What a flat six that was… the batsman has nailed the shot… seeing some serious power hitting, today...
Power hitting in cricket is often associated more with brute force, and less with the technical parameters of the shot. It is a well-known fact that timing the ball to perfection is the best way to get maximum outcome from a cricketing shot. Bat speed, ball impact location, downswing, launch angle, and bat twist during impact play a very important role in perfecting a shot.
The bat twist on the hand during the ball impact occurs due to a number of reasons, such as the speed of the incoming ball, impact of the ball away from the sweet spot region, grip on the handle, body weight balance, footwork, etc. The batsman may be well aware of the gaps in the field, but if the bat twists in the hand during ball impact, the ball may very well take an unintended trajectory - straight to the opposition fielders.
Sometimes, bat twist is incorrectly referenced to the intentional off-slice or leg flick from the batsman.
The gap: Intent vs. actual trajectory of the ball
Bat twist during the ball impact is less spoken in analysis as it is difficult to perceive when the twist is not large enough to be apparent for the viewers and commentators. So, the twist is not often noticed in the fast-paced motion of the game.
While the slow-mo cameras give some idea to the viewers on the twist, it is challenged by other factors like effectiveness, availability, and the angle of the camera with respect to the shot. Also, the natural reaction of the batsman to rectify the twist immediately after the impact makes it even harder to diagnose the effect of the twist on the shot. The parameter comes into a greater effect in power hitting, when the batsman plays a lofted shot and it often ends up being caught by the fielder due to the bat twist.
Before we begin to find solutions to overcome the bat twist, let us look at the main cause for why the bat turns in the hand while playing a shot.
The sweet spot region on the bat produces the least vibration during the ball impact and hence the least twist on the bat. Any impact away from the sweet spot or the mid-line region of the bat increases the overall vibration. This causes reduction in the ball speed and a decrease in the accuracy of the shot placement due the effect of the twist in the hand. The same is amplified during a power hitting.
While the emphasis on timing can never be overstated, training academies also advocate arm strengthening exercises and using a firm hand grip to reduce the effect of twist in the event of not middling the ball. Oval shaped batting handle grips also help in reducing the gaps between the gloves and the handle. Having proper body balance and footwork will further help in reducing the effect of the vibration.
Measuring bat twist:
Understanding the level of bat twist will help in determining the necessary corrective action plan to reduce the effect. The negative or positive twist will also help in adjusting the batting stance and the bat face angle against bowlers. When the parameter is calibrated over a period of time, it will help in bench-marking and personalizing the technique for different bowlers and bowling conditions. Spektacom’s PowerBat uses smart sensor technology that provides real-time information on the bat twist, speed, ball impact location, and the power generated for every shot played. The aggregated data can then be sliced & diced and compared & contrasted against time, sessions, and bowlers.