December 19, 2012

Indian domestic cricket

Cricket's quirky rules that defy logic

Aakash Chopra
The pitch being rolled at the Rural Development Trust Stadium, Anantapur, January 28, 2012
Even pitches without a strand of grass are mowed every single day  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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When GB Shaw said "the golden rule is that there are no golden rules", it made for marvellous lyrics. But when a sportsperson mutters the same, even in hushed tones, it is simply profane, unfair and dishonourable. That perhaps explains the gap between art and realism -- also, the absurdity of the latter. All rules, however out-of-place, out-of-date, out-of-use, must be followed -- the cynics order. Even in the game of cricket, most progressive and contemporary, we fail to see through the sheer quirkiness of some of the most bizarre rules. And I am not even touching upon the ones that concern the actual play, but those that exist on the periphery and yet rub you the wrong way every now and then.

Quirky rule No.1 Take for instance, the rule of mowing the grass on the pitch before the start of play, every single day. Obviously, this rule works well on pitches with a decent covering of grass. Believe it or not though, the pitch that doesn't boast of even a strand of grass is mowed too, every single day. In such cases, the blade is set a little high so that it doesn't touch the surface at all, for the blade can damage the grass-less pitch. Nobody seems to be too bothered about asking: what is there to be mowed? What is the purpose of this mowing? Why waste manpower, energy and time indulging in such a senseless act?

But rules are rules…

Quirky rule No.2 How many times have you had lunch at 10.45am? Well, whenever we play in the East of India, we take a break for lunch at 11am, for the match starts at 8.30am. Since on the last day, the match starts 15 minutes earlier, we have lunch at 10.45am. Isn't that most silly? Are we not taking the English and their rules far too seriously? Matches in England start only at 11am and hence the first session is rightly followed by lunch and then tea around 3.30-4pm after the second session. But since we start so early, why can't we have our own set of breaks?

Next, this idiocy is taken to another level, when the match that is scheduled to start at 8.30am gets delayed because of bad light. The light improves around 10am and play starts. Even though the light is absolutely fine, the match is stopped for lunch at 11am for 40 minutes. So, the players first wait for the light to get better to start play. Once it does, we take a break again for lunch, all because the rule book, cast in cement, says so. In normal circumstances the first session is of 2.30hrs followed by the lunch interval. But to have a break for lunch after losing 1.30 hours of play is completely bereft of logic.

Quirky rule No. 3 From the last couple of seasons, umpires are the sole judges of determining the weather conditions. No longer can a player complain about bad light etc, which is good because players have abused this right in the past. Now, the umpires set a benchmark (with regards to light) and then adhere to it for the remainder of the match.

In our game against Assam in Guwahati, we needed about 40-odd runs to take the first-innings lead. The light had dropped a little but our batsmen were willing to continue playing even when the fast bowlers were operating. But umpires had none of it because the rule clearly states that if the match was stopped due to bad light on a certain reading before, on any given day of a four-day match, the game simply can't continue once the reading has dropped below that benchmark. While it was a little grey, it was not dangerous for anyone, not yet. But the match was called off. Rules ruled the roost once again!

Quirky rule No.4 This one takes the cake. A couple of years ago a new rule was introduced, which prohibited the players from taking a comfort break. 'Comfort break' is the time spent outside the ground for reasons other than an injury or illness--it could be changing a wet t-shirt, shoes or attending to nature's call. In principle, there's nothing wrong in allowing a player a few minutes away a couple of times in a day but the players abused this rule to the extent that most fast bowlers headed towards the dressing room immediately after finishing their spell. Even though it meant that for the bowler to bowl again, he needed to spend the equal number of minutes that he'd spent outside, on the field again, it did not deter them. They invariably knew when they'd be needed next and thus came back in time to make up for the lost time. Also, certain batsmen chose not to field at all in the last innings on the last day because they were sure of not getting a hit again.

To stop such things from happening, the 'No Comfort Break' rule was introduced, which strictly mentioned that no player would get a substitute fielder for any other reason except medical attention…not even for one over. This led to something very comical in an Under-16 match. A kid needed to relieve himself urgently but the umpires, adhering to the rules, refused flatly. The kid requested his captain to field with 10 players for an over because it was extremely urgent. But the captain didn't pay heed either. After a couple of overs when it was simply impossible to control the call any longer, the kid lowered his trousers and relieved himself on the boundary ropes!

After that incident, players and umpires decided to find a way around the rule. Now, instead of asking for a loo-break, players ask for medical attention. Both the player and the umpire know that the real reason is something else, but facilitating a lie is much better than having the kid-peeing-on-the-field-incident again.

Can't we agree to a one-over break for nature's call? After all, how much can one rest or recuperate in four minutes?

We must not allow rules to trump our basic common sense.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Keywords: Laws/Rules

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Posted by Sumeet Gupta on (January 4, 2013, 3:11 GMT)

@Mustafa, i have already mentioned about that buddy. When it comes to sixes, i think the existing rules work fine. It's the fours which i have issues with. The existing rule disallows fielders running inside the boundary to save a six. So let it be. And isn't a four more common than a six? The whole idea is to reduce unscheduled stoppages during a game and i hope you'll agree that these stoppages are particularly time-consuming and frustrating

Posted by Mustafa on (December 24, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

@sumeet gupta: what do you want then, players running inside boundaries to prevent a six?

Posted by Tanveer Ehsanur Rahman on (December 24, 2012, 5:25 GMT)

After the recent rule change, only 4 men are allowed outside the 30 yards circle in ODI in non-powerplay overs. But in T20, 5 men are allowed outside. Why?

Posted by Anonymous on (December 23, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

@Kapil I think Aakash makes more sense than yourself re the light. Its fine for the umpires to have a consistent light reading measure. At which point they should ask the batsmen do they want to take the light due to poor visibility, or do they want to take the risk and push on to victory. Spare a thought for the spectator who is not looking for teams to escape with a silly draw purely due to batting opponents sent off the field in less than 100% lighting, when they have no desire to go off. Bad light is not just about physical safety but also whether performance would be hindered by the poor light and whether the batsman would have higher probability of getting out. A slightly dull condition is hardly seen as "dangerous", particularly if express bowlers not being used. There could be a 2nd light level (quite dark) which was agreed was the dangerous level where the batting side did not have the option to continue.

Posted by Brenno on (December 22, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

@Chris, leg byes are fine how they are, the batsmen actually does not get the benefit (as you have suggested) as it is not added to their individual score, but the team score. The LBW law is fine, if it were to be changed to "if the ball is going to hit the stumps then it is out" it would lead to negative tactics such as deliberately pitching well outside leg stump to restrict run scoring while still having the chance of taking a wicket in this manner. Bowlers should be discouraged from doing so by taking away this mode of dismissal.

@Ajith, the idea of standardised field sizes is interesting, however unpractical and would not add anything to the game. After all, both sides on a particular day play on the same field. Varying types of pitches is the challenge of playing cricket around the world, we don't want one dimensional cricket being played. Each location can have it's own unique characteristics, however wickets like the one prepared for the recent Nagpur test need to be avoided.

Posted by Nil on (December 22, 2012, 9:16 GMT)

@Ajith Edassery... - I fully agree about the dimensions of the grounds. It is really absurd having a 70 meter hit a six (max reward for batsman) and a wicket (max reward for a bowler). Its also not right to say that its OK as playing conditions are same for both teams. As, if that were the case, why not use a 30 meter as marker for boundary? - The case of standardizing the wicket is also interesting one. But only having one wicket as standard would not be sufficient. So, I would suggest having 4-5 types of wickets each of which is individually standardized. (Similar to tennis clay court, grass court etc...)

Posted by Chris on (December 22, 2012, 6:15 GMT)

1/ Get rid of leg byes, if batsman not good enough to hit the ball then why should they get a benefit 2/ Simplify LBW.... If ball is going to hit stumps then it is out. 3/ Agree about the silliness of fixed breaks in shortened matches. 4/ Drinks breaks are every hour, ban drinks being run onto field at any other time

Posted by rajesh gupta on (December 21, 2012, 8:18 GMT)

most absurd rule is the one where even if the ball is inside the boundary but fielder while stopping it touches the boundary ropes and this is given as a four. So much time is wasted seeing various replays to confirm whether the filelder has touched the boundary or not. I feel that if the ball is fielded insude the boundary what difference it makes whether the body of the fielder is touching the ropes or not. If this rule is abolished then so much time would be saved and game could become faster.

Posted by Mike on (December 21, 2012, 0:28 GMT)

Done!

Posted by Selassie - I on (December 20, 2012, 16:49 GMT)

Nice article Akash. However, as you should know, they are laws not rules in cricket my friend.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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