I’d have preferred if the Indian captain had enforced, rather than rescinded the run out appeal against his opposite number Shanaka
India skipper Rohit Sharma congratulates SL captain Dasun Shanaka after the latter’s ton during the first ODI at Guwahati on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
Two major cricket controversies—run outs at the bowler’s end and catches referred to the third umpire—have reared their ugly head again, creating further headaches that should’ve been alleviated long ago.
The run out at the bowler’s end, could have and should have been resolved easily.
The original law was more than adequate and should never have been changed. It’s a reminder that there are generally two solutions to a problem—a simple one and the other more complicated.
Cricket is renowned for choosing the complicated solution.
Attempting a run out at the bowler’s end without warning a batsman is not unsporting. Appealing for a catch that a fielder knows he’s caught should not be subjected to crowd booing as it’s legal.
In the Guwahati game against Sri Lanka I’d have preferred if Indian captain Rohit Sharma had enforced, rather than rescinded, the run out appeal against his opposite number Dasun Shanaka.
Buttler run out controversy
As I said to Ravichandran Ashwin during India’s 2020-21 tour of Australia, “Keep on running out batsmen at the non-striker’s end until they finally work out that what they are doing is illegal.”
Ashwin had run out Jos Buttler at the bowler’s end in a 2019 IPL game. His actions—which should’ve been applauded—were widely decried and even described as “contrary to the spirit of the game” by the MCC.
How could it be against the spirit of the game when it’s legal according to cricket’s laws?
Why is the bowler regularly admonished by the public and often booed for cheating when it is the batsman who is trying to gain an advantage?
If a batsman backs up as he should—watching the bowler’s hand with his bat in the crease and only leaving when the ball is actually delivered—he won’t be run out. In the process he may also gain some information that will help when later he’s at the striker’s end facing that same bowler.
Bowlers should be able to bring their arm over without releasing the ball and then break the stumps to effect a run out. This was correctly allowed under the old law. If batsmen were run out under that law they would quickly learn to back up legally.
More than a decade ago England were fielding when they appealed for a catch against a Sri Lankan batsman. A number of English commentators bemoaned the not out decision made by the Sri Lankan video umpire, so the next morning Tony Greig re-enacted a fair catch from the same on-field position.
The various cameras collected shots of Greig’s re-enactment and despite him depicting a fair catch, from some angles it appeared as a bump ball. As this case showed, a picture doesn’t always tell the truth.
Greig’s well thought out move should have put a definite end to catch replays being sent to the third umpire. At the same time the administrators needed to widely circulate among the media that on-field umpires would in future adjudicate on catches.
The trust factor
However, this move was never made and consequently catches are still referred to the third umpire. Surprise, surprise there were three such referrals in the SCG Test between Australia and South Africa and all of them created controversy.
An honest fielder knows when he’s caught the ball. There are certain things—a ball that bounces goes straight into the palm rather than lodging in the fingers first—an umpire needs to understand before he makes his decision. An umpire should also be aware of a fielder’s trustworthiness and this should be considered when making a decision.
Each administration needs to ensure team captains are aware of their responsibility to make sure the fielding side behaves with integrity.
Umpires should be making the on-field decision about catches and not referring them to—in this case—an unreliable video system. Umpires already give a soft signal so why shouldn’t they actually make the decision?
There is already enough controversy surrounding the game of cricket without the administrators unnecessarily contributing to the drama.