Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence, this argument is not going away

It could be that modern coaching has moved too far away from the orthodoxies, as if the methods honed over decades of play, passed down in MCC manuals, don’t have a place in the modern game. There is, after all, a lot of talk about encouraging players to express themselves and play their natural way. But when five batsmen with such obvious flaws fail in such a short space of time, that looks less like a coincidence, and more like a pattern.
— Andy Bull

Look, I get the temptation to go back to the good old days when everyone was working towards a technique that was perfect. It’s the warm safety blanket of nostalgia. Simpler times when deep and ancient wisdom was passed down through The MCC Coaching Manual.

The problem is, this time never existed. 

When, throughout the rich history of cricket, has one master technique dominated the game? Not today, where coaches encourage players to develop their own solution. Not in the 70s, 80s, 90s or 00s when West Indians and Australians controlled international cricket with a variety of methods and techniques. Not in the 30s and 40s when Bradman set still unbeaten records with a technique that is still considered unorthodox. Not in Victorian cricket where Ranji invented a new shot called The Leg Glance and was seriously considered a cheat in many quarters for scoring off his pads in such a blatant way.

The MCC produced a manual in the 50s to help coaches and teachers have an easy reference guide. It was written by Harry Altham, an English Army Major who was educated privately. He was a fine coach by all accounts, but certainly did not carry the wisdom of the ages when writing it. It was written from one context: English Post-Colonial, Gentleman, Mid-century. It might or might not have been the only method in that context, but the evidence shows clearly it is wrong in most cases.

In fact, this was recognised by the MCC when the MCC Masterclass book - based on varied advice from different quarters - superseded this work in the 90s. There has not been an MCC manual since. Over 60 years since it's first incarnation and over 20 years since the last, we still cling to the idea that the MCC had all the answers in 1952. 

It's just not true.

My hope is soon we can recognise technique not as a series of dogmatic rules to be applied to perfection as defined by one Englishman in the 1950s, but as it is: wholly dependent on the body, mind, upbringing and culture of each player. That's harder to coach and not as nostalgic, but it's closer to the truth.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe