That sweeping feeling

PTI9_23_2016_000103B New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson congratulates Tom Latham after the latter completed his half-century on the second day of the first Test match against India at Green Park in Kanpur on Friday | PTI

The sweep shot is easier said than done. Many have tried it and perished; a select few have got the desired results. The South African team who visited India last year fall into the first category. 

Graham Gooch, Andy Flower, AB Devilliers and Kevin Pieterson are some of the illustrious names that make it in the second. Now add the names of the current New Zealand batsmen Kane Williamson and Tom Latham, who held their own at the Green Park Stadium, to the second category. The Kiwi duo displayed tremendous application while successfully negotiating all the questions posed to them by the Indian spinners with judicious use of the sweep shot and depth of the crease as the situation demanded. The duo put up a 117 run partnership for the second wicket on the second day of the first Test match, scoring 65* and 56* respectively. 

Not that they were entirely in a comfortable position when the day’s play ended prematurely due to rain-- they survived some close calls as the Indian spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were starting to get the ball turn and rear up before Tea and rain happened. 

Speaking about the application and adaption by the Kiwi batting duo of Williamson and Thomson, New Zealand’s batting coach and former top order batsman Craig McMillan mentioned about the homework the visitors have done to take on the massive spin threat posed by the hosts.” We were disciplined, we stuck to the game plans. When the Indian bowlers missed, we attacked. The rotation of strike in the left-right combination throughout the day was key. The surface is still playing pretty well. They got a few balls to spin late in the day. All in all, the discipline of both these guys (Latham and Williamson) in the partnership was crucial.”

There was no pre meditated use of the sweep shot though, even if it is an important shot while playing India. He said that the use of the sweep shot or the depth of crease, which is what sub continental players opt for more, is a matter of individual choice and comfort. But the key to effective use of either is composure when the ball is turning. “Yes, that’s part of playing in India. Two spinners who know the conditions really well challenge you at different times. So, mentally, it’s difficult not  to get flustered there. Being comfortable when the ball hit the outside edge and not getting worried about that is important. They soaked the pressure throughout the innings. Whenever they got the scoring opportunity, they made the most of it.”

Though Latham used the sweep shot more often, it was Williamson, who has garnered a reputation for being one of the most technically adept batsmen in current times, who displayed extremely judicious use of both the sweep shot as well as footwork to counter the varying pace and lengths of Ashwin and Jadeja. 

As a fair bit of warning, McMillan said that the Kiwi batsmen would not make the mistakes that the Proteas did, of being one dimensional. “We have done a lot of work and even in that warm-up game in Delhi- in terms of the use of their feet, in terms of getting deep in the crease- they are all key to playing spin. Watch the best players of spin around the world and they don't get caught on the crease, they are either forward or back. All our guys have done the work on that and everyone does it differently. The technique varies with the player, and it's important that not everybody try and play the same way. You have to use what works for you and I think we have done that really well. Both players today, Kane and Tom, used their deck of the crease really well. If you pick up the length early then I think you can come forward and go back.”

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