Tony Becca, Contributor
Ever since I was a boy, I have always wondered why it was that although a six was the most runs you could get from one stroke in cricket, I never saw a coach, not even on one occasion, show a batsman how to hit a six.
On the contrary, a coach always tried to impress on a batsman that hitting sixes were not something to try. Hitting sixes meant hitting the ball in the air, and a batsman could be dismissed attempting to do so.
In fact, you could hear the coach saying, all the time, "get over the ball, and keep it on the ground." He never did say, "get under the ball, and hit it up," which is the way to try and hit sixes.
In those days, one did so at one's own peril.
Today, however, in the present form of cricket, the T20 style which is taking over the world like wild fire, the six is just about the most common sight in the game.
It certainly is, along with stunning, acrobatic fielding, the most exciting shot in T20 cricket.
Although many a batsman has been dismissed running half-way down the pitch and getting caught by the bowler, or the wicketkeeper, as the mishit drops from the sky, or has been stumped whenever he misses the ball, the record shows the hit for sixes and the hit for fours are going almost neck-and-neck in T20 cricket.
Before the arrival of T20 cricket, sixes were in short supply, so much so that Everton Weekes, the West Indian who played in 48 Test matches, scored 4,455 runs with 15 centuries, and averaged 58.61, according to the records, hit only two sixes, one in each innings versus Australia at Queen's Park Oval in 1955.
Sixes have been hit with so much regularity in T20 cricket, however, that in local cricket, residents living next door to clubs like Melbourne, Lucas, and Kensington fear for their houses, and their lives, whenever T20 games are scheduled at these grounds.
The balls pepper their houses like bombs, much to their dismay, and much to the delight of the fans.
Last week Saturday and Sunday, the semi-finals and finals of the Jam T20 competition at Kensington Park, there were sixes galore as Tamar Lambert smashed 119 retired hurt off 55 deliveries with nine sixes and eight fours; Wayne Morgan hit an undefeated 71 off 31 deliveries with seven sixes and two fours; and David Bernard hit 57 not out with six sixes and three fours off 26 deliveries on Saturday, with Morgan blasting 65 off 36 deliveries with four sixes and six fours on Sunday, and on the same day, in the same innings, Andre Russell lashed 55 off 21 deliveries with two balls racing along the ground to the boundary and six balls sailing way over the fence.
This assault, against bowlers, pace, spin, and some in between, however, has been done in mostly club matches around the world and not in the more celebrated international fixtures involving England, Australia, the West Indies, and so on, simply because the bowlers are inferior.
Despite that, more sixes than fours seem to be hit in T20 cricket, both at the club and at the international level.
The records, for example, show that as many as 16 sixes as against six fours were scored by Australia versus India in Bangalore in 2010, that only one less six was scored to the number of fours, 18 to 19, in an innings by Australia versus England at Southampton this year, and that the most sixes in a match, 26 against 16 fours, were scored by New Zealand and India in Christchurch in 2009.
The highest individual score is 156 off 63 deliveries with 14 sixes and 11 fours by Aaron Finch for Australia versus England at Southampton this year, faster than Chris Gayle's fourth placed 117 off 57 deliveries with 10 sixes and seven fours, and the fastest 100 is off 45 deliveries by South Africa's Richard Levi against New Zealand at Hamilton in 2011, an innings which included 13 sixes and five fours and was five deliveries faster than Gayle's third place effort against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2009.
The fastest 50 was made off 12 deliveries with six sixes and three fours by Yuvraj Singh of India against England at Durban in 2007, eight deliveries faster than Gayle's effort against England at The Oval in 2009.
The most runs hit off an over is 36 by Yuvraj Singh off Stuart Broad of England in Durban in 2007, a feat reminiscent of Garry Sobers' mauling of Malcolm Nash when Nottinghamshire took on Glamorgan at Swansea in a first-class match in 1968.
In the days of old, the days when, despite Sobers' brilliance, sixes were at a premium, in the days when batsmen tried to bat for one or two days, batsmen, however, still hit sixes, sometimes, most times, with far more confidence in the stroke, sometimes to flex their muscles, and most times while on a mission.
And on those occasions, they even batted faster than the batsmen of today.
In 1986, for example, at the Antigua Recreation Ground, Viv Richards hit 100 runs off 56 deliveries with seven sixes and seven fours as the West Indies tried to and succeeded in winning a Test match against England, and it was only one delivery faster than Adam Gilchrist's century innings for Australia versus England at Perth in the 2006-07 series.
And in 2004-05 in Cape Town, Jacques Kallis of South Africa hit a 24-ball 50 with five sixes and three fours in a Test match against Zimbabwe, two deliveries faster than Pakistan's Shahid Afridi's blitz in Bangalore versus India in 2004-05.
In 2003, in Johannesburg, Brian Lara hit 28, the most number of runs from one over in Test cricket, when he smashed Robin Pietersen for four fours and two sixes for the West Indies versus South Africa, and in 2005, Afridi scored 27 off an over from India's Harbajan Singh at Lahore, the first four deliveries going for sixes.
Batsmen of yesterday
As we think of the flying balls of today, the sixes of today, we wonder what would some of the batsmen of yesterday accomplish in today's version of the game.
One wonders, for example, what Gilbert Jessop of Gloucestershire, the man who, years and years ago, who used to go to bat, hit a century in an hour or so, got out caught on the boundary, and then turned to the wicketkeeper and said, "thank you all for the afternoon's enjoyment," would have said to unfortunate bowlers in his time.
What wonders also, what mayhem Kapil Dev of India, the man who hit 175 off 138 deliveries with six sixes and 16 fours against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells in the World Cup of 1983 after going to bat 17 for five, would have created on cricket fields around the world, or what damage would say Clyde Walcott, Clive Lloyd, or Collie Smith, the one they called the "Mighty Mouse", have done in their days.
And from a local point of view, what would batsmen like Kenneth "Bam Bam" Weekes of Lucas, Jamaica, and West Indies fame, Jimmy Mitchell of St Catherine, Fitz Nangle of Kensington, and Carlton "Baje" Carter of Melbourne, to name a few, have done to the landscape around the clubs had T20 been around in their days, especially if they were encouraged, or coached, to hit sixes, as a necessity or as often, as their counterparts of today.
We do not know, but what we do know is that the batsmen of today are certainly enjoying themselves, at the bowlers' expense, with bigger bats, on smaller fields, and that the fans are also enjoying it, the lost balls and all.