Flick the switch?
Nevermind the result. All the talk today is about Dave Warner’s remarkable “switch hit” against India last night. Wow. Talk about skill. But was it legal?
Not according to respected ABC commentator Jim Maxwell it wasn’t. “The switch hit is deadset against the spirit of the game,” Maxwell told The Punch today. “Not to take anything away from the amazing skill of Dave Warner, but if I was the bowler and I saw a batsman do it, I’d chuck it at him!”
The laws of cricket have nothing to say about the practise whereby a batsman changes his grip on the bat and effectively changes from left to right hander, or the reverse, while the ball is in flight. But the laws are crystal clear that a bowler could never do the same thing.
A sub-section of Law 42 takes cares of that. It can be paraphrased as follows: “Bowlers must inform the umpire which side of the wickets and what arm they will use. They are also required to inform the umpire of their style of bowling eg. fast pace, leg spin… It is deemed unfair play to change the style of bowling during an over. The umpire will call dead ball and caution the bowler and captain. If it happens for a second time in the innings, the bowler can be barred from bowling again in the innings.”
So bowlers have to nominate both the arm they will use and their bowling style. And batsmen don’t. That’s a heck of a loophole, and Warner is exploiting it brilliantly.
The fore-runner of the switch hit was the reverse sweep, which started appearing regularly in international cricket about a decade ago. With reverse sweeps, batsmen roll their wrists so that the bat moves in the opposite direction bowlers expect. But they don’t actually switch the position of their hands on the grip of a bat.
Have a look at England’s Eoin Morgan, who’s known as one of the best reverse sweepers in the world.
Switch hits are a step much further down the road of audacity - and difficulty. With switch hits, batsmen actually switch the position of their hands on the bat. They also switch the position of their stance at the crease. So a leftie magically becomes a rightie in the blink of an eye, as Dave Warner effectively did last night.
Now watch as the caterpillar becomes a moth. Or something.
The transformation is soon complete, as Warner whacks a right-handed six.
The issue with all of this, from the bowler’s perspective, is that good balls are turned into bad balls. The bowler in this case was trying to thud the ball low into Warner’s pads, which is a hard ball to score more than a single run off. And in T20, a ball that goes for “just” one run is as good as the old “dot ball”.
Batsmen say it’s not much different from dancing down the wicket to spin, which effectively changes the sort of ball being bowled too. They also argue that the degree of difficulty largely neutralises the switch hit’s advantage over the bowler.
Actually, not all batsmen argue that. Former Test skipper and Nine commentary man Mark Taylor is on a bunch of rules committees and panels looking into this issue. He is no fan, as TV viewers would have gleaned last night.
Other commentators and former players are fans. “I’m a fan, as long as bowlers get their retribution somewhere,” ABC commentator and former Test bowler Geoff Lawson told us.
As ever, Kerry O’Keefe was even more direct. As he told Jim Maxwell: “for every switch hit, the bowler should be allowed to bowl one tomato.”
We’re not 100 per cent sure we know what he means, but we think we agree. Batsmen should be able to do it. But bowlers deserve some sort of revenge.
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