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Corporal punishment.

Only a few months ago, there was a press feeding frenzy surrounding stories of Winchester schoolboys being abused by a sadistic teacher during special out of term religious studies. Horror of horrors, some of these extra curricular canings actually resulted in “bloody bottoms”! Judged by today’s standards with corporal punishment of young students being totally eliminated, it does seem pretty heinous. But, even in my early lifetime, it would hardly have raised a press paragraph, let alone many headlines.
I have no great love of schools. I was shuttled from one establishment to another, from Boarding in Scotland, (Belmont House)aged 5, to Northern Ireland, and to South Wales (Selwyn House).
Each move followed my Dad’s wartime postings in RAF Bomber Command. When he was posted to Egypt, his wife Elise, my older brother John and I were finally settled In Bucks for the duration. I had been caned by the Headmaster of Belmont House who informed my Dad of the event on his solitary visit to the school. Did you deserve it Teddy? Yes, Dad. What else could I say in the circumstances. In fact, my Dad never once lifted his hand to either me or brother John. On the very rare occasions he lifted his voice, we were happy to jump to it with a will. We both loved and respected him to the end of his life.
Now I attended my fourth and last prep school, Norfolk House in Penn ruled over in a harsh and unforgiving way by Mr Cyril Glover. Canings were a regular part of everyday life. This tyrannical person had a saving grace which was his love of cricket. He spent hours tending the nets and the middle and he taught me the basics of the game. Visiting the the school years later, it was astonishing to find that the cricket ground was no bigger than a couple of tennis courts.
Mr Glover retired and for the first time I could enjoy two years of education free from the threat of beatings. But this freedom was not to last.
I was squeezed into Radley College a term early, probably because brother John was there already and the “crammer” near Romsey was proving anything but satisfactory. Only now was I to come under the most loathsome of code of discipline which meant that virtually every boy would wind up being caned. And not just caned, but caned by older boys.
Looking back, I wonder how responsible adults could have ever devised, let alone condoned, a system of boys beating boys when they only rarely had the responsibility of doing the job themselves. Certainly, the Warden (Headmaster) the Reverend Vaughan Wilkes, he of the saintly air and other worldly manner, never saw fit to lift a finger - all the while presiding over wholesale canings of the pupils in his care.
It is a particularly sore point with me because as Head of Social (House) , it fell to me to do more than my fair share of beatings. Then I became Head of School and was required to deliver the most severe canings - delivered in the school prefects’ private study and witnessed by all such members. What a horrible thing to be required to do. Not that I suffered pangs of conscience at the time. We were all conditioned to believe that " that was just the way it was". However a form of retribution was not far off.
As my cricketing career burgeoned and my name 'Ted Dexter' became fairly common currency, a certain Peter Cook, he of the famous comedy duo with Dudley Moore, seldom missed an opportunity to tell the world of the beating he had received at Radley College at the hand of yours truly.
I never ascertained whether this was true or even whether Mr Cook had ever been a pupil at Radley College. Guilty or not the damage was done. I did not want to pour any more fuel on the fire. But a sense of revulsion at what I and others did remains alive to this day. Happily, my children will confirm that a very few mild slaps were the limit of my parental corrections.
And even more happily, the days of corporal punishment were numbered, soon to be banned by Act of Parliament, as it is to this day.

Joke batting by England

England's batting problem is getting worse and has now become beyond a joke. It can be blamed on "joke", white ball cricket, if you like. But when the fundamentals of batting technique are so conspicuously ignored, that can only be part of the answer.
The latest fashion of standing with the feet far apart and the bat raised may have merit, but, if so, I am unable to identify what it is. The first problem is that you cannot move easily laterally. The second is that it destroys the natural rhythm of playing forward and back. Just as well that they wear helmets. Or is it the helmet that has caused these aberrations?
You would think that the new feeling of invulnerability should work to your advantage when facing bouncers etc but it hardly seems to be the case when you see the amount of clumsy ducking and diving, eyes not on the ball and any amount of blows on the helmet itself. If you cannot move laterally, i.e across the batting crease, what chance is there of getting your body out of the way, never mind getting close beside the offside ball? And if you are already straddled, any forward or backward movement of the body is evidently curtailed.
The most obvious tell tale sign of poor technique is the position of the feet. I have given up counting the times I say to my wife, an avid cricket watcher, " look at his feet" before the cut to the replay and then the slow motion version of the dismissal. Invariably both feet are facing up the pitch which means that the body has turned round which in turn means that the bat has not, indeed can not, come down straight.
There is a further fashion for turning the head unnaturally towards the bowler in the stance which means not only unnecessary tension but a built in inclination for the shoulders to follow it round. If someone told me that they simply HAD to face the bowler head on in the stance, I would advise them to stand more open and then turn the left shoulder into line as part of the stroke. All of which comes back to the old adage that cricket is a "sideways" game.
I will not go through the whole gamut of reasons for the "sideways" advantage. But one is mathematically and geometrically crystal clear. If you are sideways. then you have a number of feet in which to play the ball i.e. the width of your shoulders plus, let's say, six inches in front and six inches behind. Possibly 4-5 feet in total. If you turn square on your "range" becomes measured in inches. "Leaving the ball" becomes much more difficult. I could go on and on.
I just find it incomprehensible, now that every stroke and dismissal is available for video replay, that these basics are ignored. I am available for consultation any time. I don't want to be paid and I will not put in any expenses.

Nasser Hussain/Johnnie Bairstow

I would not normally defer to the opinion of Nasser Hussain for information on batting technique. I lost any faith in his judgement/knowledge when he suggested that facing fast bowling bore similarities to a tennis player receiving first serves, i.e. the advantage of jigging around the better to pick up the pace and flight of the ball!! To give him his due, when I taxed him on the subject, suggesting that a still head for a batsman was a “sine que non”, he graciously retracted.

More than that, he presented an excellent documentary piece on the major change made by the excellent Johnnie Bairstow which has had such spectacular results. The first video clip showed him stepping across his stumps before the bowler released the ball, head on the move at the critical moment. The second clip showed him standing stock still with two stumps showing. Case proven.

But there was more good sense to come. “Now he stays leg side of the ball which has opened up his array of off-side shots”. Meanwhile his command of leg-side play has improved to a degree. Now came the final accolade. Hussain mentioned him in the same breath as the legendary Indian batsman Verinder Sewag, still the holder of the record for the most triple hundreds in Test Cricket.

Hoorah! Hoorah! One of the “modern” generation seeing the benefit of my long held mantra i.e. don’t get behind the line of the ball - get alongside it. The great ball striker Arthur Wellard once said to me “ if you get behind it, how can you hit it”.

I sent an email a couple of weeks ago to Joe Root making exactly this point. Whether his consecutive hundreds owe anything to the Dexter opinion, we will probably never know. What is certain is that my obversations did him absolutely no harm.

Boycott's Missed Opportunity

Oh! Geoffrey, Geoffrey. You were given a chance on a TV Masterclass to reveal the uppermost levels of batsmanship and all you did was emphasise the “foreward defensive”, which anyone can read in the most preliminary instruction books. What a missed opportunity for you, our Yorkshire legend, to demonstrate your all round skills; picking the length , moving forward and BACK! etc

I think it was Archie McClaren who memorably said “any fool can play forward” - witness the fact that tailenders invariably have that as their only move. Then there is the old adage “when in doubt, push out”. If every one of those one shot wonders were to practise playing BACK, oh! boy would they improve and, incidentally enjoy the experience.

Think about it. There are many more types of shot to be played off the back foot. There are all the cross batted strokes; the late cut , the square cut, , the leg side pull and the hook. Once you can score freely off these, then the bowlers are forced to pitch it up and get driven. The Boycott square cut was his “trademark” though he was never as good at the pulls and hooks because he had a rather low pick up of the bat.

As possibly the last of the text book sideways players he could have emphasised the huge advantages of so doing - and indeed the limitations of playing “square on”. You can get your front foot to the pitch of the ball on the off side. You have a better feel for where your off stump is. You have a much greater range playing the ball beside the body, perhaps as much as four feet whereas the the “square” men have about four inches. You can avoid bumpers with the smallest of steps across the crease and the fast bowlers have a much narrower target. The defensive shot can be expanded into a forcing shot from exactly the same body position. I could go on and on.

Geoffrey B knows all these things like the back of his hand. I know that there are always time limitations when on camera. But he should ask to be allowed a couple more slots to expand the subject. And how I would love to team up with him and explore the subject more fully.