Monday, June 23, 2008

An exciting new debate !!! (Part 2)

Firstly, let me disclose at the very beginning that the reason to split this post into 2 parts is not because I did any earth-shattering thinking in the interim !!! :).. It is just because I wanted a gap between the two posts, a single post would have been like a saas-bahu serial that refuses to end. But having said that, there is a strong case to sit back, clear your head of most biases both for and against KP's 'switch-hit' and then present a balanced viewpoint. So, as mentioned in the previous post, here are my two cents in the form of responses to some oft-seen comments:

1. "Reverse sweep has been in the game for long, so whats new about this ?" :

Well, there is a world of difference. In the case of reverse sweep, the batsman does not change his grip or stance. This is a very important point. Hence, the field to which the bowler had originally bowled remains in play. The reverse sweep, much like Sachin's lift over the slips or the Mareiller scoop, is another shot in the armoury of good batsmen to upset the bowlers rythm. To equate it with switch-hitting is far-fetched.

2. "The bowler does not indicate whether he is bowling a slow ball or bouncer, so why should the batsmen declare his stance ??"

I almost gulped when I read this. What kind of comparison between the batsman's stance and the type of ball bowled ??? A more apt comparison would be the bowler announcing that he is bowling a bouncer and the batsman indicating that he is going to hook. So imagine someone like David Shepherd announcing before a ball, "Ladies and Gentlemen, here is Mr. Brett Lee bowling a bouncer while Mr. Tendulkar will try and hook it. All the best to both !!!!" Surely, I would not pay to watch such cricket.

Put it another way, another apt comparison would be the bowler suddenly switching from right-arm to left-arm during his run-up. That is one very important point most people seem to be missing. 'Switching and batting' is easier, relatively speaking, for batsmen. It is almost impossible for the bowler to 'switch and bowl' . The only near example that I can recall is Debashish Mohanty, who delivered with both hands in the same motion. It would be disconcerting for the batsmen facing him to not know which hand the bowl is being delivered from. So why should be the batsmen be allowed to change from left-handed to right-handed when the bowler is about to deliver the ball ??.

All this might indicate that I am dead against the switch-hit. Not at all !! Firstly, it is quite difficult to play, with only the somewhat ambidextrous being able to play that well. The downside of the shot is huge, Even if the batsmen does not pay with his wicket, he is almost certain to look like a fool if he mis-attempts something like that. So I believe that the shot would not be that frequent as thought by some of the administrators. But if someone can play and get away with that kind of shot regularly, it is most welcome !! But if someone is game to try that, then I advocate a more level playing field for the bowlers. By this I mean, leg before wickets and wides should be adjudicated by taking into account the batsmen's original stance since the bowler is bowling to that. Finally, one should also take into account that a good bowler who consistently bowls to his field will always get good returns. Where switch-hitting, if at all it is used, might help is lessen the degree of negative bowling that we see today. For example, a left-arm spinner or leg spinner bowling outside the right-hander's leg stump might suddenly be startled to see the batsmen suddenly turn into a left-hander, thereby freeing his legs out of the way and then using the natural drift of the ball to hoik it over (right-handers) extra cover for six (in any case, there will not be many fielders on the right hander's off-side). That would be some shot to see and would definitely make the bowler think twice before going negative again. On the other hand, a good agressive bowler bowling to a plan will always get the batsmen out, left-handed or right-handed.

So while such shots are extremely difficult to execute and will be used sparingly, if at all, it is in the game's best interests to encourage such innovation but at the same time, safeguard the bowler's interest. A good and innovative batsman facing up to an intelligent bowler is always a good sight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An exciting new debate !!! (Part 1)

These really are exciting times in the game of cricket !!!!. Firstly, we had the IPL revolution that not only took the cricketing world by storm (atleast in the country with the most influence, money and TV audiences) but actually forced the administrators, former and current players as well as the spectators to ponder the future of the other formats of the game. Test cricket was deemed to be in danger according to many (which in my opinion, is an entirely misplaced notion). Now that the fear has receeded (thanks to a couple of good Test matches subsequently, more notably the Windies attempt to get 475 at Bridgetown), it is time for a fresh new issue to confront all those linked to the game. And thankfully, this has got nothing to do with franchises and dollars or with throwing and umpiring. It has got to do with one batsman's outstanding little stunt (and I use the word with the nicest of intentions) of switching his stance in the middle of the bowler's run up and ending up a mirror image his initial stance. And if that was not enough, he managed to clout a couple of sixes with this new stance of his. Clearly, Kevin Pietersen has given the cricket world a lot to chew on.

Predictably, the reactions have been varied. Read Mike Atherton in the Times, Mike Holding and Richard Hadlee giving the bowler's viewpoint (and apparently, Mikey said that while it requires a lot of nerve and skill to break a lock and steal some jewellery, it doesn't make the act right !!). And here are opinions from some other former cricketers. The comments made by some of the viewers are also quite interesting. Some, leaving no doubt as to whose side they are on, have commented that if the bowlers are not required to reveal if they are bowling a slower ball, bouncer or yorker, then there is no case for a batsmen to disclose whether he would be batting left-handed or right-handed for a particular Another point in favour of batsmen is that since reverse sweeps et al have been part of the game for some time now (as Mike Gatting would readily testify) so there should not be much fuss on this either. From the bowlers corner, the point being made is that since it is impossible for the bowler to switch from right-arm to left-arm during the delivery stride, then the batsman should also not be allowed to change his stance either. But above all, there has widespread admiration of the 'genuis' shown by Pietersen (I suspect the reactions would have been completely different had he been bowled on that delivery and probably this debate would not have arisen).

But now that it has arisen, it is something sensible that we cricket fans. So let me also introspect over it and come back with my two cents worth opinion in the follow-up post.