The inverted grip of Kevin Pietersen

If you’re not a cricket follower you may have missed reports of Kevin Pietersen’s unusual feat in hitting two sixes in a recent match with a reversed grip. In other words he turned himself into a left-handed batsman just before the bowler bowled and scored a maximum not once but twice.

If you’re not a cricket follower the rest of this article probably won’t be interesting anyway – move along, there’s nothing to see. If you’re interested enough to want to know what I’m talking about, here’s a video capture of KP’s coup de theatre:

Despite the furore surrounding this latest example, it’s not a particularly recent innovation. Here’s a video of KP hitting Muttiah Muralitharan for six with a reverse grip two years ago:

And again last year in the World Twenty-20:

It happened in a game I played in myself about twenty years ago. A batsman saw the opportunity to take advantage of a very short offside boundary by converting it into a legside boundary. He turned round and reversed his grip as the bowler ran in. The bowler saw him do it and tried to bounce him. The result: a perfect reverse pull for six. Magnificent. Thanks for the memory, Taffy.

If you still can’t see what all the fuss is about, here’s Sachin Tendulkar playing a brilliant reverse sweep without altering his grip. This shot has been around for a decade or more and any initial controversy has long since died away. Indeed this shot is now taught by coaches, initially by the late Bob Woolmer in the 1990s.

BBC Cricket Correspondent Jonathan Agnew believes that the reversed grip should be outlawed forthwith. And indeed the MCC (the guardian of the game’s laws) is meeting today to discuss the matter and possibly act to prevent any batsman from attempting it in the future.

If I may say so, this is entirely typical of both Agnew and the MCC. The MCC failed to act on, or even notice, the new shot when it was introduced. Now they are responding to a tabloid-style drama created by journalists such as Agnew. I’m afraid I must add them to my list of low-quality sports governing bodies.

I think it’s because a player is doing the innovating, rather than the governing body, that the response has been so negative in these quarters. Governing bodies are there to control and when innovation happens elsewhere it demonstrates how tissue-thin the veneer of control actually is. It is threatening and their reaction is understandable.

Nothing will happen as a result of the MCC’s meeting today and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, governing bodies are good at one thing and that’s inertia. To change the law because of one player is almost unheard of (although Trevor Chappell and Harold Larwood spring to mind because of their captains’ instructions). But mostly because there is no mechanism for punishing a batsman except by dismissing him. To add “reversing the grip” to the other ten methods of dismissal would be a seismic overreaction.

Ungoogleable cricket question (I’ve tried): when were the ten methods of dismissal introduced? Were they all in the first set of Laws published? I don’t know the answer but I’d like to.

Edited to add: I should have said this post was provoked by my former colleague JP’s thoughts on the subject.


1 Response to “The inverted grip of Kevin Pietersen”

  1. 1 Dominic Sayers June 17, 2008 at 11:13

    Part of my question is googleable. I will say no more for the moment.

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