Monday 4 August 2008

Pietersen, Collingwood and morality

James Schneider has a piece over at Schneiderhome on the difference in how we have reacted to Pietersen and Collingwood on 94. I was writing a comment, but it got so long that I turned it into a blog instead.

The lesson James draws is to do with our reactions to agency and guilt, or, I would say, responsibility, and the role chance plays - the difference between a hero and a fool is often just a couple of inches. But I think the example chosen doesn't do the job. Pietersen and Collingwood each, on 94, tried to reach 100 with a six. Pietersen failed, Collingwood succeeded. James says they were the same shot. But they weren't, nor was the context the same. Pietersen's was a showboating shot, a completely unnecessary risk, a sweep across the line of the ball. Collingwood's was a straight drive. In that over he blocked two or three balls that were of dangerous length. He blocked, he waited, he blocked, he waited. When one dropped short, and was asking to be hit, he went and hit it. It is the difference between a rush of blood to the head and a calculated risk.

And remember this is in the context of a man who says (Pietersen) "That's the way I play". In other words he is unwilling to change it or incapable of changing it, or both. That is not the attitude of a professional who, with his talent, ought to be able to drop anchor and play through two, three or four sessions when necessary without losing his head, even if it's not his natural game. The contrast with what Graeme Smith has done in these three tests is colossal.

And that is at least part of the explanation of why Pietersen is being treated differently from Collingwood. He sold his wicket cheaply, even if he had scored 94 runs before it. He put himself in that position. Chance does have a role to play, but so does a responsible attitude.

And that's why I'm hoping England don't appoint Pietersen captain. Nassser Hussain says he's a leader of men, and I am willing to take NH's word for it. But there is still a measure of immaturity in him that he needs to take in hand before he can be a true captain.


James Schneider said...

Pieterson was hitting down the ground as well.

I shudder at the thought of Pieterson as captain too. I wouldn't take Hussain's judgement as being that reliable. He after all brought some peculiar players into the england set up (Aftab Habib, for example).

The question of agency remains, even if we disagree over my example. Take another one, such as two balls launched out of the ground. One narrowly misses a passing car and the other goes through the windshield causes a terrible crash. What then?

Hywel said...

Pieterson attempted his shot with a man 3/4 back for a miscue. Harris was bowling for just that shot to tempt him into the trap.

He stopped thinking about the safe shots to play - which he had with the two switch hits previous where there was only on man in the cover region.

Collingwood from what I could see attempted his shot with mid on up. That makes it a much safer shot as you only need to get a solid contact to get the ball over the field and safe.

It's a shot I often attempt against opening bowlers when they have mid-on and mid-off up as I consider it a reasonably safe shot.

James Schneider said...

It's a shot I play to opening bowlers too, unless of course they are seaming it about. They hate it, its risk free, and the fielding side often console themselves with the simple fact that the ball has gone in the air.

Rob Parsons said...

You're right, James, it was down the ground. Just the wrong ball. And I agree absolutely that the question of agency and chance remains. And the question of how much risk we take opens up another fascinating debate about how much risk we are entitled to take, which then goes into areas like smoking, being fat, and smashing yourself up at the bottom of a hill you've just ski-ed down.