Cricket has flipped a new switch, or dusted off a vintage one - the switch hit - variously attributed to Krishnamachari Srikanth in 1987, Jonty Rhodes in 2002 and Kevin Pietersen, who first played it in a test match in 2006. Over the years, this shot has generated a lot of interest and has lately sparked a controversy of sorts.
A switch hit is a shot wherein the batsman switches from their left-hand to the right or vice versa by changing their stance and grip, during the bowler's delivery action.
This shot has been executed with such expediency by Glenn Maxwell and David Warner in the ongoing ODI series between India and Australia that veteran cricketer and commentator Ian Chappell has called for a ban on it. A few days ago, Shane Warne sided with Chappell on the issue. Their take is that the batsman changing his stance during a delivery is unfair to the bowler, as the former can take advantage of the field placings. They opine that just as the bowler has to inform the umpire how they are going to bowl, the batsman has to notify his intention beforehand.
However, Glenn Maxwell says that the shot is legitimate and "the way batting is evolving, I think bowling has to try and evolve at the same stage".
This avid fan of the game would humbly like to offer his thoughts on the subject:
First of all, the switch hit is a difficult shot to play and very few batsmen in the world, like Maxwell, David Warner and Ben Stokes can successfully play it. These are players blessed with immense natural ability. But not everyone is. If a batsman wants to play this shot, it is his prerogative.
As far as the bowler is concerned, he should smell opportunity in this, as it gives him more opportunities to dismiss the batsman. A good bowler will try to push one straight down the stumps or trap the batsman in front of the wicket. There is also the possibility of the batsman miscuing the shot.
It boils down to a risk vs reward scenario. A batsman is taking a risk by attempting a switch-hit and the chances of failure are high. As the balance is tilted in the favour of the bowler, it is all right if the batsman takes the liberty to do so.
Former Australian umpire Simon Taufel says, "The game of cricket is not a science, it is an art. We're not perfect and it would be impossible to officiate change of grip, stance."
Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and it's best left that way.
(The writer is a former R&D scientist, a sports, music and travel enthusiast)