To switch or not to switch

Pietersen's controversial switch-hit finds itself in the spotlight again.

Asad Rauf warns Pietersen in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

Most would admit that watching A.B. de Villiers switch over and swing an Irfan Pathan full-toss for six behind the wicket-keeper made for a thrilling sight. The bowler – lost for words – could only flash a wry smile as de Villiers deployed the controversial shot several times in his rapid cameo, setting up Royal Challengers Bangalore’s opening win in IPL-2012.

Since Kevin Pietersen premiered the stroke in an ODI against New Zealand in 2008, switch-hitting has been swiftly adopted by batsmen good enough to pull it off. In an environment – across formats - where quick runs are imperative and largely responsible for spectator interest, the shot has seen several successful renditions, none quite as exciting as David Warner’s 100-metre heave at the MCG in a T20I against India earlier in the year.

More recently, the stroke found itself mired in controversy, again. Its originator, Pietersen, was warned for resorting to the switch-hit posture too early, as he swapped his hands/ changed his stance before the bowler – Tillakaratne Dilshan – had begun his delivery stride, in the second Test at the P. Sara Oval.

Pietersen was then in his 90s and his resorting to the off-beat was an attempt to off-set Dilshan’s persistent leg-side line to a packed leg-side field. The Englishman succeeded and his audacious 151 set up a deserved series-equalling win for England, but his repeated recourse to the switch-hitting position – just as the bowler was beginning his run-up – caused Dilshan to pull out of the delivery, a provision provided under the law, twice as he saw the batsman swap his hands prematurely.

Current interpretations of the laws state that a batsman is free to change his grip/ stance once the bowler has hit his delivery stride. If the switching over is done in advance – during the run-up or at any time before the bowler lands his back foot – the bowler is free to pull out of the delivery, which is exactly what Dilshan did.

Leaving aside the scandalous nature of the stroke and the gross violation it causes of the purists’ staunchly Edwardian aesthetic, there are certain points of consideration which cry for debate, now that the shot has been quasi rubber-stamped to ramp-up the sport. Firstly, is it physically possible for an on-field umpire to observe, simultaneously, the batsman’s hands/stance, the bowler’s back foot (i.e. where it lands) and - with a possibly permissible delay of a few nanoseconds - the front-foot no-ball?  

Secondly, is it fair to allow batsmen to get away with uninformed switch-hitting when the poor bowler has to pre-inform the umpire about which arm and what side of the wicket he will be delivering from? Would it be more of an equal contest – speaking strictly within the confines of the switch-hitting discussion – to ‘give the leg stump back to the bowler’ – i.e. to award LBW decisions irrespective of where the ball pitches if it would have gone on to hit the stumps, provided the batsman has swapped his stance around? Would this mean empowering the bowler at the expense of the willow wielder who, all said and done, is forever one ball away from being dismissed? And how does one call wides in case of the switching scenario?

Across the spectrum, the genesis of the switch-hit has been favourably received. The reception is a far cry from the storm that the stately Ranji’s leg-side nuances raised when he first displayed them before a stiff and starchy gentry over a century ago. Now, oriental expertise on the on-side is the gold standard against which all leg-side play is measured.

The fate of the switch-hit is likely to come up for discussion in an ICC meeting in May. But really, in a time where cricket faces stern tests from other avenues of entertainment it becomes obligatory for the authorities to lighten up the sport with what seems novel and innovative now but what is likely - as the years roll past - to be homogenised into the great body of this great sport. If only this modernisation had a tiny space within it for the bowler.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Bench refuses to grant access to recordings of Srini and Dhoni’s depositions before Mudgal committee. More »

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

A fractured little finger could now throw the Delhi Daredevils captain out of action at the start of this season. More »

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

Key players are away preparing for the IPL, taking the shine off the other domestic T20 fixture. (CYCSPL) More »