Running between the wickets has been an integral part and parcel of the game of cricket ever since its inception, but with the emergence of Twenty20 cricket, players can be seen swinging their willows ferociously in an attempt to score as many boundaries as possible. The likes of Chris Gayle and Glenn Maxwell often send oppositions on a leather hunt right from the outset. But, even with an increased amount of emphasis being laid on smashing sixes and fours, the importance of running between the wickets hasn’t declined.
During the 3rd ODI between South Africa and India, Virat Kohli scored a splendid 160* (159 balls) to take his side to 303 for 6 in 50 overs. A striking feature of Kohli’s innings was that exactly a 100 of those 160 runs were scored by running between wickets. He became the first Indian, and the fifth batsman in world cricket to achieve this feat.
Limited overs cricket made players realise the importance of rotating the strike in order to keep the scoreboard moving/ticking. Unlike test match cricket, where the emphasis is on preserving your wicket and batting for long hours, one day cricket requires players to score freely as oppositions don’t set attacking fields throughout the game.
The likes of Kohli, Dhoni, and Steven Smith like rotating the strike in an attempt to get themselves in. Modern-day greats such as AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli are incredibly quick between the wickets. These two are extremely fit men who can frustrate the opposition by manoeuvring the ball around. The likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Glenn Maxwell are also quick on their feet and can rotate the strike frequently.
Running between wickets is not as easy as it appears. There are quite a few things that need to be taken into consideration such as:
As far as the basics go, a striker needs to take a call if the ball has been hit in front of the wicket (cover region, long-off, long-on etc.). On the other hand, if the ball travels behind the wicket, it has to be the non-striker’s call as he’s the one who has a clear view of a ball hit behind the wicket. There are quite a few instances where the batsman can’t see the ball. For instance, if the ball goes to the wicketkeeper, and he fumbles, then it is the non-striker who’d take the call.
When it comes to calling, one needs to take lessons from the pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The duo had this habit of taking cheeky singles. Speed, undoubtedly is a batsman’s biggest weapon while rotating the strike, but judgment and field awareness are just as important.
The non-striker needs to assume how hard the ball has been hit. Only then would he be able to take a start in his bid to gain momentum. The non-striker should start moving after the bowler has landed his back foot. The non-striker needs to avoid yes-no situations while batting. Mix-ups on the non-striker’s end often lead to chaos. (Remember the mix-up between Gambhir and Yuvraj during the QF of the 2011 World Cup?)
Before beginning to run after hitting the ball, a batter should clearly know how far the ball has gone. He should be aware of how quick the fielders are. For instance, you cannot challenge the arms of Ravindra Jadeja and AB De Villiers. Even if you’re a quick mover between wickets, you cannot take the fielders lightly. Taking the fielders on is one thing, but attempting to scamper through for a single while AB De Villiers is after the ball would be a clear case of hara-kiri.
Think of a ground as big as Lord’s. The outfield at Lord’s is lightning quick especially after the ball passes through the practice pitches, but scoring boundaries at the Mecca of cricket isn’t the easiest of tasks to undertake. Also, the modern cricketing mindset doesn’t allow you to eat-up a lot of deliveries. You have to be quick enough to convert the ones into twos, and twos into threes.
In a game that is known for its swashbuckling hits to the fence, running between the wickets is like a silent and a rather underrated aspect of the game. It might not appear to be a major aspect of the modern-day game, where hitting the ball as hard as possible holds a greater degree of importance, but the fact is, when boundaries are hard to come by, you need to be quick on your feet to add crucial runs to the total. Also, if a pair of batters runs well between wickets, it keeps the scoreboard ticking. With margins of victory getting smaller and smaller, running does add previous runs to the total.