The Bradman Phenomenon
by Tony Shillinglaw and Brian Hale
4 - Rotary Style
Professor Timothy Noakes:- "One of my doctoral students is looking at the evolution of batting and it turns out that the rotary action is clearly what has been used by all the best batsmen in the history of cricket. By this I mean that they all lifted the bat out towards second slip or point and not back towards the stumps. Thus the technique has always been there but it has always been ignored. It seems to me that Bradman just had the technique perfected and that the other players never quite got it quite as correct as did he."
Why should this be? In what way did Bradman perfect his rotary technique as distinct from other batsmen?
Jack Hobbs, who developed his sublime skills as follows, provides an answer. Hobbs:- "I helped my father at various odd jobs on the Jesus College Ground during school holidays, such as scouting at the nets and soon opportunities came of playing a sort of cricket with the college servants, using a tennis ball, a cricket stump for a bat, and a tennis post for the wicket. This simple practice laid a wonderful foundation, giving me a keen eye and developing the wrist strokes which I had seen in the college matches. Boy as I was, I tried to emulate the same strokes, and I was surprised at the number of successful strokes I managed to make. THAT WAS THE WAY IN WHICH I BECAME A NATURAL BATSMAN. The footwork came automatically, and the practice became a great source of enjoyment when I recognised how important everything was.
The straight stump helped me to sense the importance of the straight bat. Perhaps I tried to over flourish, but I learned to appreciate the grace, beauty, swing and rhythm of stroke play and, above all, balance."
The uncoached Hobbs was clearly influenced by 'orthodoxy' whereas Bradman was not. As a result, we believe on technical grounds alone, Bradman's continuous form of 'rotation' possesses greater flexibility and versatility and therefore additional scope in run-scoring. When it is also considered an instinctive mindset is combined with this different technique the package that was Bradman begins to emerge. Interestingly, Hobbs also developed into a predominantly back foot player.
In modern timesRicky Ponting appears to fall into the Jack Hobbs category in that he also possesses abundant batting skills but is similarly restricted by the accepted tenets of orthodoxy. Having observed Ponting closely, it is felt he could well have closed Bradman's statistical gap had he been aware of and applied his continuous mode of play.
Perhaps surprisingly, the closest resemblance we have seen to Bradman's style is that of Pakistan'sInzamam-ul-Haq. Although a big man, the closed face, quick footwork and wide range of stroke play, together with the finesse and power of his timing were all in evidence. While it was noticeable, the more he played with aggressive intent the more he resembled the fluency and motion of Bradman who wrote:- "I cannot remember having seen a truly great player whose footwork was clumsy or slow."
The advent of a fully structured 'First Class County Championship' in 1872, the playing of England v Australia 'Test Matches' from 1877 onwards and the massive WG Grace effect, not only created huge public interest, but also caused attention to be drawn towards methods of play. In an age when perceived 'style' counted, the accepted tenets of English batsmanship were founded in the 'Public Schools' of the time and through the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. As a result generations of boys have since been brought up on and influenced by the strict doctrine of 'The Straight Bat' which is now an accepted part of the English language.
To this day, youngsters are still depicted appearing stiff, and at times almost petrified, in forward defensive 'pose' alongside an admiring helper, be he a Dad, Grandad, Teacher or Coach. "You can't score runs in the pavilion" is of course a cricketing maxim. But is implanting a negative attitude from the outset a desirable one? The history of 'Test Match' batsmen suggests it is not. Fortunately for the game of cricket Bradman recognized the inherent and restrictive nature of such methods as he first considered and then put to one side the advice of the 'Experts' so carrying on with his own 'Rotary' style.
Bradman "Cricket is the only game in the world you get marks for style."
Before setting out the workings of the Bradman formula, it is worth evaluating his achievements when compared to those of the renowned performers from other sports. This has been done by Melbourne Scientist, Charles Davies, who in his book 'The Best of the Best' compares their performances with others in the same field to give what he terms a 'Z' score. In this wayRocky Marciano could be compared with Mohammed Ali or Joe Louis, or indeed with any other heavy weight boxer in history.
Using this criteria, Charles Davies gave Bradman a 'Z' rating of 4-4. At the time of the study, Sachin Tendulkar was next best on the batting list with a 2-2 rating, a position he shared with 1930s West Indian,George Headley. Leading golfer Jack Nicklaus with a score of 3-5 needed to have won 25 majors instead of 18 to have dominated his sport as did Bradman. While footballer Pele 3-7, required to add a further 15 goals to the 77 he scored in 92 Internationals to have similar effect. Michael Jordan, Basketball, 3-4, and Bjorn Borg, Tennis, 3-2, also featured.
Charles Davies' in depth analysis also draws attention to the crucial aspect of Bradman's 'mindset' when he wrote:- "Bradman's likelihood of getting out changed in an unusual way as his innings progressed, quite different from any other batsman. For scores below about 15, even though Bradman was very good at avoiding dismissal, his chances of dismissal were still within the range of other great batsmen.Hobbs for example was more reliable at reaching double figures. Once set however, Bradman's chance of dismissal plummeted to only one third of other leading batsmen and above a score of 50 he is way ahead of anyone else in Test history."
It is important for today's cricketers to be aware of how good a player Bradman really was. They may also wish to know how any batsman could produce the following conversion rate to high scores and averages:- Of 338 first class innings, 117 were centuries, 37 of which were turned into scores of over 200 and often many more. When playing these innings Bradman's average score was 173 and on only 15 occasions was he dismissed between 80 - 100. While in 'Test Match' cricket he was never dismissed in the 90s, only twice in the 80s and while scoring 29 hundreds, he averaged 185.
We have the clear image of a batsman with a proactive and repetitive technique, which includes a switch to auto pilot, or what is nowadays called 'Being in the Zone'. Since the First Edition was published I have discovered the workings of this switch which establishes the existence of two distinct modes of batsmanship in terms of both technique and mindset. On the one hand, there are the more restrictive tried and tested methods of taught orthodoxy, and on the other, the product of natural and practical development based upon manipulation and mastery of a moving ball, so conforming toWalter Hammond's:- "A good shot is one which controls the ball."
Just as the great bowler seeks to harness the natural rhythms of the body through a controlled and repeatable 'Bowling Action', so the rhythm and free flow of Bradman's repetitive batting formula would provide him with a similar controlled mastery over the ball.
Whether batting, bowling or fielding, the closer a player gets to theory at the expense of being natural, the greater the tension of mind and body so weaker the performance. The same can apply to captains who are weighed down by complicated strategies which impair the necessary cricketing instincts when called upon. At whatever level, the really good players tend to be those who develop a philosophy and natural repetitive style which is consistent with their basic character.
"If somebody in my line of business was performing 66% better than the rest, I should want to know what they were doing and how they did so." (Peter Booth - Bootle CC)
a The Bradman Phenomenon
b Tendulkar - Bradman: A Clear Distinction of Method
c The Weight of Bats
d Don Bradman's ability to bat on and on
1Bradman Revisited 2nd Edition - The Simplicity of Nature
2 Mind Game
3 Greg Chappell
5 Why Misunderstood?
6 Continuous Rotary Batting Process
7 Final Chapter 2 - Nature's Way of Batting
8 The Essence of Don Bradman's Batting
Acknowledgements and Bibliography