It’s a stance and technique created for (and by) the six-lust of our times. Hardik Pandya opens up his stance, stands on the off-stump line, feet wide apart, and just leans forward or back with his knee-flex, driving through his hips without a stride – a minimalistic explosion. As if he has stripped hitting to its essence: balance, eyesight, fast hands, and hips.
It’s not readily acknowledged but Pandya is someone who puts a lot of thought into his batting. “I go really deep in my batting. I really like to know the factors which I am working for. [For me,] maintaining shape is more important. I keep working on my technique,” he has said. It’s a statement that is backed with anecdotal evidence from his coach Jitendra Singh, who has spent hours honing and watching Pandya practise this open-stance whack over midwicket.
It’s Pandya’s hips that his coach obsesses about. Hips don’t lie, as they say. “Hardik turns his back leg from his hip, and not from his knee when he is driving through the line.” This allows unimpeded movement for the bat-swing and greater speed to scythe through the line. “When it’s short, he will press down on that front leg, and load up on the back leg, sort of twist and turn it quickly and with his already open stance, it allows a free swing of the bat for the pull. He has trained for hours, for months, and now it’s all a natural reactionary movement. So, now for the main, I look for the head position, the feet and the hands,” Singh told this newspaper.
Pandya’s balance component has a few ingredients – the knee-flex that allows him to spring off from the balls of his feet, the subsequent postural-sway that allows a smooth transfer of weight and makes feet movement almost redundant, and the associated hip-turn that powers the bat to and through the contact zone. There are no unnecessary tiny foot movements that can upset balance, just the sway to shift the weight. An unnecessary shuffle can creep in for some batsmen attempting this shot or the hands can move wider than ideal for the downward bat-swing. But Pandya’s batting is devoid of these extra appendages.
It was the need to create angles as a batsman to not just target areas to hit but to neutralise a whole array of deliveries, says the coach. “With his batting, he realised the need to create angles. He also stands deep in the crease with that guard – he told me that he doesn’t have to worry about yorkers and bouncers. The logic in this stance is that it’s not so easy now for bowlers to get that yorker at the base of the stumps – as he is almost by the stumps. With bouncers, because he is so back, he gets extra time to cut and pull.”
A simple shot keeps unravelling hidden layers. The coach explains further about the role of the open shoulders. Since the shoulders are already a touch open, a batsman can avoid the reflex-jerk that can invariably happen in a more conventional stance to a bouncer which upsets the stillness of the head. “The head position is key,” Singh says, “Both eyes are level, which means the head isn’t tilted and he watches the ball release with his right eye.” That right eye preference means the shoulder will face the non-striker, with his hips also slightly open.
Couple of years ago, the coach felt that Pandya’s bottom hand was taking over a bit too much. “That affects the angles and areas he can access. So, we got his top hand back into the grip more. Little stuff like that. He always looks to hit through the line.”