Maverick batsmen ready to put on freak show at World Cup
New Delhi: Purists will avert their eyes but fans will lap it up when cricket`s maverick batsmen light up the World Cup with their trademark freak shots.
Mike Gatting`s fatal reverse-sweep in the 1987 final, which many believe derailed England`s chase and virtually handed over the silverware to Allan Border`s Australia, seemed to have strengthened the view that the World Cup is too big a stage to indulge in such bravado.
However, Kevin Pietersen, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and several others at the 2011 tournament which starts on Saturday have different ideas.
Pietersen has already started appearing in a commercial promoting his `Switch Hit`, the validity of which polarised opinion before the shot was ruled legal in 2008.
"In the current highly competitive scenario, it`s really important to surprise the opposition with unexpected actions and to change the face of the game by pushing the boundaries," Pietersen said in a statement issued by the soft drinks company which made the commercial.
"Bringing something new when we play ... keeps the fun alive, not only for us but for the fans as well," argued Pietersen, who virtually transforms into a left-hander to play the unorthodox shot that challenges traditional field-setting.
"I spend hours and hours in the nets, practising the Switch Hit, trying to perfect it. I have perfected it a couple of times in the game situations. But yes, it`s something new, something fresh, it`s a game-changing shot," said the South Africa-born English batsman.
Pietersen pioneered the unorthodox shot which requires him to jump, swivel and switch stance to transform into a left-hander to play the shot.
Equally audacious is the scoop shot that Dilshan plays, stretching and stooping to flick the ball from short of a length to send it soaring over the wicketkeeper`s head, often for a boundary.
"Sometimes I play it pre-meditated but a lot of time I pick the right length and the right ball for the shot, that`s why I`m so successful with it," the Sri Lankan told a news channel in 2009.
Aesthetics is the not the strong point of the back foot hoick that Dhoni calls the `Helicopter Shot` either.
"Apart from giving 100 percent and doing whatever you can, thinking out of the box is very important," the Indian captain said of a shot that allows him to dig out yorkers with a wild swing of the bat and scoop it over long-on.
Former Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu, who scores the bulk of his runs with unorthodox shots, said necessity is the mother of these inventions and innovations.
"If you look at my stature, I`m not the biggest of guys like Yusuf Pathan, who can hit sixes any time he wants," the 5 ft 5 inch (1.65 m) stumper-batsman said in Chennai.
"But I know if I can get into a good position, deflect the ball and use the pace of the ball, I can get into the bowler`s mind and hit into gaps he doesn`t think I would hit into.”
"I think that`s the strength I got. I may not be able to hit big sixes as Pathan would but I can use that strength to score runs."
South African AB de Villiers belongs to the traditional school of thought and said neither he nor any of his team mates fancy such an unorthodox approach.
"We are not out to focus on funny little shots. We all know where our strengths and weaknesses lie and every single individual works on his strengths and weaknesses," de Villiers said.