Friday, March 22, 2013

Yesterday's 'smart' is today's 'obstructing the field'

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What was once a smart thing to do as a batsmen, will get you out, today. Pakistan's Mohammed Hafeez found that out the hard way. He was ruled out 'obstructing the field' for running straight in between the line of the fielder's throw and the stumps as he attempted to reach the non strikers end. This happened in the 4th ODI against their ongoing series against South Africa

I don't have the patience to actually read the changed rule. I was aware of it when it was announced and I vaguely know it singles out batsmen who alter their line of running, while taking a run, and deliberately come in between the  line of the thrown ball and the stumps.

I remember not being very impressed with the changed rule but that is true for many of the new rules especially in the ODIs

Watching cricket in the 80s on Doordarshan, and even on Channel 9, we were constantly reminded by commentators that it is the batsman's right to attempt to block the balls path and an expectation to decline to run overthrows resulting from a ricochet from the batsman's body or piece of equipment. This was considered in line with the unwritten spirit of the game. And it made sense. Unless of course the ricochet results in the ball crossing the boundary in which case the umpire would signal a four. I don't know if the batting side has any means to decline a boundary. May be it can ask the umpire to signal a dead ball. I haven't actually seen that happen though, which doesn't mean it hasn't happened of course.

It was also understood that if the ricochet happens while the batsmen was not making an explicit attempt to block the path of the ball, the batsmen were well within the spirit of the game to run any resulting over throws.

The new rule of declaring the batsman out 'obstructing the field' if he blocks the balls path while running, is hard to adapt to. Its something batsmen instinctively do. When in danger of being caught short of the crease, it is natural for the batsman to look where the ball is being thrown from and once that is established and once the batsman realizes that the fielder has an open view of the stumps, its quite unnatural, against instinct, to keep running the same line when you know a slight alteration might save your wicket.

Additionally it will make the on field umpire's job more difficult because now he has to look at whether the batsman changed course of his running path, after accounting for the line of sight at the stumps for the fielder or it was a natural change in his running path. Shouldn't the umpire be looking at the business end to deliver a correct run-out decision? And are batsmen allowed to change course by guessing the line of sight for the fielder?

Its one of those rules that have come in place, I guess because the ICC Technical Committee needs something to do to justify their existence. Like the rule that prohibits runners. It seems the committee wants many decisions taken away from the opposing captains and don't trust them to work out an arrangement agreeable to both. This is also evidenced in ODI cricket and the endless power play rules. It's like the committee wants to 'captain' the ODI game to make it more interesting.


ICC_Grunt said...

I think this is a good rule change. Any deliberate form of obstruction should be frowned upon.

It is not instinctive to change the path of your run to coincide the with the ball's trajectory to wickets. That is a deliberate and calculated thought process It is a learned skill not instinct.

Think about the fairness of the situation - it is grossly unfair on the fielding side with a run out on for the batsman to deliberately get in the way of the ball.
If the batsman is blocking the stumps, how are the fielders supposed to hit the stumps? It is very easy to change running direction as opposed to the fielding side trying to get the ball past /around the batsman in time. Obstruction clearly favours the batters because it makes it much harder to run them out after they themselves make the mistake.

The rule change takes away this unfair advantage.

As a side note, this is also good because cricket rules throughout history tend to be conservative and favour batters. This is a move in the opposite direction - it should be applauded.

Golandaaz said...

Some rules favor batsmen and some bowlers. Why change this one. Agreed it favors batsmen. So should we make the game up side down just because the ICC Technical Committee thinks it needs to justify their pay?

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