Roger Alton Roger Alton

Spectator Sport | 21 June 2008

KP's Caper

I used to play squash with a distinguished veteran film critic, currently plying his trade on the London Evening Standard. I would force the ball to his backhand but the diminutive master of cinema would simply flick his racket from his right hand to his left and smash it back past me as a forehand drive. He was a keen cricketer too, but I don’t think he ever tried to do what Kevin Pietersen did to a bemused Scott Styris up in Durham on Sunday.

The hoo-hah about Pietersen’s astounding switch-hit has been wondrous. Is it within the laws? (Yes, for now.) Is it within the spirit of the game? (Hmmm.) Can anybody do it? (Come off it.) Rule-book obsessives can speculate that if the bowler had a couple of slips and a backward point, it would then be a no-ball because three men are behind square on the leg side. What about lbw? And can the bowler go wide outside the leg stump, now the off stump of course, without it being called wide? Could the bowler stop when he sees it happening, and reset the field? Then reset again as the batsman goes back to right-handed? And so on theoretically until umpire Darrell Hair calls the game off and awards it to whoever he likes. It’s fun, isn’t it?

MCC president and all-round good guy of cricket, Mike Brearley, doesn’t want it outlawed. He thinks the stroke was a touch of genius, as it clearly was, and should be accommodated, as it was by the MCC rules boys this week. Had Pietersen played the shots on a heady night in Bangalore, say, in a 20/20 game for the IPL, for which he is so clearly destined, you can’t imagine him attracting any criticism — just the love of all India and a lifetime supply of Kingfisher ale.

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