#NewsBytesExplainer: The art of leaving the ball in Test cricket
Test cricket is the ultimate test of skill and endurance. Unlike limited-overs cricket where the batsmen often get away with flaws, Test cricket exposes every possible chink. This is the format where bowlers rule the 22 yards by perpetually asking questions. Hence, the batters pay due respect to bowlers, especially when the new cherry moves. Let us decode the importance of leaving the ball.
Why is leaving the ball important?
In Test cricket, the bowlers usually put forth a bait by pitching the ball in the uncertain area. This way, the batsmen are deceived while playing a rash shot on the ball that moves away from them. To counter this, they watch the ball till the very last moment before letting it go. Leaving it makes them less vulnerable towards the moving ball.
The decision to leave the balls
It is very important for a batsman to identify which balls are to be left. There are certain scenarios where the ball sharply comes into the stumps, when left. Anticipating the bounce and swing becomes evident here. In the case of spinners, the batsmen need to be more decisive, as far as the footwork is concerned. Reading the turn is of utmost importance.
Batsmen use occasional tactics to disrupt the rhythm of bowlers
Test cricket is more of a mental battle. Leaving the ball does not always mean the batsman is holding back to play the shots. At times, he is trying to draw the bowler more towards the stumps by not offering a shot. The bowler spills an occasional freebie in an attempt to bowl differently. In turn, the batsman quickly pounces on the opportunity.
Does counter-attacking cricket help?
With the advent of T20 cricket, the meticulous art of defending is valued less. Counter-attacking cricket attracts the batsmen more these days. The idea is to beat the defence mechanism, that snowballs unknowingly, in the subconscious mind. Notwithstanding, the need of the hour in Test cricket is to create the right balance. Dispatching the loose balls becomes equally significant amid defending.
Leaving the ball in different conditions
In countries like England and New Zealand that support swing, leaving the ball gets pertinent. Virat Kohli's dreadful England tour (2014) wherein he was completely jeopardized by James Anderson, is a classic case. South Africa is one nation where the batsmen are severely tested. The toughest part here is to anticipate the seam movement. Besides, the sub-continent decks bring challenge of countering spin.
Indians who mastered the art of leaving
The astonishing sight of Rahul Dravid tiring out the Australian fast bowlers is still worth gold. Any batsman can willingly drive the juicy half volley, but very few have been able to match his resilience. Cheteshwar Pujara has taken over the mantle quite well in contemporary age cricket. Former Indian batsman Gundappa Viswanath was one of the greatest recipients of leaving the ball.
The record for longest Test innings (by balls)
England's Sir Leonard Hutton holds the record for playing the longest individual innings in Test cricket (364 off 847 vs AUS, 1938). For India, Cheteshwar Pujara is the record-holder for longest innings (202 off 525 vs AUS, 2017).Share this timeline