The talking points of the moment

'Cricket needs its flair'

Cricinfo's panel of experts comment on the legality of Kevin Pietersen's 'switch-hitting' (10:03)

June 17, 2008

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Pietersen's about turn

'Cricket needs its flair'

June 17, 2008

David Lloyd: "I thought Kevin Pietersen was absolutely brilliant and it was a stroke of genius" © Getty Images

Tony Greig: Interesting news today that the MCC have decided to have a look at the reverse-sweep of Kevin Pietersen in particular. Now this reverse-sweep has been used for quite a long time. I can remember guys like [Mike] Gatting using it. I can also remember the first time we ever saw the reverse-sweep in the very early days, commentators were commenting on the fact that perhaps it should be questioned because in quite a lot of cases the batsman reversed his hands. The theory basically was that if bowlers have to inform the batsman that they are changing hands, which they do, or if they have to inform the batsman that they are going round-the-wicket, then why should the batsman be allowed to change hands and turn himself around [without informing anyone]?

Now that's quite a good argument. There is no doubt about that. But the truth of the matter is that there is a thing called flair in cricket, which I see is the word used by Pietersen this morning. That makes it a case for allowing a batsman to indulge in the shot. I cannot, for the life of me, see how the MCC can rule it out. The way I see it is that there are some players in the world who are capable of playing this shot and playing it effectively. It certainly creates some problems for spin bowlers in particular. There are other players who have been made to look very foolish when trying this shot. Now it is going to get back to a situation where the adjudicators - rather like in the bat issue recently - decide whether this particular shot is in the best interests of the game and whether or not it is fair to both batsmen and bowlers. I suspect that when they look at it long and hard, they probably will come down on the conservative side and say that if the batsman decides that he wants to bat left-handed or wants to change his grip around or change his stance completely, then he will have to inform the bowler that he is doing that.

That is only a personal view but as long as I am concerned there has got to be a bit of flair in cricket. The more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned, is the way they should go.

Sanjay Manjrekar: These are exciting times in cricket. We have got Twenty20 that has taken international cricket by storm. Then we had the IPL which is going to give a new shape to the way cricket is played and how cricket will be marketed henceforth; it's an insight into the future of the commercialisation of cricket and maybe that is how cricket will turn out to be eventually.

The latest entrant into cricket is now the switch-hitting concept which has been popularised and taken to a different level by the one and only Kevin Pietersen. Now switch-hitting is something that I have seen before. In fact, during the World Cup [in 2007] in West Indies I actually mentioned it during commentary - I think it was Paul Nixon who switched his batting stance and changed his grip to hit the bowler on the on side and collect boundaries. And my reaction was: hey that's unfair. The bowler is bowling to the batsman as a right-hander; with Nixon it was the other way around - a left-hander who was batting right-handed.

What we have is a bowler, with an off-side field, bowling to a right-hander, and as the ball is delivered, before it's too late, the batsman switches sides, which means that he changed his stance and his grip into that of a left-hander. My first reaction to that was it's unfair because the fielding side has set a field for a right-hander and suddenly the bowler finds himself bowling to a left-hander.

So to start with, I think it is an issue and I think the MCC is right in meeting and discussing this issue. Firstly I would like to say that there needs to be a lot of brainstorming on this issue because there will be a lot of complexities coming into it. Pietersen will obviously be feeling that this is a non-issue and that people are making too much about it. But if you change your grip and your side, I think it is an issue. The reverse-sweep is a different matter where the batsman doesn't change his grip or his side or stance so he remains a right-hander who has taken his range of shots to a different level. So I think it is fair for the administrators of the game to be concerned about it.

I remember that a long while back, Sunil Gavaskar, in a Ranji Trophy game, batted left-handed but he informed the umpire every time [he did that]. At this stage and having applied my mind to this issue I feel that it is only fair that the batsman informs the bowler that he intends to bat left-handed [ie change his stance if he is a right-hander]. John Buchanan, former coach of Australia, had spoken about ambidexterity coming into the game and I think that we are seeing the first signs of it.

The bowlers have raised the issue about the wide lines, but I feel that is not so much of an issue. If you look at it, Pietersen, a right-hander, switches into a left-hander to hit on the on side where he can get the maximum for the risk that he is taking and if you apply the right-handers rule for the wide to begin with, then there is leeway for the bowler on the right-handers off stump which is now the left-handers leg side.

So as you can see it is getting a bit complicated but I am just excited that the game is changing. Let's not take any credit away from Pietersen - he is a wonderfully exciting batsman and it is this new generation of cricketers who do not care so much about tradition and boundaries, who get a great thrill from exploiting the limitations of the game and try to explore uncharted territories - I think this is another example of it and it is great. As far as the custodians of the game are concerned, they have got to react to what they see and at the moment having a brainstorming session makes a lot of sense. My final comment at this stage is that it is slightly unfair to the bowler, who has no idea that the batsman that he is bowling to is not going to be the same one who will play the ball - that in itself is slightly unfair. Let's hope that there is a decision on this matter and it will be interesting to see what they come out with.

"My first reaction to that was that it's unfair because the fielding side has set a field for a right-hander and suddenly the bowler finds himself bowling to a left-hander"
Sanjay Manjrekar

Greg Chappell: I think some thought needs to be given to this whole subject. Obviously if a bowler wants to go from left-arm over-the-wicket to left-arm round-the-wicket he has to inform the umpire that he is going to change and the umpire then informs the batsman. We are looking at a similar thing here where if the batsman is going to change his stance completely, then the bowler needs to be informed.

David Lloyd: All the talk this week is about Pietersen's extraordinary shot that he played in the one-day international at Chester-le-Street against New Zealand where he actually changed hands. It appeared that he jumped into position and reversed his hands and swatted the ball for two magnificent shots. I have got to declare an interest here. I wasn't working on that game, I was watching it on television and I nearly jumped out of my seat. I thought he was absolutely brilliant and it was a stroke of genius. I was reading on Cricinfo this morning where Daniel Vettori has said that he thought it [the shot] was magnificent. That is coming from a player who is playing against Pietersen.

Pietersen obviously defended the strokes that he played but now there is some legality issue. Well I'm not certain that is absolutely right because all the percentages are with the bowler. If somebody just jumps into position and changes hands, the bowler could just fire in the yorker. Get your yorker in there and bowl a delivery that he cannot hit. Then there is every chance that you are going to get him out - the batsman is giving you such an opportunity to get him out. But he [Pietersen] played these two shots very well.

There is another issue about whether he [the batsman] is right-handed or left-handed if there is an lbw shout. I think that is pretty simple to overcome - once you start in your stance as a right-handed batsman when the bowler is running in, you are then deemed as a right-handed batsman. That is it. As an umpire, you disregard the left-handed aspect of it.

There is going to be a meeting today at the MCC and it appears that there are a lot of things going on in the UK regarding this shot. It may be that the batsman will have to declare whether he is batting right-handed or left-handed. I sincerely hope this is not the case and that you are allowed to bring these innovations in because I think it is very much in the bowler's control to stop him from doing it. One way for me, seeing it again and again, is for him [the bowler] to bowl a yorker. Where is the batsman going to swipe that? He is not going to swipe that anywhere, right-handed or left-handed. Scott Styris had a smile on his face when he bowled the deliveries. It looks like it is going to come down to our administrators but I hope that we get to see this shot time and time again from Pietersen and from other batsmen. I thought it was sensational.

Posted by KiwiPom on (June 20, 2008, 2:56 GMT)

I think where we stand at present everything seems just fine. It's not too difficult to side with the "let's keep it" view. However. What happens when every international batsman has the shot in his repertoire - as may well happen? What might we say then? I suspect we may have a different view. My own view might *then* be that we don't allow the order of hands on the bat to change during the shot. However if a shot similar to a reverse sweep can be played without changing the bottom hand then it should be allowed since a right hander remains a right hander.

Posted by RajNag on (June 19, 2008, 17:01 GMT)

One should not be hasty to catergorize English and Australian players as "white players" Captain Pendant. Players like Norman Cowans, Owais Shah, Nasir Hussain, Andrew Symonds (to name a few) would certainly not like to be addressed by that term. I have honestly never heard about the players you mention. Nonetheless, I do remember that Trevor Chappell continued to have a good career even after bowling underarm or for that matter John Lever despite his infamous vaseline case. The issue is less about race and more about a conflict between older and newer power centers. Most recent major innovations in cricket- IPL, reverse swing, doosra etc.,that have altered the balance of power to a large extent, have come from the subcontinent. That is why the older power centers are fastidious in protecting any deviation that an english or australian player engages in as a "major innovation" (such as Pietersen's move) and equally dismissive of corresponding attempts by players from the subcontinent.

Posted by CaptainPedant on (June 19, 2008, 13:32 GMT)

RajNag is right about the double standards, in any case - like I said before, white bowlers who get called for throwing mend their ways or lose their Test careers. Ian Meckiff was the example I thought up off the top of my head, but Tony Lock had to remodel his action, so did Geoff Cope (twice), and there are probably plenty of others.

As for "doctoring the stance", I don't even understand what Pietersen's supposed to be doing that's analogous to carrying around a bottle-top in his pocket to scour the ball with... and I remember watching plenty of Test coverage in the early 1990s when if Wasim and Waqar weren't reversing it by about the 40th over, the Pakistanis would start whining for the ball to be changed every other delivery.

Posted by nsbharwani on (June 19, 2008, 9:56 GMT)

That is Cricket. A right hander can bat left hander. Fielding team can slander a batsman in the name of sledging. A Gentleman's game is now called Professional sport. A chucker can call himself a Handicap. Umpires on field will become almost invalid as the new challenge system will come into effect. No one knows where this will all end. I think it is about time to switch over to Baseball where all these modern inventions are still kept at bay and they even pay more than the IPL can afford.

Posted by Afta on (June 19, 2008, 9:10 GMT)

Ravi Nagarajan, that's a good point you've pointed out - 'the fielder moving while the ball is being delivered' &switch fielding. I was shocked at the quick approval by the ICC. As days go by things are going to get a lot messy. Best of luck ICC you've caused it all..!

Posted by JaganN on (June 19, 2008, 6:42 GMT)

MCC has argued that the bowler does not say what he is going to bowl ( like whether the ball is off spin or slower delivery etc) which is why the batsmen is not prevented from playing the reverse sweep. I am not sure how this could be used as an 'argument'. The batsman does not say that he is going to play a defensive shot or an attacking shot!! I think the bowler should also be allowed to change his action at the time of the delivery to make it fair to everyone.

Posted by rajhazarie on (June 19, 2008, 1:02 GMT)

kp practicing this shot is working out fantastic for him!! like someone else said what if sachin takes a left handed guard and then in the mid flight of the ball he switches back to being right handed..NOW we have a whole new kettle of fish!!!

MCC should really now look into this matter seriously because this is a whole new dimension to the game. this weak law will now be exploited i imagine by all batsmen and cause serious confusion especially when it comes to judging lets see how the umpires interpret LBW rules.

if MCC thinks this is KP's shot is fair then the rest of the world should not complain but follow this style and lets see how ENGLAND takes it!!!

the game is evolving but MCC has to keep up with changes and set fair rules meaning in this instance settle the LBW rules correct for this sort of shot right now because one day KP will miss the shot.

Posted by RajNag on (June 18, 2008, 15:46 GMT)

The conversations so far seem to be confounding two issues. The first is about innovation and such. On that count, it is fair to say that cricketers must innovate to enrich the game. The second issue, however, is one of fairness in processing the deviations that players engage in. The manner in which the MCC approved Pietersen's deviation as legit in a virtual blink of an eye, when compared with the "no balls" that folks like Murali and Bhajji had to face (followed with nerve wrecking "inquiries" on their actions) stinks of double standards.Dont' forget....when the Pakistanis honed the art of reverse swing (clearly a major bowling innovation by any standards) the English cricketing establishment tried to denigrate them by using terms like "doctoring the ball". Why aren't we reading media headlines for Pietersen such as "doctoring the stance"....????

Posted by CaptainPedant on (June 18, 2008, 13:11 GMT)

Why is it that we can't discuss one simple topic about a permissible batting technique without someone starting to throw his toys out of the pram about how hard-done-by the poor subcontinentals are - as though, say, Ian Meckiff's Test career hadn't been brought to an abrupt and permanent halt when he was called for throwing?

As to switch-hitting, time enough to worry about it when it becomes a cheap shot that every talentless batsman in the game is resorting to and dictating the game to the bowler as a result. While it's still the preserve of a handful of supremely gifted players, it's hard to call it unbalancing.

Posted by RaviNagarajan on (June 18, 2008, 10:42 GMT)

If MCC is fair to the batsmen, it should also be fair to the fielders. Fielders should be allowed to move from one position to another while the ball is being delivered. Will it happen?

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