26.1 C
Sunday, October 1, 2023
HomeSPORTSWTC Final: Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara fail in the art of leaving

WTC Final: Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara fail in the art of leaving

Two of India’s key batsmen died a stroke-less death, shouldering arms and watching the ball bend back to hit the stumps. It’s the most mind-crushing path to perdition, torn until your next success, with the guilt of not shielding the ball with your only weapon in hand. You could have nicked, you could have chopped on, you could have been beaten, but you could console yourself that you at least played a stroke

The shocked anguish on the face of victims captures the story. Shubman Gill was reaction-less after his ill-time leave of Scott Boland left his stumps and heart in tatters. There were no signs of a stroke of indiscretion. He was judging lengths well; moving well. Getting behind the line and playing the right stroke to the right ball. Gill had unzipped his innings with a gorgeous punch through extra-cover off Pat Cummins. Later, he would pull him through long-on for another four. Two salivating strokes, before an unwatchable error in judgement kicked in. It was no shrewd set-up, no hooping devil, but a staple in-ducker. Rather, it was an imagined set-up.

It was just the fourth ball Boland had bowled to Gill. The first three — all angled in and not seaming either way — were defended stoutly on the front-foot. Gill sniffed a trap. His instinct would have whispered to him that the next ball would bend away. But Boland’s deadliest gift is the one that snakes back in from a good length, he is not much of an out-swing proponent. So it turned out to be. Gill’s front-foot strode out. Then it stopped, frozen by the inward angle. The existential dilemma of Test openers set in — to leave or not to leave. He shouldered arms, nervously and unsurely. Perhaps, he trusted the bouncy nature of the deck — Oval is bouncier than most other surfaces in England and you could at the start of the inning, leave safely on length. Perhaps, he thought he had covered the line of the ball with his pads outside the off-stump.

Whatever he imagined was far from reality. It could happen to green batsmen in England — it was just his third innings in the country. You hear so much about the virtues of the leave and are almost mentally bound to execute it. There is little doubt that it’s a prerequisite for success in any condition — so indispensable that it is the second most employed (non) stroke in cricket after the forward defensive. Call it the phantom stroke. It has game changing potential, as one of the greatest leavers in Test cricket, Geoff Boycott would observe: “Let him (bowler) see you refusing to drive so that he is tempted to land the ball a foot closer to you. Then bang. Get on the front foot and drive the ball away.” At the hands of an efficient purveyor, it becomes as much an attacking weapon as a defensive one. Without even putting bat on the ball, it could disrupt the bowler’s thinking. “If a batter is leaving the ball well, you can see their game is in good order and for me I thought if they were leaving me easily then they were imposing themselves on me as well,” former England quick Simon Jones would once say.

Every successful cricketer has it. Then every cricketer had misjudged the leave at least once, if not more times, in their career. Even some of the finest leavers could end up misjudging, like Cheteshwar Pujara. The leave is one of the bricks that had gone into the making of one of the finest stonewallers of this era. But here, the usual faithful judgment deserted him. Like Boland, Cameron Green too was angling most of his balls in. Just one of Green’s five previous balls to Pujara had shaped away. As were most of the balls he faced off Boland.

Perhaps, Pujara was spooked by the past, where Cummins would make one ball hold the line after angling in. Boland had produced a similar delivery in the previous over. Maybe, it was playing in his mind. The fuller length almost convinced him that the ball would seam away after landing. Rather, it swerved back in, not lavishly but just enough to peg his off-stump. He just swayed the bat in shame rather than anger and rushed back to the solitude of the dressing room. Like Gill, he too was batting fluently and positively, before the moment of miscalculation.

Should Pujara have hung on the back-foot and defend it, as he so often does to similar lengths in similar conditions? But in this innings, he was making a conscious effort to get forward to most of the balls. It was perhaps to eliminate the half-prod position that he often gets into. But here, it backfired — there was a bit of predetermination — as he left a ball that he would have defended comfortably.

Then this is what pitches in England do. They weigh and play on your mind, they make you imagine, they make you see illusions. Even in the mind of someone scoring a bucketful of runs in County cricket, and even in the mind of the most talented young batter. It’s not the easiest of strokes — judgment, prudence, reflexes and second-guessing go into it. But to die a stroke-less death is an agony that has few equivalents in the game. Not even self-goals. The guilt consumes you like fire.

Source link

For More Updates & Stories Please Subscribe to Our Website by Pressing Bell Button on the left side of the page.


Free Live Cricket Score

Weather Seattle, USA

few clouds
15.9 ° C
17.9 °
13.8 °
70 %
20 %
18 °
17 °
18 °
18 °
18 °

Most Popular

Recent Comments