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KP, Dilshan and the switch-hit

Kevin Pietersen was warned for time wasting after Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled out of his delivery stride when Pietersen shaped to 'switch-hit'. Was this right?

Umpire Asad Rauf delivered an official warning to the England batsman after the second instance of Dilshan pulling out of his delivery stride.

This warning was delivered under Law 42.10 (Batsman wasting time). A further warning would have resulted in five penalty runs being awarded against the batting team.

Both Law 42.10 and 42.9 (Bowler wasting time) could have been used in this instance as, despite not being directly related to the switch-hit (which has no official reference in the Laws of Cricket) they can prevent a stalemate between batsman and bowler.

Law 42.10 states that a batsman should be ready to take strike once the bowler starts his run-up. Under Law 36.3, a batsman’s stance is defined as being right or left-handed at the moment the bowler starts his run up.

The ICC, working closely with MCC, released a interim directive on the switch-hit in February 2010 which said the batsman's grip and stance should remain the same from the start of the bowler's run-up until the beginning of the bowler's delivery stride.

This is the directive Asad Rauf was working from when he warned Pietersen.

Under this directive, Pietersen was within his rights to change his grip once Dilshan’s back foot had landed.

The bowler is not compelled to deliver the ball before he reaches his delivery stride if the batsman has changed his grip or stance.

Of course, the bowler, on seeing the change of grip or stance, may still want to bowl at the striker - he may feel his chances of taking a wicket are increased and that he should not be prevented from delivering the ball.

The umpires should allow him to have this option.

In summary, therefore, a batsman in international cricket is still entitled to play the switch-hit stroke but he is only allowed to alter from one stance or grip to another once the bowler has entered his delivery stride.

Pietersen should therefore have only been warned if the umpire was certain that Dilshan had not entered his bowling stride before the batsman shaped to play the switch-hit.

Switch-hit debate

Since Kevin Pietersen unveiled the switch-hit in an ODI against New Zealand in 2008, it has been one of the most discussed topics in the Laws of the game.

In 2008 MCC's Law's sub committee were asked by ICC to adjudicate on the shot, and they found it to be legal. The full statement can be read here (125 KB) ._

This ruling covered the issue of LBWs, wides and other aspects of the Laws which could be affected by the batsman altering their stance, though these topics are still regularly up for review at MCC's Laws sub committee meetings.

Although some feel that the switch-hit gives an unfair advantage to the batsman, MCC feels that so few players (Pietersen and David Warner of Australia are two notable exceptions) are skillful enough to execute the stroke, and there is such a significant level of risk involved, that as long as the switch is not made too early, they should not be prevented.

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