James Taylor’s demolition of Ryan Sidebottom in the Yorkshire vs. Nottinghamshire T20 provided an opportunity to savour one of the most delectable sights in cricket: that of a diminutive batsman dominating a big fast bowler. 1.68m (5′7″) took down 1.91m (6′4″).
Well-built batsmen such as Andrew Flintoff (1.93m) or Alex Hales (1.96m), of course, always raise the excitement levels, and thrill audiences as they dominate attacks. Yet somehow there is an inverse correlation between stature and impressiveness: the smaller the figure, the greater the delight.
Why are pint-sized players so pleasing to watch? One reason could be that due to the lack of inherent momentum provided by weight, smaller players are forced to develop traditional, classical skills, relying on pure timing rather than brute strength. It has been observed that this currently holds true to an extent in the women’s game; the suggestion is that while the men’s game can cut corners due to higher strength levels, the women’s game remains a superior showcase of traditional cricketing technique. As fitness and strength levels increase in the women’s game, it will be interesting to see how long this holds true.
Going back to the man’s game, it’s striking how short players often not only have style, but also substance. Looking at the 11 batsmen that have over 10000 Test runs as of 2014, height seems to be a rarity. (Heights are sourced from the Internet, and are presented with a low degree of confidence.)
|Player||Test runs||Height (m)|
Kallis, at 1.88m, the outlier, or perhaps the high flier, is the only one of the XI to breach the 6-foot barrier. Dravid, Ponting, and Sangakkara, at 1.80, 1.78, and 1.78 respectively, would be perceived, at least by a British eye, to be of average height. Lara and Tendulkar, arguably the most consistently stylish batsmen in modern cricket history (how that is defined is another story; Chris Smith at Declaration Game debates this in some detail), clock in at just 1.73m and 1.65m. As twelfth man, Don Bradman slots in between Lara and Tendulkar at 1.70m.
What does this mean? Not much. There is a danger, of course, in selectively choosing examples to support a hypothesis, and this is by no means a scientific analysis. We’re looking, after all, at what makes a small batsman so appealing from our subjective viewpoint. All this does is suggest that small stature might increase the chances of piling up over 10000 career Test runs. Perhaps smaller frames, possibly being lighter, place less strain on the limbs, and thus reduce the likelihood of major injuries, allowing longer careers. Ideally we could do with a Style Index to authoritatively rank players on the attractiveness of their play. There’s an idea for Statsguru.
It may be that our delight in watching small players perform is down to a simpler reason. Perhaps it is because it seems so unexpected, so contrary to the course of nature. When an obviously muscular player comes out to bat, we expect the ball to go flying out of the park. By contrast, when a small figure appears, we subconsciously doubt his ability to do the deed. Our fears and expectations are confounded. We relish David slaying his Goliath.