Unorthodox, misunderstood... or just the future?
Peter McGlashan | 10:29am gmt 28 Feb 2009
Cricket is a game steeped in tradition and rightly so, with the sports origins dating back to the 1500s, but the reality is the game is entering a new era.
Twenty 20 cricket is changing not just the structure of the game, but the skills involved, the money generated and the spectators that attend the game. It is opening our noble game to the masses and, while some people see it as a blight on the tapestry that protects crickets traditions, it is creating a skill set and athlete that will revolutionise the game. Sections of the cricketing public would have felt the same resentment about Kerry Packers' World Series in 1979 and this revolution will probably have a similar effect.
Cricket for centuries was a simple game, despite public belief. The complexity of different modes of dismissal, and the jargon that went with it, meant it remained a pastime most followers were born into rather than fell in love with.
When overseas I'm often asked by foreigners more about the sport. The usual reply of "You have two sides- one out in the field and one in. Each man that is in the side that is in goes out and when he is out he comes in and the next man goes out" is usually met with a perplexed look and they feel none the wiser as to how the game is played.
The modern game however, is evolving and its players are displaying new skills not often seen twenty years ago. Shots like the reverse sweep, switch hit and ramp were regarded as "just not cricket" and extravagant. Now they are applauded and admired. A few years ago players were lambasted for merely attempting a reverse sweep. While some commentators still regard the shot as 'unorthodox', I can see it not being long before a miss-hit reverse sweep is treated with the same regard as a miss-hit cover drive.
Players and coaches like Mushtaq and Hanif Mohammad, Bob Woolmer, Andy Flower and Javed Miandad were all exponents of the reverse sweep and would have been labeled unorthodox at one time during their careers. Soon they will be seen as the pioneers that inspired Kevin Pietersen to turn and bat left handed.
People who think outside the square are always thought of as unorthodox until their ideas cross over from on the fringe into the mainstream. Einstein had learning disabilities and clashed with authorities at school. Edison was home schooled due to being easily distracted. Da Vinci drew creations before he had the means to build them.
Twenty 20 cricket will produce cricketers the likes of which we haven?t seen before. It won't be long before players are ambidexterous. Soon Einsteins of the cricketing world will be bowling both left arm and right arm, spin and seam in an over, before throwing down the stumps with either hand. They'll follow that up with switch hitting sixes on both the on and off sides.
The reason I'm fairly confident of this is numbers? big numbers. Probability would say that if enough people are playing cricket then more and more of these unorthodox trendsetters will be unearthed, and with the game as popular as ever in India, and China's interest in being at the 2019 world cup, who knows where the worlds best cricketers will come from in the future.
Other big numbers that will contribute to an increase in talented young athletes choosing cricket over other sports, will be transfer fees and bank balances. Twenty 20 cricket is attracting a new audience, therefore new consumers, therefore new investors. This new revenue stream has meant most of the world's international cricketers are on salaries comparable to footballers. For many young kids playing in the streets of these developing countries, cricket may become a way out, much like how football and basketball offers hope and inspiration to much of the worlds young, and on a smaller scale, rugby does to kiwi kids.
So next time you see a kid with a strange bowling action, who is batting both left and right handed, or you think is too tall to be a keeper, think again.
While they may be unorthodox, you may have got a glimpse into the future of the game we all love.