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The switch is not a hit

In my playing days, I believed many Englishmen used to unnecessarily complicate what was meant to be a reasonably simple game. Ian Chappell writes.

india Updated: May 20, 2012 00:23 IST
Ian Chappell,ICC,Kevin Pietersen

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.

Totally one-sided
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. 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.

Should retaliate
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.

The switch-hit could also 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.

Timid response
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.

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'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 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 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.

First Published: May 20, 2012 00:20 IST