A few days ago, I hit a perfect drive over mid-on. It was a gorgeous shot, really. The bat moving as an extension of myself. I saw the very moment that the ball hit the pitch and, seemingly, slowed down for me. I have hit that shot hundreds of time, in real matches even. During my cricketing days, I was very strong off my legs. Anything pitched short or over got its very just rewards. I was obssessed with hitting. Each and every waking moment was dedicated to playing and re-playing shots, grips, stance, footwork. I never got really good; I was too impatient. I went for my shots early and, often, didn’t follow through enough. But, once in a while, I would hit a patch of good innings. Three or four glorious innings of aggressive hitting. I was thinking about those good times this morning because I was walking to work with a cricket bat in hand. We have decided to start a local cricket club this summer and have some fun.
Serendipitously, this morning was an overly-Zen piece on Ichiro Suzuki & the Art of Hitting a Ball in the NYT. It describes how he has been on a hitting spree after making adjustments: “he experimented by moving his right foot – the front foot in his batting stance – a couple of inches away from the plate, opening his stance and spreading his legs four more inches apart.” All that gave Suzuki a lower bat-angle and a more comfortable swing and he now has a genuine shot at .400 for the season. Suzuki is amazing and the article compares him to Joe Dimaggio and, then, to Tetsuharu Kawakami aka “The God of Batting”. Now, I was with all of that but this made me stop. Because, as any cricket fan knows there is only one God of Batting and that is Don Bradman. The guy had a lifetime average of 99.94 [in 80 innings]. That is 0.04 shy of a century – the hallmark of any inning. A helluva lot more than even a lifetime batting average over .400, if you ask me.
I think that hitting the ball may be slightly easier, in technical terms, in cricket [and yes, we have been around that mulberry bush before]. But, the length of the inning and the overall concentration that is required for an at-bat at cricket is un-rivalled by baseball. Suzuki does Rule. But does he rule more than Tendulkar? Hardly. And he def. ain’t Ruling anywhere near the God of Batting. Let the hate begin.