Cow Corner

When aggression fails it’s irresponsible, when caution fails it’s an accident

Kevin Pietersen Day Two Melbourne 2

For all the 'innovations' in cricket, from assorted forms of technology, to assorted tournaments that have made some very wealthy young men around the world, to even that spider cam thing, if our sport were a man, he would be described as being 'set in his ways.'

Cricket is a sport where certain ideas and attitudes are often simply taken as obvious, even when a little scrutiny reveals them to be absolutely illogical. A case in point is runners, recently outlawed by cricket's lofty powers, a decree that caused spluttering outrage among the more traditional members of our parish. Of course, the point should not have been why were runners banned, but why they were ever allowed in the first place. There are few – if any – other sports that would allow, if a player was injured, a colleague to step in and do half their work for them, so it was perfectly logical to remove such a privilege.

Another thing that cricket tends to do is laud caution, specifically in batting – 'sensible' is, in some quarters, the greatest praise one can bestow on a player. Attack and risk-taking is good, as long as you score some runs. If it works, then the batsman is praised for his adventure, but if he gets out playing an adventurous stroke, particularly early in his innings, he is dismissed as an irresponsible chancer, a rogue and a scoundrel who should have been more sensible.

In this Test, no less than three batsmen have been dismissed shouldering arms to deliveries that hit their stumps. Michael Carberry misjudged a Shane Watson inswinger (and it was difficult to tell whether batsman or bowler was more surprised when the stumps were broken), Michael Clarke did similar with a Jimmy Anderson ball that only diverted its course very slightly, while Monty Panesar watched a straight one right onto his middle stump.

Monty can be let off, because he's obviously not a batsman and will always find new and interesting ways to get out (although on this occasion he seemed to mistake Nathan Lyon for Murali in his pomp, if he expected that ball to spin past his wicket), but the other two made colossal errors in judgement.

And yet, if we are to talk vitriol over method of dismissal, none of those three will come close to Kevin Pietersen, whose stumps were splattered as he looked for quick runs, hoiking at a Mitchell Johnson delivery and missing by some distance. 'Irresponsible', 'reckless', 'brainless' – all of these adjectives and more were used to describe the man who, at the time of writing, is the Test's top-scorer. It was the first item raised in Sky's post-match analysis and round-up show.

Michael Clarke

However, the question is – which is more irresponsible or brainless: not knowing where your stumps are, or trying an aggressive stroke that, had it connected would have ended up somewhere in the upper deck of the MCG? Why, when adventure fails is the player told he has let his side down, but when caution (and while we all love a good leave, there is no more cautious action in the game) fails, it is treated more as a faux pas, as a slightly embarrassing mistake that can't be helped?

As anyone who has received any sort of cricket coaching will tell you, there are only two types of leave, but when a bad one occurs it is glossed over, treated as a fluke and an accident, while a poorly-executed aggressive stroke is almost seen, in the collective conventional wisdom of cricket, as an act of sabotage.

This, incidentally, is not necessarily an attempt to defend Pietersen on this specific occasion. His was a dreadful shot, a ugly and uncontrolled swipe across the line to a fullish, quick, straight one from the fastest bowler in the series. Pietersen takes risks, but there's a difference between that and just playing the wrong shot. Pietersen has enough strokes in his repertoire to avoid silliness like that – had he connected with and got out to his first ball in that over, when he tried to hook a Johnson bouncer, the criticism would have been less valid, because at least there was a better chance of scoring some runs from that shot

But the criticism would still have come. Pietersen's choice of shot was poor, but not his intent, which was to see if he could score some quick runs rather than wait around for an out-of-form Stuart Broad and two No.11s in Jimmy Anderson and Panesar to get out.

When runs and exciting batting are few and far between, as they have been for long spells in this Test match, we must be more accepting of those who try to do push things, rather than regard them with suspicion.

Nick Miller - @NickMiller79