MCC gives Pietersen green light to innovate
Will Kevin Pietersen attempt to repeat his remarkable switch-hitting feats of the weekend in today's second NatWest Series match against New Zealand, or will England's finest batsman stick to rather more orthodox methods?
The Marylebone Cricket Club, guardians of the Laws of Cricket, yesterday encouraged Pietersen to continue playing shots as audacious as those at Chester-le-Street on Sunday, when he twice switched from his usual right-handed stance to that of a left-hander and smashed Scott Styris for six. But, having successfully executed the stroke on two occasions ,can he now resist going for it again, even if the match situation and conditions are not conducive?
Around 20,000 spectators will arrive at Edgbaston today expecting a repeat performance and, as we all know, Pietersen does like to put on a show. He could, however, deliberately leave them wanting for more. Whatever Pietersen chooses to do, he has the crowd where he wants them, in the palm of his right, or possibly left, hand.
"I am very pleased by the MCC's decision and I think it is the right one, not just for me or England but the game as a whole," Pietersen said. "It's important that we as players are innovative and, if this shot helps make cricket more exciting and entertaining for spectators, then that has to be good for the game.
"I don't agree with the argument that it is unfair on the bowlers. It's an extremely high-risk shot and there will be plenty of bowlers out there who will think that it gives them a great opportunity to get me out. But overall I am glad that MCC have recognised that cricket is always evolving and that this particular shot brings something special to the game."
That the legality of the shot was debated was correct because it does create genuine situations – wides, lbws – where a policy needs to be formulated, but there is no way batsmen should be dissuaded from attempting such adventurous and awe-inspiring shots. Pietersen's exploits have already affected members of the England side, who practised playing the shot in the Edgbaston nets yesterday.
Graeme Swann was one of the acolytes but his attempt was slightly less impressive. "I tried it but it did not go quite as far as Kev's," Swann admitted. "I ended up hitting the floor, tripping up and pirouetting on a length, which, to be honest, was better than I hoped it would be. I have a massive bruise on my thigh to show for my efforts too.
"It was the sheer audacity of trying it in the first place that I liked most. And if he got out doing it the second time everyone would have said that he had become too cocky. The fact that he pulled it off was pure KP. He has a freakish talent. We were all laughing in the dressing room and I don't know whether anyone else has the balls to try it in a one-day international. Nobody had seen it before and it was the shock value that took everyone by surprise. I can see other players doing it in the future, but I bet there is not another player in the world who can play it like that right now."
Styris, the Black Caps medium-pacer, continues to laugh about the ordeal. "Sometimes you have just got to take your hat off and say, 'Well played'," Styris said. "We all admire good cricket and that is exactly what it was. It has made me go back and rethink, because I have to come up with a new tactic. We don't mind him playing it because it is risky."
England are expected to name an unchanged side for today's game while New Zealand are likely to play Grant Elliott ahead of James Marshall.
England (probable): P D Collingwood (capt), I R Bell, L J Wright, K P Pietersen, R S Bopara, O A Shah, T R Ambrose, G P Swann, S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom, J M Anderson.
New Zealand (probable): D L Vettori (capt), J M How, B B McCullum, G D Elliott, L R P L Taylor, S B Styris, D R Flynn, G J Hopkins, K D Mills, T G Southee, M J Mason.
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