Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Switch Debate

The biggest debate around the cricket world this week has revolved around Kevin Pietersen's Switch-Hit.

Before I go on with my 10 paisas, I would like to point out to this news piece that dates back to over 5 years ago.

Shortly after winning the World Cup in 2003, Australia's coach John Buchanan came out with a future development plan of sorts for cricket's future in Australia.

As the article states the key objective was to "think about how the game is played and how we can play it differently".

John Buchanan's response to the "playing it differently" was "develop ambidextrous players who can field, bat - and possible even bowl - right and left-handed".

John Buchanan went on to say that by the next World Cup, which was held last year, Australia would have players who would be able to use both sides of their body.

He described Ian Harvey as one who can throw with both hands, and Adam Gilchrist as one who can hit the ball left handed as well as he does right handed.

Before going on, I want to ask my 1st question.

Why didn't the ICC or the MCC or anyone else question the legality of ambidextrous players who could bat and / or bowl either right handed or left handed?

Was it because no one thought that would ever happen?

We didn't see that skill on display at last year's World Cup, but we did see it during the 1st ODI between England and New Zealand when Kevin Pietersen switched his grip, switched his stance, and hit Styris for 6. Not once but twice. (Link above).

But that isn't the first time Pietersen has played that shot. This clip shows Pietersen doing exactly the same to Muralitharan in a test match played in 2006.

Pietersen switched his stance, stood like a left hander and played a reverse slog sweep and sent the ball over the ropes for 6.

And the picture on the right shows that Pietersen has played that shot in matches before the 1st ODI between England and New Zealand.

Why didn't anyone question its legality then?

Was it because it was a reverse sweep and not a shot hit over the bowler's head?

Even before Pietersen, I distinctly remember one Jonty Rhodes do exactly the same. He played the reverse sweep different than most batsmen.

While the reverse sweep was largely played by turning the bat in the hand and sweeping the ball the other way without a change in stance or grip, Jonty Rhodes used to change his grip and stance, in effect becoming a left hander, and then play the sweep.

I couldn't find clips to prove that, but I do remember some commentators questioning if that was allowed.

Why didn't anyone check the legality back then?

Is the hue and cry, which has thankfully been cleared by the MCC, all because Pietersen sent the ball sailing over mid off, or was it mid on, rather than sweep it?

Whatever the answer to the above questions, all it does is goes to show that one day the ICC might be concerned over an issue that has been totally ignored in the past.

In either case, as Sledgehammer points out in his last post, thankfully common sense has prevailed and the MCC have termed the switch-hit legal. Even though I feel there was no need to check for its legality since it has been played for some time now.

What needed checking or revising were other rules that go flushing down the drain if a batsman deploys the switch-hit.

Rule 1: Bowlers switching hand of delivery

That article in which John Buchanan talks about ambidexrous players concludes with "You've got to inform the umpire or they might see it as cheating. If you told the umpire and the batter knew, that's be fine".

That refers to the bowlers switching their hands before the delivery.

This is the first rule that I believe needs to be looked at and ammended or added or whatever it is the MCC does.

The rule in my view should imply that a bowler needs to declare the side of the wicket he is going to bowl from (i.e. over or around) but he doesn't need to declare which hand he is going to deliver from.

It's simple really, if the batsmen can switch from right to left or vice-versa, the bowlers can too.

Rule 2: The Wide Ball

A ball delivered down leg is a wide even if it misses the batsman or the stumps by an inch. This is fine, though what happens to deliveries bowled on the off-side, which becomes the leg side when a batsman switches?

Surely they should not be wide.

But then deliveries bowled down leg side, which becomes the off-side when a batsman switches, should also not be wide.

Rule 3: LBW

A ball that pitches outside the line of leg stump rules out the LBW. But then what about the ball that pitches outside the line of leg stump, which becomes the off stump when he batsman switches?

That should not rule out the LBW.

And the ball that pitches outside the line of off-stump, which becomes the leg stump when the batsman switches, should also not rule out the LBW.

The batsmen have a lot of things going their way in ODI cricket, and its high time the rule makers do something for the bowlers.

Som, who openly criticizes the use of the switch-hit and considers the plight of the bowlers, may not be as against it if these rules were implemented.

Nor would the others who think its unfair.

Make your pitch on this post...

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18 Pitched:

  1. Som said...

    tinkering with everything else just to accommodate a shot shunned by 99.99 per cent batsmen...well MCC needs a reason to exist...

  2. Homer said...

    "That article in which John Buchanan talks about ambidexrous players concludes with "You've got to inform the umpire or they might see it as cheating. If you told the umpire and the batter knew, that's be fine".

    That refers to the bowlers switching their hands before the delivery."

    Here is a thought - most bowlers indicate the side and action at the top of their bowling mark at the start of the over ( and it is binding on them to maintain that action, but not side, till the end of the over).. What if, instead, they announce the side and action just before delivering the ball - the onus of conveying the side and action to the batsman lies with the umpire, not the bowler..

    a leg up for the bowling fraternity?


  3. straight point said...

    no probs with that homer...

    but there is little aspect of loosing momentum here...bowler generates by running from other side of ground...(ask shoaib)...

  4. Anonymous said...

    The rules are increasigly favoring the batsmen,anyways its virtually impossile for a fast bowler to switch hands unless he has an action like Mike Procter.
    The spinners can do it but then again they have to inform the umpire first, but I think the bowlers don't need this rule as they can already swing the all either way all doosra, out swing inswing, slower, one faster one,
    switching the arm wont do anything for them.

    But Q you raised some excellent points regarding the wide Ball and the LBW, I think thats where the batsman gets some advantage, I think they should make a rule that the batsman cannot change his stance after the ball has been delivered, he can change it while the bowler is in his delivery stride. Then it won't be that unfair.

  5. SledgeHammer said...

    One way to modify the LBW and wide laws is by specifying the final stance of the batsman as the one for the umpire to consider.

    Look, this is not an easy shot. KP is a great batsman, one of the best of our day. I'd love for others to try it, and watch them get out. It's a risk a batsman is taking.

    Similarly, a bowler switching hands is a risk. It's easy for the ball to go wayward if you are contemplating which hand to use during your run-up. I say give bowlers this right, it'll be fun.

    I totally agree that the game has been made easier for batsmen in the last many years. But this is not one of the ways it is being made easier. This is just accommodating innovation, and in a way increasing the chances that a bowler has to get a batsman out.

    And let's also not forget the 15 degree rule for the bowler. Something that altered one of the most basic requirements of cricket - a straight arm delivery. The "vatta" became legal! Perhaps just to legitimize the records of a certain Sri Lankan spinner?

    I take nothing away from Murali - he is an absolute genius, a legend. But he does chuck the ball, as do many other bowlers of today (out of choice, medical reasons, whatever). And the ICC accommodated these bowlers by creating an arbitrary and unenforceable 15-degree allowance.

  6. Gaurav Sethi said...

    i'm interested in: how many batsmen will play the switch hit? and who? and if allowed, how many bowlers will try the switch bowl?
    and who?
    and will they do it outta boredom? adventurism? or adventure tourism?

  7. David Barry said...

    Homer, are you saying that a bowler can't change from right-arm to left-arm in the middle of an over? Because I can't find that in the Laws.

    Bowlers changing their bowling arm mid-run-up would be... interesting. They'd have to have a stutter in their run-up to get the feet right, unless they wanted to bowl off the wrong foot. I suppose it could be used like as a surprise ball occasionally.

    Sledge, you can't just say that off- and leg-sides are defined at point of delivery. Otherwise, suppose that there are two slips and a gully in place. The batsman switches, and at point of delivery he's left-handed. Now there are three men behind square on the leg side, a no-ball.

    You may also be interested in this post of mine on chucking. I agree that the 15-degree rule is bad, but probably not for the same reasons as you.

  8. SledgeHammer said...

    @David Barry: Law 24.1 (a) states: "The umpire shall ascertain whether the bowler intends to bowl
    right handed or left handed, over or round the wicket, and
    shall so inform the striker.
    It is unfair if the bowler fails to notify the umpire of a change
    in his mode of delivery. In this case the umpire shall call and
    signal No ball."

    Therefore, a bowler cannot change his delivery arm - it will be called a no-ball.

    Also, as specifically stated in my previous comment, the final stance was to be considered for LBW and wides only. For wides it's actually in place today - a wide is subjective to where the batsman is standing (e.g. if he is way outside off, then something grazing past leg may not be called a wide). For LBW, I think a radical solution is to get rid of the "pitched outside leg" rule altogether. If it hits you in line with the stumps - yerrr out! Now that would be something that favors bowlers. And a bowler trying to consistently exploit it will be risking a wide each time (more so in ODIs and T20s).

    For the rest of the laws, off and leg should be determined at the beginning of the run-up, as it is done according to the Laws today. And field placing would be covered under that.

  9. David Barry said...

    Sledge, my point about the bowler changing arms mid-over was directed at Homer, who seemed to suggest that he couldn't do so. I agree that change of arm or over/round the wicket has to be notified to the umpire.

    Considering only the final stance for LBW's and wides still leads to problems. The bowler should be allowed to choose to bowl over or around the wicket so as to maximise his chances of LBW's. A batsman switching mid-runup would deny him this, under your proposal.

    Much better would be to say that both sides are treated as the off-side if the batsman switches.

    This blog seems to have a significantly large number of people (at least two...) wanting to do away with 'pitched outside leg'. This would be a massive change in favour of the bowler. Left-arm bowlers to right-hand batsman hit the pads all the time and rarely get LBW's because the ball usually pitches outside leg.

  10. SledgeHammer said...

    Left-arm bowlers to right-hand batsman hit the pads all the time and rarely get LBW's because the ball usually pitches outside leg.

    If "pitched outside leg" rule ever goes away, I will personally beg Wasim Akram to return to the arena!

  11. Anonymous said...

    I think it is a needless debate for god knows why? You aptly pointed out instances where it has happened before. For the bowlers and the umpires, they just need to consider it as bowling to a left hander... as simple as that.

  12. SledgeHammer said...

    @scorpicity: I have suggested that the final stance is what should be considered. But there is a disadvantage to the bowler. Let's say a bowler is sending a ball outside off. Now the batsman switches his stance. So now it would be missing leg stump, and the umpire would be tempted to call it wide.

    OTOH, a bowler today can react to a batsman moving outside either stump, and adjust the delivery to take advantage. So the bowler should capitalize on this advantage with the switch-hit.

    So there are intricacies to take into consideration. I trust the MCC to do the right thing.

  13. Homer said...


    I recall an instance when Miandad had switch hit in a Test match against India during which time the comms went on and on about how the bowler can bowl right arm or left arm throughout the over and cannot switch from one hand to the other midway thru the over.

    Also, wont switch bowling be easy for a spinner rather than a pacer - shuffle a few steps down and whang!

    Cheers :)

  14. Q said...

    True Som...

    But its 99.99% today... with more 20-20 and more cricketers looking to play innovative shots, that % will def go down..

  15. Q said...

    Good one SP...

    Are u saying that the bowler inform the umpire as he runs past him?

  16. Q said...

    Wasim, KP changed his stance almost on he delivery stride... it wouldnt make a difference if its before or during cos the field remains the same...

  17. Q said...

    NC - we will find out soon ..

  18. Q said...

    I don't agree with the final stance being considered as final by the umpire. It puts the bowler at a disdvantage..

    DB - its only 2 of us wanting to do away with the leg side LBW rule... but I would have it altered for 20-20 and ODIs... not test cricket..

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