Often it is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder but in this case, beauty lies totally in the hands of the bat holder. Let’s make a list compiling 5 batsmen who never looked pleasing, in fact, they looked pretty ugly visually but turned out to be mighty effective players for their teams. A simple case of aesthetics vs efficiency !
How can you not start such lists with Steve Smith? The World’s number one Test batsman at the moment, Smith needs no reckoning of what he has achieved in his cricket career. There was a match in WT20 2016 where Australia was taking on Pakistan in a league game in Mohali. Smith,who was already standing in the line of the off stump, shuffled even more towards outside the off stump and ended up dragging a ball from near that wide line to the Deep midwicket fence. Yes, it was some great presence of mind. Yes, it was stupidity from Wahab Riaz to follow him when all three stumps were exposed but at the same time, it was an unpleasing shot.
Smith has a weird stance and by the time he finishes completing his shot, his batting position gets in a funny and unusual state. He battled his way to 774 runs in the Ashes last year but if you would’ve followed that series completely, some of the moments from his batting would’ve made you question the commentators who kept saying ” Smith is one of the best Test batsmen in the world, or, even the best. ” Well, what matters at the end of the day,week, month or a series is how many runs have you scored and Smith, despite that ugly batting method has around 12000 International runs and the number one ranking in Test cricket.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul used to bat as if the bowler is delivering the ball from Deep midwicket, exactly the same place where Smith had dispatched the ball to, in another story. As the bowler came close to delivering the ball, his body alignment was in a different and a lot more normal position but he hardly played a drive in the straight V. Maybe occasionally in a career long enough to score 20000 International runs but the frequency was so rare that you’d take that as an impossible event.
They called him The crab and that was because of the broad gap between both his legs during his stance. Crabs do have that same gap. His batting method was extremely measured and conservative but what works for you works for you. Chanderpaul was never eye pleasing, right from his unique stance which Fawad Alam also tried copying but failed badly indicating that some stunts should better be left to trained professionals.
A name as big as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his presence in this list tells you about how much you can achieve following your own methods and instincts even if it’s not absolutely copybook. Dhoni has his own flair and charisma despite being ugly to the eyes. He changed many certain beliefs in Indian cricket, especially about wicketkeepers. It included changing one more notion, ” Ugly is the new beautiful. ”
Let’s not talk much about Dhoni & Test cricket, as his defensive game wasn’t suited for the longest format. He was more resilient than solid, more spirited than technically firm. Test cricket challenges your technique. It can’t just be played with a great spirit. ODIs can be which is why Dhoni was more successful in it. With 10773 runs at an average over 50, he worked his way out in ODIs but even when he smashed all those towering sixes, his batting looked more about power than anything else. Dhoni’s batting was more like boxing than cricket but then you know, what works for you, works for you.
Much like MS Dhoni, Javed Miandad could be said his Pakistani counterpart when it comes to any visual comparison. Sometimes, with his high shoulders, he used to surprise himself with how well did he see the bat throughout his career. And the way and with the power did he hit the ball, it made him look more like a slogger or a boxer than a cricketer.
But the thing was, Pakistan cricket could rely on him in difficult situations. The beautiful thing about these ugly batsman is that they don’t care how do they appear while batting, they rather just focus on getting the job done. Miandad was unwatchable, that too as an Indian but he went on to play 233 ODIs and 124 Tests for his country with his lack of elegance.
Younis Khan’s batting was more funny than ugly. Once England cricket uploaded a video of his on YouTube where they showed his struggles in English conditions. His footwork was so awful that you could make out that he was literally dancing. Khan, went on to score 17600 International runs, 10000 of those came in Test Cricket alone.
With those many runs, he is considered as a legend in Pakistan but that’s not the point. The point is how he made batting look uneasy with the simple front foot prod on every ball regardless of the length. Even if the ball was pitched slightly shorter, he used to lunge forward which made his batting look both ugly and hilarious.