Why the switch hit should be a no-no in cricket

May 20, 2012, 08:25 IST | Ian Chappell

If the International Cricket Council wants real proof of any disadvantage surrounding the switch hit, let the bowler not have to tell the batsman from which side of the wicket he will deliver

In my playing days, I believed many Englishmen used to unnecessarily complicate what was meant to be a reasonably simple game. It looks like that habit has now spread. I can’t imagine a more complicated solution to control the switch-hit phenomenon than what the ICC is considering. Complex changes to the lbw law regarding what is a batsman’s leg-side and analysis of the risk-reward ratio of the shot to see if it disadvantages the bowler, are two such proposals.

Pietersen using the switch hit against India at the Oval in 2011. Pic/AFP

Without watching another ball bowled I can tell you the answer to the second suggestion: the switch hit is patently unfair to bowlers. If a bowler, having already told the batsman (via the umpire) how he’s going to propel the ball, then places his field for a right-hander and ends up delivering to a left-hander, how can that be fair? It’s possible to reach a more equitable arrangement dealing with the Mafia.

One of the critical duties of an administrator is to ensure the contest between bat and ball remains balanced like an evenly weighted see-saw. The switch-hit is a hefty dad on one end with his five-year-old son, feet dangling in mid-air, on the other.

A simple law that states, “having taken up his stance, a batsman may not change the order of his feet or hands in playing a shot,” would ensure balance is restored.

With the fielding positions still effective, let the batsman play the reverse sweep, the scoop or whatever other innovative, premeditated shot he dreams up and any self-respecting bowler will feel the odds are in his favour. The reverse sweep does not defy the proposed law above because the top and bottom hands remain exactly that on the handle.

Try this...
If the ICC wants real proof of any disadvantage then let the bowler not have to tell the batsman from which side of the wicket he’s going to deliver. When the bowler swaps from over to round at his pleasure then see how long it is before the willow wielders are bleating. In fact, the umpires would probably be the first to call for a truce.

In addition to disadvantaging the bowlers, the switch-hit could unfairly help the batting side win a tight Test match. By swapping at the last moment, a batsman could induce a no-ball under the maximum two fieldsmen behind square-leg law, to gain victory without hitting the ball or the bowler knowingly doing anything illegal.

Having championed the cause of bowlers over the years, as the major innovators in the game, I’m staggered they’ve been so timid in this debate. Whatever happened to the spirit of those revolutionaries John Willes and Ted Willsher, both of whom played a role during the 19th century in upgrading bowling from underarm (via sidearm) to the modern over-arm delivery.

I’m surprised no modern day bowling revolutionary has tried swapping alternate deliveries from over and round the wicket until the officials enquired, “What’s your problem?”

As a part-time leggie and a baseball catcher in my younger days, I would’ve seriously considered letting a batsman “have it” with a well-directed throw if he changed the order of his hands or feet while I was running in to bowl. I’ve no doubt Wills and Willsher would adopt more subtle methods but I’m sure they would’ve admired my zeal in attempting to get my point across.

Weaker side
I’m often told the switch-hit should be allowed because it’s legal in baseball. That’s nonsensical because the hitter has to stand in either the left or right hand batters box, so the pitcher knows beforehand what he’s facing and can adjust his field accordingly. And late in a close game the opposing manager will call on either a right or left-handed pitcher in order to exploit the switch-hitter’s weaker side.

There’s no doubt it requires a hell of a lot of skill and it’s exciting when Kevin Pietersen or David Warner club a six while quickly swapping from one style of batsman to another. Skilful yes, fair on the bowlers no and it’s the approval of such imbalances between bat and ball that can lead to things like chucking and ball-tampering, or at the very least on-field animosity. 

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