school or university matches, to say nothing of county matches and Gentlemen v. Players. A player feels as if the eyes of the whole world are upon him, and that he owes his side a certain amount of runs. In addition, he is keen to do himself justice. It is not difficult to see that the terrors of bowling increase with the batsman's desire not to get out. In his nervousness he is afraid to play his own game, and he is hardly likely to succeed well if he plays some one else's game, or nobody's game, instead. Young players should try to get over this weakness as soon as possible, otherwise they are sure to be handicapped in their progress in the game. Perhaps the best thing to do is to try and convince oneself that nervousness is nothing more nor less than mere sensitiveness. It is a great mistake ever to alter one's game save under extraordinary conditions. Another fault or weakness to which batsmen are prone is over-eagerness to score their first run. Players have a feverish desire to "crack their duck's egg," as it is called. Personally I cannot see that a man is more disgraced by getting no runs at all than by only getting one or two. When it comes to the second innings, and it is a question of a "pair-of-spectacles," good batsmen sometimes play as if they had never had a bat in their hands before. It is a great mistake to bustle oneself in any circumstances. As long as the batsman is at the wicket he has a chance of
Ranji 1897 page 199 A. N. Hornby.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

getting a run somehow: if he tries to get it off an unsuitable ball he very likely loses his wicket. One point in which many otherwise excellent cricketers fail is in the matter of judging runs. Every player should take trouble to master the few points to be followed in judging and calling runs. Ignorance of how to run his own runs and to call his partner to run is almost sure to upset a man's batting. A player who is a bad runner, one who does not judge his own runs properly, not only upsets himself, but may very well upset his partner too. Directly two batsmen lose confidence in each other, one of them is almost sure sooner or later to run the other one out. I myself have seen very many instances of runouts due to nothing else than carelessness. And I know what an uncomfortable thing it is to have confidence neither in oneself nor one's partner in judging runs. There are no set rules as to how to run or as to which batsman ought to shout "Yes" or "No," but there are certain points pretty generally accepted and followed. One of these is, that the non-striker calls for the run whenever the ball has been played behind the wicket. When the ball is hit in front of the wicket the striker calls. I am not quite sure how far it is a good thing to have a definite arrangement on this point. Both batsmen have to use plenty of discretion when calling for runs, and they should be thoroughly in touch with one another. I think it is a mistake to believe that after a call has once been made by a player his partner should run and chance all consequences. However, many experienced players and many authoritative writers advocate this unhesitating acceptance of a call. There are one or two things that ought always to be borne in mind. First, not to back up before the ball has left the bowler; secondly, to make a few yards down the pitch as soon as the ball has been delivered, without getting so far from your own wicket as not to be able to return safely should something unexpected happen; thirdly, if you intend calling for a run, call at once, and loudly. Do not start running too wildly, as your partner may want to send you back. Again, in the event of your partner calling you for a run, make up your mind at once what you are going to do, and let him know your decision on the spot loudly and clearly. Two batsmen who know each other well, and also know exactly what they want to do when they see their own stroke or their partner's stroke played, are not likely to get into a muddle. There is no use, and there may be harm, in running past the wickets instead of just grounding the bat within the crease. If you only go as
Ranji 1897 page 201 A. E. Stoddart's forward-cut.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

far as the crease you save time, and are less liable to take your attention off the ball. It is very common for players to rush towards the other wicket and pass several yards beyond it. Many a chance of stealing a second run is lost in this way, for it is impossible to take advantage of a slight overthrow or a piece of misfielding unless both batsmen are ready to start and have not more than 20 yards to go. It is important for each of the batsmen to keep his own side of the wicket when running—that is to say, there must be a mutual understanding between them, so that any chance of a collision is obviated. Remember, on no account should you run down the pitch—that is to say, on any part of the ground where the ball is likely to be pitched by the bowler. If you do, you simply cut up the turf and spoil the pitch for the rest of your team. There are stories told of various occasions on which batsmen, after their side had gained a considerable advantage, deliberately tried to cut up the pitch with a view to helping their bowlers. This is quite contrary to the proper spirit of cricket. Such occurrences should of course be impossible in first-class cricket. A batsman who is nearing his 50 or his 100 often risks the most ridiculous runs. He often attempts runs which ordinarily he would not look at. There is naturally a great charm in reaching 50 or 100. But a batsman has no right to risk his own or his partner's wicket for the sake of one run. The institution of talent-money has cost many a professional his wicket in county cricket. Most counties give their representatives a sovereign for every 50 runs they make. Naturally this makes them all the more anxious when they approach the required totals. That sovereign causes innumerable run-outs and rash strokes. It should be remembered that the sacrifice of one wicket may mean the loss of a match, and no one has a right to risk the match even to get a sovereign. It would be far better if the club authorities entirely altered their procedure. Talent-money should be distributed by no fixed rules, and quite independently of round figures. Performances of real merit, whether 30, 40, or 50 runs be got, should be recognised and encouraged. If this were done, most of the bustling for that odd run or two would disappear. There is a maxim, "Always run for a catch." This requires some qualifying, for no run ought to be attempted unless it is a safe one. The point in the maxim is, that it is a mistake to stand looking on when the ball is in the air if there is time for a run: it does not mean that one should play a hard stroke into mid-offs hands, and immediately leg it down the pitch. One more word as to running. There are times when the batsman is justified in attempting short runs and risking his wicket. When the bowling is very good and runs are very difficult to get, running short runs is often useful; it demoralises sometimes not only the bowlers, but the whole fielding side. The Australians have demonstrated this very usefully once or twice. In some of the earlier matches during their tour in 1896 their first batsmen failed before good bowling, and nothing but the desperate tactics adopted by some of the middle batsmen of their team, who literally played tip-and-run, saved the side from getting out for very small totals. When time is short, and runs have to be made as quickly as possible, the shorter the runs are the better.

Batsmen, besides learning the various strokes, must study the relation of strokes to the wickets. The stroke which is excellent to use on a good hard wicket is not always equally so under other conditions. Most of the strokes already described have been treated rather with the idea that the wicket be good and hard. This kind of wicket is the one which batsmen, as a rule, like best. They can play forward as much as they like, and back if the case requires it. Most of the large scores made nowadays are compiled on wickets of this kind. On such wickets batsmen usually defend their wicket as well as make their forcingstrokes by forward-play. Another wicket which is in the batsman's favour is a hard wicket wet on the surface. He can play forward on it as much as he likes with perfect safety, provided he looks out for balls that shoot or keep low. When the surface of a pitch is greasy with rain that has not made it in the very least soft, the ball is liable to skid along with extraordinary rapidity. It is rather amusing to hear what people say when, after a break of a few minutes owing to a shower, a player on resuming his batting is unfortunate enough to get out. The usual remark is, that interruption has put his eye out—he was well set before the rain. This, I think, is usually an incorrect explanation of what has happened. The reason why a man gets out in such circumstances is not because his eye is upset, but because it is set too well. Having got into the pace of the wicket before the rain came, he does not take into consideration the extra speed at which the ball travels when the wicket is wet on top. He probably plays too late and misses the ball. So after a shower has fallen on a hard wicket, batsmen should look out for the ball coming very fast and keeping rather low. It is a mistake on a wicket like this to set yourself either for a pull or a hook. Note, by the way, that the faster the ball comes the harder it is to make a well-timed pull or hook.

A slow good wicket—that is to say, one made soft by rain and not subsequently caked by the sun—sometimes causes batsmen trouble; and yet it is a very easy wicket. The only difficulty is, that a rather different style of play is required. Whenever a forward-stroke is used on such a wicket, great care should be taken not to play too soon, as the ball is apt to hang. It is best to rely chiefly upon back-play and hard hitting. The push-stroke is not of much use. If the wicket is very wet so that the ball cuts through, forward-strokes can be used with fair effect if the ball is closely watched so as to make certain of proper timing. When the ball breaks at all—and on most wet wickets, however easy, the bowler can usually get some work on the ball—a batsman can play back with ease and effect. But the deviation of the ball from its original line of flight makes forward-strokes rather unsafe unless the ball is completely smothered at the pitch. The hook-stroke is particularly useful on slow wickets, for a player can step back and have plenty of time to watch the ball as it comes from the ground. It is sometimes necessary and profitable to use the high drive when the wicket is in this state. The strokes along the ground are apt to travel so slowly that they can be very readily fielded. A batsman must use his own discretion in such matters.

A crumbly wicket—that is, one more or less broken on the surface—enables the bowler to make the ball break prodigiously. To make runs on such a wicket the batsman must have an exceedingly quick eye, and an almost quicker wrist, if he is to show to advantage. The ball takes a break very rapidly after pitching: in order to extricate himself from a difficulty, a batsman must rely upon an instantaneous co-operation of eye and wrist. The ball breaks so much that it is impossible to play forward-strokes at the rising ball with any success; the ball is nearly sure to beat the bat. Unless a batsman can get right to the pitch of a ball, he ought to play it back. If, however, he is weak in his back-play, the best thing he can do for his side is to have a dash. He is far more likely to make a few runs by going for the bowling with all his might than by any other procedure. As to sticky wickets, they are rather a problem. A batsman is really almost helpless on such wickets before good bowling. The ball does everything the bowler intends it to do, and sometimes more, and sometimes quite the reverse. Unless a batsman has an almost superhuman power of watching the ball, the best thing he can do is "to take the long handle" and hit as hard as ever he can, chancing where the ball goes. This is the unscientific science of making runs upon birdlime wickets. Forcing tactics of this kind are liable to upset a bowler and cause him to bowl bad-length balls. By playing a quiet game and merely trying to keep his wicket up, a batsman simply shows the bowler how extremely well he is bowling. There are some players who are so strong in their back-play that they can afford to play a patient game, only scoring off an occasional loose ball. Still, few save geniuses can play this game with any success upon a really sticky wicket. Arthur Shrewsbury, Mr F. S. Jackson, and Mr W. H. Patterson are geniuses in this line. The ordinary player can hardly hope to adopt their method successfully. The methods of genius are justified by success, but it is dangerous to copy them without having the necessary qualification in the shape of eye-and-wrist power. No one would be foolish enough to suggest that Arthur Shrewsbury would have met with greater success upon sticky wickets if he had abandoned his back-play in favour of desperate hitting. My advice to a player of any but the highest capacity is to go in to hit whenever the wicket is at all sticky. But if possible, he should always try to give himself the odds in favour of not getting out. Every hit should have a five-to-three chance of being executed and not being caught.

The fiery wicket has fewer terrors for the batsman than crumbled or sticky wickets. But when there is fire in the ground the ball comes very fast off the pitch and is liable to bump. So it requires very careful watching. In playing forward on such a wicket, it is advisable to get as near the pitch of the ball as possible. It is rather dangerous to lunge out to the rising ball; for if the ball bumps, such a stroke is nearly sure to result in a catch by the bowler or one of the fielders on the off-side. At the same time, a player will have to rely principally upon forward-play; the ball comes so quickly from the pitch that back-play is very difficult. Of course the batsman must find out by experiment how far he can rely upon his quickness of wrist; for remember that if a man can play back, it is always the safest method when there is any chance of the ball coming up from the pitch otherwise than would be expected.

One of the great advantages of turning out to have ten minutes' knock before the match begins is, that some idea can be obtained as to the pace and quality of the wicket. Care should be taken to find out how far the practice-wickets and the match-wickets are similar. On many grounds they are differently laid. It is as well that a player should know how many ways there are of getting out. Cricketers sometimes have had to pay the penalty for ignorance on this point. In a North v. South match, Barlow, the Lancashire player, was given out for wilfully hitting a ball twice. Presumably he did not know the rule on the subject in spite of a long experience. In cricket, as in a court of law, the plea of ignorance is not accepted as a good excuse. Instances are continually occurring to show that a few hints may not be out of place. As a matter of fact, there are nine ways of getting out. There is a story, however, which goes to show that this number may be increased. Tom Emmett was one day listening to one player examining another upon a knowledge of the rules of cricket. The point under discussion was the number of ways of getting out. Neither party seemed quite certain on the subject, but they finally worked out and enumerated the nine usually accepted ways. "You are wrong," chimed in Tom. "There is another, making ten." The disputants spent some time trying to find out what this was, and finally gave it up as a bad job. Then Tom explained himself. "My tenth," said' he, "is being umpired out." The moral of this little story, by the bye, is that batsmen are well advised to give umpires as few chances as possible of having to give any decision with regard to their being out or not out. I heard the other day of another way of getting out— viz., being talked out by the wicket-keeper. Batsmen are quite within their rights in requesting conversational fieldsmen to hold their tongues.

The nine ways of getting out are—

  1. Being clean bowled; the most satisfactory way of all, and one which is seldom disputed.
  2. Being caught out; sometimes disputed, sometimes not.
  3. Being stumped out; disputed more often than not.
  4. Being run out; the batsman generally has some doubts.
  5. Hit-wicket; nothing to be said usually.
  6. Leg-before-wicket; always disputed.
  7. Wilfully hitting the ball twice except in defence of the wicket.
  8. Handling the ball.
  9. Obstructing the field.

Having touched upon most of the important points in batting, I shall proceed to pick some of them up, and, as far as possible, elaborate those that require it.

Net-practice is almost universal nowadays. Most players begin their cricket education in the net. It is not necessary to be coached by a person behind the net as well as by the bowler, if
Ranji 1897 page 207 K. S. Ranjitsinhji glance-playing forward.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

the latter is a capable coach. The difficulty is to find a man who is a good enough bowler to bowl the exact balls required, and is at the same time fully versed in the theory of batting and able to impart it. Nevertheless, a man behind a net can see almost better than the bowler how a player is shaping. There is, too, a great waste of time if the bowler has to stop in order to talk and demonstrate. I believe strongly in net-practice, and I do not think a player can have too much of it, if practice is carried out carefully and studiously. Directly one gets fatigued and loses keenness, it is best to stop at once: it is a mistake to take too much of a good thing at a time. About half an hour with either one or two bowlers is sufficient for a person eighteen years old and upwards: for younger players, from fifteen to twenty minutes is enough. There is no need for me to re-examine the duties of a coach, but I should like to insist again that it is a mistake for him to try to change the natural tendencies of his pupils. The great thing is to develop the student's abilities to their best and fullest extent. It has been explained how cricket may be learned by imitation. Young players cannot do better than watch the different players for whom they have a fancy, and try to learn from them such strokes as are best adapted for their own build, temperament, and style. There are certain things which experience teaches better than anything else. One often finds out a new. stroke by a fluke. It is the same thing with billiards: new strokes are learnt by accident sometimes. In cricket an unintentional movement of the body or bat may suggest quite a new way of playing some ball. Such chance revelations should be made the most of. People tell me that the strongest part of my game is my manner of playing leg-strokes. I found out how to play to leg in the way I do from a chance stroke I once made in practice. Whether my method is good or bad is beside the question.

There are occasions when a player is asked to change his tactics. Sometimes a captain requests a side either to play with extreme caution or to force the game as much as they can. In practice, therefore, it is a good thing to adopt one method at one time and another at another time. A man who can play both games equally well is sure to be very useful to his side. When time is short and a considerable number of runs have to be made, a captain often asks his men to force the game. This means that batsmen will have not only to hit the balls as they would ordinarily, but try to force those which they would be inclined to treat defensively. Or, again, when the game has to be saved or the fall of a wicket avoided, a captain naturally asks his men to play cautiously. All batsmen should try to grasp for themselves the right thing to do according to circumstances. It would take a lot of worry from the captain's shoulders, and make him feel very grateful.

The question as to whether a batsman is born or made is somewhat difficult to answer. My own idea is that, except for certain natural acquirements, batting is to be learnt. I can hardly imagine a player to be born such beyond a certain point. He must learn to apply his natural gifts, however good they may be. His success depends upon how far he does this. As an example of what may be done by practice and perseverance, in spite of being handicapped by nature in the matter of height and strength, one need only mention Robert Abel. Arthur Shrewsbury, too, has no particular physique, though he does possess an exceptional wrist. Abel owes his position in the cricket world almost entirely to his determination and perseverance. So does Arthur Shrewsbury, wrist and all. A player must not be discouraged by repeated failures at the outset of his career. He must take heart from the fact that even the greatest players at the zenith of their careers have runs of ill-luck. If a player keeps on steadily and enthusiastically in spite of misfortune, his reward will come sooner or later.

Playing with a straight bat is to batting what good length is to bowling. This point should be impressed on the minds of all players. Any one who looks into the matter at all cannot miss seeing the advantage of playing in this way. Mark that a straight bat means that the two outside edges of the bat are kept at right angles to the ground, from the point of view of any one looking straight at its face. The two reasons that underlie the straight-bat theory are these: If held straight, in the cricket sense of course, the bat gives the ball less chance of hitting the wicket, and also allows a considerable margin for error. The simplest way of illustrating the truth of the first of these points is, to hold the bat in front of the wickets first perpendicularly and then crosswise. If held in the first way, the bat hides all the wicket, except the outside edges of the off- and leg-stumps; if held in the second way, most of the wicket is disclosed, for part of the bat protrudes beyond the wicket on either side. Again, if the bat is upright, there is the whole length of it up- and down-ways to meet the ball, in case an error be made in judging the exact height the ball rises from the ground after pitching. Playing with a straight bat is not natural—it must be acquired. One o of the great difficulties in learning to bat consists in adapting the motion of the body and the swing of the arms to the condition of the bat being held straight.

It must not be understood, however, that the bat should be held straight for every stroke. This is impossible in the case of the cut, the pull, the hook, and some of the drive-strokes. The old-fashioned theory that any stroke played with a cross-bat must be bad cricket does not hold water, A stroke which is safe and effective cannot be bad cricket. Of course, cross-bat strokes should only be used to play such balls as are best played with a cross-bat. Such strokes are only bad style when badly used. It would be absurd to play a straight half-volley or good-length ball with a cross-bat, just as it would be to attempt to cut in the same way as a drive is made. Hooks and pulls should only be used when the batsman feels absolutely certain that he can hit the ball in this manner with perfect safety. Neither of them should be, in any sense of the word, a gamble. The whole art of scoring by the pull or the hook is to select the right ball.

When a batsman has grasped the theory and practice of straight-bat play, he may turn his attention to timing. Now, what is timing? As used by cricketers, the word covers a lot of ground. It seems to me that timing is not only hitting the ball at exactly the right moment, in exactly the right attitude, and with the right action, but also the preceding mental resolve formed while the ball is in the air as to how the. ball shall be played. The mental process is sometimes distinguished from timing by the term "judging the flight of the ball." But I think it is better to treat the judgment of the ball in the air, the mental resolve, and the accurate co-operation of hand, arm, body, and eye at the time of playing as forming one whole process. When all the elements of the process are combined in the best possible way, the stroke will be made with the greatest effect and with the least exertion.

The first thing to avoid is making up your mind what to do before the ball has left the bowler's hands. A previous resolve of this kind is formed absolutely without any data. If the ball expected is bowled, well and good; otherwise the stroke has to be corrected. Men lose their wickets by having to correct their strokes more often than for any other reason. Obviously all the time spent in making the first and wrong part of a corrected stroke is wasted. The fault of judging the ball before it is bowled is very common among young players. When the
Ranji 1897 page 211 Shrewsbury cutting late at a ball keeping low.jpg


From photo by G. Caldwell, Nottingham.

bowling is perfectly mechanical, its consequences are not very fatal; but against the bowler who changes his pace and his length skilfully, a batsman cannot possibly know beforehand what kind of ball is coming. If he plays on faith, he is sure to make similar strokes at absolutely dissimilar balls. It is, of course, a good thing to watch the bowler closely in order to find out if possible what bowl he is going to bowl; but doing so must not prevent a batsman from watching the ball itself while in the air. By constant practice and attention a player will find himself enabled to make watching the ball and resolving how to play it, as it were, one and the same thing. The sight of the ball in the air will cause him to make the right stroke without conscious resolve. The sooner the resolve as to how you are going to play is made, the longer time is there to get into the attitude most suitable for the execution of the stroke. An early and correct judgment of the ball obviates hurry or bustle. The reason why some players make their strokes with more force and effect than others is very largely due to their having acquired the habit of judging the ball very early in its flight. Of course the secondary part of timing, which consists in meeting the ball at the right moment and in the right spot, is the gist of the matter; but this depends very largely on the primary part of timing—early and correct judgment of the ball. The timing of the ball is, in every stroke, the secret of hard hitting. For this reason, a small and apparently weak man often makes the ball travel with more force than does a very big one. Even such great hitters as Mr Percy Macdonald, Mr Lyons, Sir Timothy O'Brien, Mr Stoddart, and Maurice Read owe the power of their strokes more to timing than to strength. It is rather difificult to explain the exact method by which all available force is brought to bear upon a stroke. There is a great difference in this respect between strokes in front of and strokes behind the wicket. After putting himself into the correct position, all a batsman has to do, in order to make a good crisp cut, is to hit the ball from the top at the right moment without the use of much force. The pace already imparted to the ball by the bowler is helped on and added to by a flick of the bat, executed either with the wrist or some movement of the arms. Consequently, the faster the bowler the easier is it to make hard cuts and glances. Putting "beef" into strokes in front of the wicket is a different matter. Besides hitting the ball at exactly the right moment and in the right way, it is necessary to utilise the weight of the body, the swing of the arms, and the flick of the wrist. Timing, in the more restricted
Ranji 1897 page 213 A. E. Stoddart's forward-drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

sense of the word, means bringing all these means of propulsion to bear on the ball in combination, and at the highest point in their efficiency, at the moment when the ball is in the most convenient spot for so doing. Wrist-work is not essential for forcing strokes in front of the wicket, but it adds very considerably to their effectiveness. There are batsmen who hit the ball very hard in front of the wicket almost entirely by a use of the wrist. For strokes behind the wicket, the more wrist-work is employed the more effectively and easily will the desired result be attained.

The enormous amount of force which a proper application of the weight of the body can impart to a stroke may be realised by standing within a yard of a brick wall and allowing yourself to fall against it without moving your feet from their position. One advantage of wrist-strokes, such as cutting over-drives, is, as has already been mentioned, that they entail less exertion, and consequently exhaust the player less. Iti makirtg strokes in front of the wicket any waste of power, is disadvantageous in two ways. Force wasted does not come into the stroke so as to increase its effectiveness, and at the same time implies an effort which must help to tire the batsman. Incorrect timing exhausts the batsman without producing any corresponding result. It is not easy to express in words the sensation that ought to be felt, the satisfactory feelings afforded, by a correctly timed and correctly executed stroke. The prevailing feeling is, that the maximum of result has been attained with the minimum of effort.

The necessity of watching the ball has already been emphasised. No man can be a good batsman if he has not learnt to watch the ball with attention and concentration. When one comes to think of it, the flight of the ball commences the moment the bowler begins to run up towards the wicket to deliver the ball. From this moment a batsman must keep his eyes fixed, first of all, upon the bowler's hand and what it is doing with the ball, then upon the ball itself as it leaves the bowler's hands and travels towards him. There should be no break in the batsman's watchful attention from the time the bowler starts to run until the ball is actually struck by the bat; nor should the batsman feel that there is a break in the continuity of events at the time when the ball leaves the bowler's hands. If from carelessness or some other cause the batsman takes his eyes off the ball, the bowler at once has him at a disadvantage. A good bowler can soon get an inattentive batsman into two minds. He will bowl in such a way that the batsman is not quite sure whether he ought to play back or forward. However closely he watches the
Ranji 1897 page 215 Shrewsbury playing back.jpg


From photo by G. Caldwell, Nottingham.

ball, a batsman is liable to be deceived in his sight. At best the sense of sight is fallible, so it is a great mistake to increase this fallibility by inattention. It is possible to acquire such a habit of attention as that there is no conscious effort in watching the bowler and the ball with concentration. But it is also possible to acquire a habit of inattention by careless play in practice, and herein lies one of the chief evils that result from humbugging at nets. There is much in the advice given to young players by many authorities, always to play at nets just as they would in a match. As far as watching the ball attentively goes, this is very sound advice; but I would qualify it by saying that it is at netpractice where strokes should be learnt, and at a match where they should be put into execution. Not but that much may be learnt in a match, especially if you happen to be in with a good batsman. But net-practice is more suitable than match-play for experiments.

Right at the beginning of this chapter players were recommended in all their strokes to make the bat meet the ball rather than let the ball meet the bat. There are certain strokes, such as the half-cock stroke, in which it is impossible to carry this out—at any rate, when such strokes are used to extricate oneself from errors in judging the ball. I believe in the theory of making the bat meet the ball so far as to say that even defensive strokes should be played in such a manner as to contain latent scoring power, even if this scoring power is not always brought out. The only parallel I can think of in this respect is a move at chess. When your opponent attacks you by a certain move, and you counteract that move by one of your own, your aim should always be that your own move be not only defensive, but have an attacking force of its own. Very few players cultivate their back-play upon such lines as to give them this latent scoring power. Mr Jackson and Mr MacLaren are instances of those who have, and their back-play is proportionately admirable.

Earlier in the chapter a division was made of batting into forward- and back-play, and each of these divisions was subdivided into play for aggressive and for defensive purposes. Just as there should always be a latent aggressive element in back-play, so there should be a latent defensive element in all forward-play. As a batsman must avoid getting out in order to get runs, the defensive element in forward-strokes must be regarded as important. The usual idea is that back-play is for defence and forward-play for aggression. I think the better way of looking at
Ranji 1897 page 217 A. N. Hornby placing himself in position for an off-drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

the case is, that every stroke made in cricket should contain both elements. Perhaps, however, a beginner ought to aim at perfecting the defensive side of such strokes as he attempts before paying too much attention to scoring with them. In order to make forward strokes safely defensive, the player should aim at smothering the ball as much as possible—that is to say, in making a forward-stroke he should get as near the pitch of the ball as he can without stretching his leg out too far or playing the ball in front of his leg. If this is done, and the full face of the bat presented to the ball, the forward-stroke should be fairly straight. One great advantage of getting as near as possible to the pitch of the ball in playing forward is, that the angle of the break is proportionately diminished. The less distance there is between the spot where the ball pitches and the spot where it is played by the bat, the less will it have deviated from its original Hne of flight. This means that the nearer you play to the pitch of the ball, the less chance is there of the ball beating the bat. There is always a portion of a forward-stroke which is played on faith, for there is a time during it when the batsman cannot possibly see the ball—at least, so it seems to me. For in playing forward, however closely the ball is watched, the stroke is made rather where the batsman expects the ball to come than where he knows it will come. In order to make a forward-stroke effectively aggressive, the batsman must throw himself into the correct attitude. And he will have to time the ball accurately in the way described above. Here, again, the nearer he gets to the pitch of the ball, the better chance will he have of getting over it and despatching it safely along the ground.

Let us suppose that a good-length ball suitable for forwardplay has been bowled pitching on the middle stump and continuing straight towards it. In order to play the stroke correctly, the left leg should be thrown forward straight down the wicket in a line to the off-stump at the other end. It should not be advanced too far, otherwise the right foot may be pulled forward over the popping-crease. The left shoulder and the left elbow should point in the direction in which the ball is being played, which normally would be straight back at the bowler. Unless the left shoulder is kept forward the bat cannot be kept absolutely straight, as it should be from the beginning of the swing to the end. At the same time, there should be nothing stiff or tied-up about the shoulder. In making the stroke the batsman's chest should face towards mid-off or extra-cover rather than towards the bowler. In striking the ball and following through after it, the bat should pass within 1 or 1½ inch of the left leg. If the same ball is bowled pitching on the off-stump, the stroke is precisely the same, except that the left leg is thrown slightly across the wicket. When the ball is outside the off-stump, the left leg should be thrown still farther across. Notice that when playing forward at a straight ball the bat swings down the same line as that down which the ball is coming, only exactly in an opposite direction; but directly a ball is bowled outside the wicket, whether to the off or to the on, the bat no longer swings down the line along which the ball is coming, but along another line which crosses the flight of the ball at an angle. And the wider the ball is from the wicket, the less does the line of the bat's swing coincide with the line of the flight of the ball. Consequently, the wider the ball is outside the wicket, the smaller is the margin of error for the stroke. This sounds rather intricate, but an illustration makes it quite plain. The wider the ball is, therefore, the more difficult it is to play as well as to reach. The mistake most beginners make in playing forward is that, no matter in what line the ball may be, they advance the left leg straight down the wicket. It will be found on experiment that if this is done, the wider the ball is from the wicket the more crooked will be the bat. Experience proves also that if the left leg be not thrown across so as to be almost in a line with the flight of the ball, there is a tendency to make an uppish stroke. Again, if the left leg be advanced down the wicket while the bat is making a stroke towards extra-cover, a considerable portion of the weight of the body must be sent in a direction that is by no means the direction of the stroke, and consequently must be more or less wasted. The deduction is, that unless the leg be moved out close to the spot where the bat is to meet the ball, the stroke is likely to be weak and feeble. Perhaps a beginner is prevented from throwing his leg across by a feeling that he is likely to be leg-before. He must get over this idea at once, for it is a mere delusion. He begins by not moving his leg across when a ball is pitched on or immediately outside the off-stump, and finally he is led into not moving it across even when the ball is much wider. One great advantage of playing a forward-stroke with the leg near to the bat is that, if the ball breaks enough to beat the bat, there is no room for it to pass between the bat and the leg; consequently, for defensive purposes the breadth of the leg as well as of the bat, to say nothing of the small space in between them, is available for purposes of defence.

A very common fault in players who otherwise execute the forward-stroke correctly is the habit of bending the right knee. The effect of this is to weaken the stroke considerably, as it is conducive to a stooping attitude. It also causes, as is mentioned above, a dropping of the right shoulder and a bending back of the body in exactly the opposite direction to that in which the weight ought to be thrown. The fault is one which coaches very rarely notice, if indeed they understand that it is a fault at all.

My chief feeling about back-play is, that very few cricketers pay proper attention to it. It can, I believe, be made almost, if not quite, as effective for scoring purposes as forward-play is. Any one who has seen Arthur Shrewsbury, Mr Jackson, and Mr MacLaren play an innings on a slow wicket, or indeed on any wicket, will agree with me on this point. There can be no doubt that for defensive purposes back-play is the better, for the ball can be watched right on to the bat. Most players, after acquiring some facility in forward-play, take no trouble to improve their back-play. One sees every year in first-class cricket players whose forward-strokes have improved almost beyond recognition during a single season, but whose back-play remains in the same state at the end of three seasons as it was at the beginning. Without sacrificing forward-play in the very least, proper attention should be given to the cultivation of back-play. Nearly every one has his own natural method of playing back, which he ought to develop to its highest pitch. It is dangerous to play back at any ball which is not, either of itself or because it is made so by the batsman having stepped back, somewhat short of good-length.

Cutting is essentially an aggressive stroke. No ball that could possibly hit the wicket should be cut. The two commonest faults in cutting are getting under the ball and playing the stroke when the line of flight of the ball is too near the wicket. It has already been explained how necessary it is to bring the bat down on the top of the ball in attempting to cut it. The stroke played in this way ought to be perfectly safe. Players who make too much of a hit of their cutting usually have a tendency to get under the ball. Some players, too, are inclined to drop the right shoulder in cutting. This fault is also likely to make the stroke uppish. Cutting at balls too close to the wicket is apt to get you out in three ways,—by knocking your wicket down; by a catch at the wicket; by a catch at short-slip. A man needs a little room in which to cut; without it his action is rather
Ranji 1897 page 221 T. Hayward's forward-drive.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

cramped. A ball which would pass close to the wicket should be played otherwise than by cutting. It is advisable, in bending over the ball to cut, to lean forward from the waist rather than to bend the knees.

It was in connection with cutting that the desirability of learning the art of placing was mentioned. Unless a batsman, after reaching a certain stage in batting skill, devotes himself to learning how to place, he is sure to find that many of the strokes he has been at such pains to perfect are rendered useless by the fact that they always go to fieldsmen. By cultivating placing, a batsman makes his game pliable and versatile. He also gains in confidence by feeling that he has resource. There is no possible way of teaching a batsman how to place. The only thing to do is always to bear in mind, in making any stroke, the direction in which one desires it to go. In some strokes, such as the cut or the glance, very little practice will give a man a certain facility in placing the ball, and as soon as he gets this his scoring-power will have increased 25 per cent.

There is a refinement, or at least I consider it to be one, of the art of batting which a writer must approach rather delicately. It is the much-abused art of using the legs to defend the wicket. During the last few years the methods of certain players of indisputable ability have been severely criticised in some quarters, on the ground that it is unsportsmanlike to play with the legs. If the critics understood the point more thoroughly, they would not be so ready with blame. Most of them are, I think, players who are unable themselves to use their legs to any effect, and behave after the manner of the dog in the manger. The great point raised against the practice is, that the bat and not the legs is the proper instrument for defending the wicket. This objection is purely sentimental and requires to be looked into. It must be admitted at the outset that the habit of using the legs when occasion does not demand it is absurd. It does not bring runs, and it does annoy the spectators. On the other hand, when circumstances make it advisable to use them there seems to be no sufficient reason why batsmen should not play with their legs. It is to be remarked that no one objects to a man playing forward with his leg close to his bat; it is generally understood that by so doing he makes his forward-strokes safer. It is only, when the legs are utilised in such a manner as to obstruct the ball and prevent it hitting the wicket that any outcry is raised. It appears to me that this use of the legs is more or less parallel to the pushstroke in billiards. Many players, for no other reason than that
Ranji 1897 page 223 Lord Hawke cutting.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

they themselves are incapable of playing it, criticise the pushstroke as being unfair. On certain kinds of wickets—such as, for instance, a very sticky wicket—the bowlers have everything their own way. In such circumstances a batsman has two courses open to him. He may either hit hard and high and trust to luck, or he may play a strictly defensive game. Now, some men cannot hit, so the careful game is the only one open to them. These players are surely justified in making their defence as strong as possible by every available means. The scientific use of the legs is of material help to them. But to master the art is extremely difficult; it requires great quickness of judgment and movement, as well as considerable discrimination. Anything in the shape of unscientific leg-play is worse than useless. A man must be master of the art or it will do him no good. Any one who has tried experiments in this class of play will know that there is much more in it than meets the eye. Arthur Shrewsbury is a great exponent of the method. The skill with which he uses his legs on treacherous wickets is nothing short of miraculous. His comrade in arms, William Gunn, can also play this game very ably; so can Mr Stoddart and Mr Jackson—a fact not generally known. The difference between the play of the two amateur and the two professionals is, that the former make use of the method when it is not necessary to resort to it, whereas Mr Stoddart and Mr Jackson only do so when there is no other course open save wild slogging. It is not the use of the method, but the abuse of it, that can with any fairness be adversely criticised. The instant the method becomes useless and unnecessary I do not advocate it for one moment. When circumstances make it useful it is, I think, perfectly justifiable. What is more, I strongly advise any players who find they can make good use of their legs to use them whenever they think they can strengthen their game by so doing. It is not conducive to elegance or to rapid scoring, but it is very effective for all that: its justification is expediency; when not expedient it is waste of time. In any case, the skill required to do it with effect exempts it from any charge of being unsportsmanlike.

Some batsmen show a want of consideration for the captain and other members of their side by allowing themselves to become victims of fads and superstitions. They believe, or affect to believe, that they cannot get runs if they go in to bat at the fall of a certain number of wickets, or when a certain number of runs are on the scoring-board, or because they have seen an omen or dreamed a dream. They turn up after the order of going in has been made out, and request a change to be made that upsets the entire arrangement. Sometimes it is the particular period of the day that causes them qualms of confidence; and the frequency with which their innings coincide with an unfavourable hour is extraordinary. It would be just as well to remark that batsmen should be satisfied with the position allotted to them by the captain and abide by his arrangements, unless something more than mere fancy makes them demand an alteration. From the captain's point of view, it is sometimes expedient to make allowances for such fancies, but batsmen ought to eschew or overcome them. As a general rule, a little firmness on the captain's part has a good effect. A friend of mine, I remember, on a certain occasion declared that he could not possibly make runs if he went in first. The captain insisted upon his doing so. The batsman went in so disgusted that he knocked the bowling all over the field, only narrowly missing a century. Ever since then he has liked going in first—in fact, he objects strongly to going in anywhere else.

In the course of nearly every season a time comes to most batsmen when they are not so successful as they wish and are expected to be. A sudden failure of a good batsman to get his customary quota of runs is usually attributed to so-called staleness. Before inquiring what staleness is, it would be well to repeat the advice not to lose heart at a period such as this, but to play on, if possible, with the same keenness and confidence as before. All batsmen, from the top of the tree downwards, have their ups and downs, and sometimes the downs come all of a heap. There is no remedy that can be recommended, as far as one can see. When a cricketer is not making runs, he is usually said to be stale. The facts of the case may be, that he is having ill-luck, or is playing badly, or is in love; but the elastic and mysterious word staleness covers all this. In athletic circles the term is usually regarded as meaning loss of form through excessive exercise. In other words, the muscles used in this or that athletic pursuit are for the time being worn out. But a cricketer finds the term a convenient answer to all questions as to why he is not scoring, and it is usually accepted as a sufficient explanation. Sometimes whole elevens are said to be stale, and the advice usually given them by those interested is to rest and give themselves the chance of recovering. The Hon. Ed. Lyttelton seems to me to have said the last word on the subject of staleness. He points out that monotony is the secret of failure of nerve-power. He shows this by citing examples of staleness in runners and racehorses. In the case of a runner certain muscles are utilised every day during training in order that they may be developed as highly as possible, so as to enable him to do his best on the day of the race. This continual strain on the body to develop particular muscles undoubtedly tends to strengthen these up to a certain point. But the process cannot be carried on indefinitely. The time comes when the system refuses to be drained any more in favour of the particular muscles. It is just before this refusal that a man is at his best: he is literally trained to a turn. But after this point is reached the athlete begins going down the hill. If there were no turning-point, it might be fairly argued that the more practice and the severer the training an individual is subjected to, the better performer will he become. Experience proves that this is not the case. The whole art of a good trainer consists in bringing his man or his horse to the race precisely at the time when the particular muscles required have got all they can out of the rest of the body. After the zenith has been reached, staleness sets in. But how far does this apply to cricket? In cricket there is no monotonous exercise of one particular set of muscles. The several parts of the game—batting, bowling, and fielding—call different muscles into play. In batting, almost every stroke is effected by the use of different muscles. In bowling, a man who changes his pace and length and height of delivery does not rely entirely upon a single set of muscles. In fielding, the whole body comes into play. So it seems very unlikely that a cricketer can get stale in the same sense as a runner or an oar. There is no monotony to induce this kind of staleness in a cricketer. Too much net-practice, whether batting or bowling, may in a certain sense be called monotonous; but the word ought not to be applicable to anything that happens in actual matches. The presence of the spectators, the keen desire to master the bowling and defy the fielding, should make it impossible for a batsman to find cricket monotonous. Similar arguments apply to the case of the batsman or the fielder. Cricket is an inspiriting game; and anything which raises the spirits and cheers the heart relieves to a great extent any strain on the muscles, just as dulness and monotony increase or exaggerate fatigue. Staleness, in the athletic or restricted meaning of the word, does not seem possible in cricket. As a term of wide application, including bad health, bad luck.
Ranji 1897 page 227 S. M. J. Woods' pull stroke.jpg


From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.

bad play—in fact, bad everything—it is a very convenient expression. If the truth were told, staleness would be recognised as meaning what the Hon. Ed. Lyttelton calls the "dumps"—due to a lack of success by reason of some specific cause. A man in low spirits lacks confidence, and cannot succeed. I have never come across a cricketer who was downcast or overfatigued through having been successful in scoring a large number of runs, or capturing many wickets, in a continuous string of matches. For though the exertion may have been great, the nerve stimulus has been great also. The keen enjoyment of success will in itself make a man no fit vessel to harbour staleness. Mr Lyttelton sets forth this point of view admirably. A cricketer, instead of calling himself stale, had better inquire for the real reason of his want of form, and remove it if he can. A player who is consistently unsuccessful for several weeks ought to be able to find out the cause of his inability to get runs.

If a man fails to keep himself in good health and condition, he cannot expect to get runs. Self-indulgence in the matter of food and drink cannot fail to affect his eye. A man who is engaged in heavy brain-work, such as writing a book on cricket or trying to matriculate at a Cambridge college, cannot expect to be at his best in the cricket-field. As regards a run of bad luck, it may be a blessing in disguise. It certainly is a good test of temper and character. Misfortune is proverbially good for people, if not taken in too large quantities.

There is a great deal of nonsense talked sometimes when a whole eleven collapses in a particular match. The probable causes of such failure are freely discussed and readily invented. In nine cases out of ten the reasons found are wrong. The law of averages, to which all human beings are subject in cricket as in other things, is quite enough explanation. Every man fails on an average once out of every six or seven times he goes to the wicket. There is no mathematical reason why it should not happen that five or six batsmen on the same side take their inevitable nought or one in the same innings of the same match. Such a series of coincidences is more often, I believe, the explanation of collapses than nervousness or similar suggested causes.