Willow Talk: V. V. Giri Calls on the ICC to Think Again on Free Hits and the Switch Hit

In his latest Willow Talk column distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducts High-performance coaching sessions for MCA, share with Academy members and friends a letter he recently sent to the ICC, calling for a re-think on two of the Playing Conditions for international limited-overs cricket. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.


Dear Members of the ICC Cricket Committee,

I write to raise with you, concerns I have about two current issues in international limited-overs cricket, and, in one case, to raise with you a possible solution.

I have very extensive experience of the game: as a player (at the first-class level for several years, and at the highest club level for several decades; both in my homeland and across the cricketing world); as a coach (in India I coached, among others, future and current international players; in the United States I coach a wide range of club and youth players, including some who have represented the United States at age-level; I have coached many representative sides, most recently in tournaments sanctioned by the American board); as an administrator (I was for several years secretary of the Madras Cricket Club) and as an umpire (I currently stand most weekends in matches of the Michigan Cricket Association and the Great Lakes Cricket Conference).

I hope that you will agree that my experience entitles me to claim a profound and wide-ranging understanding of the game, and I urge you to take serious note of the issues I raise – with regard to “foot-fault no balls” in limited-overs cricket and to batsmen changing their guard. I have given considerable thought to these two issues, and see in both potential problems, most likely to occur at decisive moments in international matches. I feel that it is imperative that the ICC act now before such problems present huge challenges to umpires. And, needless to say, what will be a challenge to international umpires will, sooner or later, be a massive obstacle to those charged with officiating and administering the game at the club level all over the world.

Respectfully Yours,
Dr V. V. Giri
Clinical Research, Internal Medicine,
University of Michigan Hospitals, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Cricket Player, State Coach, State Selector and Regional Umpire.
Michigan Cricket, USA

Email:- vvgiri9@yahoo.com




 The previous ICC rule for a “foot-fault no ball” was: when the bowler makes a foot fault,

  1. The bowlers-end umpire shouts “No Ball” immediately and signals with hand stretched sideways at ninety degrees
  2. The batting side got one extra run, plus any runs scored off the bat.
  3. The batsman could not be dismissed, except by means of a “run-out”.
  4. Since a “no ball” is not a legal delivery, the batting side also got one extra delivery from the same bowler.

The present ICC rule for a foot-fault no ball in T 20 and in ODIs issues the same penalties to the bowler and gives the same advantages to the batsman, but, in addition, an extra delivery, called a “Free Hit Delivery”, is granted to the batsman. The batsman cannot be dismissed from that extra delivery, unless, of course, he is run out. In other words, the extra delivery is, essentially, treated in the same way as the foot-fault no ball itself — the bowler cannot dismiss the batsman with that delivery. However, the free-hit delivery is also considered one of the six legitimate deliveries in the over.

Here, I am very much concerned about certain points. T20 or ODI matches are played with each side bowling a maximum of 20 or 50 overs, respectively. Each over consists of six legitimate deliveries. That is six deliveries without a ‘wide’ or a ‘no ball’. Thus, the bowler can take a maximum of six wickets in an over (excluding run-outs from wides and no balls, and stumping from wides).

However, with the new ‘Free Hit’ rule, the bowler does not get to bowl six legitimate deliveries in an over where he bowls a “foot-fault no ball”. Therefore, it can be argued that the ICC should have either added one more extra delivery (in addition to the free hit delivery), thereby enabling the bowler to bowl six legitimate deliveries, or should have left the original rule standing.

I must emphasize that I am not arguing in favor of the bowler, suggesting that batsmen are given undue advantage while bowlers are unduly punished. It is clear that cricket is a batsman’s game, so that bowlers are always at a disadvantage, as is indicated so well in the familiar principle that “The benefit of doubt should go to the batsman”.

What I am arguing is that preventing the bowling side from bowling six legal deliveries will lead to complications in terms of Duckworth Lewis and Net Run Rate calculations, where wickets lost count. The bowling side, where “free hits” have been granted, have not had the opportunity to bowl 120 or 300 potentially wicket-taking deliveries in a completed innings.

 A particularly problematic situation will arrive, sooner or later, when a bowler bowls a no ball on the sixth delivery of the final over of an innings. He would have bowled only 5 legitimate deliveries in that over. After the ‘no ball’ delivery, the bowler is made to bowl the ‘free hit’ delivery and the over ends without the bowler getting a chance to take another wicket. 



 Umpires face the following problems when a batsman attempts either a “switch hit” or a “reverse sweep”:

  1. Applying the ‘Wide’ rule
  2. Applying the LBW rule.
  3. Applying the ‘No Ball’ rule for not more than 5 fielders on the leg side in limited over games.
  4. Applying the ‘No Ball’ rule for not more than 2 fielders behind the popping crease on the leg side.

To put it bluntly, the current playing conditions and Laws of the game leave a clear opening for what could easily be characterized as cheating and would surely be against the spirit of the game. Again, an extreme situation will surely occur eventually, and create huge problems for everyone involved. Towards the end of an innings – for example, during the last over of a limited-over innings — an incoming genuinely right-handed batsman could arrive at the crease and inform the umpire that he is a left-handed batsman and then take guard accordingly. However, when the bowler begins his run-up, the batsman could switch or change stance and grip, thereby becoming what he “really was” — a right-handed batsman. Not only would the bowler be shocked, but the umpire would face very serious challenges in applying current Laws and playing conditions, while the batting side would surely be preparing to score what would be, essentially, “illegal runs”.

I urge you to take serious note of my comments and to address what is clearly a deficiency in current playing conditions.


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