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ICC ponders lbw change for switch hits

George Dobell

May 9, 2012

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Kevin Pietersen plays a switch hit shot, Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Colombo, P Sara Oval, 3rd day, April 5, 2012
Kevin Pietersen's use of the switch hit shot has provoked a discussion of the lbw law © Associated Press
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The ICC is to review the playing condition regarding lbw decisions in international cricket in response to the emergence of the switch hit.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the ICC cricket committee, a group that includes Ian Bishop, Kumar Sangakkara and Mark Taylor, is to consider amending the playing condition whereby a batsman attempting to play the shot cannot be given out lbw if the ball has pitched outside the leg stump.

The news, first mentioned in passing in The Guardian, will mean that any right-handed batsman who switches his stance or grip to effectively play as a left-hander, will be able to be given out even if the ball had pitched outside the leg stump and vice-versa. Bowlers will also be allowed more leeway as regards leg side wides in limited-overs cricket. The cricket committee meets in Dubai later this month.

While any recommendations cannot come into force until they are ratified by the ICC board and the ICC's chief executives' committee, it is unlikely that the cricket committee's proposals would be ignored. The decision will not affect the laws of the game, which are governed by the MCC, leading to the possibility that playing conditions in first-class cricket around the world will differ from playing conditions in the international game. It is up to each national board to determine whether to adopt the ICC's playing conditions in their domestic cricket. While some boards - including those in Sri Lanka and South Africa - tend to default to the ICC stance, others - such as the ECB - are more independent minded. At present the major differences between ICC playing regulations and MCC laws concern the rules regarding the degree of flexion bowlers are allowed, the use of runners and decisions relating to the DRS.

The MCC is also considering the repercussions of the more regular use of the switch hit stroke. Two members of the MCC's laws subcommittee - Dave Richardson and John Stephenson - also sit on the ICC Cricket Committee.

The switch hit first came to prominence in 2008 when Kevin Pietersen played it in an ODI against New Zealand in Durham. The same batsman was involved when matters came to a head in a Test in Sri Lanka recently when Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled out of his delivery stride on several occasions as Pietersen shaped to play the shot and the stand-off threatened to reach stalemate. The umpires, Asad Rauf and Bruce Oxenford, warned Pietersen for time-wasting, but the ICC is now looking for a more permanent solution.

The ICC will be keen not to encourage negative bowling, however. The shot is sometimes played, even at Test level, to counter a leg stump line from right-hand bowlers coming round the wicket and many feel that the switch hit, a shot requiring high skill levels and remarkable reflexes, has been an entertaining addition to the game. It may also be that the ICC asks for some analysis as regards the risk-reward ratio of the shot and whether its usage really does disadvantage bowlers.

Any amendment to the playing conditions is likely to prove torturously difficult to phrase. For a start, it could prove tough to define exactly what constitutes a switch hit - whether it involves a change of stance, a change of grip and when they take place. It is worth noting that the ICC, reacting to David Warner's decision to remain in his normal left-handed stance but with a right-handed grip, issued a directive to umpires in February 2010 that stated such a tactic should be tolerated as long as it did not change once the bowler had begun their run up. As things stand the laws do not define what it means to bat left- or right-handed.

Fraser Stewart, MCC's Laws Manager, recently raised an interesting quandary. "What would happen," Stewart asked, "if a batsman stood chest on to the bowler? If may sound a ludicrous suggestion now, but we have a generation of young cricketers growing up playing the switch hit and prepared to experiment with their stance and their grip. It may well happen."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (May 12, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

@witty_cricketer - IMO, its not impossible (bowl either arm), its just not done by elite cricketers. I had an Aboriginal mate, who used to run in, with the ball hidden in both hands, & then only at the last 3 strides make up his mind which hand/arm to bowl with. He did it so easily that others could do it too. It was only in the nets, he'd never dare try it in actual game!

Posted by jay57870 on (May 11, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

George - Why not ICC look at baseball, cricket's long-lost blood-brother, to see how they do it? Yes, in baseball, a batter can surely switch sides as long as the pitcher is not in the "ready position" (Rule 6.06). Once the pitcher steps on the rubber, whichever side the batter is on is the side he must bat from for that pitch. He is called out if batter attempts to switch sides during pitcher's windup. Using this baseball analogy, the key cricket question is: What's the "ready position"? Is it when a bowler starts his run-up (steps on rubber) or the start of his delivery action (windup)? Therein may lie clues to a solution. That two of the most innovative batsmen - "dil-scoop" Dilshan & "switch-hit" KP - were embroiled in a bowler-batsman standoff shows an urgent need for clarity of rules. Also, ICC's directive in the Warner case (odd stance/grip) gives more clues: a batsman can't change once a bowler begins his run-up. ICC needs to ponder over these clues, not lbw, for a solution.

Posted by   on (May 11, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

LBW rule should stay the same. As for the switch hit, a batsman playing such a shot is an extreme rarity ! KP plays it.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

I like the new rule as it is like a pre meditated shot so it helps the batsman depending on when he switches the field i changed s

Posted by ansarri on (May 10, 2012, 20:22 GMT)

KP is the only one who can Play this shot so there is no need to change the LBW rules specifically for this shot. The switch hit is a shot of a degree of risk therefore there are high chances that the bowlers would get a wicket whenever a batsman attempts this shot.

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (May 10, 2012, 11:46 GMT)

It sounds like the ICC have just about got this one right. The switch hit is an outrageously innovative and exciting shot and should certainly not be banned. As KP has said, it gives the bowler a better chance of getting the batsman out as the shot is totally pre-meditated and batsman is almost certainly unbalanced at the point of hitting the ball; a good bowler meanwhile has the chance to modify the ball he bowls if he sees the batsman jump around. Losing the leg stump protection is the perfect answer as this gives the bowler additional assistance, and being more lenient on wides is equally fair, as umpires are so strict over leg side wides compared to those bowled wide of off. (Personally I think in ODIs the calling of "legside wides" is far too strict: a ball missing the leg stump by a milliimetre or two can still be called wide, if the batsman has moved across his stumps to play the leg side flick, whereas if the batsman stands where he was at delivery, he'd get hit on the pad!)

Posted by Reagos on (May 10, 2012, 11:19 GMT)

Innovation in cricket shapes the game that we all love. Resulting from that we saw the introduction of ODI and now T20 formats. Pulling off such a shot requires a masterful skill set and should be encouraged. However, the bowler is disadvantaged since he is not forewarned and his field will be out of place. To tip the scales back even the lbw rule needs to be amended in favor of the bowler. Once switch hit is activated, what was formerly your ledside position will now be deemed your offside position, making it possible to be given lbw. Conventional cricket is unconventional in todays cricket dynamics.

Posted by SportsObserver on (May 10, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

I like reverse sweep, it's a great skill , fair and a beautiful shot. "Switch hit" on the other hand, it's simply unfair and I find it ugly( especially the jump to change your stance). You might require enormous skill to play switch hit, but that does not negate the fact that it is unfair to bowlers.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

johntycodes: take a closer look at the picture of Pietersen playing the shot and you'd realize that it's a "switch-hit" and not the reverse sweep. See the grip more closely.

Posted by   on (May 10, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

The best neutralizing solution is to allow bowlers to change and bowl with either left or right hand or jump from over to round the wicket and vice versa. or If a batsman switches, then the leg stump becomes off stump for that delivery. If a batsman remains in a right or left stance but changes the grip that should be fine. Only a change of stance + grip should need a change of legstump rule and wides down leg side rule.

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