For a few years now, the old visceral thrill of watching a six has been replaced with a quiet-admiring nod. The first 13 games of this IPL has seen 191 sixes as the science of hitting the maximum has been understood by most batsmen. You could see the method in Kieron Pollard’s four sixes, a hattrick of them came in the final over, against Kings XI Punjab. With his weight on the back foot, he waits for the ball to be released and then drives through the line.
The stance, bat-lift, bat-swing, weight shift, knee-bend – every little detail is now deconstructed and reassembled in a batsman’s technique. Former West Indies skipper Daren Sammy, who has launched 237 sixes in domestic T20s and 149 sixes in international games, gives a masterclass on the art of clearing the boundary.
Your bat was almost up vertically-straight, the base pointing towards the sky before you got it down, why is it such an important element of hitting a six?
I remember back in 2002, when I was in academy, the Australian coaches there would say there was something common in Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Viv (Richards) and Brian Lara. They all had the wrist-cocked before the ball was delivered, getting ready for the set-up. I am nowhere in that category – let’s set that record straight – but I know where my bat lift came from. In childhood backyard cricket, it was a six over the fence. Since it was under-arm, there was no power or much bounce.
You had to get under the ball and generate power with one full swing of the bat. Like Andre Russell. I held the bat high and with that high bat-lift, it was one full flow to make the ball disappear. The head has to be still, and the base stable. You could have the bat-swing and all the rest of it but without that still head and solid base, you would be hitting the ball straight up.
In the subcontinent, you stay a touch lower for hitting sixes. Why?
I remember a game against Australia in Bangladesh. We needed 12 runs to win in the last over and James Faulkner bowled me two yorkers. I realised that I couldn’t get under the ball. It doesn’t bounce that much there and it skids. Having spoken to the guys who have played there and even with RCB and Sunrisers Hyderabad, you always try to stay lower so that the invariable bounce doesn’t affect you. So if you are already in a (low) position, and if the ball stays a touch low you are better positioned to hit.
So when Faulkner bowled me the first two balls, my stance was upright and I couldn’t get under. So I decided to make my stance lower and I was able to get under the ball and hit two sixes. In Australia, you stand more upright.
Would you tinker the stance according to the conditions?
I would open up the stance, widen to bring my centre of gravity closer to the ground if the pitch is true like in India. But in conditions like Australia, I would be a little bit more upright.
You also changed your stance with the slower ones, hanging on that back foot a little longer, almost delaying your reaction. Why?
Yes. Against the slow bowlers who change their pace, you didn’t want to commit. So I would deliberately keep my weight on the back foot. You can adjust better. When they bowl that slower ball, you are not committing early. If you look at Kieron Pollard or Andre Russell, you can see them take that step back deep in the crease and waiting. That’s something that works. On bouncier tracks too this technique can come useful. You don’t want to commit early on the front foot and be caught at gully or something. You don’t want to come too early and get hit on the splice of the bat or gloves. There you use the crease more, go back.
Do you remember your first six of your life?
Oh yes, I remember. It was probably 1997. It was the first time I played for my school in St. Lucia. I am playing for Vieux Fort Comprehensive School and I am 13-14 years. This kid bowled me a short ball, I played that pull shot, and the ball went outside! Everybody was like ‘yeah this kid could hit the ball’. There is a feeling about playing a pull shot. Just like taking a catch at slip. I remember that feeling. Up to this day, when I sit with friends, we always talk about that moment.
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