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Journalism of Courage

How Pakistan’s legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed taught Kevin Pietersen how to avoid bouncers

Inzamam-ul-Haq too talks about how to tackle short balls. ‘Don’t stand upright in expectation; it’s a fear. Lean forward, you will be able to pick length better’.

Kevin Pietersen is a former England skipper. (File)

The former Pakistan legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed, who was the spin-bowling coach of England, tells an interesting tale about how he helped Kevin Pietersen learn how to duck and leave a bouncer. Mushtaq says how Pietersen used to be a compulsive hooker and was getting into problems due to it.

“Kevin Pietersen was a compulsive puller and a hooker and all the coaching staff (in England) were sitting and wondering what to do. I said let me do it,” Mushtaq tells Zalmi TV lounge, on YouTube along with Inzamam-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal, and the former bowler Mohammad Akram. Mushtaq first starts off in a lighter vein asking Inzamam not to make fun as even bowlers can give batting advice and after some leg pulling from Inzybhai, Mushtaq gets into the business.

“I took him [Kevin Pietersen] to indoor nets at Lord’s and told him, “Kevin, I am going to be bowling out swingers, you have to come forward and leave them. You get over the top of the ball, and when you get forward like that in line, you are in good position to leave them.”

He said,’fine’.

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“I bowled 4-5 balls, he leaned forward, he left a few and drove to mid-off . I was ready. Look, when you take a big forward stride, then your head tends to be behind the foot and you get into trouble with the full ball as well as the short ball (as you can’t then move your feet). Most important thing is to tell people that you play with your head and not your feet,” Mushtaq says.

“As soon as I slipped in a bouncer, Kevin, who was on the front foot, just ducked “aisey bait gaya”). His weight was on the front foot, he had seen the ball clearly and could sit quickly.

As soon as he left, I went up to him and told, ‘that is my advise. When you are not thinking about short ball all the time … 90% of the ball in Tests usually land in the 6-7 yards area.”


Then Mushtaq stops here and talks about the advise Sunil Gavaskar gave Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Mushtaq plunged ahead. “Sunil Gavaskar told Inzamam, ‘sometimes you don’t have to think about the ball, you don’t have to practice for that ball’.

“When you start to stand upright and expect the short ball, then you get into trouble. But if you are leaning into a nice position, you can react better and your pull shot would also be better,” Mushtaq continued.


Inzamam then took over to sum up the method. “The problem with batsmen is they start standing upright, expecting the short ball. It’s a fear that blocks them. To tackle the short ball, it’s important to be leaning forward. Jitney bend honge na, utna ball ko jaldi pick karenge (if you bend, it’s easier to pick up the length of the balll and it becomes easier to leave or hit the short ball).”

First published on: 03-10-2022 at 09:19:35 am
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