The year is 2042. Running out the non striker before the delivery is bowled for backing up too far is celebrated as any normal wicket would be celebrated on the cricket field, across the world. Or at least that is the dream.
But apparently, 2022 is too soon. Especially September 2022, a week before cricket’s new playing conditions come in to play, as confirmed by the International Cricket Council.
“Law 41.16 – running out the non-striker – has been moved from Law 41 (Unfair play) to Law 38 (Run out). The wording of the Law remains the same,” said MCC, known as the custodians of the Laws of Cricket, in March. The same MCC for which Lord’s Cricket Ground is the home.
“Running out of the non-striker: The Playing Conditions follow the Laws in moving this method of effecting a Run out from the ‘Unfair Play’ section to the ‘Run out’ section,” said ICC, the global governing body of cricket, in a press release on 20 September.
What happened at Lord’s?
With 17 runs to win and Charlie Dean playing a fantastic innings that was taking England close to a thrilling win, Deepti Sharma ran the batter out at the non-striker’s end. India appealed and it was given out by the TV umpire. Jhulan Goswami’s farewell international match finished with a famous clean sweep as India women won a bilateral series for the first time in England since 1999 and for the first time ever without losing a match.
What is the law?
ICC’s section 41.16 of women’s ODI playing conditions (as of publishing date) states:
“Non-striker leaving her ground early: If the non-striker is out of her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run her out. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one in the over. If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.”
Key point: From October, this won’t be in Section 41, Unfair Play. Going forward, it will just be part of Section 38: Run Out.
What is the spirit of cricket?
The spirit of cricket – for what it is worth – is not some intangible, unwritten entity. It is, in fact, spelt out in the playing conditions of ICC across the board. The key points to note here are, “Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket. Respect your captain, team-mates, opponents and the authority of the umpires. Play hard and play fair. Accept the umpire’s decision.”
Going by this, it seems India were well within their rights, and rules, to appeal to the umpires who then took the decision. Fairly immediately too, it must be added.
It is also worth noting that celebrating a wicket before the umpire gives it out or not respecting your opponent enough to stay behind in the middle despite a massive edge that was out caught, as completely random examples, seem more against the spirit of cricket laid out here than what India did at Lord’s on Saturday.
Even so, bottom line, it is OK to respect what the umpires decide.
“To be honest, I thought you will ask about the first 10 wickets , before those weren’t easy to take,” Harmanpreet Kaur said with a smile when asked for a second time about the dismissal to finish the match and series.
“It’s part of the game I don’t think we have done something new. It’s ICC rules. You can take those chances. I think it shows your awareness, you’re aware what the batters are doing. I will back my player because I don’t think she has done something which isn’t in the ICC rules. It’s part of the game and at the end of the day, a win is a win and you just need to enjoy it,” said the India captain.
Expectedly, and somewhat unfortunately, the decision caused debate on social media.
The incident also found plenty of backing, leading – of course – with Ashwin Ravichandran, who knows a thing or two about it.
Update from MCC
In a strange statement, MCC said their “message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday, cannot happen. Whilst yesterday was indeed an unusual end to an exciting match, it was properly officiated and should not be considered as anything more.”
But before stating this, as they should, they did nothing to address the core controversy, only fanning the “spirit” debate, saying: “Cricket is a broad church and the spirit by which it is played is no different. As custodians of the Spirit of Cricket, MCC appreciates its application is interpreted differently across the globe. Respectful debate is healthy and should continue, as where one person sees the bowler as breaching the Spirit in such examples, another will point at the non-striker gaining an unfair advantage by leaving their ground early.”
A missed chance
One of the most disappointing aspect of this episode was that it happened in the week leading up to the a major attempt made by those who govern the game into changing perceptions around it. In fact, almost all of the discourse against the incident begins with, “Yes, it is within the laws / rules but...”.
The broadcasters covering the match missed a big chance in taking one small step towards normalising it. The immediate commentary was all about how disappointing it was to see a great match end this way. No, it is great to see a memorable match made even more so by a finish that should become the norm. Those commentating and discussing the incident post match went on and on about how their opinion is that there should be a warning or that is not how the grew up playing the game. Surely, the game evolves and you evolve with it?
Instead of taking a small but significant step towards making this a normal occurrence, there were stale remarks made about how the game has always been played a certain pre-set way and it must be held up.
Mind you, as the law stands, there is debate to be had about this dismissal. Because “the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball” is subjective and if anything, the custodians of the game should attempt to simplify it further.
But it is tedious (again) to go over the same process every time someone dares to do the unthinkable and play the sport according to the rules laid out for it.
After all, a fielder even briefly touching the rope while taking a catch is offered no warning. “Ok XYZ, be careful next time around these things called ropes. This time we will give it out, but next time, we will give it a six, mind you!”
After all, a bowler marginally, even by millimeters, stepping over the line is enough to practically end a World Cup campaign. Just ask Deepti Sharma about it. No one told her in New Zealand that it was so close to being a legitimate delivery and that she will be excused one time and the wicket of Mignon du Preez can stand.
So a batter backing up by yards, before the ball is delivered, should very much be good enough to end any cricket match, at any venue in the world. Especially so at the venue that sees itself as the house of the laws of the game.