“Instinct Takes Over, a Sort of See-Ball-Hit-Ball Mentality” – Aiden Markram

PC – ICC X Handle

Controlling the front elbow is said to be one of the essential parts of batsmanship. That particular aspect of batting was on full display during Aiden Markram’s exhibition of punchy drives against Sri Lanka in New Delhi. None more so than the first boundary he essayed off Dasun Shanka. 

The head went into the shot first and then the back foot loaded up. Subsequently, the front foot moved closer to the pitch of the ball and with an extension of arms, Markram played an on-the-up lofted drive through extra cover. The stroke was one for the cameras – As Markram held his pose after playing the stroke, the front elbow was held high up, while the willow ended up somewhere over the green helmet. For a few seconds, you thought the shot could be the highlight of the day. 

All it took was four more deliveries to be in a state of confusion. There was the textbook straight drive off Dilshan Madushanka. The fielder at mid-off dived to his right but to no avail. Astonishingly, the very next delivery, Markram’s straight drive was a replica of the previous shot. The fielder stationed at mid-off once again dived but he had to settle for being the second-best. 

During one’s childhood days, ‘spot the difference’ in a photo full of similar things was a favourite game of many. It was time to play that old game to find any difference between the strokes. Visualising the straight drives for a while proved to be futile. It perhaps needed a couple of screenshots to find a solution.

After diligently zooming in on the screenshots, the one minute dissimilarity between the two was the willow seemed to turn a tad in the second frame and it skewed a little bit towards the left of Markram. Simply put, there was very little to choose.

The bigger puzzle still remained to be solved. Which shot to pick as the best of the lot? To compound the writer’s woes, Markram’s driving masterclass continued. There was a checked drive wide of long-off, where a mere push was enough for the ball to crash into the boundary hoardings. And that was juxtaposed by an improvised square drive, where the bat came down like a rapier. Just incredible bat-speed. 

He didn’t stop there as Matheesha Pathirana’s half-volley was thumped down the ground with full force. Markram even threw in a cheeky little reverse-scoop to leave Madushanka, the bowler, and Sri Lanka clueless. Finally, in the 43rd over, the answer to this seemingly never-ending puzzle was perhaps found. After Markram drilled one through extra cover, and played another through that region, which had a touch of genius associated with it.

The essence of that shot was neither about the fast hands nor technical perfection. It was about the final two frames. For perhaps a hundredth of a second, his eyes, front leg and the bat were pointing towards the on-side. Just pause the stroke right there and you would be left wondering about the direction of the ball. Logic would point to Markram clearing the front leg and hoicking one across the line.

It was the next frame that made the shot possible. Markram had somehow opened up his blade a little bit towards the off-side and the eyes were poised towards where the ball was set to travel. It was a shot of the highest class. It was a shot that exemplified his gift-wrapped skills. And it was a stroke to be remembered for ages.

So, what did Markram make of this innings? “I think you get out there, and the wicket starts playing really well, and it’s initially a big sigh of relief,” he said afterwards. “Then secondly, I think a lot of instinct does take over and sort of a see-ball, hit-ball sort of mentality. So, marrying the two of them I suppose is quite crucial, but we’re thankful that we got a belter of a wicket there tonight.”

Perhaps he was right. More than front elbow, footwork or head position, it was that ‘see-ball, hit-ball mentality’ that helped him play such an unforgettable collection of drives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *