September 20th of 2012, another boring match at ICC World t/20 comes to its foregone conclusion. The game seemed more like a holocaust of team Zimbabwe in front of empty stands. In-fact, even one South African born English cricketer may have texted to a few Saffer players, f*** this dull. Interestingly, once the match got over that so far unnamed South African born batsman, was a joy to watch as an analyst.
I'm sure most of you would have guessed it by now, the name of that unnamed Saffer born English cricketer. If you haven't, yes I am thinking about Kevin Pietersen. After listening to all those cricket commentary cliches from 'experts' around the cricketing world, I had decided to ban those previews and reviews of a match. Thanks to the crictime link posted by Kevin Pietersen himself on his twitter account, I was treated to some fascinating analysis by Pietersen.
Yesterday, KP, Ganguly and Reeve had a very interesting argument about whether guiding a short ball over the keeper is a shot that batsmen from the lesser teams, or tailenders can try.
Let us have a look at how this argument shaped up.
Reeve was of the opinion that as tailenders, or batsmen from lesser ranked teams don't get into the line of the ball, this shot which he called as a ramp shot can be tried against the short ball. Now, casual cricket fans don't mistake this ramp as some beautiful and charming Shamone Jardim, or Heidi Klum doing cat walk on a ramp in a fashion show :)
To back up this theory about the usefulness of the shot, Reeve used the example of Ireland's Trent Johnston playing it against the tearaway quick Cummins in the match against Australia.
KP on the other hand, stuck to his guns that it requires huge amount of skill, hardwork and it isn't a safe shot to play. For instance, if a bowler follows the batsman all the way through, he will be in no position to play this ramp shot. Right till the end, our man KP never agreed that it is a shot that can help the lower order batsmen.
KP made a valid point about how once England's management tried to make Monty play this shot. Unfortunately though, Monty is a true number 11 and as a result that plan flopped.
Ganguly seemed more of a fence sitter on this subject, but he made a valid point too. Gangs said, it depends on the mindset of a batsman. For instance, Punter, or even KP (on the front-foot) would always get into a position to pull the ball. On the other hand, SRT, S'wag and maybe Gangs himself would be prepared to use this ramp shot.
Ganguly also said, once you get into a position where you look to pull, it is almost impossible to change the shot at the nth moment by opening the face of the bat and guide it over the keeper, or the slip fielder.
I don't claim to be an expert, but just thought of throwing my hat into the ring as well and share my views on this ramp shot.
I tend to agree with KP that to play this shot, it requires skill, hard-work and I would say a player also needs to be a gambler, as it is a high risk and low percentage shot.
Here, the batsman, who has almost perfected this shot is the perfectionist himself Tendulkar. In his younger days, SRT was more of a puller. Who can forget him bringing that shot into play on a dicey track at Trinidad against Amby,Walsh, and Bishop in 97. With time though, he has tended to play this ramp shot more than the pull against the short ball.
I do remember SRT using this shot to good effect against Lee at WACA in the 2007/08 test series Down Under. Yes, occasionally it hasn't helped him as he has got out by playing that shot as well. At Gabba this year, he couldn't place the ball as well as he usually does and got out. To be honest, Lee followed him very well with a short ball and as a result, he hit it straight to the third man fielder.
The shots SRT played to counter those SS-N onyx 26 missiles from Akthar in the 2003 WC would be etched in the minds of a cricket fan forever. The shot that he played that day though, was a forceful upper cut. It has to be said, SRT is very good at playing that shot as well.
All the above mentioned shots that SRT played, requires a batsman to keep his head very still and watch the ball with eyes of a hawk. Hmm! not easy for a tailender I say.
SRT's opening partner S'wag, too has played some forceful upper cuts and occasionally has guided it over the slip cordon for a boundary. He used the upper-cut to devastating effect against England at Madras in 08/09. England's bowlers decided that on a slow track all of them would test middle of the pitch and got slaughtered by Sehwag. S'wag's technique is suited to playing this shot, as he tends to stand legside of the ball which in turn, helps him to get into a decent position to play those shots.
In-fact, the high risk shot can also be a weakness for S'wag. Many captains have used the third man more as an attacking option against him. The first one to try the tactic was the wily old fox from New Zealand, Fleming. Here, I also remember S'wag playing the upper cut to the first ball he played at Centurion and getting caught at third man. Ok, S'wag is all about see the ball and hit the ball :)
Long-time back in a series in West Indies in 94/95, Steve Waugh's twin brother, Mark Waugh tried this ramp shot and succeeded too. What more, he tried this shot against men, who seemed to have come from the land of Brobdingnag called Ambrose and Walsh. Mark Waugh was sometimes a frustrating batsman to watch, as he would gift his wicket away, but at the same-time, was a gifted batsman, who could play some jaw-dropping shots.
In this innings, Junior showed that he was a true gambler as in-spite of being a good puller, especially during the early part of his career, he decided to play the ramp shot. First up, he tried it against that giant Amby and he was able to guide it over the slip cordon for a boundary. Amby wasn't amused for sure.
The shots that made my jaws drop though, were played against Walsh. If the first one was an instinctive shot against Amby, the second shot against Walsh involved more premeditation. He deliberately backed away from stumps, Walsh was caught unawares and he was able to play the ramp shot again.
The third shot though, took the mickey out of the gentle giant Walsh. He again backed away, but this time around, Walsh followed him and it seemed like Junior would make a fool of himself. What more, Waugh didn't even seem to be looking at the ball. At the nth moment though, he backed away a bit more from the stumps, to give himself a little bit of space to open the face and managed to pull it off. People may say, a lucky shot, but I would tell, a skilful high risk shot played by a true gambler.
All the above mentioned players were skilful with a bat in hand and as a result, were able to pull off this jaw-dropping shot. SRT has also worked very hard to perfect this ramp shot. S'wag and to a lesser extent Junior are/were true gamblers, who are/were ready to take the risk by playing a low percentage shot to hit a boundary.
I have to agree with KP on this subject, as it requires skill, gambling instincts and hard-work. To execute this shot, a batsman has to keep a very still head and has to watch the ball like a hawk. It won't be easy for a tailender, or a batsman from an associate nation to do that.
Yes, Reeve in one of the videos did show, Johnston hanging on the back-foot, staying legside of the ball and executing what can be called as a premeditated ramp shot well. Having said that, I would tell a tailender to try this shot only if say 10 runs are required of three balls, or a boundary is required of the last ball :)
KP as an analyst.
As I said at the start of this article, KP's analysis was like a breath of fresh air. He comes across as someone, who always wants to express himself and has zillion ideas of batting and cricket in general.
As an analyst, he also broke down technical aspects of the game into something simpler, which can be understood by fans with little knowledge about the game like myself. In simple words, England's cricket team may feel, a game changer like KP is not needed, but as an analyst, or as a commentator, this South African born batsman has a bright future :)