Taking your guard is a vital part of being a batter, and even if you are very much a part-time batter, it is important to understand the best ways of taking guard. It’s a crucial part of your defence and it can be the difference between managing to play a shot and seeing your stumps go cartwheeling out of the ground.
In this guide, we’re explaining what taking guard in cricket really means, as well as how to do it to good effect.
What is Taking Guard?
If you walk out to bat, even if you are just playing a bit of beach cricket or practising with your friends, you will see how easy it is to lose track of where the stumps are. The wicket is behind you, and that means that you won’t know where to stand. From one delivery to the next it is so easy to lose track of where you stand.
The best way to take your guard is to decide where you want to stand (we’ll get to the different types of guard shortly) and then to mark the crease with your shoes. This gives you a line where you can check your foot is in line and therefore will be in line with the stump behind you.
A really attacking player might not bother to take guard, or their guard might be so far behind leg stump that they are basically leaving the stumps for the bowler to aim at, but this is rare.
Popular Types of Guard
How do players tend to take their guard? Well, there are three popular methods that people tend to use in order to cover the stumps. It’s also vitally important that they work out which guard works best. Lots of people find that they might knick the ball more if they take up a certain type of guard, and that another feels more natural for them.
On top of this, some batters will even change their guard based on the bowler, and based on the format of cricket. For instance, they might go more attacking in one day forms of the game.
The three most common ways to take a guard are lining up with middle, leg, or middle and leg stump.
This means your bat will start in line with the middle stump, and the eye on your strong side (right eye for right-handers) will be in line roughly with off stump.
With most bowling styles, taking a guard on middle stump will ensure that both the middle stump and leg stump are covered by the bat, even if all you can do is clamp the bat down. If the bowler aims at the stumps you’ve got a fair chance of defending them.
It’s also good for those who prefer to play shots on the leg side, however, you’re fairly likely to get given out LBW if the ball should clatter into your pads. In village cricket, there’s also no option to go to DRS!
If you’re batting for the first time and you have never taken guard then this is a good option for your first time. See how it feels and whether it is natural for your game.
Leg stump guard is often referred to as “one” or “one leg” too, because two of the stumps are left visible. For taller batters, you can still take this guard and ensure that your right eye can align roughly with off stump, a popular method of trying to protect your stumps and get the best possible view.
Taking your guard on leg stump is often good for playing expansive shots and trying to work space on the off side. It can also help you to see the deliveries better and know which ones to leave. Having your legs out of the way may also prevent you from getting given out LBW.
However, you may be playing a lot of drives, cut shots, and shots that have the potential to find the edge and get you given out. Bowlers can sometimes exploit this channel.
Middle and Leg
To take up a middle and leg guard you are effectively setting your guard directly in between middle and leg stump. This might be referred to as a “two leg” guard and some will just call it “two”.
Similarly to a leg stump guard, if you’re taller, you can take this guard and still arch your back to the point where your eye aligns with off stump. Some see this as a middle ground, and it can let people play their shots on both sides of the field. So, if you’re a 360 degree player there is every chance this could be the ideal guard.
How to Know Which Guard to Take?
It’s all about practice and working it out for yourself. This is why it is ideal to spend as much time as possible in the nets or at a practice match trying to work out what best suits you as a batter and trying out different things. There’s no problem with experimenting, but a lot of batters love consistency, so once you have a favourite method, there is every chance you’ll feel more natural this way and want to stick with the method.
If you don’t take a guard at all it is really hard to know exactly where you are on the pitch. Even with your peripheral vision, there is no way for you to know where the stumps are behind you. The best, and most consistent players tend to work like clockwork.
Below, you can watch Steve Smith explaining how he does things, and the fact that he likes to bat on leg stump, which he says helps him to know where his off stump is and that he can judge shots better. Smith is a twitchy player and he loves to mark his guard again and again. If you watch him play, you might think of it as extreme, but you can’t argue with his judgement!
Marking Your Guard
Marking your guard has some rarities in cricket. It’s one of the times when the umpire will be happy to help you, and it is one of the times when you can mark the crease.
Be careful, you should only really be marking on the line of your crease or maybe slightly in front of this, otherwise it could be seen as trying to rough up the pitch or degrade it for when your bowlers get their chance.
There aren’t too many things we can give you a step-by-step guide on in cricket as it is so variable, but marking your guard is one of the things that can be done in this simple fashion.
- When you’re at the crease, line your bat up with the stump you want to, and ask the umpire to make sure it is correct. For instance, you can say “middle” or “leg” to the umpire (be sure to say please).
- The umpire will either tell you that you have the right guard with a nod, or they will tell you to move the bat to the left or to the right, often using a hand gesture.
- Once the bat is in line with the guard, it’s time to mark the pitch. Scratch within the crease (or maybe a little bit outside). To scratch, you can use your boots and run them back and forth on the pitch.
- You can do this as many times as you need to, but the umpire and the opposition will probably be annoyed if you are doing it too much, in between dot balls, for instance.
Should Your Leading Eye Be Over Off Stump?
This is the area of some debate. This is one of the things we love about cricket, right? Everyone has an opinion on it, but there seems to be some logic to lining up your eye with off stump.
The theory is that your “leading” eye (left if you are left-handed, right if you are right-handed) lines up with off stump and this gives you the best view of the deliveries you will be facing.
There’s not much scientific evidence for this working, but that doesn’t matter, the main thing is that it gives you a starting point. You can always tweak in the future. Why does this matter if you are taking your guard? Well, the stance of a cricketer means that your eye will line up with off stump depending on where your feet are. If you take a leg, or middle and leg guard, your eye will probably be in the “off stump” position if you are relatively tall. Shorter batters will be in this position if they take middle as a guard.
If you’re going to be a top batter then it is important to have plenty of the tools for batting, which means it is a really good idea to work out which guard is best for you.
As time goes on, there is every chance you will tweak your style and make changes to the ways you bat, and you might find when you get in a patch of bad form that you think it is a good idea to mix things up when taking your guard.
For beginners, a middle stump or a middle and leg guard is definitely something to consider, but you may tweak this based on your height and, like so many things in cricket, your own personal preference and whatever feels comfortable.