Asking an England cricketer to improve his batting through golf would strike some former cricketers as odd. The received wisdom used to be that playing golf would corrupt your batting style, the art of hitting the golf ball being simultaneously too similar but too different to that of hitting a cricket ball.
For this reason Brian Close, Yorkshire and England captain in the Sixties, took up golf as a right hander. As he batted left handed he reckoned this way his golfing would not hinder his cricket.
After Close retired from cricket he also played golf left handed. He maintained separate handicaps as a right hander and a left hander.
But England opening batsman Alex Hales has been told to go to the golf driving range rather than the cricket nets in an effort to rediscover his form. The person who gave him this advice is England captain Eoin Morgan.
Alex Hales is a keen golfer. Indeed he grew up in a golf environment as his father was a greenkeeper, at Stoke Park, and was, incidentally, a fine club cricketer himself.
Eoin Morgan’s theory is that being in a golf environment rather than a cricketing one will relax Hales and encourage him to open his shoulders.
Hales has had an unhappy time in the test side, seemingly unable to decide how to reconcile his naturally attacking limited-overs batting style with more conservative game traditionally associated with the five-day game.
“The technique and mind-set in both forms of the game are very different and that is something that, especially with opening the batting in both forms, I have struggled to come to terms with,” Hales has admitted in the past.
Hales had failed to score well in test cricket, and looks likely to be dropped from the test side. But he is still considered a key player in the England team for the shorter forms of the game, and England limited overs captain Morgan is keen for Hales to rediscover his form ahead of the one-day series with Pakistan.
‘There’s no point going back to your room and staying uptight,” says Morgan. “I know Alex likes to play golf, so I’ll be advising him to spend an hour on the range rather than in the nets. Focus on swinging a golf club instead of swinging your bat and it can take pressure away.’
Hales would not be the first cricketer to improve his batting through golf. Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth, in an effort to improve his concentration, underwent a putting practice drill. It seemed to work in Lyth’s case as he went on to have a fine season with Yorkshire and received an England debut as a result.