How to Crick Your Neck? Ted Dexter takes issue with what he considers a foolish piece of advice to batsmen. The age-old argument about coaching—too little or too much—remains unresolved. Certainly, there have been natural, though unorthodox, batsmen and bowlers who have suffered badly from well-intentioned advice intended to ‘put them right.
At the highest level, it would also be true to say that most of those who have made noticeable improvements to their game will tell you that it was a matter of “doing it myself. It is not my purpose now to enter this particular argument other than to reiterate my own gratitude to all those who took the time and trouble to try to keep me on the right lines.
Where I failed, as in my bowling, it was not for want of trying or of being told. Even so, it is a particular piece of coaching dogma, printed in a reputable newspaper under the name of a reputable cricketer about batting, that caught my eye and prompted me to take issue. In diagrammatic form backed by a definitive statement, new generations of young batsmen were informed that they would never be much good at batting unless they took up their stance with ‘the eyes level’.
It sounds so absurdly obvious when put like that in black and white. Here we are, trying to hit a ball that is launched towards us at umpteen miles per hour. How else could any normal mortal have time to compute its length and direction without having his ‘eyes level’?
Sitting on a throne
Indeed, if our only purpose was to observe the exact speed, angle, trajectory, flight, and bounce of the blessed thing, then no doubt we would be best suited to the task of sitting on a galumphing great throne, staring dead ahead, eyes dead level, with all the intensity of a mechanical scanner, tracing out the relevant blip on the radar screen.
What seems to have eluded the grasp and understanding of the aforesaid reputable cricketer is the basic objective at the end of all the computations, which is to hit the aforesaid projectile in the very center of the bat—as hard and as often as possible.
How any human being with the normal limitations imposed by nature, i.e., two arms, two legs, and a body with a head on it, can swing a ball heartily at the ball while the neck is strained through ninety degrees, attempting the beautiful ideal of spirit-level eye arrangement, is beyond my comprehension.
It needs to be tried to feel the strain and discomfort fully. I could even have a big laugh at the whole thing as a simple misunderstanding between the players. Therefore, the writer and artist are responsible for this gem of misinformation.
Except for the alarming evidence of my own eyes from the press and commentary box these past couple of years that has shown me how a good percentage of budding batsmen have actually heeded this implausible pointer to a new tomorrow. One by one, the young hopefuls parade their way from the pavilion to the pitch and take their stance, not looking as good as that has to be.
The great turn of the century Lancashire and England batsman Archie MacLaren, who had a strong belief about technique, preferred the natural ‘hand of the head’ and would almost certainly have supported Ted Dexter’s views, as stated in this article.