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Why have India batsmen reverted to a narrower batting stance and how it has helped them

The Indian Express logoThe Indian Express 12-02-2017
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One of the important changes that India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar brought in at the end of Duncan Fletcher era was to change the batting stance. Under Fletcher, many Indian batsmen had started to use a wider stance — a change that didn’t come naturally to some. What works for someone like Chris Gayle (who has a wide stance) doesn’t translate into success for someone else.

On Saturday, Bangar said that he has got rid of the wider-stance technique of Fletcher to help the Indians use their feet better. They can now get forward or back in quicker time. It all depends on the individuals but Fletcher’s suggestion ended up in batsmen making the change without feeling comfortable with it.

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What did Sanjay Bangar say?

“A lot of batsmen have gone back to narrower stance purely because mobility is a crucial aspect in batsmanship, you need to be ready to adjust to the variations of the pitch as also on quicker pitches against the bouncers. That is a crucial factor and we being Indians using feet has always been our strength and going over the top and not being afraid lofting the spinners. We are always sending the message to spinners that we are coming at you has always been a strength of Indian batsmanship, over a number of years. All batsman have been able to do that and we have started getting results.”

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What did the wide stance do?

It locked them in. From a wide stance, it becomes really difficult to move back or forward according to the demands of the ball. Especially, if it isn’t a natural stance. In theory, the wide stance can help the balance of the batsman as he isn’t going to move too much in the crease as shown by Chris Gayle. But the way it played out in some Indian batsmen was that they felt their movement was restricted. They could neither get forward towards the ball quickly enough and the back-foot play was affected as they couldn’t shift the weight back in time.

Why was it suggested in the first place?

Probably because the wide stance allows you to lean forward and get closer to the ball. In theory, all you needed to do, if your intention was to play off the front foot, is to just lean forward and perhaps take a short step forward. You would be quicker in getting close to the ball. With wickets mostly flat, most batsmen have been trying to get on front foot regardless of spin or seam.

What made India revert to a narrow stance?

It was perhaps the 2014 series in England where Indians struggled against Moeen Ali. Bangar said as much on Saturday. “There was a phase a lot was made 2014, Moeen Ali got 6 wickets, a lot of questions were raised if Indians are not as good against spinners as they were in the earlier period, I don’t believe in that. There has been a lot of improvement in that aspect of batsmanship as well,” Bangar said.

The Indians had stopped using their feet much — either forward or back — as they were locked in to the wide stance or as Bangar puts it, “mobility” was restricted. Especially, the backward movement. With the upper body leaning forward, and the feet wide, it was an arduous task to shift weight back and move feet back quickly enough.

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