Many young (or not so young) cricketers have been told they need to move athletically or be in an athletic position when playing the ball. This may be an obvious point, but to “move athletically” your feet must be involved. I recently came across a great piece written by New Zealand great Martin Crowe – “It’s all down to the feet”. He describes and analyses his recent observations of the current trends occurring on the world stage of batting. Throughout, Crowe outlines how and why the feet provide the cornerstone to success, or not, of a batter. All of the most successful batters throughout history have had great footwork and balance. Think Michael Clarke and his success to spin bowling or AB de Villiers and his consistent stance set-up. Clarke was famous for his quick feet down to the pitch of the ball or a quick press off the front foot to play off the back foot.
From a Podiatrists and Physiotherapists perspective, the feet play a very important role in stability from the ground up. Any changes or variations that occur at the feet invariably affect up the chain – knees, hips, spinal alignment and shoulder and head position. Crowe points out “To get the best out of your feet, the weight must be on the ball of each foot, for that is where the energy, the springy muscle, is, not the arch or the heel.” One of the best ways to ensure your weight is on the ball of each foot is to have some flex or bend in your knees – standing too tall can force the weight onto your heels. Crowe provides us with many examples of successful batsmen with varying set-ups that all lead to this. For example, Virat Kohli has quite a tall stance but as he taps his bat he flexes his knees enough to activate his ability to move. Allan Border dipped his body at the last second to create flex in the knees.
Another key influence for set-up and weight distribution is where the bat is being held. A bat held low, with relaxed arms and soft hands encourages a slight crouch (i.e. some bend in the knees) and as touched on above this moves the weight onto the balls of the feet.
Now a brief summary of Crowe’s take on the importance both feet with both front and back-foot shots. He talks about “The back-foot release” and how critical it is to every front-foot shot. Crowe points out that if the back-foot is rooted to the ground during a front-foot shot, particularly when trying to play straight, the batter will struggle to align their body down the pitch and result in a mistimed shot or playing across their front pad. For a shorter pitched ball, a quick front-foot press sends the back foot deep into the crease and depending on the line of the ball and the desired placement of the ball, the front-foot releases onto the toe or off the ground for greater access to the leg side.
When our weight is on the balls of our feet we have greater control as to where to place them. Greater control means we improve our ability to execute the correct body position and ultimately the intended shot. For greater depth on these points I’d strongly recommend reading Crowe’s article in its entirety.
Physiotherapist & Tasmanian Roar Player
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