It’s one thing to crouch on a bent knee and swat the ball over square-leg for a six, but Ravindra Jadeja went one step further in a recent Indian Premier League game against Rajasthan Royals. He planted his back knee on the ground and awaited Mustafizur Rahman’s full delivery. Somehow, incredibly, from that position, he found timing and power to swat a six.
Usually, when the knee buckles on to the ground, batsmen tend to lose a bit of power. The crouching position allows for a golfer-like knee flex and the freedom to still have a full smooth bat swing to crash-land the ball over boundary.
The other reason batsmen don’t go fully down on the knee is to be ready for any alterations in length. If the bowler sees the crouch and bangs it in short, the batsman can still pull or upper cut. With the knee down, the risk escalates as, in some ways, they can be a sitting duck. It needs guts, and other escape-shots like the lap-over-head and acquaintance with badminton shots.
Not that this is the first time a batsman has gone down on the knee to smash. The mind goes to an accidental shot from Pakistan’s Moin Khan in a game against New Zealand 20 years ago. Seeing him crouch, Craig McMillan slipped in a slower ball around the sixth-stump line.
Moin, one of the more daring practitioners of the swat-flicks of his time along with Herschelle Gibbs, reached out for it but his feet slipped and his knee collapsed. For a moment, he looked like someone who had slipped in the bathroom trying to reach a soap slithering away on the floor. Moin went through with his sweep and ended up on his stomach, peering casually at the flying white ball. That was a happy accident. Jadeja’s, though, was a consciously done job.
The crouching-swat has traditionally been the preserve of lower-order unorthodox players like Moin in the past or Rashid Khan in the present.
Rashid probably possesses the best crouching swat-smash currently and has pulled off some stunning sixes in Australia’s Big Bash League. He would open his stance up as he crouches and nothing apart from his hands move once the ball is released. It’s a ‘Chal Hutt bey” (Buzz off, mate) shot worthy of a Shatrughan Sinha dialogue.
Jadeja probably punted on the fact that Rahman will go for his yorker, as always. And he waited. As the ball flew towards his shins, the bat started to swoop down to connect cleanly. What would have happened had Rahman bounced the ball shorter? Would Jadeja have lapped it over his own head? Had he practised for that shot? For that matter, did he even train for this knee-down-swat in the nets? In the 90s when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were threatening to saw off the toes of batsmen with reverse-swinging balls from hell, no one attempted such pyro-techniques. Would these have worked against them?