Baseball owes much to the sport known as cricket, which is played all over the world, predominantly in areas where the British had significant influence on the culture. Developed in England as early as the 16th century, cricket is played on an oval field with a bowling pitch about 22 yards long. On the pitch, the bowler delivers the ball to the batsman, who can choose a variety of offensive or defensive strokes. Batting in cricket is less about powering the ball to the outfield and more about directing the ball to a certain part of the playing field.
Basic Batting Stance
As a cricket batsman, there are certain steps you can take to make sure your body is ready to transfer power to the ball, regardless of what type of stroke you will take. Get down into a slightly crouched athletic stance, similar to baseball, with your feet spread shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Shift your weight forward toward the balls of your feet. Keep your head level above your bat, which will be held pointing downward. The bat handle should be grasped on top with your left hand, your right hand just below it. Switch this if you are left-handed.
Defensive vs. Offensive Stance
The aggressiveness of the batsman's stance will mostly depend on the abilities of the batsman and the bowler. When facing a faster bowler, a batsman will often adopt a defensive stance designed to keep himself between the ball and the wickets, either blocking the ball or driving it into the ground to avoid being caught out. When taking a shot in a defensive stance, you will transfer your weight to the rear foot during your swing, allowing you more reaction time as the ball comes in. A more aggressive stance is adopted when a batsman has more confidence against a specific bowler, or when the team needs some runs. Much like baseball, turn your body out slightly toward the bowler. Don't turn out as far as baseball, however. The baseball swing is horizontal to the ground, covering more area, whereas a cricket swing is vertical. Instead of driving the ball into the ground, the object is to put more force into your swing and direct the ball to a certain location on the playing field.
Of the many different style of cricket strokes, the block, cut and drive are the three most common. The block is a defensive stance stroke. It is designed to protect the wicket stumps, not to score runs. In a successful block shot, the bat is swung at a lower speed without much of a follow-through. The idea is to deaden the bowler's pitch, keeping it from hitting the wickets. Drive shots are designed to hit the ball with more force, sacrificing the ability to control the ball's location for power. A basic drive is a vertical swing with extra force and a significant follow-through that travels through the line of the ball's path. With skill, a batsman can direct a drive toward specific areas of the playing field. Drives of these types are referred to as cover, on or off drives, referring to the part of the playing field that the ball is directed to. A cut shot bears the closest resemblance to a baseball swing. The cut shot is designed to hit balls bowled farther away from the batsman, and to direct more forward thrust on a ball, delivering faster ground speed than a drive. This stroke is taken by the batsman stepping into his swing, making contact with the ball while the bat is horizontal to the ground, instead of vertical.
A hook shot is one of the more aggressive shots available to a batsman. A hook is used when attempting to strike a ball that has bounced on the pitch and come up to the level of batsman's head. Similar to the cut shot, a hook is executed by stepping inside the line of the ball's path, swinging the bat in an arc horizontal to the ground. The bat whips around the batsman's head, catching the ball and directing it full force toward the batsman's onside deep. Executed correctly, this stroke often scores a full six runs. The leg glance is a more strategic stroke. The stroke on the leg glance is a vertical swing with less power than a drive, and a follow through about as small for the block stroke. However, instead of deflecting the ball into the ground, the leg glance is designed to deflect the ball behind the batsman, toward his onside. The stroke is executed by stepping through the ball's path and using the flat paddle of the bat to deflect the ball toward the onside fine leg position of the field. The sweep stroke is similar to the leg glance in its ability to direct the ball toward the batsman's onside. Keep the bat pointed toward the ground, but somewhat slanted away from the body. This keeps the stroke in a clean arc. As the ball is pitched, drop your back knee and point your front foot toward the incoming ball. As the ball comes in toward your body, sweep the bat toward the ball, directing it toward the side of the field. A reverse sweep is executed similarly, but by pulling the bat across the body before the ball comes in, then dropping the knee, pointing your foot and making contact with the ball, directing the ball toward the offside of the field. This can confuse the fielders, allowing the batsman to score more runs.
Other Batting Tips
Some basic tips will increase your ability to select the correct stroke during play. The shot you choose will vary greatly, and the biggest deciding factor will be the bowler's delivery. Therefore, it's counterproductive to step up to the crease planning on executing one specific stroke. Unlike baseball, a batsman will most likely hit multiple times during an inning. Try to hold off on the advanced strokes until later into the game, when you have a better feel for the bowler's pitching style. Proper depth perception is also of utmost importance for cricket batsmen.