A look at the most original and innovative shots in cricket
Innovation in cricket is not a new thing but innovation when it comes to the shots that batsmen play has been on the increase ever since the introduction of T20 cricket 15 years ago. With the IPL and World Cup to come this year, it seems likely that we will not only get to enjoy some of the fantastic shots described below but we could yet see further innovation as batsmen strive to take scoring rates to all-time highs.
Love him or hate him England's Kevin Pietersen was one of the most dangerous, most inventive and on his day most brilliant batsman that the modern world of cricket has seen. The switch-hit was born not in some meaningless friendly or even the frantic environment of a T20 slog-a-thon against some buffet bowling but instead, it was first played by Pietersen in a Test Match against Sri Lanka while he faced Muttiah Muralitharan the all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket.
In the strictest Darwinian sense the shot evolved as a result of pressures placed on the batsman and his need to adapt. While it is now frequently deployed in white ball cricket, Pietersen himself always maintained it was a better shot to play in the Test arena when a bowler and captain would look to pack the leg-side and strangle the batsman by bowling at his pads. By jumping outside off and adjusting his grip on the bat without actually taking his hands off it, Pietersen was able to access what had been the vacant off-side. The likes of Glenn Maxwell and David Warner remain potent switch hitters for Australia and only yesterday I saw young Nick Pooran of the West Indies launch Joe Denly into the stands for a massive switch hit 6 in the 1st T20 between WI and England.
The Ramp, The Marillier and The Dilscoop
There are many names for what are variations on a very similar shot. The Dilscoop is perhaps the best known of them because it was deployed by the relatively high-profile former Sri-Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan in the age of T-20 cricket when innovation has come thick and fast. Of course, the fact that almost all batsmen now wear helmets at all times and that decent dental care is now available to most people on the planet has also played a part in the emergence of a shot like the Dilscoop. I think the commentators on the below clip sum things up pretty aptly by describing the shot as "brave, skilful and with a little bit of stupidity". Certainly rocking onto the front foot then looking to flick a guy bowling 145kmph back over your own head is not something that you should try at home!
Prior to the development of the Dilscoop and slightly before the emergence of T-20 cricket came a little known or remembered Zimbabwean cricketer by the name of Doug Marillier. Like all great artists, Doug was not fully appreciated within his own time. Certainly, the great Glenn McGrath was left baffled as to exactly what was going on with the 2 cheeky little shots Marillier manufactured to take his side oh so close to victory against an all-conquering Australia team.
The likes of Glenn McGrath are probably lucky that they hung up their spikes when they did as the variety and just sheer force with which the scoop shot is now played by some of the world's top batsmen is just incredible. Take a look at this shot from England's Jos Buttler which but for a camera man getting in the way would have cleared the stadium!
The Reverse Sweep
Maybe it doesn't have all the glamour and hype that a few of the other shots on this blog receive but the reverse sweep has become an almost quintessential part of any batsman's armoury in the modern game. The big advantage that it brings in almost any format of the game is that captains these days don't like to set a man back at 3rd man meaning that if you can beat gully or backward point then you are pretty much assured runs.
Reverse sweeping as with regulation sweeping is done as much on length as it is on line and so unfurling it early on in an innings helps a batsman get into the mind of a bowler, making him uncertain as to where to bowl in order to try and stifle the run scoring.
You need to have a pretty decent pair of wrists to be a top reverse sweeper and it's perhaps no surprise that multi-talented athletes like England captain Eoin Morgan (Hurling) and former South Africa skipper AB Devilliers (Tennis) have been able to take a shot that has been around for a while to a whole new level in recent years.
The Helicopter Shot
While the shot was popularised by India's MS Dhoni it was allegedly invented by another Indian legend and perhaps the greatest cricketer of all time, Sachin Tendulkar. Given the traditional tendency for Indian batsmen to use a lot of wrist work in their shots, it's perhaps no surprise that this innovation hails from the sub-continent. The shot is particularly effective against death bowling where the yorker can be used to prevent boundary hitting making it difficult for batsmen to get under the ball and generate elevation. However, the helicopter shot sees the batsman bring his bottom hand and wrist through the line, adding both bat speed and lift to the shot and allowing batsmen to hit once unplayable deliveries over the fence for 6!