As a batsman, your guard is an important thing to consider. This is the point on the wicket where you stand, in front of the stumps.
There are a number of choices to take and, while it may seem like there are small margins involved, they can make the difference between being dismissed and staying at your crease.
In this article I’m going to be looking at the options for taking guard and how you can make the best choice.
Taking Guard in Cricket
Which Batting Guard Should You Take?
The guard dictates your positioning in the crease as the ball is delivered. Your right eye (or left if left-handed) should be above and in line with off stump. This will help to judge the path of the ball with a view to hitting it in the middle of the bat rather than edging it to the slips.
It can ultimately come down to a personal preference but, as a young cricket player, coaches will suggest that you pick a guard based on your individual height.
For most batters, this would mean taking a middle stump guard but the taller players could take middle and leg or leg stump.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to change your guard to suit certain bowlers. For example, if you take a middle stump guard to a right arm over bowler, you may want to change to leg stump when a left armer comes on. In this situation, there should be less of a chance of being bowled round your legs.
Similarly, other batsmen will change guard depending on whether a fast bowler or a spinner is brought into the attack.
Middle Stump Guard
If in doubt, it can be a good idea to start out by taking a middle stump guard. Your bat would be in a line with middle as the ball is delivered and many players would have that right eye in line with the off stump.
You can ask the umpire for ‘middle’ or ‘centre’ as you get to the crease.
Pros for Middle Stump Guard include:
- You have both the middle and leg stumps covered by the bat as the ball is bowled. Any delivery heading for those stumps can be dealt with more competently.
- Focuses on leg side play.
- Middle is also a good starting point for young players who are learning the game.
Cons Against Middle Stump Guard include:
- Higher chance of getting out with LBW, since your legs actually cover two of the three wickets.
Leg Stump Guard
A leg stump guard is also known as ‘one leg’. If you can pick up a batsman speaking over the stump microphone on a live TV broadcast, they may ask the umpire for ‘leg’ or, simply, ‘one’.
Those that subscribe to the theory that the right eye should be in line with off stump can also take this guard. They will be among the taller batters on the circuit.
Pros for Leg Stump Guard include:
- Better judgement with deliveries that are outside off stump.
- Also focuses on leg side play, thus lower likelyhood of getting out with LBW.
Cons Against Leg Stump Guard include:
- Many bowlers will look to send the ball into the ‘channel’ outside that off stump as they look for an edge to the wicket keeper or slips.
Middle and Leg Stump Guard (or Two Legs)
This isn’t two separate guards: Middle and leg will be situated exactly halfway between the middle stump and the leg stump. It’s also referred to as two legs and most batters will say ‘two please’ when they ask the umpire for their guard.
Slightly taller players have this option if they want their eye above the off stump when the ball is delivered. It’s all about personal preference however, so why not test out middle and leg in the nets.
Pros for Middle and Leg Guard include:
- Ideal for taller players.
- A balanced combination of both guards with enough move to play on both sides.
Cons Against Middle and Leg Guard include:
- Medium chance of getting out with LBW.
How to Take Guard – a Step by Step Guide
- As you arrive at the crease, place your bat sideways in line with the stumps.
- Don’t worry, the umpire is there to make sure you have the correct guard.
- Line that bat up roughly with the guard that you want and then ask the umpire to make sure it’s correct.
- Ask for middle, leg stump, middle and leg or any other guard that you would like.
- The umpire will either tell you that you’re in position or they will tell you to move the bat to the left or right.
- Once the edge of the bat is in line with your guard, the umpire will let you know by saying ‘that’s it’, ‘you’ve got it’ or some other phrase that confirms the correct position.
- Mark the correct position using your boots (or the toe of the bat) to scratch the pitch.
- Make sure that the scratches stay within and just outside of the popping crease to adhere to cricket Laws.
Why do Batsmen Scratch the Pitch?
To ensure that they are in the right position, batsmen ask the umpire to give them their guard. However, by marking the crease, they don’t need to repeat this ahead of every single delivery. That would slow the game down too much and the opposition would soon be sledging.
This is why batters scratch the pitch after they’ve been given their guard. Using the studs on their boots, they can mark the spot where the guard should be and just return to it after every delivery. As long as the scratches are kept within and just outside of the popping crease, they won’t infringe any laws by damaging the playing surface.
It’s possible that those scratches will wear away as the game progresses so it is acceptable to take guard and mark the pitch again if this happens. Just check with the umpire and make those scratches once again as soon as the guard is confirmed.
Taking a guard is a very personal thing and batsmen will often change things at certain times in their career. For example, I can remember myself, taking a middle and leg guard and finding that I was often edging the ball to the wicket keeper or the slip cordon.
I tried changing to a leg guard and this worked to an extent. I still wasn’t good enough to hit every ball in the middle of the bat but now I found I was missing the ball rather than edging it. As I always say, I am just a club cricketer but there are many professionals who have also changed their guards for similar reasons.
In summary, I would say that you should select a guard based on this advice and to test it out. Maybe trial it in the nets before taking to the field. In a very short space of time, you should find a guard that suits your game. The basics of batting must be a solid foundation, but everyone should find their own style of play.