The Bradman Phenomenon
by Tony Shillinglaw and Brian Hale

6 - Continuous Rotary Batting Process

'The Magic Circle'

By the age of eleven, Don Bradman had already developed his rotary technique through the 'Single Exercise' he evolved playing imaginary 'Test Matches' with golf ball and stump in the 8 foot space in front of the now famous water tank and stand. When it comes to batting, study and practice reveal the motion of a 'Magic Circle' in the form of two continuous loops from which an appropriate stroke is fashioned in direct response to each delivery. The feeling of complete freedom engendered by the natural flow draws favourable comparison with the more restrictive aspects of orthodox play. Just as when playing his 'Test Match' games, it appears Bradman at the crease employed a single 'Continuous Rotary Batting Process' which allowed him to form strokes all around the wicket in similar instinctive manner.

The sequence for playing in this way is as follows:-

1. Bat placed closed face between the feet with the hands working together in unison. The inverted 'V' formed by the thumb and forefinger of the bottom hand is straight in line with the injection of the handle down the back of the blade, an inch or two above the shoulder of the bat. (It is the kind of natural grip one would adopt if picking up a bat two handed which had been placed on the ground between the feet.)

2. From this relaxed and balanced position, with head and body still and the bowler in the delivery stride. Bat and shoulders commence rotating in neutral with balance still uncommitted but tilting evenly towards the toes of each foot and therefore the off side where correct footwork predominantly takes place.

3. Instinctive judgement and reaction to the sight of the ball determines shot selection as the batting action continues in direct relation to a positive stroke, there being is no prejudged movement or counter balancing to hinder the flow. When played with purpose and aggressive intent, this synchronized motion has the 'crucial' effect of automatically lifting and freeing the rear foot and body as a preliminary towards the playing of all strokes - off back and, more surprisingly, the front foot also. The speed of reaction and the ability to move smoothly and quickly into line and close to the pitch of the ball becomes a subconscious, unconscious habit.

Observation shows lack of and incorrect footwork sits alongside poor judgement as main reasons for dismissal, with rooting or insufficient movement of the rear foot playing a major role. To root the rear foot when playing forward not only restricts reach, but means the batsman is playing across the line to balls wide of the off stump. Not getting the rear foot and head across into line when playing such off side balls from the back foot is also a recipe for getting out, hence Geoffrey Boycott's 'Corridor of Uncertainty'.

4. Central to these actions are two special features:-

(a) The timing of shot selection coincides with the instant in the batting process when shoulder rotation causes the legs, feet and body to respond instinctively to the movement of the arms, just as during the human sequence of walking and running or dancing. Indeed, the smooth motion and rhythm of Bradman's batting movements resemble those of a swimmer.

(b)  The flow of the bat takes the form of a figure eight through two continuous loops:-

Loop 1. Following a neutral backlift, the bat's rotation passes through shot selection while fashioning an appropriate stroke in the form of an upwards loop before bat, head and body uncoil to close on the ball as the necessary contact is being made.

Loop 2. While striking 'through the ball' bat and wrists automatically turn over when forming a second loop which continues to the completion of  Bradman's distinctive free and full follow through.

Note from a Bradman letter:-

"In general I think many coaches stifle the natural abilities of young players by rigidly insisting that they do not move until the ball is delivered and that they adhere to a perpendicular bat with left hand control. Movie strips of me batting indicate that I started my backlift before the ball was delivered and that the bottom of my bat was approximately level with the tops of the stumps at the instant of delivery. But let me hasten to say my backlift was rather towards second slip - not point as some suggest".

'The Natural Process'

Bradman's ability to control a cricket ball was simply an adaptation of the 'natural process' which allowed him to gain pleasure from the golf ball and stump games. His words and actions suggest the same formula was applied to each delivery and the longer he stayed in the better the formula worked. In modern terms he would have been continually 'In the Zone'. Many described his play as machine like and the continuous nature of his method could be said to resemble a musical jukebox in that he would first activate the mechanism in a repetitive manner before selecting and playing the chosen stroke. Our own view is Bradman's batting style simply reflected and synchronized the natural instincts and rhythms of the human body.         

Experience and practice reveals aggressive intent in the form of the bat's rotation is necessary to activate and co-ordinate the process to best advantage:-

(a) The correct timing and motion of the bat and shoulder rotation induces the automatic freeing of mind, bat and body to formulate the seamless flow of each stroke. No drilled and grooved bowling machine type shots. There is a crucial difference between producing a preconceived structured shot to the ball and playing it as a 'one off'.

(b) The nature of the mechanism automatically closes the face of the bat on contact so playing the ball to ground. This contrasts favourably with the modern practice of maintaining an open face following contact so increasing vulnerability to any lack of judgement, deviation or change of pace.

(c) Head, bat and body possess an 'oysterlike' effect as they are instinctively drawn close to the ball when playing all strokes.

(d) The balance, flexibility and flow of the action frees the body so inducing automatic and precise footwork while allowing for adjustment up to the moment of executing each stroke.

(e) The wrists rotate in unison so facilitating the touch, power and controlled placement necessary to freely play a full range of strokes all around the wicket.

(f) This versatility provides bowlers with greater problems of where to pitch than the more traditional forms of batting.

(g) Being instinctive, naturally co-ordinated and repetitive makes this seamless batting process less prone to breaking down and therefore more likely to stand up to pressure.

(h) There is a significant difference between offering a preconceived structured shot to the ball and fashioning a stroke strictly on the merits of the delivery as a 'one off'.

(i) A light bat is necessary to gain maximum advantage from the style. The heavier the bat the more co-ordination and quickness of reaction and movement are impaired. Any undue tension in the grip transfers through the wrists, arms, shoulders and body so correspondingly restricting both footwork and all round control and manipulation of the ball. In very different ways as boys, both Jack Hobbs and Don Bradman developed and co-ordinated their enduring skills through the lightness of the cricket stump they played with, while at the same time cultivating a high degree of natural concentration and watchfulness. Rather than being a strain batting would have become more a habit.

Quote from page 50 of Bradman's 'Farewell to Cricket':- "I must tell of a match at Blackheath, New South Wales. It was only a second class fixture and I was playing against a team from Lithgow on a malthoid wicket. Included in my score were 14 sixes and 29 fours. Batting with Wendell Bill, I at one stage scored 100 out of the 102 added in three overs. The following are the hits which made up the 102:

First Over  6,6,4,2,4,4,6,1
Second Over 6,4,4,6,6,4,6,4
Third  Over

1,6,6,1,1,4,4,6

the scoring shots made by Wendell Bill in those three overs were the first and fifth singles in the third over. Residents of Cairns (NQ) claim that the fastest hundred ever scored was made there in 1910 by Lorry Quinlan - 18 minutes. No time was recorded at Blackheath, though I think it must have been less than 18 minutes."

Philip Derriman had told me about this feat, and on our way to visit him we finally located this remote ground which now takes the form of Blackheath Bowling Club. Imagine my astonishment and delight when behind the bar was Melissa Gledhill whose Grandfather, Jack Boyd, had actually played in the match. The bat with which Bradman scored the runs was locked away in an old glass cabinet, and only following explanation of our 'Bradman Study' was Melissa persuaded to open the cabinet.

Taking the bat outside and being photographed in the Bradman stance and to sense the perfect balance and almost weightlessness of its pickup was a magical experience. The feeling was not far removed from the stump by which he and Jack Hobbs had fashioned their craft. The thought of balsa wood and model aircraft also came to mind. It became abundantly clear such a light bat was a necessary and integral part of Bradman's versatility and dynamic stroke play. Denis Compton's record breaking 1947 season of 3816 runs and eighteen centuries was achieved using a 2lb 2oz bat.

In modern times every indicator suggests Bradman's adaptation to 'One Day' and 'Twenty20' cricket would have been relished and in practice would have enhanced his run flow. Just imagine the reaction of Harold Larwood, Bill O'Reilly, Alec Bedser and the other bowlers of his day on being told:- "The cricket authorities were to introduce a form of the game which would restrict their field placings while providing 'power plays' to help Don Bradman score more runs."     

Conclusion

There is nothing secretive regarding Bradman's development and style of play, in fact few sportsmen have lived under a greater spotlight during their playing days and since. Giving considerable time and effort to reveal aspects of both his development and play Bradman recommended his technique as follows:- Playing in this manner has given me the best results. Have you tried that way? If not it may assist you. Let us talk it over. Perhaps between us your game can be improved. After all, is that not the spirit of cricket?"

Should the principles of his methods be accepted, it is then but a short step to implementing the 'Knack' of hitting a ball continuously against a wall as a starter for anyone who wishes to bat the 'Bradman Way'. Through the adoption of this 'Single Exercise', at minimum cost and importantly at their own pace and ability level, any youngster may harness the co-ordinated skills of natural concentration, continuous balanced movement and eye for and control over a moving ball. If it was good enough for Don Bradman it should be good enough for the rest of us.

The object of our researches is not the unlikely happening of there being another Bradman, but recognition and acceptance of his methods into mainstream coaching for the benefit of others.

"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)

see also:

Introduction

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

1  Bradman Revisited 2nd Edition - The Simplicity of Nature

2  Mind Game

3  Greg Chappell

4  Rotary Style

5  Why Misunderstood?

7  Final Chapter 2 - Nature's Way of Batting

8  The Essence of Don Bradman's Batting

9  Acknowledgements and Bibliography
 

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