“No one can be so sure. Hence, as much as cricket is about the happy memories, it is equally about these contentious decisions, which may or may not add to the beauty of the game”.
A game of glorious uncertainties, they call it. A sport where rules prevail, but not without giving in to controversies and debates. One need not look further than the advent of the Umpiring Decision Review System in cricket, which has been grandly welcomed but not without its fair share of criticism. The Leg Before Wicket dismissals are often argued and the unanimous decision remains that if the inception of laws and technology cannot make the sport a more complete and a hassle-free experience, then what purpose do they serve in the very first place?
Virat Kohli’s wicket in the Bengaluru Test match last year immediately comes to mind. Facing the mighty Australians, the Indian skipper was given out to a delivery from Josh Hazlewood that jagged into the batsman and kept low. The umpire Nigel Llong adjudged him out, before Kohli went upstairs to the third umpire, in the hope of a second chance to change his fortunes in the dismal series. Third umpire Richard Kettleborough took his time, watching a number of replays from varied angles but was unable to decide whether the ball had hit the bat or the pad first. With both the Snickometer and the replays showing that the impact between the pad, bat and ball was almost at the same moment, Kohli was sent back to the pavilion due to “inconclusive” evidence.
With the ICC standing firm on its rule of allowing the on-field umpires the final say in cases of insufficient proof, the talks over the cricketing realm have swivelled around the effectiveness of such a technology, which is unable to give concrete results. If the DRS has been introduced, shouldn’t it remove all doubts and allow technology to take over in all instances? Why then are we forced to go back to the on-field umpires if the replays lack a hundred percent efficiency? On one hand, you want to remove all human errors from the game and on the other; you keep turning back to their decisions when technology fails? Befuddling.
A series of unfathomable laws
In another case of strange laws, the introduction of the Mankading rule, where a non-striker could be run-out by the bowler in his run-up if he was found out of his crease, too brought with it its fair share of debates. On one hand, it was termed unsporting and unethical, with players who did dismiss a batsman through this method being called “ungentlemanly”, but according to the laws of the game, it was well and truly legal. Hence, when England’s wicket-keeper Jos Buttler was Mankaded by Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake, the Sri Lankan team was constantly booed off the field.
In another instance, Ravichandran Ashwin Mankaded Lahiru Thirimanne from Sri Lanka, but fearing angst against the team, India’s stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag withdrew the appeal in 2012. Once again, the laws of the game pertaining to Mankading, which are totally legal but have never failed to engulf itself in controversies, lay bare with one questioning why the ICC has failed to modify its rule on an issue that brings with it debates each time.
Yet another new-rule change that ignited talks was that while taking a catch, the fielder must either be inside the boundary or his last contact should be on the ground before first touching the ball. So, if the fielder leaps back into the boundary and catches the ball without touching the ropes, it will still be called out. James Faulkner, playing for the President’s XI, faced Adil Rashid from England and was caught at deep by Sam Billings, who jumped outside the ropes and caught the ball while in the air, only to land back in the field with the ball.
Earlier, if a catch had been taken outside the boundary ropes, even if the player was in the air, it would have been a six but with the MCC encouraging athletic catches, the new rules came into play, of course not without its share of drama.
The batsman has hit the ball well and truly over the ropes. It should be declared a six because the ball has traversed over the field of play, courtesy the batsman’s might. A fielder can pull it back in, but isn’t it discounting the batsman’s prowess? But on the other hand, the fielder has done his best to not spill the catch and kept a cool head near the ropes to jump up and nestle a perfect catch. Tales of “what ifs” and “buts” will forever refuse to die out.
The controversy in Centurion
And hence, when the umpires in the second ODI match between India and South Africa decided to take a break with just two runs needed for India to win, it again brought with it plenty of consternation and chaos.
With South Africa bundling out for just 118 in 32.2 overs, the Indian chase began immediately after, sans the mid-innings lunch break. The ICC rules are hence.
“The innings of the team batting second shall not commence before the scheduled time for the commencement of the second session unless the team batting first has completed its innings at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled interval, in which case a ten-minute break will occur and the team batting second will commence its innings and the interval will occur as scheduled.”
Thus, as South Africa had finished their innings well before the scheduled break, the Indian team was sent batting after ten minutes. At the 16th over of the Indian innings, with India needing 21 runs to win, the on-field umpires extended the session by 4 overs, a move permitted by the ICC.
Are You Serious??? Taking lunch with India needing 2 runs to win. Cricket is its own enemy. 🙈🙊 #SAvIND
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) February 4, 2018
“The umpires may decide to play 15 minutes (a minimum of four overs) extra time at the scheduled interval if requested by either captain if, in the umpires’ opinion, it would bring about a definite result in that session. If the umpires do not believe a result can be achieved no extra time shall be allowed. If it is decided to play such extra time, the whole period shall be played out even though the possibility of finishing the match may have disappeared before the full period has expired.”
The umpires, Aleem Dar and Adrian Holdstock believed that the game will be over in these 4 overs and hence the session was extended. However, with India at 117/1 after the end of those 4 overs and with India needing 2 for a win, the umpires, going strictly by the rule-law called it lunch, much to the amusement of all present.
— Rajneesh Gupta (@rgcricket) February 4, 2018
What if unprecedented showers had rubbed in, allowing the match to get abandoned as India had still not played the minimum of 20 overs, which is the minimum overs a team batting second needs to play for a result in a rain-affected game? Forget the advertisements, what about the spectators who had stuck around and wanted to see India win the game?
But on the other hand, the umpires cannot be blamed either. What if those two runs had been achieved in five overs, or six? Or if a wicket had fallen? What if the margin was not two runs, but ten and the bowling side were bowling well and run-scoring was tough? If lunch had been taken then, the ICC would still have been criticised for taking a break with ten runs to go. But how long will it take for those ten runs to be achieved?
No one can be so sure. Hence, as much as cricket is about the happy memories, it is equally about these contentious decisions, which may or may not add to the beauty of the game.