I’m not “Okay” with Switch-Hit

Summer of 2008. New Zealand vs England. In Game-1 of the 5-match ODI series, played at Cheseter-le-Street, Kevin Pietersen rattles the world of cricket with a new shot (Click here to watch Pietersen’s switch-hits in that ODI). If not for the career-low decision making skills of Paul Collingwood in the next two ODIs, Pietersen’s  switch-hits would’ve been bigger news, if not, the only news of the summer.

The switch hit had instance reactions. Cricinfo had compiled some of them in the same week the shot was first revealed. Everyone had their say, they should. Some liked it, some didn’t, and some were speechless. I didn’t like it.

We can react, we are just the fans who cough up money to watch the game, and then enjoy the game and support the players we love. But, if you are the ones who is drafting the rules of the game, I’d rather you take your time before you make the decision on it, call in the views, condense the views, debate it, and then draft the law on it, or make amendments.

The shot was played on June 15th, MCC approved the Switch-Hit on June 17th. Within 2 days, MCC has accommodated the shot while weeks and months after it, people were still debating its legality. This was a knee-jerk reaction from the MCC. Law makers should make decisions, not give reactions. They are supposed to be responsible for the game more than I am. And 4 years later, today, they are going to review it. Four years, it takes them to compile the feedback that they should’ve catered to before approving the act.

Yes, I don’t like the shot. The switch-Hit is very fancy, very skillfully executed, almost impossible to execute in a game-situation. I accept that. But, it doesn’t fit within the laws of the game.

Let me elaborate with a batsman as a specific case – a Right Handed Batsman (RHB).

A RHB has his right wrist below the left wrist while holding the bat. His right shoulder exerts the force into the shots. His left arm plays support, while guiding the bat with a direction. As soon as that left wrist grips the bat’s handle under the right wrist, the batsman turns into a Left Handed batsman (LHB).

First of all, the batsman cannot and should not do that. If that batsman comes to the crease as a RHB, he MUST play RHB. The whole *deletes swear words* nuances of bowling and fielding depends on that orientation of a batsman.

A bowler HAS to tell the umpire if he is going to bowl with his right arm, or his left; also, which side of the wicket he will be bowling from. If he doesn’t it is declared a no-ball. No, this is not Madrasi Gully Cricket rules, it’s what I understand from MCC’s Law 24 Clause 1. That’s their opening line, like saying, “Listen up, bowlers, you should give me your bowling run-up and stride’s co-ordinates in writing; and if you dare step one inch out of the path, you’re screwed. My back may be facing you, but I’ve got GPS to track you”.

“The off side of the striker’s wicket shall be determined by the striker’s stance at the moment the ball comes into play for that delivery.” – says Law 36, Clause 3. Does it mean that it means that if the batsman switches hands before the ball is released, the left half of my television screen becomes the leg side of the formerly RHB batsman who has jussst switched to a left handed orientation, according to that law? Because, if that was true, it is going to hit the fielding team in BIG way.

According to Law 41, clause 5, there can be no more than two fielders on the leg side behind the popping crease at the instance of bowler’s delivery. If our beloved RHB becomes a LHB at the instance of the delivery, and I, as a fielding captain, have set two slips, a gully, a point (standing behind the popping crease) and a 3rd man, then three or more of them have to act out scenes from the movie “Avengers” really fast to flee to the other side of the popping crease. Till that day arrives, however, I cannot fathom that happening. So, it obviously turns out to be a no-ball. Thus, almost every time a batsman is allowed to switch hands, becoming a left hander, he gets a no-ball.

Some interpret Law 36, clause 3, as “…before the start of the run-up.” In that case….

The most obvious, and the most widely debated issue in this Switch-Hit party is that of the LBW. This, is if you assume that everything else on the  field is frozen for a RHB, and then the batsman switches hands and has become a LHB and gets hit on the pads after the ball pitches on the leg side area of a RHB’s pitch map while he trying to swing the ball across to an RHB’s cover-point region. Even if the batsman is now a LHB, he can’t be out, because it is interpreted that the leg side is as per the batsman’s orientation when the bowler starts his run up. If the batsman is still considered to be a RHB in-spite of the switching, then this shoots up all the rules for wide and LBW. There is no clarity over which side is the leg side, and which is the off side before and during and after every ball.

All these levels of confusion, only because the batsmen have been given the leeway to switch their orientation as and when they wish. Which is plain wrong. Going back to the point I made earlier – bowlers are penalised for switching from over the wicket to around, or vice-versa, and the umpire conveys that information to the batsman.

If you really want the bowlers to bowl where you want, how you want, use a bowling machine.

I’ve also been bumped with this question – “How is reverse sweep looking okay to you, but not Switch-Hit?

In a reverse sweep RHB plays with right wrist on the bat’s handle under the left, unlike in the case of a switch hit. So, there is not confusion with the field set-up, or the pitch map, or any rule pertaining to a RHB.

What puts me off the most, is the excuse MCC made to bring the shot in. In the June 17 press release, MCC says – “They (bowlers) do not provide a warning of the type of delivery that they will bowl (for example, an off-cutter or a slower ball). It therefore concludes that the batsman should have the opportunity – should they wish – of executing the ‘switch-hit’ stroke.”

Well, neither do the batsmen give a warning about what shot they are going to play (for example sweep, cover drive, lofted shot over long off, cut shot, or for *deletes swear word* sake even a leave).

Where is the mismatch in expectation or element of surprise, where is the need for the “opportunity”?

And yes, Kevin Pietersen has been tweeting wild defending the switch-hit(1, 2, 3, 4, 5), while the ICC is trying to modify the LBW rules for it.

To me, Switch-Hit has no place in cricket. And trying to accommodate this and then modifying other laws of the game to compensate for this is will dilute the quality of the game. Of course, it is a stroke of exceptional skills, and am sure Pietersen (and Robin Petersn and David Warner and the other faithfuls of the act) will find a platform to showcase that and entertain the people who love that. Like, in those cricket skills shows .

– Bagrat

8 responses to “I’m not “Okay” with Switch-Hit

  1. Sampath Kumar

    As a retire player and umpire(12 years), the Laws are easy to interpret. Unfortunately, the law makers–often ex-players with no input from retired umpires stuff things up.
    Ball is in play when a bowler STARTS his run up and if a bowler is one of those that stands and delivers, then start of the bowling action is when the ball is in play.
    Of course the bowler has to tell the umpire re right or left arm and over or around–it is in the law. At present, there is no law re switch hit or sweep.
    Unfortunately, MCC owns the Laws and not ICC–hence ICC has to make its own set of decisions.
    If I had my way–the batsman will not be allowed to switch without telling the umpire before the ball is bowled and this will allow to the fielding captain to change the field as for right or left handed batting. If a batsman does switch or reverse sweep, umpires calls Dead Ball and the ball is bowled again. If he does it 3 times in an innings–delaying tactic on a rainy day with 1 wicket left and a few balls left and rain is threatening—give the batsman OUT–UNFAIR play.
    Re LBW—-that part of the law where–if the ball is ptched outside the leg stump—needs to be thrown out altogether–it discriminates against left arm bowler bowling to right handed batsman. Simplify the law–if, in the opinion of the umpire, the ball would have hit the stump , irrespective of where it is pitched, then the batsman is out LBW. This will eliminate Padding or kicking the ball way when pitched outside leg stump. Put simply, it is an archaic law , written by MCC committee many many years ago.
    Batsmen all over the world won’t agree with me!!!

  2. Thanks for clarifying the part on “start” of a delivery. I’m in-line with your views on the switch hit.
    As for the lbw, as much as it looks strict for the case in view – left handed bowler to a right handed batsman, if you allow balls pitching outside leg to qualify for LBWs, a right arm bowler bowling around the wicket will have it easy. I assume it is not easy to score when the balls are pitching outside the leg stump, and that might/will lead to negative bowling?

  3. Sampath Kumar

    Life is not meant to be easy. Why should batting be any different!
    If the Law is changed, batsmen will play more lofted shots to midwicket or paddle like Tendulkar. Or like Laxman and Dravid, move to the left and hit the ball to the mid off.
    Negative bowling is made to look negative by batsmen not offering shots00ashley Giles Vs Tendulkar a few years ago. Shastri, Holding and Gavaskar will have one item less to whinge about!!! As there will be chance of LBW from balls bowled outside the leg stump, batsmen will be forced to use their FREE 500 dollar bats!!!

  4. I understand that part, but the reason it is considered negative is that you cannot score if the ball is going down the leg. Atleasst, if it is directed at the stumps, it is fine…

  5. I have a few disagreements 🙂

    1. The crux of your argument is how a switch hit changes a right hand batsman into a left hand batsman and vice versa. And the explanation you’ve provided has to do with the positioning of wrists, and which arm leads the strokeplay. By that definition, Laxman and Dhoni are both right handed batsm. But even a casual observer of cricket can see that Laxman’s shots, especially in the V, are dictated by his left hand, while Dhoni thrives on the strength of his bottom hand’s biceps. When batting is such a colourful art, allowing two men of seemingly similar methods to operate in such different style, why should we get so stuck up with definitions?

    2. “The whole *deletes swear words* nuances of bowling and fielding depends on that orientation of a batsman.”

    Of almost equal importance are the exact coordinates of the batsman – ie, where he is standing laterally, and how deep in the crease or outside it. The simple nuance of where a bowler should pitch a ball (as well as how fine he wants fine leg to be) depends on where he anticipates the batsman will be when he plays a shot. If he’s moved outside off stump by then, he’s looking to lap or glance to leg, so the bowler needs to have planned for that. If he walks or skips down the pitch, he’s looking to get closer to the length, so the bowler needs to plan for that. If he’s standing deep in the crease, he’s looking to convert a potential yorker into a length ball or a half-volley, so the bowler has to plan for that. The batsman is allowed to change both these variables at any stage before playing the shot, including after the ball is released. This then obviously screws up with the plans the bowler made before delivering the ball, since the batsman often makes these movement after the bowler crosses the point of no return. So, apply your logic and ban batsmen from moving about the crease? No. WHich brings me to…

    3. It is silly to compare a bowler announcing his guard to the batsman announcing his hand. Cricket in a nutshell is a game where bowler acts, and batsman reacts. Stripped down to its barest essentials, it is a Q and A session between bowler and batsman, initiated by the former. The bowler’s advantage is that he initiates and dictates play. The batsman’s currency is the time he is given to react to a bowler’s offering. If the batsman misses a single question he’s forced to attempt, game over. The transactional nature of this exchange requires the bowler to budget for the batsman’s skills and abilities. In other words, take the pains to ask a question tough enough to outwit the batsman.

    Everytime the batsman pre-empts the question – by setting up to sweep, scoop, open up the off side etc. – he is taking a risk. He is betting on having figured out the bowler’s thinking process. At times he gets it right, at times the lap shot ends up smashing out the batsman’s teeth. Why can’t a bowler, in turn, come up with a question that pre-empts the pre-emption?

    A batsman has but one wicket to lose. Everytime KP jumps across for a reverse heave, he’s setting himself up for grave embarrassment if he fails. Isn’t that sufficient incentive for a bowler to outwit him by bowling a free-hit-proof ball? (Just how he at times delivers balls that can’t be lapped, swept or scooped?)

    I agree there’s a danger with tweaking wide and LBW laws as a special case, but I think the switch hit is a special enough case to warrant such a tweak. No wides on either side of the stumps, lbws as long as the ball is hitting the stumps, and a post-facto relaxation of the 2 men behind square on the leg law are all it takes to level the field. Armed with these laws, if I am a bowler, I’d be eager for a batsman to try switch-hitting me. I’d expect international bowlers to look at it that way too.

  6. Ok, Mogalian was me 🙂

  7. 1. RHB vs LHB is based positioning of the wrists, not their usage.

    2. A batsman can move inside/outside his crease as much as a bowler can use his crease to his benefit. If a RHB bats RHB and a RHbowler bowls like a RHbowler, I’m fine with it.

    3. Bowler acts and batsman reacts. Yes. Today, the number of elements in the set of acts a bowler can perform is limited, for, most others are already don’t need reaction to – a batsman already knows which arm he is bowling with and from which side of the umpire.
    My basic argument there : LHB and RHB have different pitch maps and field sets (on-side and off-side), which changes too late into the delivery while playing a switch hit. If you are maneuvering yourself before playing a shot, you are outfoxing me. If you are switching hands, you are cheating me.

    Every time a bowler bowls, he is bowling with the risk of getting smashed to the rafters too. Saying that a reverse sweep has a scope for the bowler to get a wicket and hence should be allowed in the game is unacceptable by me. Unless you bring a scooter and put it infront of the stump, completely blocking it, bowlers will be able to get wickets. Even if that is present.
    But that is not the point. If you are trying to bring in something that looks out of place, and then twitch other laws to make it feel at home, then, I’m afraid the quality of the game is going down.

    Ex – if you bring in “lbws are OK for ball aimed at the stumps”, Imagine Malinga bowling from the edge of the crease around the wicket to a RHB. As it is he is deadly enough…

    Nice discussion…

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