Oxforddictionaries.com provides the following meanings for the term technique:
1.skill or ability in a particular field
2.a skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something
Merriam-Webster.com also has a similar offering to make when technique is defined as a method of accomplishing a desired aim.
What is my aim of talking about technique?
It has to do something with athletes and sportspersons in general and Virendra Sehwag in particular.
Sehwag has been one of my most favourite of cricket players and when he fails to perform as is the case now, it is painful to say the least for me and many of his fans.
A student of mine, who is now a colleague, blamed the lack of technique as the reason for the repeated failures of Sehwag that has led to the omission of the batsman from the Indian team. Even in the world of IPL where Sehwag was expected to score heavily, things have been extremely disappointing.
There are instances when commentators use the phrases like ‘straight out of the copybook’ or ‘right out of the coaching manual’ while describing a shot. I wonder which or whose manual or the copybook is to be used as a reference while explaining a particular shot played by a particular player. This is because each player has his or her own technique that is as individual as the player in question. This is very much a dichotomy since every player is urged to play according to his or her natural talents (meaning individual technique), yet at the same time, we spend too much time thinking and talking about some manual or copybook.
Every player has a particular way of dealing with a specific ball or a pitch and it is very difficult to have a similar solution for all. In my humble opinion, it is similar to writing with a pen. Even when the pen is the same and we write the same thing, each one of us holds the pen in a different way, however minor the difference might be. The physical characteristics of the individual player do matter a lot when playing a shot. There can be only one Brian Lara and no matter how hard one desires to imitate his style, the lefthander will be considered unique. Steve Waugh another great of the modern era played with a bat that was smaller than those used by his contemporaries. Yet, he was successful. His technique was different from his twin Mark Waugh. Ravindra Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka had a bowling action very close to that of Waqar Younis of Pakistan but the Sri Lankan could not even once replicate the success of the Pakistan paceman. A certain Vivian Richards had a style and technique of his own and no other batsman till date has shown that kind of an ability that would make bowlers shiver in their pants.
Sunil Gavaskar was extremely successful playing against some of the greatest fast bowlers that have graced the game. He did that without the use of the helmet and that too on wickets that were really fast and bouncy all over the world. At the same time, Gavaskar was equally adept against the spinners as his last innings of 96 versus Pakistan at Bangalore would testify. But there were some question marks about his record against spinners like Derek Underwood. The same is the case with Sachin Tendulkar when it comes to the handling of left-arm spinners. In his last tour down under, Rahul Dravid the technician was repeatedly out bowled. Do these so-called failings cast a question mark over the techniques of these masters?
In tennis, the top players have their own style or techniques. Nadal is different from Djokovic who is completely different from Federer when it comes to technique. But all of them are successful. There was a time when the two-handed backhand shot was out of fashion in the men’s game but Djokovic has made it something of his signature shot. Those pundits or the so-called experts who earlier had some theories about why the two-handed backhand would not work are having a quiet time eating the humble pie.
Usain Bolt was deemed too tall for a sprinter and he has the physique of a marathon man from Africa but Bolt is the fastest man in the world for sometime now.
There have many singers who made the initial mark by imitating or covering the songs of the inimitable Kishore Kumar but later they tried to shed this image and started to sing in their own way. One can sing like a Kishore Kumar but one cannot become a Kishore Kumar.
It is not the technique or the lack of it that is responsible for the poor showing of Sehwag. The opposing teams and their bowlers have become smarter and Sehwag has failed to recognize this and reinvent his game. The failure is more due to the lack of confidence in part and in part due to the arrogance. Given the current state, it is very difficult to anticipate a successful comeback by Sehwag into the Indian team but that does not in any way diminish his contribution to the success of the Indian cricket in the not too distant past. Sehwag has scored runs against different kinds of bowlers on different kinds of wickets and that too over a length of time and at a great strike rate with the same technique that is called defective.
It is not mathematics where there is a unique solution for a specific problem. It is a sport where individual ability and creativity are involved and where a critical decision is to be made when not even a few seconds are available. Does anyone bother about the techniques of masters like Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo? Let us not bother about the technical failings of Sehwag. Sit back and recollect those innings where Sehwag conjured some magic with the same technique in the past.