Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/231

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209
PLAYING THE BALL.

when the game has to be saved or the fall of a wicket avoided, a captain naturally asks his men to play cautiously. All batsmen should try to grasp for themselves the right thing to do according to circumstances. It would take a lot of worry from the captain's shoulders, and make him feel very grateful.

The question as to whether a batsman is born or made is somewhat difficult to answer. My own idea is that, except for certain natural acquirements, batting is to be learnt. I can hardly imagine a player to be born such beyond a certain point. He must learn to apply his natural gifts, however good they may be. His success depends upon how far he does this. As an example of what may be done by practice and perseverance, in spite of being handicapped by nature in the matter of height and strength, one need only mention Robert Abel. Arthur Shrewsbury, too, has no particular physique, though he does possess an exceptional wrist. Abel owes his position in the cricket world almost entirely to his determination and perseverance. So does Arthur Shrewsbury, wrist and all. A player must not be discouraged by repeated failures at the outset of his career. He must take heart from the fact that even the greatest players at the zenith of their careers have runs of ill-luck. If a player keeps on steadily and enthusiastically in spite of misfortune, his reward will come sooner or later.

Playing with a straight bat is to batting what good length is to bowling. This point should be impressed on the minds of all players. Any one who looks into the matter at all cannot miss seeing the advantage of playing in this way. Mark that a straight bat means that the two outside edges of the bat are kept at right angles to the ground, from the point of view of any one looking straight at its face. The two reasons that underlie the straight-bat theory are these: If held straight, in the cricket sense of course, the bat gives the ball less chance of hitting the wicket, and also allows a considerable margin for error. The simplest way of illustrating the truth of the first of these points is, to hold the bat in front of the wickets first perpendicularly and then crosswise. If held in the first way, the bat hides all the wicket, except the outside edges of the off- and leg-stumps; if held in the second way, most of the wicket is disclosed, for part of the bat protrudes beyond the wicket on either side. Again, if the bat is upright, there is the whole length of it up- and down-ways to meet the ball, in case an error be made in judging the exact height the ball rises from the ground after pitching. Playing with a straight bat is not natural—it must be acquired. One o