Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/177

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155
BATTING.

that they would not have been even greater players than they were if they had been coached when they were boys. Ordinary mortals are certainly the better for coaching, and I am inclined to think that even great players who have never been coached have attained their eminence in spite of, rather than because of, the lack of it.

It is quite natural for an English boy to take to some kind of cricket with great avidity. But it is also quite natural for him to take to the wrong kind of cricket. It has already been mentioned that most good strokes in cricket are in a sense artificial—that is to say, nature does not suggest them herself. A boy who learns cricket entirely on his own lines generally has to unlearn a considerable amount before he can even begin to play properly. If he has spent five or six years in acquiring bad strokes, he must begin all over again at an age when he might have been fairly proficient. Unlearning is always far more troublesome than learning; so I think the sooner a boy is put in the way he should go the better. Less time is wasted, and there is a greater chance of producing a good result.

As to cramping the style of the young batsman, I am quite sure a good coach—one who understands cricket and how to teach it—is not at all likely to do that. But the criticism is not altogether unjustifiable, because there is a tendency among modern coaches to lay down fixed rules and advise all beginners to follow them without discrimination. This of course is wrong. Batsmen cannot be made in moulds like blancmanges. A coach ought to distinguish between players, and individualise them. My meaning is this. Suppose there are at school three beginners, each having different styles of play. One shows signs of developing into a very steady batsman; the second is by nature a hitter; the third has a tendency towards sound, fast-scoring methods. It would be absurd to try to make them all play alike. A good hitter educated into steady play rarely succeeds; neither is a steady player improved by being made to follow general methods that are not natural to him. What a coach ought to do is to take each one separately and make the best of individual tendencies. He ought to aim at developing rather than at altering. If coaches followed up this idea, I think they would be more universally successful.

I have often seen hitters being taught to play a steady game, with the result that they have lost their hitting power without strengthening their defence in any marked degree.

Again, a player may show an aptitude for a certain stroke