May 20, 2012

Why aren't more bowlers complaining about the switch hit?

The stroke is patently unfair and widens the imbalance between bat and ball

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. 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, 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.

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, see how long it is before batsmen 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.

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

I've championed the cause of bowlers over the years, as the major innovators in the game, and I'm staggered they have been so timid in this debate. Whatever happened to the spirit of those revolutionaries John Willes and Ned 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 have 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 have admired my zeal in attempting to get my point across.

I'm often told the switch hit should be allowed because it's legal in baseball. That's nonsensical because in baseball the hitter has to stand in either the left- or right-hand batter's 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 the switch hit requires a hell of a lot of skill, and it's exciting when Kevin Pietersen or David Warner clubs 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.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    It also takes a great amount of skill to accurately aim a beamer at the batsman's neck, but that does not mean it should be allowed.

  • Jay on May 22, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    Ian's macho attitude of "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" has no place in cricket. Ian's a baby-boomer who can't get past his "younger" born-to-be-wild days. Likewise, no point in instigating a "modern-day bowling revolutionary" to challenge the umpires. As it is, they have a tough job. That two of the most innovative batsmen - "dil-scoop" Dilshan & "switch-hit" KP - were embroiled in a bowler-batsman standoff (3 times in an over) shows how demanding the situation is: Obviously Dilshan saw things differently as a bowler. Putting oneself in the other guy's shoes can help in resolving issues. Switch-hitting is instantaneous flip-flopping: very difficult for an umpire to watch the bowler's delivery stride & batsman's stance/grip simultaneously in real time & make an accurate call. And add lbw issues. No way. As I've posted elsewhere, baseball might show us the way to a solution. Right, Ian?

  • arjun on May 22, 2012, 7:56 GMT

    I cant understand why this should even be discussed. A switch hit is not easy and does require a decent amount of skill. The problem is that the notion of this being a batter friendly game has clouded some minds. I agree it is batter friendly in general but come to think of it in a switch hit the batsman has very little time. To turn around when the bowler is almost delivering the ball and then read the pitch of the ball and hence generate the power the shot in a span of nothing. It requires good hand and eye coordination and is amazingly humiliating for the bowler. The bowlers wont mind it always since it doubles their chances to pick a wicket.

  • James on May 22, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    1 Hobbs. 2 Sutcliffe. 3 Bradman. 4 Hammond. 5 Sobers. 6 Gilchrist. 7 Khan. 8 Akram. 9 Warne. 10 Barnes. 11 Lillee.

    Was are Sutcliffe and Hammond so underrated?

    Swich hitting is all about power, not skill. You don't see Ian Bell playing it.

  • Dummy4 on May 22, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    Maybe the bowlers aren't complaining because there a better than average chance that the batsman is going to stuff it up

  • Neil on May 21, 2012, 14:50 GMT

    I'm not totally clued up on all the potential rule changes but I think it's pretty stupid to suggest that a batsman changing stance would induce a no-ball being given for fielders behind square on the leg side.

  • I on May 21, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    Rarely agree with Chappell, but he's not wrong here. Sadly, I don't think well-reasoned arguments ever win the case whenever the batsmen want another yard - actions speak louder than words. It's time some ambidextrous bowlers started switching hands and sides to illustrate how unfair the changes are.

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2012, 13:52 GMT

    What about Doosra by a bowler?

  • Cric on May 21, 2012, 12:18 GMT

    Make pitches a bit bouncy and dare if any batsmen try switch hit ...

  • Andrew on May 21, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Mr Chappel is digging a big hole ... If the batsman has the skill to reverse the shot completely ... he should be allowed ... and also provision must be made for the fielding of players on the "leg side behind square leg be amended" ... If a switch hit is achieved the LBW law will be reversed and the wide rule should be amended so as to let the bowler have protection against an attempted switch-hit. Bowlers should be able to switch sides of the wicket as and when he wants so as to add excitement and surprise to the batsman. Also what about various bowlers "sling" action ... i.e. Lasith Malinga. Can that not be deemed illegal aspecially as he can get the ball to slide in low ...

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