The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Playing on matting a must: Mohinder
- Stalwart’s formula for mastering the hook

Calcutta, May 17: In an era of increasing reliance on technology, Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath has suggested falling back on matting wickets to master the art of hooking.

“Every youngster aspiring to make it big, as a batsman, must spend reasonable time playing on matting… After all, when the ball bounces, he will have to do something… Invariably, he will have to hook,” Mohinder, acknowledged as one of the finest hookers, told The Telegraph.

It’s not insignificant that, at different times, the Sourav Gangulys and Sachin Tendulkars have sought his guidance on tackling the short-pitched stuff.

Speaking at the end of his five-day session with the National Cricket Academy’s zonal wing trainees, Saturday, Mohinder added: “In fact, because of the other benefits as well, I’ve constantly been advising youngsters to regularly play on matting instead of learning on pucca pitches only. Kaafi kuch seekhne ko mil sakta hai. I’ve also been suggesting they play more off the back foot.”

Surely, having averaged 42-plus in 69 Tests over nearly two decades, he is eminently qualified to list the dos and don’ts.

Asked why today’s generation preferred to duck instead of facing the bouncers head-on, Mohinder replied: “Probably, it is linked to the heavy bats which have become fashionable… Then, it could have something to do with the initial forward movement, influenced strongly by one-day cricket… It’s possible the nature of wickets, too, has a bearing. Nowadays, pitches are slower…”

Best remembered for exceptional batting against hostile bowling in back-to-back series’ — in Pakistan and the West Indies (1982-83), he continued in much the same fashion during the 1983 World Cup, bagging MoM awards in the semi-final (versus England) and the final (against the West Indies).

The champion bat totalled 584 in six Tests (average 73.00) versus Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz and, then, amassed 598 (average 66.44) in five Tests against Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall.

“Essentially, every batsman must have a plan… He should study the opposition and devise a strategy based on his own strengths… But, before that, he has to work on his game… Every session can be a learning experience,” Mohinder remarked.

Did the hook come naturally to him'

“Look, strictly speaking, no shot comes naturally… However, I worked hard on perfecting the hook and was always encouraged by my father (the late Lalaji)… It’s not that I didn’t make mistakes but, when I did, my father’s advice on getting it right was at hand,” he pointed out.

In Mohinder’s opinion, for the hook to be properly executed, the weight-transfer must be correct. As he put it: “The batsman should come on top of the ball and his weight must be more on the heels not the toes… This should not be lost sight of.”

Persuaded to name the five best hookers among contemporaries, Mohinder chose (in random order): Ian Chappell, Clive Lloyd, Sir Vivian Richards, Majid Khan and David Gower.

While nobody stands out in the present era, he did single out Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden (“the shot comes naturally to the Australians”) and Herschelle Gibbs.

Incidentally, Mohinder picked Kapil Dev as being the one other teammate who didn’t shy from hooking. “He didn’t duck or simply leave the short ball… He would go for the hook… If you ask me, Yuvraj Singh must be encouraged to play the shot… I quite like his body-balance.”

As he prepared to leave for the airport, there was time for just one question — is it difficult overcoming a weakness specific to the short-pitched stuff'

The answer was typically Mohinder-like: “Nothing is impossible… The harder the work put in, better the results… In any case, out in the middle, it’s a mind game… So, don’t be short on self-belief.”

Somebody like Virender Sehwag, perhaps, could take note.

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