‘Golf’ the Drive Right

Edward Wilson is inarguably the world’s most celebrated biologist. He has more to his genius than his passionate vocation – his subject of amplified wisdom. His refined premise into a synthesis of all ways of knowing has a powerful base, all right – a plea that calls for the fundamental unity of all knowledge, and the need to search for ‘consilience’ – the proof that everything in our world is organised in terms of a small number of fundamental natural laws. In other words, of due processes that surrounds and includes particles underlying every branch of learning – one that has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of orderliness.

Wilson’s landmark idea is a revelation by itself. It is something that may not only be used with special reference, but also emphasis vis-à-vis the common equations between cricket and golf, or vice versa. Like the drive, for instance – which is almost an indispensable ‘part’ of either game. Or, concentration – not to speak of relaxation – or, better still, the magical power and grace of the swing, the way you control your club or bat to effecting a great shot.

Wrote Jack Fingleton, one of Australia’s greatest batsmen of yesteryear and a brilliant cricket writer: “The use of the top hand has an important message for all batsmen, because the drive is the foundation of good batsmanship. It is the safest of all shots, because the bat comes to the ball full face, minimising risks; it pays the richest dividends in runs scored and, finally and most importantly, it has a demoralising effect upon the bowler.” Fingleton added, “No bowler, and particularly a fast bowler, likes to be driven. A bowler is encouraged when he sees a batsman cutting or deflecting, taking risks, but no bowler likes to be consistently driven. It is then that he tends to drop the ball short so that the drive, as I see it, is the dominant stroke in batting. It paves the way for other strokes.”

The drive is, doubtless, one of cricket finest and most productive strokes. To hark back upon what made the drive such a fabulous embellishment. The cover drive was the legendary English batsman Wally Hammond’s patent. Good, Arthur Dunkel wasn’t around to latch onto Hammond’s personalised, or bespoke, ‘invention’ and patent it. Well, the point actually is: Hammond gave the wonderful shot a new thrust, or status. It has not been excelled since. Not even by Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, or Virat Kohli. Just think of it. Sir Don Bradman and other captains always had an open agenda for Hammond – to try and close every gap, for the shot. It was all vain. As one English writer observed, “Hammond’s reverberating drives [often] whistled and thrummed with the power of his wrists and shoulders, cracked clean through the ringed field out of all possible reach, until the off-side seemed full of holes as a colander.” He concluded, “Hammond seemed to [always] place the ball, and place it at intimidating speed, precisely where he chose.” Voila!

It is a question of fundamentals, really – and, one principal reason why cricketers, especially batsmen that have retired from the active game, take to golf with more than an element of dash and effortless flourish. Not that they often lap it up at the handicap ‘post’ with just a facile, exemplary hit of a shot. Far from it. Yet, it goes without saying that most batsmen have a natural flair, or ‘drive,’ for golf.

Golf can teach a cricket player, more so a batsman, a whole new form of relaxation – almost like mindful meditation. More importantly, in the best natural way possible: being able to be close to nature, and savour the smell of grass, or even listen to the chirping of birds. To draw a few names – all well-known cricketers, and former India players, who have now made an impression for themselves in the game -Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, and others. Yet another fine example is, of course, Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest of them all – an outstanding golfer, in his own right – and, others.

Golf is a remarkable rote, all right, where former players feel quite at home. It is also a mode that, perforce, allows them to get over the commonplace ‘blues’ that often accompany their thought process after they bid adieu to active cricket. Good for them, and good for golf too.

This is all fine. Yet, on the other hand, there is more to it all than what meets the mind. One that can be put to better use by young and current Test/one-day players for the higher purposes of their own existence in the willow game – although the idea, in purists’ thought, may not just be an elegant frame of reference to cricket.

Here’s a classical example. If highly talented, and enormously sound players, in the technical and aesthetic sense alike – Kohli, for example – take to playing golf ‘seriously,’ as and when possible, instead of taking part in meaningless, ‘festival’ matches, or an endless plethora of endorsement and photo-shoots, although Kohli may not be the kind to ‘partake’ far too much in such activity, it would, doubtless, do them a world of good.

How? Here goes – to summon but just a few fundamental pointers:

  • Golf will, first of all, allow them to relax, and help them gain confidence – more so, in the biff-bang milieu of one-day cricket
  • It will guide them to distribute their weight evenly between their feet, and open up their stance ever so slightly, so that they will have adequate room to play their drives into those gaps, and rotate the strike, in the shorter version of the game
  • It will facilitate them to focus, think of combinations, and also clear their mind of thoughts not advantageous to their game plan in either edition of the game
  • It will aid them to play the ‘chip’ shot with better effect, or proficiency, not to speak of ‘that’ special, crisp upright [front- and back-foot] drive – in either form of the game.

Alternatively, golf, being a relatively slow game, could be of immense value to batsmen who tend to be ‘restive’ in Tests. Well, for someone like Ajinkya Rahane, for instance, there are no such qualms, or problems. He’s the classical epitome of concentration, determination, skill, values, vision, and courage – like his mentor, Rahul Dravid. But, for others – like Suresh Raina – who are derisively labelled as ‘one-day’ batsmen, golf could promote a new web of confidence and, perhaps, propel them to come of age in the extended version of the game.

Get the point? It’s now entirely up to them, and the selectors, in every cricket-playing country, to drive home the idea with a straight ‘club’, especially when they have just that odd, extraordinary little time, in-between advertising appearances, or commercials, to spare. To ‘golf’ the drive right with their classy willow in hand.


First published @ HoldingWilley

– Photo, Courtesy: Michael Vaughan/Bleachers Report

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