What guard do you take? Is it a ‘two please’, or ‘one leg’? Maybe you are a bit maverick and you would like a guard ‘outside off’?
Whatever guard you take, will have an impact on your batting, but why do you take a guard and what is the best guard for you and your technique.
The key to batting is knowing where your stumps are, and in particular where your off stump is. If you know and are confident in this, you will therefore be able to defend the balls that are hitting the stumps leave alone, or play appropriately, the balls that are missing the stumps. In order to know where the stumps are behind you, it will help you greatly to have a guard that positions your eyes over the stumps. More accurately for right-handers, ensure your right eye over the top of off stump and for left-handers, have your left eye over off stump.
If you become confident that your eye is over the stump in your stance, you will be able to judge if the ball coming towards you is hitting or missing off stump if the ball is outside your eyeline. As soon as you become confident at judging the line of the ball by relating guard and set up to the off stump, you will leave the ball better, and find yourself not playing at balls that you can leave to pass harmlessly by and therefore reducing the chances of edging behind or to the slips.
In setting up your guard, you will need someone you trust to help you line everything up. Take your normal guard and get your partner to check that when you draw a line from the point of delivery of the ball to the off stump that your outside eye is on the same line. If it is not, adjust your position accordingly until it is. Some batters will stand more upright meaning a guard of middle or sometimes middle and off is the appropriate guard. A batter who crouches more, may have a guard of leg or middle and leg. (Unrelated to the guard, but something that will also help while you have someone checking you is to make sure that your eyes are level and your head is not falling over to the off side.)
There may be a problem or those batters who have pre delivery movements, or trigger movements. If you set up your guard in your stance with your eye over the off stump and then move back and across your stumps, you will find your left eye is no longer in line. Take your guard the appropriate distance towards the leg stump and check that after your trigger movements your outside eye has ended up on the line of off stump.
There will also be a problem when the bowling changes to the other side of the wicket. If, for example, a right-hander has been facing a right arm bowler bowling over the wicket and the bowling changes to left arm over, the angle will change. This difference in angle will mean that staying on the same guard will have moved the position of the right eye from in line with off stump to a few inches outside the line of off stump.
When you are setting up your guard, as discussed earlier, ask your partner to change to over the wicket and try lining up again, seeing the difference in guard you will need to make for a bowler on the other side of the wicket. Quite often you will not only see the batter take a more leg stump guard, but they will open their stance slightly making sure the feet and shoulders line up to where the ball is coming from as well as making sure their outside eye remains over the top of off stump.
Whether left-hander or right-hander, and if you are facing right arm over or left arm over, you need to know what guard to take to ensure that at the point of delivery your head is still, your head is level and your outside eye is over the top of the off stump. With some practice you will eventually be in a much better position to judge which balls you must play at and which you are able to leave alone.
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