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”?
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 .