The physiques of batsmen for Twenty20 and Tests

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.

Contrast

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?

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21 Appeals

  1. Interesting point well made KC.

    I suspect it is more mental than physical.

    Finch has a first class average sub 30, with 2 centuries and 11 half-centuries, which seems to support your argument. (Probably supports the case for him being rushed in to the Aussie squad for the reverse Ashes – a first class average of very nearly 30).

    But there are examples of big-hitting endurance players too – Gayle and Sehwag are two names that come to mind. KP a third.

    Joe Root is on the cusp of being a great player in all formats or any format he chooses. I hope he develops as a test player more than anything else, but it is also good to see that very talented players can perform across the formats.

    • King Cricket

      August 30, 2013 at 9:39 am

      It may be more mental than physical, but as we said, the mind gets tired when the body gets tired, so there is one link.

      Gayle is a fantastic example of how it’s possible to play very long innings with fast twitch musculature. Perhaps that’s the end of the matter. Or is Gayle an exceptional example? He’s certainly very lean compared to someone like Finch – we’d guess he has very low body fat. Maybe he’s just exceptionally fit all round?

      We’re not defending a position here, by the way. We’re just floating an idea. We’ve no problem with it being shot down.

  2. I think Root could easily become Shane Watson, given the right circumstances. He’s blond, metro, face like a rabbit -give him a few more kilos and a large mirror and you,ll have an English cupcake, no struggle. If Broad wasn’t a string bean, both mentally and physically, you,d have another one.

    • Broad is more your blond Mitchell Johnston, bowls a lot of tripe but occasionally gets it right and wins a test match, averages around 30, 1 test century and usually chips in with usefull runs at 8, metrosexual douche.

    • Intriguing. I’d say intuitively that Broad is a much better test bowler than Mitch J, but if you line up their historic stats, Micko is quite right, you could barely get a fag-paper between them.

      But these are different stages of careers. What would the Aussies give to have a bowler like Broad as he bowls now, rather than Mitch as he bowls now??

    • We’d give a lot more for Ian Bell.

  3. Root’s innings would have been good enough to win a T20 match nine times out of ten. But I suspect scores are only going to get higher and we will see more of that sort of performance from Finch. England are going to have to start picking more batsmen with necks like tree trunks.

    On a slightly separate note, everyone kept saying what a good pitch it was at the Rose Bowl. (I refuse to call it the Ageas Bowl on principle.) It was a very flat pitch with nothing for the bowlers. Does that equal good in T20? Just because people love sixes? I would be equally happy to see a close match which is 100 all out plays 101-9 with spin, seam and variable bounce. As long as nobody tells Ian Ward that the pitch is “a bit two-paced”. Shudder.

    • I’d like to see a T20 played on a pitch like Sabina Park, 1998.

    • I’d like to see a T20 match played where it was 5-out all-out. That would test Aaron Finch’s brain muscle without lessening the opportunity for him to use his arm muscles, and would thus be a much more compelling game to watch.

      But I know the reality, which is also the answer to Sam’s question on pitches. Yes it was a good pitch, because everything tastes better with more sugar.

    • Oh, and I’d like to see a T20 match with the boundaries closer to the crowd than to the batsman.

  4. Out came to bat Aaron Finch
    He cared not for the bowling or the pitch
    ’twas a Twenty-Twenty
    He hit sixes plenty
    ‘Cause he had muscles that greatly twitch.

    http://bit.ly/17Ln2xZ

    • There was a tough Aussie named Finch,
      Whose hitting descriptor is “pinch”,
      He whacks it a mile,
      With a wonderful style,
      While yon Johnson is only one inch.

  5. So what you’re saying is Ian Austin should be recalled?

    https://twitter.com/Paulnico199/status/373491271224295424/photo/1

  6. wait, is this some sort of treatise on evolution based on finches?

  7. Warner has become a fully-fledged test match batsman, I see, in that he’s been dropped from the ODI squad.

  8. Five tests against India next year!

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/story/667701.html

    Trent Bridge and Old Trafford get tests. Happy days.

  9. Yes Bert, but no Test for Edgbaston for the second year running. I know you can’t please everyone, but someone at Warwickshire must have upset the ECB. One ODI and one T20 next year. Bet they’re glad they spent all those millions transforming the ground into one of the best in the country for one man and his dog to watch the Bears.

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