by Paul Cawsey
Lovers of exciting cricket can thank Kevin Pietersen for adding a bit of real excitement. Umpires and adherents to the Laws of Cricket could however have a completely different view.
A switch-hit is a modern cricket shot first used by KP on 15 June 2008 in a one-day international against New Zealand. The shot is executed by changing stance from right-handed to left-handed or vice-versa during the bowler's run-up. It is a variation of the reverse sweep, in which the stance is changed during the bowler's delivery action. Australia's David Warner is also a notable user of this shot and was endorsed to use a double-faced bat in Twenty20 cricket. Pietersen and Warner though have developed different techniques for playing the shot – either by switching their hands and feet, or just one of the two. Warner has a left-handed stance but a right-handed grip whereas KP changes stance and grip, which is not something which most batsmen could achieve. KP has an advantage as he plays cricket right-handed and plays golf left-handed. Try that if you can!
The shot has generated much debate in the cricket world, some heralding it as an outstanding display of skill and others arguing that if the batsman changes stance he gains an unfair advantage over the bowler, because the field is set based on the batsman's initial stance at the crease. (Law 36.3 defines the off side of the striker's wicket as being determined by his stance at the moment the ball comes into play for that delivery. Law 23.5 states that the ball comes into play when the bowler starts his run up or, if he has no run up, his bowling action). So simplistically put, from the point of view of the umpire at the bowler’s, we need to judge the following (limited list) from the time the bowler reaches his delivery stride to the moment the ball reaches the batsman:
1) Legitimacy of action
2) Front foot no-ball
3) Back foot no-ball
4) Legality of the switch-hit (should one be attempted)
5) Possibility of Mankading
There is already plenty to think about but the umpire also now has to judge the following things specifically in relation to the switch-hit (should one be attempted):
6) Adherence to fielding restrictions
8) Wide ball (Leg-side Wide) etc
Looking at these separately:
According to Law 41.5, there can be no more than two fielders on the leg-side behind the popping crease at the instance of the bowler’s delivery. So in the current case, if the batsman attempts a switch-hit then a field set with two slips and a gully would result immediately in a call of no-ball. Obviously this cannot happen so we fix the off-side as Law 36.3 at the moment the ball comes into play and it does not change.
This is the most obvious and most widely debated issue in situations where a switch-hit or a reverse sweep is attempted. Law 36.3 is the governing Law in this case also and the following judgements must be made by the umpire at the bowler’s end:
7.1) whether the ball pitched outside leg stump (determined when the ball came into play)
7.2) whether a stroke was attempted
7.3) whether the ball struck the pads or person in-line with the stumps
7.4) whether the ball hit the pad or bat first
7.5) whether the batsman hit the ball (got a touch) etc
Again Law 36.3 is the governing Law and the umpire calls “Wide Ball” for any balls passing down leg-side of the stumps, even if a switch-hit or reverse sweep is attempted.
So you will all see from the above, that nothing has actually changed. We fix the side for all deliveries at the moment that the ball comes into play and make no adjustment for the changing stance or grip of the batsman. We just need to be sure that we remain vigilant.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), guardians of the laws of cricket, has confirmed it will not legislate against the switch-hit and cited that the shot was perfectly legal in accordance with cricketing laws. The MCC believes that the stroke is a difficult one to execute and that it incurs a great deal of risk for the batsman. It also offers the bowler a good chance of taking a wicket and therefore is fair to both batsmen and bowlers.
In June 2012, the International Cricket Council (ICC) committee declared it to be a legitimate shot. They issued a statement saying they have decided to make no change to the current regulations.
The MCC have subsequently been carrying out a review of both the switch-hit and the reverse sweep and in May 2013, sent a report to the ICC. The ICC has just accepted this report from the MCC on the switch-hit / reverse sweep stating that the shot should remain a legitimate part of the game.