The 23-year old Queensland all-rounder Marnus Labuschagn might have been representing his state team for last three years and has had a promising career so far but his only moment of fame came on last Friday (September 29) during a List A fixture against CA XI, when he became the first ever cricketer to be penalised under ICC’s newly implemented “fake fielding” law.
Under this controversial Law 41.5 by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which has also been approved by the ICC Cricket Committee, the practice of mock fielding is now being considered as illegal on the field of play.
The new regulation states, “it is unfair for any fielder willfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball. The umpires have the discretion to award five penalty runs if they determine that such deception is willful.”
In a paper summarising the recent Law changes, the MCC has mentioned specifically that mock fielding, “where a fielder feigns to field the ball and/or feigns to throw a non-existent ball in an attempt to prevent the batsmen running”, is regarded as unfair.
The lawmakers believe such kind of act on the field is a deliberate deception on part of the fielder, whose intent is to confuse the batsman. Thus, it is against the spirit of cricket.
Such a bullshit!
Deception has always been an integral part of the game. When a fast bowler bowls a slow ball, his sole intention is to deceive the batsman. The objective is same when an off-spinner bowls a doosra or a leg-spinner bowls a googly. On the hindsight, a batsman playing switch-hit or a reverse sweep is a kind of trick to out-think the fielding captain as well as the bowler.
So, dear MCC, aren’t these against the spirit of cricket as well? Here also the player is “willfully deceiving” the opponent.
Well, not really.
The laws of the game are already heavily weighted in favour of the batsmen as if they are the superstar in a movie and others like bowlers and fielders are just supporting casts.
One needs to understand that in this era or modern-day cricket when 700 runs are being scored in a single day, the bowlers and fielders are forced to come out with survival techniques like mock fielding to keep the batting team in check. It is nothing but a classic fieldsman’s trick, a stunt which aims to utilise the lack of concentration of the batsmen while running between the wickets.
Someone like Kumar Sangakkara used to do it on a regular basis. MS Dhoni’s famous back flick without looking at the stumps is also another version of such mock fielding. Yes, he is willfully deceiving the batsman and for me, he is well within his rights to do so.
Just a few years back, the same MCC, acknowledged that “significant movement” on the part of a fielder “before the ball reaches the striker” as “intelligent fielding”. If that is okay, then what is wrong in a fielder, in order to stop the batsman from taking a run, pretends that she/he has the ball when she/he actually doesn’t. Or like Dhoni, pretending the ball isn’t coming to him when it is?
Furthermore, this law is very subjective. The implementation thoroughly depends on the interpretations of the umpires. They have to carefully assess the situation, context and the act of the fielding, which is under scrutiny before awarding five penalty runs to the batting side. It can slow down the game. Also, in a crunch situation, five penalty runs can make a hell lot of a difference in the final outcome of the match and as the final decision depends only on the interpretations of umpires, this new law can attract a lot of controversies.
Meanwhile, I also have a problem with the term “fake fielding”. There is nothing “fake” about such acts. Instead, it is just a clever ploy by someone who has an excellent game awareness.
Banning or penalising these will take the fun out of the game.
Hope the guardians of the game will consider a reconsideration.