Aaron Finch and sixes. That’s the story of the first Twenty20 international between England and Australia. Finch hit the first ball he faced over the ropes and pretty much stuck with that approach, hitting 14 sixes in all. He even managed to push one over point while falling onto his knees.
Finch looks like a Twenty20 batsman and we don’t mean in terms of the way he plays. We mean physically. He’s a short-arse with a huge upper body. They’re like fleshy barrels with legs, these guys.
Bats may be more powerful these days, but so are the batsmen. It’s about being fit for purpose. Once upon a time, sixes were barely a consideration, but nowadays a whole career can be built around them. Even if you don’t go quite that far, you still need to bear sixes in mind when training, so that means lifting weights as well as spending time in the nets.
If you want to know how much of a difference strength can make, take a look at Joe Root’s innings. He scored 90 off 49 balls. He played an absolute blinder, but he couldn’t exploit great conditions and great form to the same extent that Finch could. He hit just one six, but 13 fours, many of which were lofted shots.
We can expect Root to increase in size in coming years. That’s just the way it is, these days. He’ll never be Shane Watson (in any sense) but he’ll have some sort of strength programme to stick to. Look at the relatively slow twitch Alastair Cook as an example of this. Even he’s straining his shirt sleeves these days.
Are there any downsides to this?
In cycling, some guys have more fast twitch muscle, which means they are heavier and can’t climb as quickly. Other riders are lighter as they have a greater proportion of slow twitch muscle, but the pay-off is that they can’t win sprint finishes. Everyone has a strength. Everyone has a weakness.
Cricket doesn’t revolve around physiology to quite the same extent as cycling, but we are increasingly seeing a split between endurance batsmen and power hitters simply because of the way the game is going. A lot of the difference is mental, but as we can see, it’s physical too. For those batsmen who appear in all formats, it’s worth asking whether increased physical size might compromise their performance in the longer formats.
Arguably, having to heave a few extra kilograms up and down the wicket might lead to greater fatigue at the end of a long day, but for the most part few batsmen are going to gain a huge amount of weight through weight training. Root, for example, isn’t predisposed to developing fast twitch muscles, so he’s not likely to be greatly affected by this.
It’s an interesting question though
At least it is to us. A lot is written about the impact of Twenty20 on techniques and attitudes and most of us are now familiar with both positive and negative effects. But what of the impact on physiology? A tired body tends to equal a tired mind, so Test performances could be compromised in more ways than one.
When England do the bleep test, Alastair Cook is the last to drop and it is not a coincidence that he’s one of the very best at playing long innings. Every time he or his partner takes a run, he must accelerate and then stop his entire body weight. When he spends an entire day in the field, he’s frequently doing something similar.
Aerobic fitness matters in Test cricket. It is an endurance sport. Do some Test batsmen pay a price for carrying muscle they rarely use?