April 27, 2010

Michael Jeh

Where cheaters can prosper

Michael Jeh


Why is it that a batsman who steals (cheats) an extra metre instantly becomes the "poor victim" if the bowler runs him out in his delivery stride? © International Cricket Council
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As Gideon Haigh so eloquently put it in his most recent Cricinfo piece, the Australian sporting public are apparently betrayed and shocked by recent revelations about their champion rugby league team's salary cap rort. Well, perhaps only those who actually care about rugby league are actually shocked. But amongst that demographic, there is almost a universal sense of betrayal and shock, a universality that has been noticeably lacking in recent years when women were allegedly sexually assaulted or treated as group sex playthings by half a rugby league team. It's a measure of the morality of a sport when it feels more betrayed by salary cap cheating than the sense of shame that comes with numerous examples of poor behaviour where real people actually get hurt sometimes.

But for some reason, the issue of systemic 'cheating' carries with it a sense of deep outrage. As I discussed in my most recent post, the issue of double standards is a troublesome beast that simply won't go away and die quietly in peace. The ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies is about to showcase another curious aspect of cricket's inconsistency that would surely confuse anyone trying to make sense of the rules. I refer to the 'Mankad' law.

Fairly recently, the laws of cricket were amended to ensure that the non-striker could virtually cheat at will. He can steal a metre or two and be almost immune from being run-out by the bowler. If the bowler had the temerity to actually effect a 'Mankad dismissal', it would generally be seen as a churlish and mean-spirited thing to do. The fielding captain would almost be obliged to call the poor batsman back.

Yet, for a sport that relies on the third umpire to make decisions based on millimetres and split video frames, it is utterly inconsistent to allow the non-striker to gain an advantage of this magnitude. Why is it that a batsman who steals (cheats) an extra metre instantly becomes the "poor victim" if the bowler runs him out in his delivery stride? Can this be the same game where the third umpire will watch endless replays to see if a run-out decision can be decided by the narrowest of margins? Can this be the same game where every possible camera angle will be used to decide if the boundary fielder touched the rope with any part of his body in contact with the ball?

In T20 cricket especially, if a bowler even cuts the popping crease with the mere shadow of his boot, he gets penalised one run and a free hit next ball. In a shortened game, a genuine mistake which probably does not even give the bowler any real advantage (unless he is deliberately bowling no-balls and that is likely to be a blatant breach anyway), a free hit can often be the difference between winning and losing. That's how tight cricket can be. And yet, the lawmakers have somehow deemed it appropriate to allow the non-striker to virtually back up as far as he wants so he can then get the benefit of the doubt if there's a run-out decision that has to be decided by an inconclusive split video frame.

Perhaps in a bygone era when non-strikers gently strolled forward as the bowler delivered the ball and no unfair advantage was sought, the bowler whipping off the bails was probably seen as a bit beyond the pale. But now, in a clinically professional environment where it's the 'one percenters' that determine success or failure, it seems an incredible oversight to allow only one aspect of the game to effectively steal territory that is ruthlessly policed in every other sphere. If batsmen are doing this deliberately, especially in a situation where it's the last ball of the match and the batting team needs to scramble one or two runs to win the game, is this not tantamount to cheating? If you need two to win and the full length ball gets choked out to long-on/long-off, it's almost impossible to stop the non-striker getting back for the second run if he's already halfway down the pitch when the batsman hits it. Athletes like AB De Villiers, Michael Clarke, Kieron Pollard and MS Dhoni would back themselves every time to beat the ball home if they had that sort of advantage.

If cricket is going to be fair dinkum about consistent rulings, this anomaly needs to be addressed. Just watch the non-strikers in these next few weeks and freeze the point at which the ball is delivered. It's not really cheating because the law says you can do it but it's an inconsistency that makes no sense in a sport that is often decided by the smallest of margins. Go figure.....

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by mikeindex on (May 8, 2010, 19:30 GMT)

I see in the Pak-NZ game today the batsmen ran a bye to the keeper and even though the keeper (Hopkins) hit the stumps direct (without even taking his glove off) the non-striker made his ground. To my mind the very fact that this can happen gives your article added point.

Posted by graeme on (May 3, 2010, 11:31 GMT)

mmmm....i see how it goes

Posted by Looch on (May 3, 2010, 5:16 GMT)

I used to enjoy Michael Jeh's articles but in the last 12 months they have become increasingly sanctimonious and embarrassingly naive, especially considering his profession. C'mon Michael, start talking about cricket again rather than trying to show the world how "great" and "fair" you are in this unjust world!

Posted by graeme on (May 2, 2010, 5:43 GMT)

@vijay

actually my comments about srt are much more relevant than the authors tenuous connection to the rugby scandal. The law has been changed and the batsman is entitled to walk out the crease, calling him a cheat is silly because its within the rules now, maybe you could go for cynical if your feeling a little self-righteous. srt stood his ground after he obviously hit the ball(obvious to him as well, sometimes you don't know faint nicks off the bat but anyone who plays cricket knows when it touches your gloves) and after he hit it he stood his ground. I said its ok , its in the rules! He can wait for the umpire's decision. However, what really annoys me is when Symonds waited for umpire's decision in Sydney a few years ago he was lamblasted as unsportsmanlike and the umpire was ridiculed by the Indian press and fans. However, when srt does it in the IPL final, what do we get? The sounds of silence...the hypocrisy of the Indian commentators is there for all to see.

Posted by njr1330 on (April 30, 2010, 16:26 GMT)

Wind the clock back 20 years. A club called Marchwiel in the Liverpool Competition; their No.3 batsman, a bright young Aussie, who loved stealing a yard or two when non-striking. His name ... er...Michael Jeh!

Posted by Isaac on (April 30, 2010, 6:24 GMT)

I feel like I lost brain cells reading this article, very poorly written. I dont understand the jibe at Australian rugby leauge, it has no reference to the article at all. You must have a short memory if you dont think the Australian public were shocked and discusted when any footballer commits an act of crime.

Posted by Wayne on (April 30, 2010, 3:02 GMT)

I agree with Nathan and co. regarding the trivial attacks on the Australian sporting community. The only semblance of reason I can attribute is that Australia are supposed to be the epitome of "hard but fair" competitors. Whilst we generally stay within these boundaries there are occasions when there are minor breaches. When more serioius incidents occur, Aussies are generally open and quick to apologise for their actions. Furthermore, claiming Australians feel "betrayed and shocked by recent revelations about their champion rugby league team's salary cap rort" is a load of rubbish. The Melbourne Storm are not "our champion team" but merely a club side whose administrators didn't play by the rules. If you are going to use such an example, please use it accurately without (intentionally) misleading the readers into believing it was "our champion team." Premiers yes, our champion team, no. Shocked? Absolutely not.

Posted by Krishna on (April 29, 2010, 17:13 GMT)

A modification to KK's suggestion: Instead of penalising the batting team shorter by one delivery when the non-striker is found to be taking a headstart and "caught" by the bowler, penalize the batting team by reducing their total by one run. If the batsmen run for 2 runs of that delivery, grant one run. It can be shown as negative runs under EXTRAS.

Posted by Vijay on (April 29, 2010, 15:26 GMT)

@graeme: Sachin has never claimed that he would walk if he nicked so you cannot fault him there. Had he said he is a walker then there he is culpable but through out his career, and I have watched him play right from 1986, he has always waited for the umpire's decision. So it was unnecessary and totally irrelevant of you to remark about Sachin's apparent lack of honesty

Posted by RC on (April 29, 2010, 13:38 GMT)

Lol- the poor innocent aussies are feeling victimised.hom typical! being given less punishment than others isn't innocence its bias on the part of the officials. and whats wrong with the example given. its just a recent event that was relevant although i feel the 2 offences are vastly different. so don't feel victimised so soon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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