New cricket order June 17, 2008

Storm over a sweep?

Ask who invented the reverse-sweep and many cricketers will claim the honour

Ask who invented the reverse-sweep and many cricketers will claim the honour. Ask who plays it best and most cricket fans would surely point to Kevin Pietersen. Cricket is an odd sport in that there are the laws of cricket and then there is the spirit of cricket. What is outside the laws cannot be allowed but what is within the laws and outside the spirit of cricket causes anxiety.Cricket has so many intricacies that it is impossible to legislate for all of them.

The ideal situation, now that cricket is so long established, is that the laws are seldom changed and only occasionally tinkered with. In addition, the laws should not become a needless barrier to invention and innovation in cricket. Which leads us back to KP's reverse-sweeping and the vexed conversations among MCC's Panama hat brigade.

The reverse-sweep is an exciting shot. It introduces a large element of risk, which is an opportunity for the bowling side to take a wicket. If well-executed the results are sensational. But should something so exhilarating be allowed?

Any consideration of the laws of cricket should be to make them simpler not more complex. The debate over the reverse-sweep doesn't entirely lend itself to this philosophy but the rules can certainly remain clear and straightforward. My simple suggestion is this:

1 The reverse-sweep should be allowed. 2 A batsman should not be allowed to switch his stance until the ball is released. 3 The umpire should consider any leg-before wicket or wide verdict on the basis of the batsman's original stance.

Cricket is a sport in rapid transition but the fundamentals remain. The reverse-sweep can be traced back decades earlier. Javed Miandad, for example, claims he invented it in the 1980s. Why legislate now when cricketers are executing it to a thrilling and highly entertaining level? Cricket requires flair, charisma, and ingenuity, and I would be surprised if the men in Panama hats and egg and bacon ties at the MCC do not recognise that as well.

Viva la reverse-sweep!

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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